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Seth MacFarlane’s Screenwriting Secret In Plain Sight!

Seth MacFarlane’s success came from his screenwriting career specifically because most of his projects possess the same script structure.

Credit: Peacock

Seth MacFarlane does it again: Ted is just Family Guy in a different font. In fact, a lot of his shows have several similarities; American Dad!, The Cleveland Show, even Dexter’s Laboratory holds a place for comparison.

The first season of Ted was released on Jan. 11th on Peacock. It contains a truck load of crude jokes, witty slapstick comedy and coming of age topics that were present in the 1990s.

The young John Bennett (Max Burkholder) at the ripe age of 16 takes on high school with his talking Teddy Bear, Ted (Seth Macfarlane). The entertaining awkwardness of adolescence is a good theme to strike any audience. Plus, getting to experience the family John grew up with fulfills the large population individuals that once thoroughly enjoyed the movie Ted (2012).

“Weed” in the 1990s

One of the prominent trends in the show is the youth’s strive for cannabis, or as most would call “weed”. The 1990s is exactly when weed started to get big amongst the young adult crowd. It’s a perfect explanation as to how and why our main characters picked up this habit of smoking. One of the supporting characters, Blaire (Giorgia Whigham), enhances the storyline by selling weed around her college campus. This both involves character development for Blaire, John and Ted in different ways since it was illegal at the time. Tense and personal situations are where the best writers know how to mold each moment into a comical disaster.

The person to thank for this first season is the creator and director of this show, Seth MacFarlane. He has come a long way in the entertainment industry. He has written 37 shows/films and has composed for eight different projects. His genius truly makes every script he has touched a masterpiece amongst creators, and his face infamously becomes recognizable by millions. Despite him being considered one of the top creators currently, there are a couple of obvious patterns with most of his popular works. People are beginning to wonder if he is capable of reaching out of his typical niches with scriptwriting.

John and Ted in episode 7 (the last episode of season one) casually smoking weed outside their house, further displaying how smoking weed is becoming a normal routine in their everyday lives.
John and Ted having a bro talk during their smoke session outside their house. Credit: Peacock

Big Similarities No One is Talking About

The first visible niche to notice by anyone is the typical family set-up that MacFarlane religiously sticks to: dad, mom, older sister, younger brother, and an out-of-place character. Ted follows that exact family format with Matty (Scott Grimes), Susan (Alanna Ubach), Blaire, John and Ted.

To compare, the well-known animated series, Family Guy also follows MacFarlane’s guide with Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane), Louis (Alex Borstein), Meg (Mila Kunis), Chris (Seth Green), with Brian and Stewie as the out-of-place characters, both played by MacFarlane himself, which further underlines the “niche” theory. The Cleveland Show also has the same family set up, but this is more understandable since both families are from the same show.

American Dad! also plays a part in MacFarlane’s familial concept, with Stan Smith (Seth MacFarlane), Francine (Wendy Schaal), Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane), Steve (Scott Grimes) and Roger (MacFarlane once again). Even Dexter’s Laboratory dating back to 1995 stands true to the theory; with Dad (Jeff Bennett), Mom (Kath Soucie), Deedee (Kat Cressida), Dexter (Christine Cavanaugh) and Monkey (Frank Welker). He might as well use “copy” and “paste” for any of his future projects. Judging from the series he released a month ago, he has no problem with scanning and replacing the exoskeleton of his scripts with different characters and plotlines.

Matty Bennett talking and having dinner with his family on the first episode.
Matty in a heated discussion with Blaire debating who’s more racist in the household. Credit: Peacock

MacFarlane Recycles Numerous Actors

The second level of MacFarlane’s secret resemblances is his casting decisions. Many actors that are a part of his projects appear in more of his works. This fact adds onto his repetitive trademark. These specific voice actors stay in several of his most popular creations: Scott Grimes, Patrick Stewart, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry, Patrick Warburton, Fred Tatasciore, John Viener and Rachel MacFarlane, along Seth MacFarlane himself appearing in most of his works. You would have to have a good ear to notice this detail because most actors are skilled with manipulating their voices.

MacFarlane recycles himself the most in each of his projects, even side projects like in a podcast. It’s hard to view each character as an individual without thinking of the actor if the actor is overplayed and MacFarlane is teetering on that tight rope.

Stewie ranting out loud about not buying a "fainting couch" after Peter had just fainted at the breakfast table. (Season 20)
Stewie ranting out loud (towards Brian) how getting a fainting couch was a stupid idea in a sarcastic way. Credit: Fox Broadcasting Company

The last technique that MacFarlane uses way too often is the same kind of transitional music and establishing shots. All three of these popular series: Ted, Family Guy and American Dad! have an orchestral sound. They consist mostly of strings and woodwinds, along with an establishing shot with the primary location the characters remain. Family Guy‘s selection of transition music compared to Ted‘s backtracks hold the same type of string-ed orchestra. It has the same musical style even though they have separate melodies.

The same sequence of clips, the same type of dark humor and the same character tropes exist in each show. Is MacFarlane destined to create other shows with these exact similarities endlessly?

This is Ted the moment after popping out of a refrigerated box filled with wieners yelling, "I'm the King of the Wieners!" This ultimately sends him from the cafeteria directly to the principal's office.
The moment that Ted screams “I’m the King of the Wieners!” in a lunch lady’s face. Credit: Peacock

Natural MacFarlane Greatness

Despite questioning MacFarlane’s abilities, it is only fair to question why the audience continues to ignore his niches. The reason is simple: he’s a damn good writer and worked an unbelievable amount to be where he is today. He has fully produced 29 shows/movies with two upcoming projects. He has a list of credibility under his belt. Even the entirety of the entertainment industry knows and agrees with the public.

Award-Winning MacFarlane

MacFarlane won a star on Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame” in 2019 and got an Oscar nominee in 2013 for the original song “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” in the movie Ted. That is only mentioning a few from all 21 of his awards and 61 nominations. The best quality about his work is how he reaches out to every type of audience. He creates soul wrenching content that can make you laugh. It’s crucial for him to reference any kind of individual and presents their perspectives. He is also not afraid to be controversial or with the subject either.

“Political correctness to me is just intellectual terrorism.”

Seth MacFarlane (Bookey citations)

MacFarlane is also not afraid to stamp his face on the cover. Time and time again he proves that he is proud of his work and will stand by everything he creates. This is the real answer as to why he is widely respected. He has never cared as to what others think or propose about him. Instead of considering censorship, he provides another perspective with the quote above. This statement opens up the freedom of expression instead of limiting the human language because of differences.

This also is a required skill for being a comedy writer. Nonetheless, his creative mutiny serves endless bounds to his hungry audience and continues to impress rather than offend. How many more shows can he release to the public having the same format before his niches become widely noticeable?

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