5 shows like Family Guy (only better)

The Simpsons vs Family Guy character art swap

Homer vs. Peter is the most glaring argument for Family Guy being a ripoff of the Simpsons. Originally found here.

Now let me tell you a thing or two about this show before I dive into an epic tirade of the many and varied shows like Family Guy that trounce it to smithereens. I liked Family Guy. I loved Family Guy. I still remember the very first episode that aired, way back at the dawn of time, that had me laughing so hysterically that I literally kept laughing for several days afterward (in class, during math tests), and asked every single person I knew if they had seen it too. But nope. Not a single one. Nobody knew of the treasure trove of hilarity that was Family Guy, and it was a tragedy of epic proportions I could barely cope with. Yet another reason why streaming video needs to be the exclusive method entertainment transition, but I digress.

Needless to say, once the first episode re-aired, I recorded the broadcast and angrily demanded that all of my friends bask in the greatness that was this show. Even though I had been repeating the jokes for months in a futile attempt to convey the hilarity of said programming, they still laughed at every joke I had already driven into the ground. Converts, one and all.

Family Guy gave me three hilarious seasons before cancellation, and I was eager for its return, years later, which involved me blocking out the time to absorb the new material with no distractions of any kind.

It was…okay.

Perhaps I had grown older. Perhaps the show had lost its creative edge. Perhaps Set MacFarlane had spread himself too thin between the very obviously derivative American Dad, and later, the Cleveland Show, to keep up the kind of densely crafted, caffeinated silliness that was Family Guy.

I still find the Road to Rhode Island episode and other moments to be spectacular, but…it’s simply not the same. I have found better shows, before and since, that I can enjoy without having to wade through mediocrity. And thus:

Shows like Family Guy

1) The Simpsons (up to season 8ish)

The Simpsons family on the couch

You may have heard of it.

This is a bittersweet, painful memory for me, as the Simpsons was like my soul mate of humor, in its early incarnation, during which time it was broadcast merely once per week. Needless to say, the viewing ritual involved friends, family, and abject silence, punctuated by moments of bemused laughter. Nothing would come between me and my Simpsons fandom.

It was smart, subversive, and endlessly clever. The joke density from seasons 3 to 7 comes in at about once every 14 seconds. They were bursting forth with such hilarity (and clever hilarity) that they could barely keep it contained.

Much has been said of Family Guy having ripped off the feel of the Simpsons, and while I think that’s perhaps a little overdone (any silly cartoon based around a family will invite comparison), what makes the Simpsons so vastly superior is how it’s simultaneously a much smarter show, and a much more serious show. The Simpsons could provide commentary on corporate monopolies via parodied Dr. Seuss lyrics, simultaneously, and seamlessly, blending worthwhile social commentary with hilarity. Family Guy, though it certainly has its moments as well, more often dives headfirst into abject silliness for its own sake.

Granted, the Simpsons went down that road as well. But at least it lasted an arguably good 7-10 seasons before its demise.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3ZcZ2h4Ths]

2) South Park

South Park characters bus stop

I can hear the twangy guitar right now.

The rivalry between South Park and Family Guy has been delightfully expressed on South Park itself, and there’s no better takedown of Family Guy than the artfully crafted but ferocious tirade that was Cartoon Wars I and II. This snappy bit of visual literary criticism was so goddamn good that it was challenging to enjoy Family Guy even the slightest bit after that. The emperor was called out as wearing no clothes, and not a soul could thereafter claim otherwise. Even the okay jokes seemed weaker after Trey Parker and Matt Stone enacted the irreversible damage that made Family Guy appear as though it was constructed at random by dumb manatees.

As for South Park itself, it certainly has a lot of downright silliness as well. It’s been on TV for over a decade, and it’s not like its oeuvre is immune to criticism as well. But, as the creators themselves proclaimed, at least the events in the story make sense in the context of the show, instead of each joke appearing out of nowhere before exiting permanently and never returning. And it’s something Family Guy did more and more as time went on. In the beginning, they could tell compelling stories based on the characters. Sometimes, anyway. But they pushed more and more into the territory of nonsense, and the humor felt increasingly forced as time went on.

In South Park, this is simply not the case. The show, despite some episodes being favorites of mine while others could disappear forever without garnering a single tear from me, has a far broader range of topics covered, commentary issued, and laughs induced.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OFkMzo7-n0]

3) Futurama

Futurama spacesuits

See? Smart!

There are people out there who don’t enjoy Futurama. They’re usually stupid.

Now I won’t go into a fanboyish speech of adoration for the show; in fact, I think it has its weaknesses as well. It seems to be geared simultaneously toward a younger audience, while delving into clever lines that are far too subtle for that target audience to understand. Actually, I don’t think it works. I think the jokes are segregated via the line in the sand designating “silly joke” vs “cleverly written and subtle witticism.” Fans will simultaneously tell you it’s a writer’s show, built for fans of ingeniously crafted dialogue, while others will tell you it’s just fun and goofy. And it is. But rarely simultaneously.

But they’re still there. Watch any episode of Futurama and you’ll get a taste of dorky intellectual types salivating over the multi-layered quippy line they just birthed into the world. Which, being the pretentious English major that I am, is lots of fun. Lots. The median joke IQ might not be spectacular, but the upper echelon hilarity is at genius levels.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1SQVc5791E]

4) Robot Chicken

Robot Chicken

Not that it has anything to do with its title, though…

That’s right, Robot fucking Chicken. Not literally. I meant it, like…as an exclamation. Shut up.

Want to see a well-done show about random nonsensical scenarios that have nothing to do with each other? This is a damn good one. One gets the impression that Robot Chicken anticipated the rise of Youtube, constructed of nothing but self-contained, quick and nonsensical stop motion silliness, one after another. But good.

I’ll deviate from discussing Robot Chicken in general and segue into specifically shoving childish adoration on the Robot Chicken Star Wars saga. Holy dammit was that spec-fucking-tacular. It’s like watching a gold medalist squash any and all opponents and shatter multiple world records simultaneously.

It’s pretty great how a huge dork can play around with action figures and it’s actually really damn good.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F1d3QWsyk0]

5) 30 Rock

Liz Lemon as Princess Leia on 30 Rock

Like Robot Chicken, it even has Star Wars references.

Oh yes. I challenge you to point out a TV show that’s more cartoony than 30 Rock, or whose characters get into ridiculously silly predicaments that only happen on animated programs. Besides Community.

It’s certainly the case that 30 Rock is a rather different kind of show, but it’s also a lot smarter. Imagine if you took all the most clever jokes of Family Guy and used that as a baseline for further high-IQ witticisms. It’s a whole lot smarter, and not just on the humor front. The big business bullying of Jack Donaghy, but always in a fancy suit and with fantastic swagger, is the source of endless yet amusing social commentary.

And the cast of characters is perhaps even more cartoony than Family Guy. Despite being so far detached from reality, they’re actually caricatures of real people, unlike the random traits of the cast of Family Guy (only 2 or 3 of whom are actually fun to watch anyway). 30 Rock is a lot smarter, and a whole lot more fun, and the closest thing to being a cartoon without actually being drawn.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTj47rcuM-4]

Other shows like Family Guy?

I specifically avoided discussing American Dad and the Cleveland Show, because, well this is a list about good shows. Wouldn’t want to clog it up with garbage. But if you’ve got any other shows like Family Guy worth watching, fill us in!

None found.

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