How does one review history?

Family Guy

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OK, let’s be a little less dramatic: how do you review television history? Make no mistake, whatever you thought of the “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” crossover, it is history. With “Family Guy,” Seth MacFarlane shaped the sense of humor of an entire generation of adolescent boys. With “The Simpsons,” Matt Groening and James L. Brooks created a manifestation of popular culture belonging in the same realm as The Beatles, Batman, Shakespeare and the Bible.

So what happened when the two shows met? The most disturbing car-wash in the history of mankind. Well, that and one of the most fascinating episodes of television in some time. Whatever you might have thought about the episode, you’d be lying if you didn’t at the very least find “The Simpsons Guy” intriguing for the simple reason that it saw the melding of two distinct, albeit radically successful, styles.

“The Simpsons” has always been a family show with a lot of comedy while “Family Guy” has always been a comedy about a “family.” You always found yourself loving Homer and the rest of the Simpsons clan despite their flaws, with the absurdity of Springfield always planted firmly in the realm of satire instead of parody. We always got a sense that “The Simpsons” could be us and in fact, was us, despite the ridiculousness of its world.

“Family Guy” on the other hand is sardonic, nihilistic, offensive, over-the-top, rude and just about the farthest thing removed from reality. You’d never in a million years want to be the Griffins, let alone live anywhere near them. But that’s the point of “Family Guy.” It’s a show meant to be hated. It’s the show that depicts hilarious depravity while hiding its cringe behind a knowing smirk. It’s a show that will kill off one of its main characters, resurrect him and then make fun of the audience for falling for it.

In “The Simpsons Guy,” we remain connected to the Griffins and their experiences in Springfield, and it’s easy to imagine a good bit of “Simpsons” fans crying out in anger that “Family Guy” gets more of the spotlight. However, the compromise does work, having the main characters of “Family Guy” but the setting of Springfield, as many viewers today might be more attached to “Family Guy” than the aging “Simpsons.” However, the writers chose wisely to focus solely on the relationship between the two families as opposed to trying to fit too much in one episode. Instead we got some pretty solid scenes that we’ve always wanted to see (and two that no one — and I mean no one — should ever have to see).

A lot of the humor of the episode came from the contrast between the more earnest and admittedly innocent humor of “The Simpsons,” with the knowledge that any second the characters of “Family Guy” would do something horrendous to it all. When Stewie and Bart team up, and Stewie plans to get revenge on Nelson the bully, you just knew it would get out of hand any second. Of course, that was also the fun of the episode. It was admittedly kind of cool to see Stewie take the revenge on Nelson I’m sure a lot of people have been wanting to see for the last 24 years.

Another strong point, perhaps the most fascinating of all the episode, was the lawsuit of Duff versus Pawtucket Ale. The ensuing battle resolved every “Simpsons” vs. “Family Guy” comment anyone has ever made and it was extremely cathartic to feel like both shows finally buried the hatchet.

Both shows are staples of animated comedy and both have a special place in this reviewer’s heart. It’s good to see them finally be friends, after all of these years, even if it is just for one hour of TV. In the end, there have been funnier episodes of “Family Guy” and more well-written episodes of “The Simpsons,” but there was only one episode that brought them both together. No matter how you look at it, that’s pretty special.

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