Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, the first in its 16-season history to air without commercials, invited us to become flies on the wall of a Stewie Griffin therapy session — and boy did we learn a lot.
Or maybe I should say we had many of our preconceived notions about the Griffin’s youngest, most evil member confirmed to us — from his sexuality (“‘Fluid’ is a something I hear being tossed around a lot,” he said before questioning whether “heterosexual” is even a real word) to his fake British accent, which his actual British therapist (voiced by Ian McKellen) saw right through. Not that he’ll get to tell anyone about it. R.I.P., Dr. Pritchfield!
STEWIE’S ‘FLUID’ SEXUALITY | By telling his therapist that he could relax, this wasn’t going to be a coming-out story, he was “almost addressing the audience’s expectations,” Janetti explains. “Stewie’s awareness of his sexuality is this uncertain thing, and that needs to stay as it is. His uncertainty gives him a vulnerability, which is something we need to maintain for the series. Whether he is [gay] or not, that isn’t going to be answered when he’s a one-year-old. But if you read between the lines, it’s not that difficult to decipher. He’s not even sure ‘heterosexual’ is a real word!”
Adds Appel, “We also talked to [creator Seth MacFarlane] whose opinion was to not lean into [Stewie’s sexuality] too much. He’s still a baby. He doesn’t know yet, and sexuality is a very fluid matter. It’s better to keep that as something that’s not determined yet.”
THAT ‘GRANT GUSTIN’ REFERENCE | Despite being “less gay” than he used to be, Stewie acknowledged that he and The Flash‘s Grant Gustin, whom he described as a “young Anthony Perkins,” would make a cute Instagram couple. “I didn’t have to look it up,” Janetti says of Gustin’s name. “A lot of this episode was my stream of consciousness because I wanted it to feel like his stream of consciousness. So I was just letting him ramble. No one was going to stop him. And Grant Gustin just felt like someone Stewie would like.”
STEWIE’S — GASP! — REAL VOICE | Despite writing Stewie’s real (aka non-British) voice into his episode’s script, Janetti didn’t actually know how it would sound until MacFarlane gave it a shot at the table read. “I liked the idea of that being the reveal,” Janetti says. “It felt truthful that somebody who didn’t feel like he fit in would create an artificial personality. To an extent, that’s what he’s done. And then to have Ian’s character — the one person he’s sharing this big secret with — not even hear the difference was another fun opportunity. It felt like a good way to show Stewie’s insecurities in a way that felt truthful to the history of the series.”
THAT HAMILTON SEGMENT | It may not have been a “reveal,” but we’ll never be able to wash the image of Stewie’s snotty Hamilton performance from our brains — not that we’d want to. And Janetti says much of the credit belongs to director Joe Vaux: “In the script, it’s just written as a piece of snot coming out of his nose, then as he gets more emotional it starts to go into his mouth. But it became suspenseful the way he did it. Joe gets a lot of credit for taking a simple stage direction and turning it into a tour de force presentation.”
ONE MORE THING… | As for the whole “commercial-free” aspect of tonight’s episode, allow Appel to explain: “Our table reads are always longer than broadcast allows, so we find out what doesn’t work and we trim it down. After this table read, I think it was Jonathan Gabay, the Fox executive who works on our show, who said, “Gee, how do you cut this down?” It really was a successful table read and an unusual episode, and he said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we ran this without commercial interruption?” That’s when the script started making its way up the network. And Gary Newman, who’s one of the chairmen of the company, loved it and immediately said, “We’ll do this with or without a sponsor. It should be commercial-free.”
Which of Sunday’s reveals and/or confirmations had your jaw dropping? Grade the episode below, then leave us a comment with your full review.