January 30, 2020
Hall of Fame

Seth MacFarlane: Hall of Fame Tribute

An Appreciation by Norman Lear (as told to Paula Chin)

A little while after Family Guy went on the air, I called Seth and told him I was suing. His show begins the same way All in the Family did, with a married couple singing together at the piano, which I told him I owned. He said that in the animation business, it wasn't stealing, but an homage to one of the greatest comedies in TV history. All joking aside, Seth and I are friends, and coming from such an accomplished comic genius, I couldn't be more flattered by the compliment.

It's obvious that the man responsible for Family Guy has a deep, indelible and totally hilarious sense of humor. But it's also clear from all of his comedy work that he truly cares about the human species, with all its flaws and foibles. What's really important in Seth's work is the need for people to watch out for one another, and the joy and delight that comes with it. In other words, it's about humanity. Animation and live action are very different, but I like to think that our comedy springs from a similar well of caring.

As for his social commentary on what's happening in the world at the moment, I sense a strong feeling in his work about our country, our values and whether we're delivering on that promise. There's frustration and conviction, but not anger — which never plays well with audiences.

At the same time, Seth never talks down to the audience. And what he's addressing — and what viewers hopefully take away from it — is more important than ever, because people have gotten less tolerant.

Seth's humanity goes way beyond television. He's not only a member of my nonprofit liberal advocacy group, People for the American Way, but also a board member and major contributor. He recently donated millions of dollars to support NPR's collaborative journalism network, and he champions a host of other causes he cares about, from saving the oceans to children's and gay rights. He's also active in wonderful organizations that help young screenwriters and aspiring performers. Seth has been incredibly generous to our industry.

Plus, he's a man of many talents. I cannot think about Seth without remembering him performing with the London Philharmonic when he brought them to Los Angeles. He's got a passion for singing and is a lifelong fan of big band tunes and retro-style full orchestras, and I couldn't get over how glorious an act it was. He's got the most amiable, charming personality, not to mention a terrific voice.

Seth and I have been friends for nearly 20 years, though we don't see each other as often as we'd like because we're both so driven professionally and personally. In sum, Seth MacFarlane is an all-around splendid fellow — as a friend, a colleague and as an entertainer. Splendid is not a word I use often, but for Seth, it's absolutely perfect.

One of the most prolific hit makers in animated-television history, Seth MacFarlane presides over an entertainment empire that includes Family Guy (the sixth longest-running primetime series), American Dad! and The Orville. His body of work includes writing, directing, producing, animating, acting and singing, and he has won five Emmys (four for his voice-over performances and one for lyrics). In 2014, he served as executive producer of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the multiple-Emmy-winning update of the acclaimed 1980 science series Cosmos.

MacFarlane wrote, directed and starred in the 2012 release Ted, one of the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time, and has also been nominated for five Grammy Awards.

Norman Lear is the creative force behind the legendary sitcom All in the Family (among others), which defined and revolutionized American television. A five-time Emmy winner — most recently, for Outstanding Variety Special for 2019's Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons — he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.

This tribute originally appeared in the 25th Television Academy Hall of Fame program celebrating Seth MacFarlane's induction.

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