Where To Start With... Seth MacFarlane
For fans of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane needs no introduction. Beginning his career as a jobbing animator for Hanna Barbera working on shows like Johnny Bravo and Dexter's Laboratory, Seth MacFarlane has gone on to create one of the most popular animated series in history, with Family Guy second only to Matt Groening's The Simpsons in terms of its viewer ratings and cultural impact.
MacFarlane has to rank as one of the busiest and most prolific talents in the entertainment industry. In addition to Family Guy he's been behind two other animated shows in American Dad! and Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show, produced two live-action sitcoms, appeared as an actor in shows like The Gilmore Girls and Flash Forward, and in 2011 he even used his considerable singing talents to record and release his debut album, Music is Better than Words, with a follow-up due out this week.
As if that wasn't enough, in 2012 he released his first full-length, live-action feature film, Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and featuring a foul-mouthed talking teddy bear. While fans will have to wait until next year at the earliest for its sequel, which already has the likes of Morgan Freeman and Amanda Seyfried signed up for its roster, next week sees DVD & Blu-Ray release of MacFarlane's second live-action feature, A Million Ways to Die in the West.
Starring MacFarlane himself alongside Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron, the the film is set in the American wild west of the late 1800s and its plot sees MacFarlane playing the role of Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer who begins to fall for Anna (Theron), a mysterious new woman who arrives in town. What Albert doesn't know is that Anna is married, and her husband is a feared outlaw named Clinch (Neeson), who discovers that Albert has kissed his wife and challenges him to a gunfight. With Albert's gunslinging skills being pretty nonexistant, unless Anna can turn him into a brilliant gunfighter before the showdown, it's only a matter of time before he becomes Clinch's latest victim.
The film boasts a talented cast that also includes Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and Gilbert Gottfried, and fans of MacFarlane's brand of comedy will no doubt enjoy the film, even though met with mixed reviews and struggled to match Ted's success at the box office. While some of the gags fall a little flat, there are plenty of laughs to be had in this light-hearted skewering of the Westerns that were so prevalent during the 1960s and 70s.
If you're already well acquainted with MacFarlane's output then we'd highly recommend grabbing the film when it hits the shelves on October 6th. If you're new to the Family Guy creator's extra-curricular activities though, there's plenty of other options to get your teeth into, so we've listed five of his other projects below to get you started...
A Million Ways To Die In The West - Trailer
The first of two live-action sitcoms MacFarlane has produced, The Winner starred Rob Corddry as Glen Abbot, a highly successful forty-something voiceover artist who looks back on his less successful years a struggling thirty-something actor living with his parents in Buffalo, New York. Featuring a cast that included Erinn Hayes and Keir Gilchrist, the show ran for one seriesof six episodes in 2007, receiving a mixed reaction from critics that ranged from the New York Post describing it as “the funniest new show this year” to The Miami Herald's assertion that the show was “dreadful". FOX canned the show after the first series, citing poor ratings as the reason for its cancellation.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
One of the more unusual projects MacFarlane has been involved with – especially as it doesn't involve comedy – the Family Guy creator was behind a 2014 reboot of an educational documentary series hosted by Carl Sagan that originally aired on America's Public Broadcasting Service in 1980. The original series, named Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, became the public access network's most popular show, airing in 60 countries and being viewed by over 400 million people.
Ever since Sagan's death in 1996 his widow Ann Druyan, who co-created the show with her husband, had been pitching to TV networks to try and get a new series made, but without success. After MacFarlane was introduced to her by the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who presents the new series, MacFarlane was persuaded to help fund the new version, hand-picking animators for the series and co-producing it along with Druyan producer/ director Brannon Braga, the man behind Star Trek: Voyager.
MacFarlane was the executive producer behind Dads, another live action sitcom that was the creation of Alec Surkin and Wellesley Wild, two of Family Guy's writers. The show starred Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as two best friends working as successful games developers when their blissful, creative lives are ruined by the arrival of their nightmare fathers, who turn up on each of their sons' respective doorsteps after their marital relationships turn sour. Despite the writers' obvious talents, however, the show's reviews were overwhelmingly negative and, after a run of 18 episodes that began in July 2013, the show was finally cancelled after its 18th episode in February this year.
Starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, Ted was Seth MacFarlane's first live-action feature film and it proved to be a big hit. The plot centres on John Bennett (Wahlberg) and begins with the very Disney-esque scene of a young John wishing that his teddy bear could talk, a wish that is subsequently granted. However, this is Seth MacFarlane, so fast-forward twenty years and we find John living the man-child life with his talking buddy, who has grown with him through puberty and now has the personality of a pot-smoking, porn-watching adolescent, and one whom John's girlfriend, Lori (Kunis), believes is holding John back.
Yes, it's essentially one joke done over and over again and if you're not into the kind of juvenile humour that MacFarlane specialises in then it may not be for you, but we're sure that anyone who enjoys Family Guy will find this very, very funny.
Amazingly, American Dad! Is the only TV series, animated or otherwise, MacFarlane has ever worked on that has never been cancelled (for those who didn't know, even Family Guy has been cancelled – twice – by FOX, only to resurrect the series on two occasions after strong DVD sales).
More political than its counterpart, American Dad!’s chief protagonist is Stan, a CIA employee with some very right-wing views whose zealous love of all things U.S.A. is sharply contrasted by his daughter's rebellious streak, his son's nerdy persona and his wife's surprisingly liberal views. Throw into the mix a talking goldfish named Klaus - the result of an irreversible body-swap experiment between a fish and a former East German Olympic ski-jumper - as well as Roger, an alien survivor of the Roswell incident that Stan keeps hidden in his attic, and you've got the formula for another long-running animated comedy.