Death Has a Shadow

Death Has a Shadow
"Death Has a Shadow"
Family Guy episode
A cartoon drawing of a father holding a blue paper, a daughter who is wearing a pink shirt and hat, and a son who is wearing a blue shirt and orange hat.
From left to right: Chris, Meg, and Peter Griffin, the latter of which accidentally receives a $150,000 welfare check from the government.
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by Peter Shin[1]
Written by Seth MacFarlane[1]
Production code 1ACX01[1]
Original air date January 31, 1999[1]
Guest stars
Episode chronology
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"Death Has a Shadow" is the first episode of the animated series Family Guy. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States after Super Bowl XXXIII on January 31, 1999. The episode is based on series creator Seth MacFarlane's original pitch to Fox, The Life of Larry, and is a remake of the original Family Guy pilot. In the episode, Peter loses his job after drinking too much at a stag party and falls asleep at work. He then signs up for welfare to keep his wife Lois from finding out, but gets much more money than he expected. Lois finds out and Peter decides to dump the money from a blimp at the Super Bowl. He is then arrested, and must await his family's rescue.

The basis for Family Guy was MacFarlane's thesis film The Life of Larry, created in 1995 while he was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. A sequel was conceived in 1996 called Larry & Steve, which aired in 1997 as a segment of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons. Both shorts caught the attention of Fox, who contacted MacFarlane in 1999 to develop a series called Family Guy based on the films. A hand-drawn pilot was created by MacFarlane with a budget of $50,000, which led to the series being accepted for production.

Critical responses to the episode were mostly positive. According to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed in 22.01 million homes during its original airing in the United States. "Death Has a Shadow" was written by Seth MacFarlane and directed by Peter Shin, and featured a guest performance from Pat Summerall as well various recurring guest voices from the series.

In a season 10 episode of Family Guy entitled "Back to the Pilot", which premiered on November 13, 2011, Brian and Stewie go back in time to this episode. [2]


Plot summary

When Peter Griffin receives an invitation to a bachelor party at his neighbor Glenn Quagmire's house, his wife Lois pleads with him not to drink. Peter says he will not, but due to encouragement from Glenn, Peter gets drunk and suffers from a hangover the following morning. He falls asleep on the kitchen table during breakfast. Lois is alarmed, but decides to forgive him. Peter falls asleep on the job while working as a safety inspector at the Happy-Go-Lucky Toy Factory. He is fired for negligence when many highly dangerous "toys" (axes, jackknives, toasters, hazardous pills, and so on) are released. Not wanting to upset Lois again, he decides to keep it a secret. After Brian tells him to think of his family's well-being, Peter applies for welfare. Peter is shocked to find that his first welfare check is for $150,000 due to a misplaced decimal point.

Peter buys lavish gifts for his family such as Michelangelo's David, a moat, and a ski boat. Meg, Stewie, and Chris find out that Peter is unemployed, and he tries to keep them from telling Lois. Lois finds out when she receives the next welfare check in the mail. Peter decides that he will make it up to Lois by dropping all of his extra welfare money out of a blimp above Super Bowl XXXIII. This scene has a parody of the NFL on Fox theme music.

Peter and Brian are arrested by security guards and prosecuted for welfare fraud. Lois begs the judge to forgive her husband, but instead ends up in jail herself. Stewie uses a mind control device to get his parents and Brian released and get Peter his job back. The episode ends with things back to normal. Peter thinks about new ways to make money, and does not seem to have learned his lesson.[1][3]


A still frame of a cartoon family gathered together in the couch and the floor watching the television
The Griffin family
Back: Chris, Peter, Lois, and Stewie;
Front: Brian and Meg

MacFarlane initially conceived Family Guy in 1995 while studying animation under the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).[4] During college, he created his thesis film entitled The Life of Larry,[4] which was later submitted by his professor at RISD to Hanna-Barbera, which led to MacFarlane being hired by the company.[5] In 1996, MacFarlane created a sequel to The Life of Larry entitled Larry and Steve, which featured a middle-aged character named Larry and an intellectual dog, Steve. The short was broadcast in 1997 as one of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons.[4]

In 1997, while writing for Hanna-Barbera, MacFarlane planned to develop the Larry shorts into a short film series for MADtv; however, the project was abandoned because the show did not possess a large enough budget to make any kind of animation.[6] As development continued, the genre gradually shifted to a prime-time series,[6] while the characters of Larry and Steve formed the basis for Peter and Brian, respectively.[7][8] During the year, a Hanna-Barbera development executive introduced MacFarlane to alternative comedians Mike Darnell and Leslie Collins in an attempt to get Hanna-Barbera back into the prime-time business.[6] The executives were unimpressed; a year later, MacFarlane contacted Collins at Fox; she arranged a meeting with him and the company executives to create a series based on the characters entitled Family Guy.[6][7]

Fox proposed MacFarlane complete a 15-minute short, and gave him a budget of $50,000.[6][9] Several aspects of Family Guy were inspired by the Larry shorts.[10] After the pilot aired, the series was greenlighted. Premises were drawn from several 1980s Saturday morning cartoons MacFarlane watched as a child, such as The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and Rubik, the Amazing Cube.[11]


A closeup of a man's face. The man has black hair and slight stubble on his chin and above his lip.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane wrote the episode.

Production of the pilot for Family Guy began in 1998,[7] and took six months to create and produce.[5] Recalling the experience in an interview with The New York Times, MacFarlane stated,

I spent about six months with no sleep and no life, just drawing like crazy in my kitchen and doing this pilot.
—Seth MacFarlane, interview with The New York Times[12]

Upon completion of the pilot, the series went on the air.[12] "Death Has a Shadow" was the first episode of Family Guy to be aired.[13] It was written by creator MacFarlane, and was the first episode to be directed by Peter Shin.[13] The episode guest starred Lori Alan as Diane Simmons,[14] Carlos Alazraqui as Jonathan Weed,[15] Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown,[13] Billy West, Fred Tatasciore, Joey Slotnick, Phil LaMarr,[16] Wally Wingert, and fellow cartoonist Butch Hartman[17] as various characters. The episode aired after Super Bowl XXXIII on January 31, 1999.[10]

For "Death Has a Shadow", several changes were made from the original pilot pitch. For the series, Lois was a redhead, as opposed to the original pilot, where she was a blonde.[18][19][20] In the original pilot, Lois discovered that Peter lost his job, and by the end of the episode, he fails to get a new one nor does he apply for welfare.[19] The idea for Peter to apply for welfare and unintentionally become wealthy was suggested by executive producer David Zuckerman, who suggested the idea in order to add a larger amount of plot to the episode.[18][19] Several sequences and gags were integrated into the episode from creator MacFarlane's 1995 thesis film The Life of Larry, including the sequence where the Griffin family sees Philadelphia, and a brief cutaway where Peter flatulates for the first time at the age of thirty.[18]

Series creator Seth MacFarlane was cast as four of the show's main characters: Peter Griffin, Brian Griffin, Stewie Griffin, and Glenn Quagmire.[21] MacFarlane chose to voice these characters himself, believing it would be easier to portray the voices he already envisioned than for someone else to attempt it.[11] MacFarlane drew inspiration for the voice of Peter from a security guard he overheard talking while attending the Rhode Island School of Design.[22] Stewie's voice was based on the voice of English actor Rex Harrison,[23] especially his performance in the 1964 musical My Fair Lady.[24] MacFarlane uses his regular speaking voice when playing Brian.[11] MacFarlane also provides voices for various other recurring and one-time characters, including news anchor Tom Tucker and Lois' father Carter Pewterschmidt.[25]

Alex Borstein was cast as Lois Griffin, Asian correspondent Tricia Takanawa, Loretta Brown, and Lois' mother Barbara Pewterschmidt.[26] Borstein was asked to provide a voice for the original pilot while she was working on MADtv. She had not met MacFarlane or seen any of his artwork and said it was "really sight unseen".[27] At the time, Borstein performed in a stage show in Los Angeles, in which she played a redheaded mother whose voice she had based on one of her cousins.[26][27] The voice was originally slower, but when MacFarlane heard it, he replied "Make it a little less [...] annoying...and speed it up, or every episode will last four hours".[26] Seth Green was chosen to play Chris Griffin and Neil Goldman.[25][28] Green stated that he did an impression of the "Buffalo Bill" character from the thriller film The Silence of the Lambs during his audition.[29] His main inspiration for Chris' voice came from envisioning how "Buffalo Bill" would sound if he were speaking through a public address system at a McDonald's.[30] Lacey Chabert was cast as Meg Griffin.[25] Chabert voiced Meg Griffin for the first production season (15 episodes), but due to a contractual agreement was never credited.[31] Chabert left the series because of time conflicts with her role on Party of Five and schoolwork,[32] and was replaced by Mila Kunis.[33]

Cultural references

The 1993 drama Philadelphia is referenced in "Death Has a Shadow", where the Griffin family view the film and Peter, as a result of a drunken condition due to consuming an Irish coffee shortly before seeing it, he finds humor in the film's downbeat atmosphere as he remarks Tom Hanks as a "funny guy" and that "everything he says is a stitch" to which he laughs when Hanks' onscreen character states "I have AIDS".[34] The pornographic film that Peter and the guests at Quagmire's stag party watch is entitled Assablanca, a reference to the 1942 romantic drama Casablanca.[35] The sculpture Peter buys is Michelangelo's sculpture David.[35][36] A reference to Adolf Hitler's persecution of Jewish people is made during a cutaway where Hitler is seen working out at a German gym and becomes jealous of a Jewish man with a more physically fit body who is gloating and attracting the attention of various women.[34][36]

A cutaway is shown where Peter encounters a Chinese man standing his guard against a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks, a reference to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.[10] A brief reference to the 1971 episode of The Brady Bunch "Where There's Smoke" is made, where Greg experiments with smoking and is caught by Jan, who reports this to Mike; an angry Mike punishes Greg by placing him in a snake pit; Jan is also punished for tattling and placed in a fire pit.[37] When the judge declares Peter sentenced to prison for two years, the jury react in shock, stating "Oh no!"; shortly afterward, the Kool-Aid Man breaks through the wall of the courthouse proclaiming his catchphrase "Oh yeah!". Realizing he has walked into the wrong room, he nervously leaves.[35] In the final scenes of the episode, the Griffin family is seen watching a television program called TV's Bloopers, a reference to the 1984 ABC and NBC television series TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes;[37] towards the end of the scene, a bear is seen breaking through a wall, a reference to a running gag in the series involving a certain character or breaking through a wall.[18]


"Another surreal and imaginative running gag involves Peter’s attack of conscience. The devil on his shoulder instructs him to keep lying but when he turns to hear the angel’s perspective no one appears. We cut to the small angel stuck in traffic on the conscience’s highway. Later in the show the conscience arrives and Peter seeks his advice. So the small angel gets advice from the small devil on his shoulder and then turns to his other shoulder and again no angel appears. Cut to an even smaller angel stuck in traffic. Pretty memorable".

Robin Pierson, TV Critic describing his favorite joke of the episode [38]

The episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. Ahsan Haque of IGN in a 2008 review rated the episode an 8.9/10, praising the integration of humor into the episode's storyline. Haque noted that the episode was "a very strong start to this long running classic series, and revisiting it serves as a reminder that unlike many other television shows, there are very few awkward moments, and much of the show's brilliance is immediately apparent."[36] In 2009, the site singled out "Death Has a Shadow" as a "strong start [to Family Guy]".[39]

Robin Pierson of The TV Critic gave the episode a mixed review, rating the episode a 67/100, stating that it is one of the most densely packed pilots on television, he mentioned that it is entertaining but he said that there are many jokes that follow the quality does not win out over quantity saying.[38] He compared Peter to Homer Simpson and he compared the show to The Simpsons and the King of the Hill. He criticized the amount of unfunny jokes while he praised the surreal moments.[38] At the end of his review he stated that "Family Guy" is a different kind of animated comedy which sets out to do jokes that other cartoons can’t do, also mentioning that the show had promise to become really funny.[38]

A more negative review came from's Ken Tucker, who called the animation clunky, which he said made Hanna-Barbera's animation look like state-of-the-art. Tucker also said in his review that he hoped that smart people would use the Family Guy half hour to turn off the television set and start a debate over the air strikes in Kosovo Combine and he also called the show "The Simpsons as conceived by a singularly sophomoric mind that lacks any reference point beyond other TV shows".[40] Even before it aired the pilot received some criticism from the Parents Television Council, a watchdog; the creator of this website L. Brent Bozell III wrote that he initially speculated that Family Guy would be "pushing the envelope".[41]


  1. ^ a b c d e Callaghan, p. 14
  3. ^ Plot synopsis information for the episode "Death Has a Shadow". Family Guy: Volume 1 (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2003. 
  4. ^ a b c Lenburg, Jeff (2006). Who's who in animated cartoons: an international guide to film & television's award-winning and legendary animators (Illustrated ed.). New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. p. 221. ISBN 978-1-55783-671-7. 
  5. ^ a b ""Family Guy" Seth MacFarlane to speak at Class Day: Creator and executive producer of 'Family Guy' will headline undergraduate celebration. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
  6. ^ a b c d e P., Ken. "An Interview with Seth MacFarlane". IGN. Retrieved December 9, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c Barlett, James (March 12, 2007). "Seth MacFarlane – he’s the "Family Guy"". The Great Reporter. Presswire Limited. Retrieved December 31, 2007. 
  8. ^ Strike, Joe (February 13, 2007). "Cartoon Network Pilots Screened by ASIFA East at NYC's School of Visual Arts". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 18, 2009. 
  9. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 5, 2008). ""Family Guy" creator seals megadeal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 31, 2008. 
  10. ^ a b c Callaghan, p. 16
  11. ^ a b c Cruz, Gilbert (September 26, 2008). "Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane". Time.,8599,1844711,00.html. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (2007-07-07). "The Young Guy Of 'Family Guy'; A 30-Year-Old's Cartoon Hit Makes An Unexpected Comeback". The New York Times (The New York Times Company): p. 2. Retrieved January 6, 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c "Family Guy: Death Has a Shadow". Yahoo!.;_ylt=Asssd9_Hj74nB87AtKAjqCy9v9EF. Retrieved 2011-19-6. 
  14. ^ "Lori Alan: Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Carlos Alazraqui: Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved October 8, 2009. 
  16. ^ "Phil LaMarr: Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Butch Hartman: Credits". TV Guide. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b c d MacFarlane, Seth (2003). Commentary for the episode "Death Has a Shadow". Family Guy: Volume 1 (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  19. ^ a b c Zuckerman, David (2003). Commentary for the episode "Death Has a Shadow". Family Guy: Volume 1 (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  20. ^ Borstein, Alex (2003). Commentary for the episode "Death Has a Shadow". Family Guy: Volume 1 (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  21. ^ Graham, Jefferson (January 29, 1999). "Cartoonist MacFarlane funny guy of Fox's 'Family' Subversive voice of series is his". USA Today: p. E7. 
  22. ^ Smith, Andy (2005-04-30). "A Real Family Reunion". Providence Journal TV. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  23. ^ Dean, John (2008-11-01). "Seth MacFarlane's $2 Billion Family Guy Empire". Fox Business. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  24. ^ Franklin, Nancy (2006-01-16). "American Idiots". The New Yorker. 
  25. ^ a b c "Family Guy Cast and Details". TV Guide. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  26. ^ a b c Miller, Kirk (2008-11-19). "Q&A: Alex Borstein". Metromix. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  27. ^ a b "Alex Borstein (Lois) Laughs at the Once-Dead Family Guy's Longevity". TV Guide. 2006-11-13. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  28. ^ Graham, Jefferson (1999-04-09). "Seth Green fits right in with new Family". USA Today. 
  29. ^ "Fans help 'Family Guy' return to Fox". Observer-Reporter: p. E5. 2005-04-29. 
  30. ^ Green, Seth (2005-09-27). Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story: Audio Commentary (DVD). 
  31. ^ Epstein, Daniel Robert. "Interview with Seth MacFarlane, creator of The Family Guy". UGO Networks. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  32. ^ "Sonic the Horndog". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  33. ^ De Leon, Kris (2007-09-25). "Mila Kunis Talks About Working on Family Guy and Her Upcoming Movie". BuddyTV. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  34. ^ a b Callaghan, p. 15
  35. ^ a b c Callaghan, p. 17
  36. ^ a b c Haque, Ashan (2008). "Family Guy Flashback: "Death Has a Shadow" Review". IGN. Retrieved September 14, 2009. 
  37. ^ a b Callaghan, p. 214
  38. ^ a b c d Pierson, Robin (August 7, 2009). "Episode 1: Death Has a Shadow". The TV Critic. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  39. ^ "7: Family Guy". IGN. Octuber 14, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2009. 
  40. ^ Tucker, Ken (June 9, 1999). "Family Guy". Entertainment Weekly.,,273010,00.html. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  41. ^ Bozell, L. Brent III (January 19, 1999). "WB: The Very Model of a Modern Network?". Creators Syndicate. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 

External links

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I Never Met the Dead Man

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