"Family Guy" smashes Emmy barrier for cartoons

Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:11am EDT

The cast of ''Family Guy'' in an undated image courtesy of Fox. REUTERS/Fox/Seth McFarlane/Handout

The cast of ''Family Guy'' in an undated image courtesy of Fox.

Credit: Reuters/Fox/Seth McFarlane/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Family Guy" on Thursday became the first animated show in nearly 50 years to score an Emmy nomination for best comedy series.

The show's creator, Seth MacFarlane, says his nomination marks the end of Emmy discrimination against animated TV -- but doesn't think he'll actually win.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: SO WHERE WERE YOU, AND WHAT WERE YOU DOING WHEN THIS NEWS CAME DOWN?

MacFarlane: It was about 5 in the morning and I got a phone call, so I was not able to react for the excitement that they wanted.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: NOW THAT YOU'VE HAD A LITTLE TIME TO WARM UP, WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

MacFarlane: I think it is extremely encouraging for everyone who is busting their ass on these animated shows to have this happen. I have friends on "King of the Hill," I have friends on "The Simpsons." I feel like it is validation for all of these shows that they are now viewed as on the same playing field as the other comedies, because we are all really doing the same job. It took a long time to recognize single-camera comedies, and I think that it's frustrating for a lot of the animated shows that we haven't gotten the same treatment (as other comedies). It is nice that they stopped ignoring the fact that the animated shows are major players in the comedy landscape of television. This is a huge step forward for open-mindedness in the voting process.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: WAS FOX IN FAVOR OF THE IDEA OF SUBMITTING TO THIS CATEGORY?

MacFarlane: They left it up to us; they didn't really have a strong opinion one way or the other like we did. While shows like "SpongeBob" and "Fairly OddParents" are good shows, they are not doing the same type of program as a show like "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy." It's apples and oranges. It's doing two different things, producing for two different audiences. The process is much more analogous to what shows like "Two and a Half Men" or "The Office" do. The sitcom process is a different medium. The only thing that should be relevant is if you are doing a quality show or not. I think "The Simpsons" should have been nominated in the '90s, when they were up against "Friends" and "Seinfeld." "The Simpsons" were making a show that was on par with a lot of the shows nominated and better than a lot of them.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: WHEN YOU SAW THAT THERE WERE SEVEN NOMINEES, WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THAT?

MacFarlane: I think that helped us. Nobody likes to do things differently than the way they are used to doing them. It is just human nature, and I think the addition of those spots helped people with the live-action shows they are comfortable nominating, but at the same time be OK with trying to push the playing field a little bit.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: WHICH EPISODES DID YOU SUBMIT?

MacFarlane: We submitted three episodes. We submitted "Road to Germany," we submitted "Family Gay," we submitted "I Dream of Jesus." We picked three of our edgier shows as a choice. Ya know, we figured if we are going to be damned, let's be damned for what we really are.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: SOME OF THE OTHER COMEDY NOMINATIONS WERE SURPRISING AS WELL. INSTEAD OF "TWO AND A HALF MEN," YOU'RE FACING "FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS" AND "HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER." WHAT'S YOUR FEELING ON THE COMPETITION?

MacFarlane: They're all very different types of shows. I have not personally seen "Flight of the Conchords." I know a lot of people who are big fans of it, and who speak extremely highly of it, and that is a show that is certainly by all indication not traditional. And that also, I think, shows a willingness by the voters to finally adapt to the new playing field. You know, the ratings for "The Simpsons" are better than most live-action comedies on the air, and in other categories ratings and popularity are taken into account in the voting process. And for some reason that hasn't been the case for the animated shows; they have this big elephant in the room. These are big hit shows. "The Simpsons" has been on for 20 years and still going strong. Our numbers are showing evidence that we hopefully should be noticed.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: DO YOU THINK THE NOMINATION WILL BE REFERENCED IN THE SHOW?

MacFarlane: I don't know if there will be time to get a reference in, but maybe it will more likely be referenced in one of the interstitials between the shows that we do.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE OF WINNING?

MacFarlane: It is enough just to be nominated. I just think (winning) would be asking for too much change all at once. I doubt we would win. Although, I thought we were further away from Obama (winning) than we are, and that was a nice surprise. So, who knows?

(Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters)

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