Most fans of Family Guy will be completely certain of the main characters’ names, but what if they were wrong? As it turns out, in the episode Fistful of Meg, Peter is shown to have changed his daughter’s name on her birth certificate from Megan to Megatron. This reference to the 1980s classic TV show Transformers is one of many, many references to classic television and other pop culture. Seth MacFarlane, the show’s creator, sure knows how to keep viewers on their toes…
A familiar scream
The Wilhelm scream is so iconic that you don’t need to be a hardcore cinephile to both recognise and hear it everywhere. First recorded in 1951 for the film Distant Drums, the Wilhelm scream gets its name from a later move called The Charge at Feather River, where it was added in post-production to the death of a character named Wilhelm. It has been used in multiple episodes of Family Guy including The Perfect Castaway and No Chris Left Behind, and has appeared in over 400 films overall, including two Family Guy favourites: Star Wars and Indiana Jones!
What would I do?
The season four episode North by North Quahog has a title that pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary movie North by Northwest, starring James Stewart. In the episode, Jesus is pictured driving a car with the license plate WWID, in a spin on the familiar “What Would Jesus Do?” slogan that is plastered across cars and windows all over the United States. Seth MacFarlane is a staunch atheist and a vocal cinephile, and so rarely misses an opportunity to pay respect to his idols and poke fun at God at the same time.
If you can read this…
The creators of Family Guy often go the extra mile when animating scenes so that viewers are able to rewatch the show and find new things every time. One example of this is a quick hidden message in the TV Guide used by Peter in The Story on Page One, wherein a poster reads “If you can read this, Family Guy is on the air.” Not the most complicated meta-joke, but effective nonetheless!
The hidden headline
Though most Family Guy jokes and Easter eggs work whether you’re watching new episodes live or enjoying a DVD boxset, this joke was specifically designed for the latter situation. In one episode, creators of Family Guy predicted eager viewers pressing pause on a passing shot of a newspaper and hid the message ‘DVDS PAUSED FOR HEADLINE JOKE – MILLIONS DISAPPOINTED’; A meta anti-joke for only the most dedicated of fans.
In a homage to Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, Stewie Griffin is pictured with the word REDRUM written on his toy blocks whilst playing in his bedroom. Although it probably escaped the attention of most viewers, REDRUM is, of course, the word murder reversed. In yet another example of Stewie walking the line between innocent tot and gleeful psychopath, the building blocks imply he is as much a victim as Danny is in The Shining, but his facial expression tells a different story.
Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
In the episode Road to Rupert, Stewie and Brian find themselves at a garage sale. What they don’t notice amongst the bric-a-brac, however, is the Easter egg on the table in front of them. If you look closely, you will see a DVD for sale entitled Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, which is a 2005 straight-to-DVD feature that was actually released by the creators of Family Guy in real life.
The Family Guy episode Peter’s Progress features an homage to 1980s cult comedy Revenge of the Nerds, having a fortune teller reveal Peter’s family history and even predict his future. The scene is so true to the movie’s equivalent moment that even the framing and dialogue are the same, showing how much fondness Seth MacFarlane has for the media he parodies.
Writing on the wall
The episode One if by Clam, Two if by Sea features an Easter egg so subtle that hardly anyone caught it. During the episode, which takes inspiration from the 1980s cult classic Tron, even the most attentive and eager viewers may have missed the words “if you can read this, your TV must be upside down” written in the background of one episode completely the wrong way round.
All In The Family
In the opening moments of each episode of Family Guy, Peter and Lois sit down at a piano and sing a song that transitions into a grand musical number. This is actually a reference to the TV sitcom All in the Family, which begins with Archie and Edith Bunker singing together at their own family instrument. All in the Family created many of the tropes and hallmarks that Family Guy loves to subvert, making it the perfect thing to parody.