I've already said my piece about Seth MacFarlane on the mothersite--and there'll be more to come--but considering the brief debates that have surrounded "Family Guy" 'round these parts, I thought I'd mention a few properties that beat the show at its own game, and by that I mean the unexpected injections of popular culture nonsense and assaults on good taste, narrative, and audience expectations. True that they're not in a televised half-hour format, but they all go to a similar well, and revisit it often enough to recall the "Family Guy" ethos--and while the Internet series aren't always successful, they never fail to approach the concept from different angles. (Seriously, have you seen "The Cleveland Show"? Talk about business as usual.) For your consideration:
1. Just to set a little precedent, how about The Dover Boys at Pimento University, or the Rivals of Roquefort Hall--Chuck Jones' once-infamous experiment with limited animation, and almost certainly his silliest effort. Now that the Looney Tunes have all but disappeared from the public consciousness, I tend to recoil at the thought that history will remember Duck Amuck, What's Opera, Doc?, and precious little else--but this cartoon, completely devoid of funny animals, stands alongside the best of them. (One of Mel Blanc's best performances, too--even when screaming at the top of his lungs, he's in complete control of Dan Backslide.) Not to mention that it's a sterling example of how to keep pop culture reference-parodies fresh after almost seventy years: as a launching point, not an anchor. Would it be fair to say that this gem has since absorbed the Rover Boys novels?
2. 5-Second Films. One film, five seconds long (not counting the opening and closing titles), posted on the front page every weekday. They've got hundreds of films in their archives. It's a reasonable mixture of masterpieces and clunkers, but the one aspect they all share is that each film's world doesn't begin and end with the gag itself--the implications of these punchlines are always on the table. Not to mention all the little touches--I love how the father's newspaper splits in half in the first video.
There are plenty more must-sees, but here are a few off-site links so I don't clutter up the blog too much--may I also suggest The Merry Prankster, Obscure Moments in History, Floyd's Truck Show '97, Magic Show Volunteer, Don't Thinko de Mayo, and Johnny Quickdeath Goes Scissorjogging.
3. SMBC Theater, a collection of skits from the creator of webcomic "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal." Unsurprisingly, the series has a very "gag-a-day" feel to it, and it's having some trouble finding its cinematic footing when three or four panels would probably do the job a little better. Still, they're definitely going places, and you have to respect a new twist on the old "Superman sex" and "God's roommate" tropes. A little context goes a long way.
4. weebls-stuff, or more specifically the songs that tend to go viral and burrow their way into your brain. You may recall that the first video here, "Badgers," became an Internet meme on its own accord, but beyond their general randomness, there's something hypnotic about how unrepentantly bizarre they are. I suggest you watch them in fullscreen--but you should head over to the site itself, where you can watch the cartoons in fullscreen and on an infinite loop; they really become sensory experiences after a while.