Family Guy has, down the years, faced the accusation of being nothing more than a ripoff of The Simpsons. The two shows do, of course, have their similarities. Both are about 20-odd minutes long without all those awful, annoying commercials. Both shows are animated, with terrific voice casts and wonderful writers. Both shows have a rather stupid, and fat, patriarch at their core. And both air on the Fox TV network in the US.
But that's about where the similarities end, and there are certainly plenty of differences. Both shows have different agendas, and are aimed at slightly different audiences – The Simpsons is, it must be said, a much more family-friendly show than Family Guy. And this season of Family Guy (called Season 15 for its UK DVD release but it was actually broadcast as Season 13 in the US, from September 2014 to May 2015) finally saw the Griffins meet the Simpsons in a double-length crossover episode that many of us were surprised they didn't think of doing years ago.
Now, ignore the naysayers (it's had loads of mediocre to bad reviews) – The Simpsons Guy is heaps of fun. The idea for the crossover came from Family Guy executive producer Richard Appel, a former writer for The Simpsons. The episode sees the Griffins having to leave Quahog after Peter does something stupid and pisses people off (once again). They find themselves stranded in Springfield after their car is stolen, so Homer offers them somewhere to stay when they meet him in the Kwik-E-Mart. As you'd expect, various family members pair up: Stewie with Bart, Meg with Lisa, and Brian and Chris with Santa's Little Helper. And it won't surprise you to learn that things go a bit pear-shaped and end up in court, where Fred Flintstone is the judge and we have various characters from both shows in the public gallery – including both versions of James Woods. It's wonderful to see these two animated stalwarts getting together (Peter thinks the denizens of Springfieldd are yellow because they all have hepatitis) and for my money this crossover is a smashing success. More please.
The Simpsons Guy is a great start to what is a very solid season, 18 episodes where there is not a stinker to be found. Highlights include the obligatory time travel episode (Stewie, Chris, & Brian's Excellent Adventure), Peter and Lois opening a cookie shop (Baking Bad), Brian becoming a bigtoothed real estate agent (Brian the Closer), Peter trying to help Jesus get laid (The 2000-Year-Old Virgin), Meg becoming a porn model (This Little Piggy), Stewie becoming pregnant with Brian's babies (Stewie is Enceinte) and Peter trying to beat up Liam Neeson (Fighting Irish). Along with Neeson, other notable guest vices this season are Julie Bowen, Maya Rudolph, Lea Thompson, Allison Janney, Connie Britton, Yvette Nicole Brown, Scott Grimes, Ralph Garman, Gary Cole, Cristin Milioti ... and, of course, Simpsons stars Hank Azaria, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner and Yeardley Smith. Oh, yes, and James Woods.
Family Guy has always been a little sick and twisted – but hey, that's why we love it. It's also, at its best, very funny indeed. It's coarse and vulgar – and even more so on DVD, thanks to the swearing not being ruined by those annoying bleeps that they use on TV. So if the thought of a one-year-old saying fuck offends you, then Family Guy is certainly not for you. Stick with the Teletubbies...
EXTRAS: A terrific making-of featurette on The Simpsons Guy; audio commentaries on several episodes; and a few deleted scenes for every episode.