Live television must make the Parents Television Council exceptionally nervous.
Though networks have a broadcast delay in place so that some poor chump can nervously hover over whatever big red button censors accidental profanity, the occasional f-bomb (or worse) slides into an awards show or sports telecast.
But the 2013 Academy Awards present a far trickier threat to the conservative watchdogs. Host Seth MacFarlane, the comedian and actor whose envelope-pushing cartoons occupy 90 minutes of Fox's Sunday animation block, seems destined to say something that just won't jibe with the PTC.
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Admittedly crude at times, MacFarlane has drawn ire of the advocacy group on numerous occasions -- most frequently for gags on Family Guy and American Dad. And while it seems unlikely that similar content might make its way into the host's monologue, the PTC is none too pleased with MacFarlane emceeing the ABC broadcast.
"MacFarlane’s programs have included scenes mocking people with Down syndrome, implying father-daughter incest, a man masturbating a horse, a baby eating horse sperm, and a character eating vomit and excrement out of a baby’s diaper," PTC president Tim Winter said when the Film Academy announced its choice of MacFarlane as Oscar host. “This is the man that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected to host next year’s Oscars telecast, following in the footsteps of such Hollywood legends as Bob Hope and Johnny Carson?"
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The aforementioned incidents have indeed been MacFarlane's biggest offenses with the PTC, and almost all of them have occurred in the last four years. Take a deeper look at the PTC's six biggest beefs:
March 8, 2009: Family Guy, "Family Gay"
Peter Griffin was temporarily gay after undergoing medical experiments for extra cash. The PTC filed an indecency complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), most angered by depiction of an “eleven-way gay orgy” and the insinuation that baby Stewie ate horse semen with his cereal instead of milk. The episode earned Family Guy an Emmy nomination for outstanding comedy series, the first time an animated series had done so since The Flintstones in 1961.
Jan. 3, 2010: American Dad, "Don't Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth"
Horses, it appears, are a sensitive subject – and frequent topic for MacFarlane. Setting off several months of public condemnation from the PTC, this 2010 episode of American Dad includes a scene where Roger tricks Stan into giving their racehorse a “full release” as a part of his nightly regimen. A lesser point of contention: a woman’s arm is ripped from the socket. American Dad was slapped with a $25,000 fine by the FCC.
Jan. 31, 2010: Family Guy, "Dial Meg for Murder"
Less than a month after American Dad’s horse masturbation, Family Guy aired this episode in which Peter is raped by a bull and, somewhat more subtly, his daughter Meg. Family Guy again earns the distinction of being the PTC’s “Worst Show of the Week.”
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Feb. 14, 2010: Family Guy, "Extra Large Medium"
Possibly the series’ most controversial episode to date, Family Guy royally cheesed off former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and much of the media when Chris went on a date with a girl with Down syndrome. (It did not help matters that the character implied Palin was her mother during one scene.) Still, actress Andrea Fay Friedman, who voiced the girl and has Down syndrome in real life, jumped to the show’s defense. “I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor,” she said. “In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.” A song featured in the episode, “Down Syndrome Girl,” was nominated for an Emmy.
May 2, 2010: Family Guy, "Brian and Stewie"
Almost taunting its outspoken opponents by the end of spring 2010, Family Guy wrapped up its controversial season by having Brian the dog quite graphically eat the contents of Stewie’s diaper. On the bright side, there’s almost no chance of that happening at the Oscars.
Sept. 30, 2012: American Dad, "Love, American Dad Style"
It probably didn’t help American Dad that the episode in question aired just days before MacFarlane was named 2013 Oscar emcee – but the frequent oral sex puns that made their way across the screen had the PTC again calling for FCC intervention. The group, which has eased up on fining “indecency complaints” of late, did not intervene.
Neither MacFarlane nor Winter would comment on their longstanding feud, though the Oscar host has been open about his feelings in the past. In 2008 he compared the PTC's complaints to “hate mail from Hitler.”