When watching the Family Guy season 13 premiere “The Simpsons Guy,” I couldn’t help but think of another Fox cartoon crossover. Back in the days of The Cleveland Show, Peter Griffin made a guest appearance in season three, where he saved Cleveland and his friends from being sexually assaulted by hillbillies. In the end, Peter joked, “See Cleveland, that’s the difference between our shows. On our show we would have shown the rape, and had a show tune about the rape.”
Keep in mind, that’s coming from a spin-off of Family Guy and it’s still apt. Just like how when Jay Sherman did a guest appearance on The Simpsons years back, it was very much a Simpsons cartoon and not something out of The Critic. “The Simpsons Guy” is a Family Guy episode featuring the Simpsons and that is the best way to point out why it just feels so wrong.
This isn’t the first time the two shows have crossed paths. For years, the two cartoons have thrown barbs at each other in their own ways. The Simpsons made various references to how Family Guy is a ripoff of their show. In return, Family Guy made jokes about how the Simpsons were sell-outs and lost their charm years ago, but they also went well over the line with one gag so messed up that Fox wouldn’t air it and it instead was only shown on Adult Swim and the DVDs. I’ll just say it’s a bit involving Quagmire and Marge and leave it at that.
The hour-long episode has the Griffins leave their town, get their car stolen, and wander into Springfield, USA. We get about ten minutes of jokes about people hating on Seth MacFarlane’s misogynistic style of humor before Homer Simpson finally shows up. I tell you, despite all the talk about how The Simpsons has fallen over the years, there’s still a feeling of comfort once Homer steps into frame and the introduction scene is one of the better moments.
At first, the two families hit it off. Peter and Homer search for the stolen car. Lois and Marge spend some quality time together. Stewie idolizes Bart. Lisa tries to improve Meg’s self-worth. Brian finds himself annoyed by Santa’s Little Helper’s lack of human intelligence. Outside of Peter and Homer, don’t expect these relationships to get too much screentime. That’s fine, though, since the two dads interacting is the reason anyone’s watching.
But still, the problem of tone and style of humor is what brings the problems. Family Guy works for Family Guy. I’m not blasting their style for the sake of hating on it. There have been a lot of sick jokes that I’ve loved over the years. It just doesn’t feel right when it’s done in Springfield. When Bart first shows up, he immediately makes a joke about pedophilia. Two minutes later, Stewie makes a rape joke with Bart standing right next to him. It just feels gross, like talking shop about porn with your family.
Even when you take out the blue humor, it doesn’t feel right. As weird as The Simpsons can be, it’s still comparatively grounded in reality. The final act dives right into a common bit from Family Guy and it doesn’t sit right. It’s too fantastical for Homer, as if you were watching him show up in a Bugs Bunny or Spongebob cartoon, having to adapt to their logic and physics. Still, the animation for this sequence is pretty damn good.
Some gags do work here and there. There’s a scene where various Quahog and Springfield characters interact based on similarities and that’s where it really shines. The jokes bring the crossover to life, if even for a brief moment or two, especially when a certain celebrity shows up. Coincidentally, they did the whole episode without Harry Shearer voicing any of his characters, but there’s so much going on that you don’t even notice it.
There’s also a blatant meta quality to the crossover once things turn sour for our counterpart fathers. This is really fun at first, but it’s also very one-note. Through metaphor, the Simpsons characters call the Family Guy folks a bunch of cheap rip-offs. The Griffins complain about how The Simpsons isn’t as good as it once was. That’s really all they have. They could have gone further, but nope.
It has a couple of moments, but nothing that makes me want to recommend this episode. If it was more Simpsons than Family Guy, maybe we would have had something to write home about.