Almost exactly 20 years since the animated sitcom first premiered on TV, Family Guy has to decided to make an extremely un–Family Guy pivot: The show will reportedly scale back on the gay jokes. In an interview with TVLine, Family Guy executive producer Alec Sulkin confirmed a meta-joke from Sunday’s episode, one in which Peter Griffin tells Donald Trump the series was “trying to phase out” jokes about the LGBTQ community. “If you look at a show from 2005 or 2006 and put it side by side with a show from 2018 or 2019, they’re going to have a few differences,” said Sulkin. “Some of the things we felt comfortable saying and joking about back then, we now understand is not acceptable.”
According to fellow executive producer Rich Appel, the need to step back from a genre of jokes that may have once felt “acceptable” is particularly (and glaringly) obvious for a long-running series. (See also: the ongoing argument over The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.) “It’s almost unique to Family Guy, though I can think of one other show that’s been on the air longer,” says Appel. “But if a show has literally been on the air for 20 years, the culture changes.” For reference, Family Guy initially debuted on Fox on January 31, 1999.
And in case you’re wondering if the network simply passed down an (extremely late-to-the-party) edict for Seth MacFarlane’s brainchild to follow, the show’s EPs insist the retreat from gay jokes stems from the writers room itself. “[I]t’s not us reacting and thinking, ‘They won’t let us [say certain things],’” says Appel. “No, we’ve changed too. The climate is different, the culture is different and our views are different. They’ve been shaped by the reality around us, so I think the show has to shift and evolve in a lot of different ways.”