- "Oh hi there. You scared the crap out of me."
Seth Woodbury MacFarlane (born October 26, 1973) is best known as the creator of the animated sitcoms Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show, and is the director of the films Ted, Ted 2, and A Million Ways to Die in the West (which he also stars in). Seth grew up in New England and went to school for animation at the Rhode Island School of Design. His professor sent a copy of his senior project (The Life of Larry) to Hanna-Barbera, who gave him his first job out of school.
After spending a few years at HB, writing/animating for shows like Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Laboratory and Cow and Chicken, he made a sequel to The Life of Larry. Titled Larry & Steve, it featured a middle-aged guy, Larry, and his intellectual, anthropomorphic dog, Steve. Think Family Guy if the show just focused on Peter and Brian and was, for all intents and purposes, a children's cartoon with the occasional Parental Bonus jokes and mild sexual innuendo (read: a typical cartoon from the 1990s, or an in-house program from Cartoon Network).
After Cartoon Network aired the short, FOX contacted Seth about creating a pilot about the characters, which would later become Family Guy. Originally, Seth was hired to do cartoon shorts for their Saturday Night Live-esque sketch show, MADtv, but plans fell through for that, so instead, they gave him a budget of $50,000 and 6 months, and the rest is history.
Family Guy had a bumpy start — not just with content issues, but with timeslots and ratings. The show was cancelled twice (once in 2000 and again in 2002) before becoming a cult hit thanks to cable and DVD releases. The show, as of 2005, has been revived and, for better or worse, is now one of FOX's most valuable current franchises (next to The Simpsons and American Idol).
Seth is also a talented voice actor, providing the voices of four main characters on Family Guy (Peter, Brian, Stewie and Quagmire), three on American Dad (Stan, Roger, and Greg Corbin, the gay newscaster), two on The Cleveland Show (Tim the Bear [until season four, when Jess Harnell took over] and Dr. Fist [until season three, when Tom Kenny took over for one episode, and Bryan Cranston during the fourth season]) and many additional voices. He also voiced several characters in Robot Chicken, a sketch comedy show created by his Family Guy castmate Seth Green. He made a short foray into feature-length film when he voiced Johann Krauss in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. He's also had some bit parts on live-action television, appearing in Star Trek: Enterprise, Gilmore Girls, The War at Home (on the episode "I Wash My Hands of You," where Hillary — the Bratty Teenage Daughter — dates a 33-year-old), FlashForward (2009). But he always returns to animation and comedy. He's also a musician, singer and composer, whose work often appears on his shows (particularly Family Guy, which has a lot of memorable musical moments, like Shipoopi from "Patriot Games," A Bag of Weed from "Episode 420," The Fellas at the Freakin' FCC from "PTV," and You've Got a Lot to See from "Brian Wallows and Peter Swallows").
Seth has won a couple of Emmy Awards for Voice-over Work and Musical Composition. Hugely successful (To the point of becoming the highest paid writer/producer in TV history), but does have a sizable number of detractors, including Moral Guardians who find his humor to be disgusting and offensive, and dyed-in-the-wool Simpsons and South Park fans who think he's a cynical, marginally-talented hack who ripped off jokes and stories wholesale from those two shows and padded them with meaningless jokes that don't go anywhere or have any plot relevance.
Announced in 2010 that he is developing a live-action/CG hybrid feature film which was released summer 2012 named Ted where he voiced a talking teddy bear owned by a loser male lead trying to get through life. Ted got generally favorable reviews and was a huge box office hit. His second film, a comedy western called A Million Ways to Die in the West was released on May 30, 2014. A sequel to Ted, titled Ted 2, was released on June 26, 2015.
Hosted the season 38 premiere episode of Saturday Night Live and the 85th Academy Awards. No, really. MacFarlane also voiced a henpecked husband named Ben on The Simpsons season 24 finale "Dangers on a Train" and appeared as Peter Griffin etc all in the crossover episode "The Simpsons Guy".
He is the executive producer for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. However that makes sense. This indirectly led to his next project—The Orville, a live action Science Fiction series that affectionately parodies the Star Trek franchise, with MacFarlane himself playing the ship's captain.
In an odd twist of fate, MacFarlane was scheduled to fly on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center, but missed his flight due to a hangover and his agent screwing up his flight plan. He decided to wait for another flight, until he saw the news footage of the World Trade Center being destroyed and realized that that could have been him (in an even odder twist, his Ted co-star Mark Wahlberg was also supposed to be on that very same flight). He vowed never to make 9/11 jokes on his shows because of this, but, after a while, the vow was broken and some slipped through. (American Dad! was originally created as a reflection of the post-9/11 world, which was rife with overzealous patriotism, the desperate need to be safe [even if it means encroaching on others' rights], and claims that the media and the government is paralyzing people into fearing for their lives.)
No relation to Todd McFarlane.
- Music Is Better Than Words (September 27, 2011)
- Holiday for Swing (September 30, 2014)
- No One Ever Tells You (October 30, 2015)
- In Full Swing (September 15, 2017)
Notable Tropes associated with Seth MacFarlane include:
- Adored by the Network: Ever since King of the Hill ended after 12 years on the air and Sit Down, Shut Up flopped so badly that it was canceled after four episodes (along with other animated shows that got the shaft after a short run, like Allen Gregorynote and an animated version of Napoleon Dynamite that came five years too late), the Sunday night "Animation Domination" line-up is mostly made up of Seth's cartoons (now down on just Family Guy following The Cleveland Show's cancellation and American Dad moving to TBS). Currently, the only cartoons that aren't created by him on the "Animation Domination" line-up are The Simpsons and Bob's Burgers.
- All Adult Animation Is South Park: A lot of critics who hate Family Guy have accused it of being like The Simpsons (though this claim is inverted as people are now accusing The Simpsons of copying Family Guy's Comedic Sociopathy).
- Author Appeal: A lot of things that Seth likes make it into his shows (music from the Rat Pack era, 70's-80's pop culture, musicals/showtunes, Star Wars, Star Trek, sci-fi, etc). This carried over to his 2013 stint hosting the Oscars, as his opening monologue/musical number included a cameo by William Shatner as Captain Kirk. This has also showed up in his latest show, The Orville, which borrows heavily from Star Trek.
- Author Avatar: Brian was this for Seth on Family Guy, in the first few seasons (and is, in some way, since both Brian and Seth are single, atheists who drink, are very liberal when it comes to politics, smoking weednote , and are often seen as smug bastards who deserve nothing but contempt). Peter was also one initially, when he used to reflect everything Seth geeks over (like 1970s and 1980s pop culture and Star Wars).
- Author Existence Failure: Amazingly averted; he was supposed to be on one of the hijacked American Airlines flights on 9/11, but due to a hangover and his agent screwing up his flight plan, he missed his flight by 10 minutes! Taken further when he then saw news footage of the destruction of the Twin Towers in the airport and he realized just how lucky he was.
- Author Tract: Atheism is a common theme in his work due to being an atheist himself.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: Both against FOX and against the people who initially helped get Family Guy revived. He also nipped the hand of the Academy Awards a little.
- Black Comedy: His stock in trade. Business is good.
- The Cast Showoff: Family Guy and American Dad! have often been used as platforms to show off Seth's amazing singing ability with musical numbers (some memorable musical moments from both shows include: Shipoopi from "Patriot Games", A Bag of Weed from "Episode 420", The Fellas at the Freakin' FCC from "PTV", the Schoolhouse Rock! bit on Oliver North and the Iran-Contra Scandal on the American Dad! episode "Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie's Gold", The N.A.A.F.P Anthem from a Deleted Scene in "The Fat Guy Strangler", You've Got a Lot to See from "Brian Wallows and Peter Swallows", and any song from the Brian and Stewie "Road To..." episodes)
- Catchphrase: Whenever he hosts an opening to his show on a specific network he often opens with the ever Stoic "Oh hi there, you scared the crap out of me." This has gone on since Life of Larry.
- Executive Meddling: Seth has stated in recent years that he wants Family Guy to end but Fox won't let him stop making episodes.
- Man of a Thousand Voices: All of which have spoken to each other at one point or another. Not only does he do many voices on his shows, but he's an uncanny mimic—he can do a perfect Adam West, for one thing (though he uses the real thing for Family Guy).
- Marth Debuted in "Smash Bros.": His film Ted is the first time that anything created by him has been shown in Japan, since none of his famous shows are broadcast there.
- Ms. Fanservice: You'll usually find one of these in his shows.
- Not Hyperbole: A lot of his off-hand jokes are literally illustrated. It even spilled over into his Oscars hosting gig: In introducing one presenter, he merely said, "Our next presenter needs no introduction." Away he walked; out walked Meryl Streep.
- Older Than They Look: He was courting 40 when he filmed A Million Ways to Die in the West. He barely looked like he was courting thirty in it.
- Overly Long Gag: One of his favorite gags.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: He seems to love this trope as a pair wearing the corresponding colors are present in all his shows, specifically Meg and Chris, Francine and Stan and lastly, Kendra and Lester.
- Promoted Fanboy: Being a big fan of Star Trek, Seth was positively ecstatic to do a couple of guest appearances on Star Trek: Enterprise. Not to mention regularly collaborate with Patrick Stewart and have other cast members make occasional guest spots in his shows.
- Real-Life Relative: His sister, Rachael, also does voice-acting on his shows (the voice of Hayley on American Dad and regularly contributes additional voices to the other shows).
- Reference Overdosed: If you have no knowledge of 1970s and 1980s pop culture, movies from Golden Age of Hollywood, musicals, or the Rat Pack, most of the jokes on Seth's shows will go over your head.
- Renaissance Man: Writer, director, actor, producer, animator, story artist, voice-over artist, singer, musician, composer, all before the age of 40!
- Screwed by the Network: Family Guy was subjected to this back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. American Dad! has been this way as well, especially ever since Family Guy was Un-Cancelled (Family Guy even has jokes about American Dad! being nigh-unknown, such as Peter referring to the show as "...whatever FOX is limping to the barn with," and in American Dad!, Brian Griffin stares at Stan and scoffs, "Do I know you?"). Amazingly, The Cleveland Show wasn't subjected to this treatment, despite the fact that most Seth MacFarlane fans don't care much for this show — however, on April 2013, Fox still cancelled the show due to low ratings and the popularity of Bob's Burgers.
- Serendipitous Survival: He was supposed to be on one of the September 11 planes but a hangover combined with an incorrect departure time given by his travel agent caused him to miss his flight by 10 minutes.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Most of the characters he voices shows signs of these.
- Talking to Himself:
- Played straight in Family Guy and American Dad!, where Seth voices the father of the family (Peter Griffin and Stan Smith), the bizarre live-in guest (Brian the talking dog and Roger the alien), the next door neighbor with a sexual side (Quagmire the sex addict and Greg Corbin, a male homosexual in a committed relationship), and a news caster (Tom Tucker and, again, Greg Corbin).
- Downplayed and subverted with The Cleveland Show: MacFarlane only played two characters on the show (Tim the Bear and Dr. Fist), who were later replaced with other actors (Jess Harnell played Tim the Bear during the show's final episodes and Dr. Fist was voiced by Tom Kenny in one episode and Bryan Cranston in the show's last episodes).
- Parodied and deconstructed on his Saturday Night Live monologue where he states that the many vocal impressions he does are in his head all the time and a possible sign of mental illness.
- Trolling Creator: Has admitted several times that he's proud of the hate he receives nowadays. He's also indulged in Dear Negative Reader more than once and even slipped it into his works occasionally.
- Two Girls to a Team: Lois and Meg, Donna and Roberta, and Francine and Hayley.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: All of his shows have this. Very rarely will they have vomit discretion shots, but they're there (particularly in the early episodes of either Family Guy or American Dad!. Not so much The Cleveland Show).
- What Could Have Been: Originally, MacFarlane was hired to do cartoon shorts for the FOX sketch show, MADtv, and later to "Weird Al" Yankovic's short-lived Saturday morning show, but backed out in favor of doing his own series. Had either of these situations worked out, he would have to those shows what The Simpsons was to The Tracey Ullman Show.
- Also, originally: The Simpsons was going to be canceled after 23 years and Seth's revival of The Flintstones was going to take its place. This fell through when MacFarlane decided to put his Flintstones revival on hold (mostly because of royalty issues, but it does seem suspect that The Flintstones reboot was canned around the same time The Simpsons' renewal issues were settled) and The Simpsons was renewed for two more seasons in exchange for extensive budget cuts for cast and crew members in order to keep the show afloat.
- Whole Plot Reference: Is very fond of these.
- Writer on Board: Some of his works are, or contain, his biases and things taken from his life (which is most evident in Family Guy and The Orville). Literally with The Orville, where he also plays the main character who shares his views.
- Workaholic: His regular duties on Family Guy and American Dad notwithstanding, he also wrote a few episodes, helps to animate where he can, and even helps with the music when he can.
- Write What You Know: One of the main reasons MacFarlane chose to make Family Guy a series was the fact that, up until the late 1990s, there was little to no TV shows that took place in the New England states, at least outside of Boston.