Fox Not So Freakin’ Sweet

Why can’t Fox take a joke? The network’s overpriced lawyers are throwing their weight around and coming down heavy on Swiss Family Guy Robinson, a small stage show by Canadian Brian Froud, that blended the characters of Family Guy with the 1812 novel Swiss Family Robinson.

Froud’s one-man show debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival and was an immediate hit with fans and critics alike. He turned it into a regular performance and started touring the show. All good, right? Not exactly. Despite Family Guy being the king of the meta reference, Fox didn’t see the humour in the show.

"When we learned that this production had made unauthorized use of the Family Guy characters and material, we asked that the producers cease and desist and they have complied. Protecting our intellectual property and copyrights is something we take very seriously at Twentieth Century Fox Television," says Chris Alexander, vice president of media relations for Fox Television.

It seems the network that is famed for broadcasting and then canceling creative shows – Arrested Development, Futurama, Greg the Bunny, Titus, Undeclared, Action, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Firefly and Family Guy twice – is now concerned about protecting its artistic integrity (investment). The oddity of this is Family Guy wouldn’t exist without the plundering pop culture’s past. Each episode is a pastiche of other people’s movies and TV shows that if the same cease and desist was applied to the show it would never have made it on the air.

Froud doesn’t get it either: “We are huge fans of the show ourselves and would never do anything to harm it's stellar reputation. We simply want to frolic within the hysterical realm of the freakin' sweet madness created by Mr. Seth MacFarlane,” states the comedian on his blog.

Seems that Fox doesn’t want anyone else getting a piece of the pie now that the show is lucrative.


  1. Well, given the fact Family Guy regularly makes unathorised use of various characters in pop culture, I don't see how Fox can feel justified in doing this. Besides which, I don't know about Canadian law, but in America parody is protected under the first amendment.

  2. Oh this is sad. I completely agree that it seems as though Fox has decided that they don't want to share their Family Guy profits. How sad that they take it out on a a guy with a one man show.


  3. Is this the same guy who did the Simpson's MacBeth a few years back?

  4. If anything, this show increases the value of their intellectual property, not lessen it.

  5. I do believe parody is protected here too, but it may come down to the means to fight a company with as deep of pockets as News Corp. They could crush you with legal fees alone.

    Froud says much the same about increasing the value of their intellectual property - the show is a touring advertisement for Family Guy - but they don't seem to care.

    MacHomer was done by a different Canadian, but Fox has treated that show completely differently. Matt Groening gave his approval, but it seems the reins are far, far tighter on Seth MacFarlane, for whatever reason.

  6. Unfortunately Fox will milk the tv show trying to capitilize on the free advertizing. I wonder if they will parody the parody.

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  7. Ugh. I read this article on the weekend and was appalled by it. As you say, it's strange that MacHomer got away with it, and this one didn't. It sparked a long discussion between my husband and me, where he was saying FOX needs to protect their copyright and trademark on the show, yadda yadda. Absolutely, and I get that. But isn't this the same as FOX shutting down the Simpsons fan sites back in the late 90s for posting quotations from the show and images of the characters? Were those sites hurting The Simpsons at all? Absolutely not. If anything, they were helping to generate free online advertising for the show, not hurting it.

    Here's how I judge it: If the parody is going to hurt your profits, then it's within your rights to put your foot down. If I would choose to go to this guy's show instead of buying the Family Guy DVDs, then FOX has something to worry about. But we all know that isn't the case. Going to see this show is not going to turn me away from the series. It's an homage to it, not something to make me stop watching. I've seen so many things like this shut down in the past few years it sickens me. Yes, people need to protect their copyrights, but to what end? It's ridiculous.

  8. Exactly Nik - this is just another example of how traditional media companies still seem to despise their fans other than as sedate consumers of product.

    I would think this kind of exposure and word of mouth advertising would be something a show would kill for, but instead they decide to quash it.

    Don't be afraid of your audience, embrace it.

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