Animation pioneer Seth MacFarlane followed in the footsteps of Matt Groening, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone, and others by creating (at age 25!) one of the top-tiered animated series on national television. Family Guy, which debuted in 1999, preserved the sitcom-family premise of The Simpsons but upped the irreverence quotient tenfold (defying many who regarded such an accomplishment as impossible), meanwhile tossing in dozens upon dozens of off-the-cuff (and frequently risqué) references to pop culture -- citing everything from Oz to The Wizard of Oz, The $25,000 Pyramid to songs by a-ha, and thus seizing upon instant identification with Gen-X and Gen-Y viewers. Episodes, which began mundanely enough, could immediately segue, without advance notice, into music video-style montages, game-show sequences, multi-character musical production numbers, mock historical sequences, etc. The basic premise revolved around the nutty Griffin clan of Quahog, Rhode Island: obese toy manufacturer dad Peter; neurotic housewife Lois; ne'er-do-well, dim-bulb 13-year-old son Chris; the angst-ridden 16-year-old daughter Meg, and -- what really made the series bizarre and original -- Stewie, a one-year-old infant with a massive head, a genius IQ, and the verbal erudition of Rex Harrison.
Family Guy found a sizeable audience and lasted for many seasons, yet reportedly suffered from a tumultuous history at Fox, where it endured repeat cancellations, numerous rerun episodes, and reemergence on different networks and in different time slots, meanwhile becoming a cult hit on DVD. In the interim, MacFarlane branched out into another animated sitcom, American Dad (2005). Family Guy eventually gained extremly solid ground, however, and soon spawned a spin-off, The Cleveland Show.