[03/25/04 - 12:00 AM]
Production Begins on Revived 'Family Guy'
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- After four months of rumblings, production has officially restarted on the short-lived animated series "Family Guy," the show's distributor, 20th Century Fox Television, confirmed this week.

At least 22 new installments are scheduled to be produced for its revived fourth season, which will debut in early 2005. Cartoon Network, the home of "Family Guy's" off-network run, has signed on to broadcast the new episodes however FOX, which originally ran the series from 1999-2002, has the option to air the episodes first. In either case, the episodes will eventually make their way to the cable channel.

Overall, the studio expects as many as 40 new episodes to be produced over the course of its new production run, the idea being to get enough episodes in the can to sell the series to local stations across the country. 50 installments were produced during its initial run, meaning an addition 40 would put in well within the target range of most syndication packages.

"There was never any question that this show was wildly successful creatively, but it didn't draw a broad enough audience to justify sticking on the network," 20th Century Fox Television president Gary Newman told Daily Variety. "But we've found a way to capitalize on the incredibly loyal and fanatical base of enthusiasts for the show."

"It's really astonishing," added creator Seth MacFarlane. "We all kind of mused when it was canceled that it would be funny to have a fate like 'Star Trek,' where you go three years, get canceled and then explode in reruns. We never thought that would happen, but then, here we are."

As previously noted (read the story), "Family Guy's" revival is chiefly attributed to its strong DVD sales - 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment indicates more than 2.2 million units have been sold of "Family Guy's" two DVD volumes - as well as its stellar viewership as part of Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" lineup where it regularly beats NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and CBS' "The Late Show With David Letterman" in the heavily coveted demographic of men 18-24.

20th is banking on future DVD sales of the new episodes and additional syndicated revenue to offset the significant cost of producing the show. The studio also confirmed that the budget for the series has been cut by 10%. MacFarlane nevertheless indicates the reduction won't have a major impact on the show and Seth Green, Alex Bornstein and Mila Kunis are in talks to reprise their roles. MacFarlane, along with "Family Guy" veterans Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman, are also hard at work on "American Dad," an animated pilot presentation at FOX.

Lastly, Newman was also quick to indicate that it's unlikely other canceled shows will follow in the footsteps of "Family Guy" and return to the small screen: "In no way should anyone think this is a template for the future," he said. "A successful DVD life does not justify production costs. What it does suggest is those of us on the supplier side of the business have to be open to unique shows and situations."

  [march 2004]  


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