Family Guy is the televisual equivalent to junk food or scrolling through social media for me – I slam a stack of it all at once and find myself feeling vaguely sick and stupid afterwards. There’s something superficially enthralling about the show in the moment that causes it to hold my attention, but it’s as if it flows straight out of my head after watching it. Part of it is the vague outlines of fundamental television storytelling (most episodes tend to have the formulaic sitcom beats like ‘conflict setup’, ‘third act turn’, ‘end of episode apology’) that make each episode equal parts dynamic and predictable, but I think a lot of it comes down to the show’s inherent understanding that disrupting the social order is compelling combined with an abject refusal to learn anything from doing so. I’ve seen and enjoyed many comedies with violence and meanness, and I think a major difference between them and FG is that they soak up what happens to them and incorporates it into the whole. The Light Warriors of 8 Bit Theater may survive their every attempt on each other’s lives without a scratch, but there’s an understanding that they’re more exasperated, more tired, and more hateful towards each other with every injury. Peter Griffin is allowed to float through his world, destroying everything in his path and completely untouched in return, and the show doesn’t even have the decency to keep track of what he’s done. It turns the gags into a flurry of meaningless white noise, at least in retrospect, and it leaves me feeling like my brain is mush.
Do you have shows that you think of as bad for you?