Family Guy Gets a New Lease on Life

Two years after being axed by Fox, Seth McFarlane’s popular series Family Guy is now officially back in production. According to a story in Daily Variety today, 20th Century Fox will produce at least 22 new episodes of the series–although some expect the number to go as high as 40. Cartoon Network plans to air the new episodes in first quarter of 2005, while Fox can still exercise its option to broadcast them first.

“There was never any question that this show was wildly successful creatively, but it didn’t draw a broad enough audience to justify sticking on the network,” 20th Century Fox TV president Gary Newman says in the article. “But we’ve found a way to capitalize on the incredibly loyal and fanatical base of enthusiasts for the show.”

The rebirth of the series owes a lot to the fact that it performed much better than expected on DVD. According to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, more than 2.2 million units have been sold of Family Guy‘s two DVD volumes. In addition, the show’s reruns on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block have proved to be ratings grabbers.

“We all kind of mused when it was canceled that it would be funny to have a fate like Star Trek, where you go three years, get canceled and then explode in reruns,” says McFarlane. “We never thought that would happen, but then, here we are.”

The Cartoon Network license fee, projected DVD sales and possible sale in syndication will help cover the cost of the production. Fox executives did point out that to justify the show’s return, its budget has been cut by about 10%. But MacFarlane said the belt tightening won’t have a major impact on the show.

The Emmy-winning toon, which centers on a dysfunctional family introduced fans to absent-minded dad Peter Griffin, his wife Lois, daughter Meg, slacker son Chris, homicidal baby Stewie and sophisticated family dog Brian back in 1999. MacFarlane voices several of the show’s characters, including Peter. The other cast members–Seth Green, Alex Bornstein and Mila Kunis–are now in talks to reprise their roles.

This means MacFarlane is going to be one heck of a busy guy since he’s also working on his new animated Fox project, American Dad, along with writers Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman.