Please, you silly Penn student, why? Why Family Guy? Yes, it's funny and should not have been cancelled in the first place. But what I really have a problem with is your na‹¨«ve and uninformed belief that this show is anywhere near as funny as its prototype and godfather, The Simpsons. Look, it's not really your fault. I know that you got to college and saw the Dave Chapelle Show and suddenly became the purveyor of hilarity.
But I want to help you. So let us actually identify why that dysfunctional yellow family is superior to the Griffin clan. A necessary clarification before we start: when we are talking about The Simpsons, we don't mean that swill that Ian Maxtone Graham peddles to FOX as comedy these days. We are talking about the classic Simpsons. In its heyday, no show has ever compared. What follows is at best a highly abridged (by approximately 2,000 words) explanation of why you ought to trade in Quahog for Springfield.
The Simpsons, at their best, are a family of real characters with real personalities that really reflect the nuclear family. What makes the show funny is the writers' ability to extract humor from the archetypical characters by leading them through unique, clever, socially and sociologically relevant plots. The characters' consistency allows jokes to build across episodes, seasons even, so that when some specific instance of Homer's buffoonery adds to his endless list of ignominies, you really feel like it's earned.
And anything feels better when you earn it. Hence, my biggest problem with Family Guy. The characters don't drive the comedy, but rather the plot. You'd be hard pressed to give me some real defining traits of each character beyond basic generalizations like "Chris is stupid" or "Lois is..." What is Lois? Exactly. It's impossible to imbue Lois with any finite form since her personality and behavior continually mutate. Episodes feel flat because the format of the show limits the opportunities for jokes to the tone of the specific plot.
How then does Family Guy make up for its one-dimensionality? And you're screaming to yourself right now "the cutaways!" But by now, the cutaway has become so overused that what once was creative absurdity is now just inane.
The Simpsons not only delves deeper into its characters than Family Guy, but has a larger reservoir of personalities from which to create its comedy. The sheer volume of funny characters in The Simpsons crushes the amount of periphery characters that add humor in Family Guy. I'm talking about characters that are unique and dimensional. For every one character that adds something to Family Guy, there are five that make The Simpsons a better show.
Finally. The Simpsons has Mr. Burns. End of story. Stewie is the funniest character on Family Guy and he's simply an unrealized version of Mr. Burns. His cranky demeanor and obsession with world domination are but attributes borrowed from C. Montgomery Burns. This wiry old curmudgeon is a relic from a bygone era when people answered the phone "ahoy, ahoy" and asked the filling station attendant to "revulcanize the tires and fill it up with petroleum distillate, post haste." A relic, indeed. Mr. Burns is everything Stewie hopes to be, but never will become. A fine synecdoche, if you ask me.
So, Mr. Funnysocks, go out and get those beautiful Simpsons eps on DVD and then come tell me Family Guy is better. If you promise not to scratch the discs, you can even borrow my copies of the show Ricky Gervais calls the best television show ever. "Who's Ricky Gervais?" you ask. My point exactly.