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Family Guy Review: A Spot of Tea, Old Chap?

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Family Guy satirized the Tea Party this week. It just doesn't do it all that well.

In "Tea Peter," Mort reopens his pharmacy after the fire that burned it down, and Peter winds up getting enamored with a "Come In, We're Open" sign. So he hangs it up on the door of his house. This leads to people coming in as if the Griffin household is a business and the items inside are for sale, which Peter gladly indulges in.

But Joe then shuts it all down because it's an unlicensed business. This leads to Peter joining the Tea Party and trying to disband the city government. How do you think that went?

Tea Party Members

Seth MacFarlane is a noted liberal, and the politics of the show follow the same track, so an episode mocking the rise of this provocative conservative political movement was inevitable. The problem is that the show forgot to make it funny.

Satire by definition doesn't have to be humorous – the use of exaggeration can be satirical as well, and that appears to be the goal here. However, satire is best when it has something interesting to say about its subject, and I don't think the episode had much to say that hasn't been said in the past few years of political discourse.

The extended lead time of animated shows means that they can't be very timely with parodies, but considering how long the Tea Party has been around in American politics, I'm surprised an episode like this wasn't made sooner. In fact, it could have been made two years ago and not much could have changed.

And, really, I think the characterization of Tea Party supporters as just basically anarchists seemed like too much of an exaggeration to be funny. I may lean liberal myself, but the anarchist characterization pushed past the point of exaggeration into just plain inaccurate. The mention of big business being behind the movement, often in phony ways like Carter Pewterschmidt posing as "Joe Workingman," is something that the show needed to spell out for the people they were trying to reach, but it felt like they were just stating the obvious to anyone even barely paying attention.

In fact, the only real surprise in the episode was that the word "movement" was used several times and yet Peter never made a poop joke.

This is the problem the sitcom has when it gets political: it can focus too much on trying to get its agenda across and not enough on the comedy side of things. With some more subtlety, the message may have come across a lot better, but subtlety is not a thing to really expect from Family Guy. So, I guess I'm just saying that these kinds of episodes are ones that the show just needs to stay away from because they generally don't go well.

The outing was only really funny in unrelated bits, or in silly character moments, like in Herbert's two appearances. There was even a callback to Quagmire's proclivity for giraffes when there's mass lawlessness in Quahog. On the whole, this episode did nothing more than state the obvious, and in a way that was neither profound nor at the very least entertaining.

It's a shame because the series at least does have guts – not to mention the ability – to be political and to take a fairly definitive stand on issues, yet it often whiffs on the execution. Read through our Family Guy quotes section for a look at what did work, at least.

Review

Editor Rating: 2.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 2.7 / 5.0 (76 Votes)
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As a libertarian, I can say that this episode was exceptionally inaccurate about the Tea Party movement, the Tea Party movement wants a smaller government, it does not want to abolish the government.

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This was not an accurate representation of the Tea Party! Where were all the crazy insane "birther" people? Or the attacks against people of color?

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Hi, I'm Seth McFarlane.
I want to apologize for this episode, it was incredibly stupid and all of our writers were too busy sucking eachother's dicks to come up with anything interesting this week, so we just decided to throw some Liberal pro-government bullshit together and cram it down your throats. If you don't like it, you can kiss my ass because I have a lot of money and that gives me a blank check to write about shit I have no clue on. So once again, I'm sorry everyone, this ignorant yuppie will try harder next time.
Sincerely,
Seth McFarlane

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This show has been slpping for awhile .With this horrid satire they hit rock bottom

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I hate to say it...but I will. As far as I'm concerned, Seth M. was EMOTIONALLY ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL when he came up with this stupid snoozer of an episode. Zzzzzzzzzz. I had to force myself to watch last night's new episode...which is so UNLIKE me!!!!! To me, And Then There Were Fewer, Barely Legal, Brian and Stewie, Go Stewie Go, Mother Tucker and Quagmire's Dad are classic examples of Family Guy at it's BEST!!!!! Last night, Tea Peter didn't EVEN REMOTELY come close!!!!! I'm almost afraid to even watch the upcoming May 20th episode...which is gonna be the Season Finale. Seth M....I am very disappointed in you. Everyone else...take care. Peace.

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I just sat and watched. not a single stretch of smile came across my face . let alone laughter. the episode was very predictable and horribly boring.
Family guy is just getting even more embarrassing.

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Oh, I should mention polycentric law as well. The legal system orginally evolved from free market entities, not a centralized bureaucracy. 'Common Law' is what we got from different judges trying to judge fairly, and reach a consensus on what people thought. Unpopular rulings (the 'rule of thumb' about beating your wife was one such unpopular ruling - that's why we remember it) were struck down, while popular rulings entered into case law. Rather than forcing laws onto the community, the polycentric legal regime accepts what the community judges as fair - the same way a sneaker company lets the community dictate what sneakers they make, rather than forcing a certain style on people. In places like Ireland, the polycentric legal system survived well into the 18th century, and it was even more common throughout history. Centralized legal regimes appeared frequently throughout history, and almost always failed (not a lot of scholarship on this, but for a similar situation look up "Genghis Khan and Inflation" - the Federal Reserve's been tried before, and failed before). The problems with the modern legal system - unust laws, corruption, a massive prison-industrial complex - are obvious results of any monopoly, and for an honest student of history it's utterly bizarre that we're trying such failed policies again.

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Emma; Anarcho-Capitalists (and I'm generalizing here, the movement is like herding cats) are generally for free-market based regulatory regimes. If you look at the HTML5 protocol, or cell phone communication protocols, they're almost entirely derived by free-market entities, negotiating amongst eachother, to design the optimal system of standards. The argue that centralized government regulation can turn out poorly. Contrast two sets of regulations: traffic lights, and food safety. With traffic lights, there are no major lobbyists; the city wants efficient traffic flow, as do all the businesses, so we have a (mostly) good outcome (aside from speed traps). Food safety, on the other hand, can be disproportionately influenced by big business lobbying the gov't to shut down family farms, or small food vendors, for the benefit of big aggro and major restaurants. The anarcho-capitalist argument is that central planning almost never works well, and when it does it's the exception to the rule; there's no reason to expect that a centralized agency would be any more competent than the free market at addressing market failures. This episode had no bite because of how ridiculous its straw mans were; the Tea Party is libertarian, not anarchist, and even anarchists aren't in favour of chaos. Instead of addressing astroturfing (a problem in any movement), they blindly shout 'Hurrah!' for the Democratic party.

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Daren, less federal government is not necessarily a good thing. I prefer parties which focus on policies that improve lives rather than policies that make rules for rules' sake. There shouldn't be less federal government unless there's a valid reason to have less of it. Jakob, what exactly is an anarcho-capitalist? Someone that wants a monetary society and no rules? I don't see why, in that circumstances, the criticisms you mention have the inaccuracy you say they do. Yes, this episode was more political than funny, but I don't see it as bad satire, just relatively mediocre comedy. And yes, for all that it would have been crude, there should have been a poop joke.

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This episode wasn't clever...it was just stupid. The Tea Party is about smaller FEDERAL government and less FEDERAL government intrusion in citizens' lives, not Anarchy and "no government" (especially on a local level). Any 6th-grader would know the difference and I'm sure Seth MacFarlane does too.

Family Guy Season 10 Episode 21 Quotes

Joe: Well, you can't fight City Hall.
Peter: Well, we'll see about that. ... City Hall knows karate.

Lois: Wow, congratulations on your grand re-opening, Mort! Looks like your customers are coming back!
Mort: Thanks, Lois! It's good to be up and gouging again!

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