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Larry King Interviews Seth MacFarlane; Bizarrely Avoids Discussing South Park

UPDATE: As was pointed out to us in the comments section below, there were more mentions of South Park on the program. We reviewed a recording of the Seth MacFarlane interview for this piece and were not aware that there was a brief panel following it. Our other opinions on the segment still stand.
The unedited post is below.

A few years ago, Seth MacFarlane used his show Family Guy, the incredibly popular cartoon on Fox, to seemingly usurp the title of animation’s reigning bad boy from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. However, despite his success (MacFarlane is the highest paid writer on television) he definitely lost his crown this week as the South Park guys made two episodes so provocative that they received death threats from Islamic extremists. And, while Parker and Stone released a brief statement about the censorship their show received following the threats, everyone in the media has been wondering what must be going through their heads during all this hoopla. Fortunately, Larry King had MacFarlane on last night and he is one of the only people around who could give a good guess about the pressure that his rivals must be facing. Unfortunately, King awkwardly avoided the questions that everyone wanted to hear.

Most of the interview was kind of strange and seemed more like an ad for Family Guy more than a discussion of MacFarlane’s process or anything. They talked about how much better the DVD versions of the episodes were than the free ones. They covered King’s desk in cardboard cut outs of the Family Guy characters. They even had grown men wearing giant costumes and pretending to be the characters sitting in the studio control room!

The worst part is, they had plenty of perfectly good chances to discuss the South Park story and find out MacFarlane’s take on it. The main topic of conversation was how “edgy” Family Guy is and how many people it’s ticked off. At one point, King even mentioned the South Park death threats but then he swerved and asked MacFarlane if he’d ever had threats in his career and the topic was never brought up again. Instead they just showed a bunch of provocative Family Guy clips that, in light of the South Park episode, seemed fairly tame and irrelevant.

King has gotten a lot of bad press out there recently following his latest divorce (including a fair share from us) but he still is one of the best at what he does so it was disappointing to see him skip over the questions that everyone watching would want to hear. In his defense, it’s certainly possible that MacFarlane asked him not to discuss South Park because, after all, this was his moment to shine and, if that were the case, we can’t really blame him. But still, one of the stories to happen in television animation history is currently going on; we’re going to want to know what Seth MacFarlane thinks about it!

Fortunately, MacFarlane did give a few good quotes about other topics.

On doing a progressive show for a conservative company:

“All the years that I’ve been there, I’ve actually never met Rupert Murdoch. My theory is that the guy is a businessman first and a Republican second. And if something with a distinctly liberal slant is doing good for the company, he’s not gonna step in.”

On his recent fight with Sarah Palin:

“I actually do think, y’know, as much as I disagree with just about everything that she stands for, I do think, at the end of the day, probably, to some degree, I think it was partially politically motivated and part genuine. I mean, she is a mom. She probably was ticked off on some level but what those percentages are I couldn’t tell you.”

On making offensive jokes:

“You don’t want to be nasty for the sake of being nasty. I mean, if you’re actually depicting a real person, for example, Terry Sciavo, as opposed to a deliberately inappropriate kid’s play, then you have serious discussions. Are we doing this? Is this just cruel? Is this just mean? And there will be a lot of those discussions that go on in the Writer’s Room on a day to day basis. I think there’s this vision of Hollywood writers as just this hedonistic bunch who are just out to make their dough and do something that’s gonna be there for shock value. Not the case. I mean, my writers, most of them are married. They have children. And there are a lot of discussions that we have in that room. Is this funny enough? Is it satirical enough that it warrants the edginess of the material.”

Of course, the most interesting tidbit learned in the interview was that King allows his nine year old to watch Family Guy. Now there’s your grounds for divorce!

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