Any long-running television series runs the risk of burning out. Comedic institutions like SNL have gone through multiple mutations over the years, while The Simpsons and South Park, modern animation's standard-bearers, have had dips in quality as they cross the 200-episode mark. So it's not shocking that many Family Guy fans think the show has fallen off a bit creatively -- what's surprising is that the FOX sitcom's showrunner seems to agree.
After Splitsider published a piece that was critical of the show's current creative direction, head writer Alec Sulkin responded to some of the criticisms in an interview with the site. It's a candid, revealing look inside the struggle of keeping a show fresh and invigorating when it's been around since Bill Clinton was president.
"I still think the show is good overall, but I acknowledge that the show has had challenges trying to keep things fresh," he said. "There is kind of a burnout factor. Steve Callaghan was the showrunner before me, and I think he did a good job, but there is a clock on the show, and it can be difficult to get excited and stay focused."
Throughout the interview, he also indicates that the show's ups and downs are partially a result of how many other projects creator Seth MacFarlane has been involved in over the last five years. In addition to writing and directing the Ted movies and A Million Ways to Die in the West -- all three of which Sulkin held a writing credit on -- the boyish comedian also hosted the Oscars while producing American Dad, The Cleveland Show, and a failed live-action sitcom on FOX called Dads. That's a lot of gags to write.
"When Seth was in the writer’s room, he was the best writer there," explains Sulkin in the interview. "He made the show better just by being there. He was certainly stretched a little thin by all the projects he was working on, and while we have a lot of other talented writers, it was bound to affect the quality of the show."
At the same time, the interview isn't a series of excuses, and it's worth reading in its entirety. Sulkin appears convinced that the show could recapture some of its old magic by returning to more grounded plots, exploring new topics, and bringing in new writers. He's actively looking at fixes. For the show's loyal audience of Stewie enthusiasts, this might be a sign of hope, and if you gave up on the show at some point in the last 10 years, maybe tune in. If you thought the show always sucked -- well, it's probably not going to win you over now.