Seth MacFarlane didn’t mean to interject “Family Guy” into the Kevin Spacey sexual harassment scandal, but the show has been lauded since then for its predictions when it comes to disgraced Hollywood stars. Nonetheless, the executive producer said he thinks the show’s role in anticipating such scandals has been overblown.
“I think the myth that ‘Family Guy’ is this Kreskin-like prognosticator of this kind of stuff is a little sensationalized,” MacFarlane said during Fox’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour. “I remember, when [the joke] was pitched, that rumor was that was a rumor that I actually had not heard, and other people in the writers’ room had. And it had to be sort of explained to me, ‘Oh, there’s this rumor that’s going around.'”
“Family Guy” joked about Spacey in a 2005 episode in which baby Stewie is seen running through a crowded department store naked, yelling, ‘Help! I’ve escaped from Kevin Spacey’s basement! Help me!'” After allegations surfaced of Spacey’s sexual misconduct, following a Buzzfeed article in which “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp accused him of making sexual advances toward him, that “Family Guy” clip resurfaced on social media.
Executive producer Alec Sulkin said he was in the room when that joke was pitched, although he didn’t remember the origins of it. “I think that that was something where he was coming out of a story where I think he had sort of been kind of beaten up in a London park, and he claimed that he was walking his dog late at night and fell,” Sulkin said.. And I think that raised a lot of eyebrows and you know, it’s one of those things, in terms of standards, where if they’ve heard the rumors as we have, then they’ll allow it.”
Fellow executive producer Rich Appel said “Family Guy” will also be allowed by Fox’s standards and practices to make scandalous jokes about celebrities if “there’s some rumor out there that’s been published [or] if it seems so outrageous that no one could possibly believe it this would be.”
But, he added, some of those outrageous jokes have come to pass as well, even though at the time of airing, the show’s producers thought, “Well, this is never going to happen.”
Appel, coincidentally, wrote the now-frequently referenced 1998 “The Simpsons” episode that predicted Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
MacFarlane said he’s amused by the amount of coverage he gets every time another one of his predictions comes true. (He also made a joke about Harvey Weinstein while hosting the Oscars in 2013 that has since been cited as the truth behind that producer’s sexual assault.)
“I mean, it’s interesting to observe,” he said. “[When] this all happened I was just watching all this happen from afar. I think it’s the modern media where it’s like it’s more important to be first than to be right. And it gets out there and then somebody else picks it up and then somebody else picks it up, then it just becomes viral in the same way something does on social media. So it’s a strange thing to observe. We write our show the same way as everyone else. I mean, we make the same kind of topical jokes that shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘South Park’ does. And you work with what you have, whether that be swirling rumor or political fact or whatnot.”