Seth MacFarlane On Fox: “It’s An Incredibly Complicated Relationship” – Produced By – Deadline


By Scott Huver
Guest Author
Multi-hyphenate creative and producing executive Seth MacFarlane struggled to explain the complicated relationship he currently has with the Fox Network Sunday at the 13th annual Produced By conference.
Fox is long the home of many of MacFarlane’s signature television ventures, like Family Guy and Cosmos. The conflict is as a result of his feelings about Fox News, while also revealing that he’s had a refreshingly easy partnership with Disney after it took ownership of many of his properties.
Speaking remotely at the conference – which ironically was held at the Fox Studios lot – alongside Erica Huggins, president of his production company, Fuzzy Door, MacFarlane took a moment to articulate the continually ambivalent feelings he has about the network. He parted ways with Fox to pursue a lucrative pact with NBCUniversal’s UCP in 2020, largely over his objections to the tone and content of sister division Fox News.

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“It’s an incredibly complicated relationship that I have with that company,” MacFarlane explained. “There are people there with whom I have great personal relationships. There are people that I like a lot. But it is a different company than it was when I started. It’s very difficult for me to reconcile exactly what my relationship is with that company right now.”
He added, “I, like many people, have a lot of issues and a lot of objections to their practices.” “Certainly, the news division and the entertainment division operate relatively independently of each other, and that’s something that allowed a lot of us to sleep a little better.” But he pointed to the controversial former mayor of New York and Trump administration insider Rudy Giuliani on the network’s hit reality competition The Masked Singer as “distressing.”
“My overall reaction – and I know I’m not alone – to what the company does and how they communicate what they choose to communicate and what they think is acceptable is, I have a lot of objections.”
MacFarlane noted that despite his public criticisms, Fox has never tried to censor the frequently left-leaning, often boundary-pushing content on a series like Family Guy, which has featured its share of satirical commentary on Fox News.
“I dump on Fox a lot, but I will say the whole time I was there, no one ever tried to censor the show politically,” he revealed. “There’s a very laissez faire attitude that worked great for us…I was never censored and I was never pressured to project a different political outlook.”

He added that he felt the news media would benefit from conservative news with an honest, reasonable, conservative perspective. “The tragedy for me is that I think there actually, in this day and age, really is an opening and a need for, God help me, a conservative news outlet that is rational and that presents an opposing viewpoint in a way that is thoughtful and that acknowledges the truth and acknowledges science and acknowledges the reality of the world around us. And that doesn’t really exist.”
“At one point, you could make the argument that Fox News was headed in that direction, and they’ve really taken a right turn that that has gone someplace radically different,” he added. “To me, the ideal situation would be if they could course correct and make a conscious moral decision to try and be that, to let that be their role going forward. I don’t think there’s a chance in hell, but you never know.”
Meanwhile, MacFarlane said that his relationship with the famously family-friendly Walt Disney Company has been going swimmingly since they acquitted some of his ribald IP upon purchasing 21st Century Fox in 2019.
“It’s been great,” he said, pointing to his long, close relationship with former Fox TV exec Dana Walden, recently elevated to chairman, general entertainment content at Disney. “She’s a great friend and a great executive, and she’s just an absolute joy to work for. She’s one of those people that you can see yourself following throughout the industry, just to work with her over and over and over.”
MacFarlane found Disney to provide an “interesting comparison” to his experiences with Fox. “The company as a whole has been, for the most part, admirable – not always, but for the most part,” he said. “They do try to be culturally conscious. They try to be ethically responsible. And creatively, my relationship with them has been terrific.”
He pointed to transitioning his science fiction series The Orville’ from its original network home on Fox to a third season on Disney-owned Hulu as “one of the best creative experiences of my career, and the support that I’ve gotten from Disney and from Hulu in as far as giving us the resources to do it and to compete with some of the visually most ambitious shows on television has been really gratifying. And I can’t say enough good things. I really had a blast there.”
Meanwhile, MacFarlane and Huggins were high on some of the forthcoming content they’re producing for Peacock as part of Fuzzy Door’s NBCU pact, including a series adaptation of his film franchise Ted, starring the foul-mouthed teddy bear rife with questionable lifestyle choices, that will function as a prequel to the movies.
“I’m thrilled to be doing something that’s that no one’s done before, to my knowledge, at least,” he said of producing a series in which the central character is a detailed, CG-rendered creation. He noted that Peacock had approached him with the idea for a series, “and I was delighted that it was something that they were even considering.”
While the CG-animated nature of Ted would pose production challenges that would require time and computing power, MacFarlane, who directed, cowrote and voiced the titular teddy in both films, was more concerned with where and how to pick up the story with the participation of the films’ human star Mark Wahlberg. “If you look at the raw footage before the bear was placed into it, a lot of it was Mark: he was really seeing that thing, and so the bear slotted in very organically.”
MacFarlane pivoted to an origin story approach, with Max Burkholder now cast in the Wahlberg role. “Really the only way in, to me, that seemed interesting was this idea of a prequel that kind of harkens back to the 90s, which people always seem to be delighted to revisit right now,” said MacFarlane. ”To explore this part of his life that we enter, that in the opening montage from the movie, and to now dig deeper into it and find out how did this, what exactly was the sequence of events that led to the character of John being such an underachiever and such a disappointment in his in his adult years.”
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