Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Family Guy" actor speaks out against Palin joke

From The Washington Post:

Not everyone who works on the Fox animated sitcom "Family Guy" is standing in solidarity with its Valentine's Day episode's Sarah Palin joke.

Cast member Patrick Warburton told TV critics Wednesday he objected to the flippant reference to Palin as the parent of a child with Down syndrome.

"I know it's satire but, personally, that [joke] bothered me, too," Warburton said on a conference call to promote his other prime-time show, the CBS sitcom "Rules of Engagement," which returns for a fourth season on March 1. (On "Family Guy," Warburton does the voice of Joe, a police officer who uses a wheelchair.)

"I know that you have to be an 'equal-opportunity offender,' but there are some things that I just don't think are funny," Warburton said.

The former Alaska governor/GOP vice presidential contender and her daughter Bristol lashed out at the show and at the "Fox Hollywood" network over the episode, in which a teenage girl character with Down syndrome says her mother was a former governor of Alaska. Sarah Palin's youngest son has the same condition. Series creator Seth MacFarlane shrugged it off with a statement about the show being an "equal-opportunity offender."

Even the actress who played the character with Down syndrome, Andrea Fay Friedman, got into the act. Friedman, who also has Down syndrome, sent an e-mail to the New York Times last week saying, "I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor.

"I thought the line 'I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska' was very funny," the newspaper reports Friedman said in her e-mail. "I think the word is 'sarcasm.' "

Warburton is the first person involved with the show in any way, shape or form who has publicly broken ranks.

"Look, I have fun. I like Seth. He's got a great comic mind and I think that the show can be fantastically funny. But I do believe that it can be hurtful at times," Warburton said in response to a question about the episode posed by The Post's Emily Yahr.

The situation was bound to happen, given that "Family Guy," being a cartoon, is given a longer leash than any live-action comedy, Warburton speculated.

"A show like that . . . is going to offend everybody at one point or another," the actor said.

"My mother actually believes my soul's in peril for being on the show," he added.

(Note to the Palins: That was a joke.)

Rise of a fallen 'Idol'

After tumbling out of the top spot in the ratings for the first time in six years last Wednesday, "American Idol" climbed back into the throne Tuesday night when it beat NBC's prime-time Winter Olympics coverage.

Fox did not repeat the mistake it had made last Wednesday and included actual singing in Tuesday's episode. The two-hour broadcast had competed against women's figure skating on NBC. Women's figure skating is like the gymnastics of the Winter Games -- hugely popular with the U.S. audience.

"Idol" suffered the historic defeat in its time slot because Fox got cocky, and had not paid attention to the fact that NBC had lined up what it was billing as "The Greatest Single Day in Winter Olympics History" for that night -- including tape-delayed coverage of skier Lindsey Vonn's much-ballyhooed first-ever American gold-medal-winning women's downhill run.

By contrast, Fox offered viewers the denouement of Hollywood Week on "Idol"; contestants took turns being ushered into a room by show host Ryan Seacrest, where they were each batted around for a few minutes by the judges before finding out whether they had made the competition's Top 24.

Overall, in prime time, Tuesday's coverage of the Vancouver Games averaged 21 million prime-time viewers. That number held steady for the two hours in which the sporting event went head-to-head with "Idol." But "Idol" easily topped that, attracting an average of 24 million viewers.

This year's women's figure skating derby is a tad less interesting than usual to U.S. viewers because it looks like no American will make the podium for the first time since 1964, which was the Winter Games that followed a plane crash that killed the entire U.S. figure skating squad.

But "Idol's" not out of the weeds yet. Women's figure skating competition continues Thursday night. Meanwhile, that same night, Fox has scheduled a dreaded one-hour "Idol" results show -- a.k.a. Product Placement Orgy of Excess. Yes, we will be treated to a performance by last year's winner, Kris Allen, and finalist Allison Iraheta. But we'll also likely be subjected to do-overs of four performances from Tuesday and Wednesday nights' broadcasts.

Sadly, these will be the performances viewers liked the least and that therefore received the fewest viewer votes. Not exactly Must See TV.