American Dad! and Family Guy share a lot of similarities, from their creator Seth MacFarlane, to being Fox Network productions, and having a general story line based on suburban families with children and an opinionated pet. Family Guy, created in 1999, has edgy humor with mainstream appeal, while American Dad! (2005) has caustic, more adult humor with more frequent political references.
Peter Griffin, the father and protagonist in Family Guy, is portrayed as a wishy-washy character in a dysfunctional family, while CIA agent Stan Smith, the father and protagonist in American Dad!, is seemingly authoritarian, extremely conservative, and chauvinistic. Both shows are very popular with over 6 million viewers and are still going strong after many years of being on air.
|American Dad!||Family Guy|
|Genre||Adult animated sitcom||Adult animation, Animated sitcom|
|Original channel||Fox (2005–2014), TBS 2014 onwards||Fox|
|Created by||Mike Barker, Matt Weitzman, Seth MacFarlane||Seth MacFarlane|
|Format||Farce, Surreal humor, Shock value, Cringe comedy, Parody, Gallows humor, Political satire||Black comedy, Off-color humor, Surreal humor|
|Voices of||Seth MacFarlane, Wendy Schaal, Scott Grimes, Rachael MacFarlane, Dee Bradley Baker||Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry|
|No. of seasons||10||16|
|Introduction||American Dad! is an American adult animated sitcom created by Mike Barker, Matt Weitzman, and Seth MacFarlane for the "Animation Domination" lineup on Fox. American Dad! is the first television series to have its inception on Animation Domination.||Family Guy is an American adult animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company.|
|No. of episodes||163 (List of episodes)||221 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Mike Barker (2005-2014), Matt Weitzman, Seth MacFarlane, Rick Wiener, Kenny Schwartz, Steve Callaghan, Co-executive producers: Jonathan Fener, Brian Boyle, Judah Miller, Murray Miller, Erik Sommers||Seth MacFarlane, David A. Goodman, Chris Sheridan, Danny Smith, Mark Hentemann, Steve Callaghan, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild|
|Humor Style||More developed, subtle, political satire. Character-driven plot lines and jokes.||More mainstream, quick pop-culture references. Often via cutaway gags and flashbacks, less driven by character development.|
|Composer(s)||Walter Murphy, Joel McNeely, Ron Jones||Walter Murphy, Ron Jones|
|General Themes||Social and political commentary, satire of American conservative families.||Pop culture references, domestic family life, adolescent troubles.|
|Setting||Fictional suburb of Langley, Virginia.||Quahog, a fictional Rhode Island town.|
|Distributor||20th Television||20th Television|
|Picture format||480i (4:3 SDTV) (2005–2009), 720p (16:9 HDTV) (2010–present)||480i (SDTV) (1999–2003, 2005–2010), 720p (HDTV) (2010–present)|
|Producer(s)||Keith Heisler, Kara Vallow, Supervising producers: Lesley Wake Webster, Laura McCreary, Erik Durbin||Shannon Smith, Julius Sharpe, Kara Vallow|
|Country of origin||United States||United States|
|Ratings||IMDb rating - 7.7||IMDb rating - 8.5|
|Editor(s)||Rob DeSales||Mike Elias|
|Original run||February 6, 2005 – present||Original series: , January 31, 1999 – November 9, 2003, Revived series: May 1, 2005 –, present|
|Awards||Nominated for various awards, including two Emmys.||Nominated for 13 Emmys, with 4 wins, plus many other nominations and awards.|
|Run time||22–24 minutes||20–23 minutes|
The two shows revolve around suburban family life in fictional East Coast settings—American Dad! in Virginia and Family Guy in Rhode Island—and include teenage children and an anthropomorphic pet. The paternal figures, Stan on American Dad! and Peter on Family Guy, are the main characters in both shows, and their absurd personalities drive many of the stories. Both of these characters' wives often function as more logical and practical counterparts. The style of animation and physical appearance of the characters in American Dad! resemble the animation of Family Guy—perhaps because Seth MacFarlane played the lead role in designing the appearance of both—and both shows are produced by the Fox Network. Both shows also contain many examples of surreal humor and farce.
American Dad! centers around the Smith family, headed by Stan Smith, an eccentric and extreme right wing CIA agent. Stan’s character was initially extremely conservative and intolerant, but his political leaning is less evident in the later seasons of the show. His wife, Francine, is the nagging voice of reason but is also prone to random outbursts of vulgarity and intolerance. The other main characters include their immature son, activist daughter, daughter’s boyfriend, a cynical alien who's been stranded on Earth since 1947, and a talking goldfish. The show first aired on Fox in early 2005 and moved to TBS in 2014. Some funny moments from the show are in the video below; interviews with people involved in the creation of the show, and their take on the political humor in American Dad can be found here on YouTube:
Family Guy focuses on the antics of bumbling blue-collar worker and family man, Peter Griffin. Peter is portrayed as a weak, flaky character. His wife, Lois, comes from a wealthy socialite family, and their three children include a smart, earnest daughter, an unintelligent son who resembles Peter, and a diabolical talking baby of questionable sexual orientation. They also have a dog, Brian, who speaks and has a human personality but still functions like a pet in many ways. The show is set in Quahog, a fictional Rhode Island town loosely based on Providence. Family Guy first aired on January 31, 1999 on Fox. Some of Family Guy's funniest moments are compiled in the video below:
American Dad! is more rooted in long-term character development than quick pop culture references. The humor is intelligent, and although often based on the quirks of the characters, it may require more time for viewers to become familiar enough with the series to appreciate it. The show has an element of political satire, and Stan (the main paternal character) has a satirical, exaggerated conservative personality. The basic formula of the show is to combine bizarre situations and characters with a relatable family story as the backbone.
Though Family Guy contains memorable characters, it is less driven by their long-term development. As the humor is not rooted in a long story arc, Family Guy is more accessible for mainstream and sporadic viewers. The show leans more toward pop culture jabs and references than political ones, although it often lampoons American culture. The show utilizes traditional comedy devices such as cutaway gags and one-liners. Peter’s quintessential line is “Freakin’ sweet.”
Signature Plot Techniques
American Dad! often uses farce as the main characters find themselves in situations that cross over into bizarre and exaggerated circumstances. Another closely related technique or aspect of the show is surreal humor. Many actions and situations are fully nonsensical and illogical. Gallows humor is a recurring technique in which jokes are created at the expense of characters placed in life-threatening and traumatic situations. Stan puts a lot of effort into making sure his son Steve behaves like a real man.
One of Family Guy’s hallmarks is the series of “Road To” episodes, which always find Brian and Stewie in some supernatural or foreign location. The cutaway gag is one of the show’s most common techniques, in which the action is interrupted by an entirely different scene, usually a flashback. Self-referential humor is another hallmark of the show, which often makes references to the Fox Network and other shows.
Awards, Ratings, and Viewership
American Dad! has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys (that it did not win) and various other awards (Teen Choice, Prism, Annie, Golden Reel). Over the show’s lifetime, it has averaged about 6 million viewers. Its IMDb rating is 7.7, slightly below Family Guy's.
Family Guy has been nominated for 13 Emmys and has won four of them (two for animation, one for voice-over work, and one for music). The show has won various other awards, including three Golden Reel awards. The show has averaged about 7.5 million viewers, and its rating on IMDb is 8.5.