I will not say who I am. I will not say what position I held that allowed for me to be aware of the information I'm about to share; suffice to say, I don't hold it anymore. I have read some of the letters directed at Seth and Fox complaining about season eight of Family Guy, and while I can't officially make these statements to any press, I don't want to stay quiet anymore.
Many people feel that season eight was just 'off' in an odd sort of way. For anyone who took note of season eight of Family Guy for the specific reason of elevated graphic violence, I wanted to say this.
Seth MacFarlane was going through a lot during the times these episodes were written and produced. He was heavily involved in writing the episodes alongside series writers, several of which made comments later regarding his apparent state of mind during writing sessions. However, more recently, when looking for corroborators, my ex-coworkers denied Seth being involved as he was, as well as 'Steve,' whom I'll explain in a bit.
A number of scenes did generate a certain amount of negative viewer response - Peters head getting crushed between two logs, for instance - but I'd like to point out that these images were no more graphic than the things you might see on other 'adult' cartoons. In addition, there has been blood and gore in the series before; typically, it's just more spread out over the season. However, if you did feel that such imagery was out of place for the series, you were right.
Editors cut nearly two hours of animated gore, violence, and sexual abuse from season eight, as well as rejected three proposed episodes featuring:
-The character Quagmire stalking, capturing, raping, and finally killing a woman (whom he keeps for several days while alive) in his basement.
-Stewie developing a mind control ray which he tests on Brian, though he eventually uses it to have relations with him.
-Lois becoming pregnant after cheating on Peter in a threesome with friends from college, confesses to him and after they argue about what to do about the pregnancy, he performs home abortion on her using a coat hanger.
The last episode was eventually rethought and made as "Partial Terms of Endearment," but was cut from the air for the US, despite being shown in the UK and being available on the DVD for the season.
I would like to point out the episode "Dog Gone," in which Brian loses faith in his ability to write and accidentally hits and kills a dog with his car while drunk, by crushing it in half. When he reveals this, everyone but Stewie laughs at him and mocks him, saying that no one cares. Stewie does mock him for a while, but when he realizes how serious Brian is about the issue, he stages Brian's death so that Brian can see the family mourn, and feels validated. I suggest you watch this episode while keeping in mind that Seth often represents himself through Brian and Stewie. In this particular episode, I also believe the various dogs and their reactions to their environment reflect Seth's emotions.
Early on, when I asked Seth about why he seemed to be emphasizing his use of Brian and Stewie, he just told me he was frustrated with the series so far - that he'd begun to feel like the earlier seasons were idiotic, that the fanbase were morons, and that he was stuck; his name would always be associated with Family Guy. He also told me that he was bringing in someone to help 'mature' the material. He mentioned having worked briefly with the man before.
The stressed, slightly manic, tone of season eight culminates in "Brian and Stewie," one of the most serious episodes of the entire series; there are no cutaways and the titular characters behave in a way that seems to show them in their most distilled forms. Again, this episode was heavily censored and altered: the original script called for the scene in which Brian eats Stewie's stool to be shown, not just implied. Brian considers suicide because he feels his life has no purpose, and Stewie 'saves' him with their friendship.
Following this episode, the tone evens out and things return to more or less normal for the series.
There was nothing particularly 'occult' or 'metaphysical' regarding the circumstances around the making of season eight. None of the writers or animators went insane, there were no mysterious deaths or possessions...none of that. For those of you looking for a twist or reason, I will say this:
While Seth usually seemed tired outside of working, he did his bet to keep up appearances at major events and gatherings. However, it was said that he often looked sicker or more listless in the presence of his consultant (I assume this was the man Seth had mentioned to me early on), and was reluctant to say no to suggestions said consultant - whom I will call 'Steve' - made. From what I've gathered he didn't really start making suggestions during sessions until around episode three, but was talking to Seth in private about the series. He was silent for some time, almost absent aside from just sitting in, and then began to converse more actively with Seth and the co-writers by the middle of the season.
While those who had to deal with Steve did usually seem irritated or perturbed by his presence, he did have some connections: Dwayne Johnson's brief appearance in episode 10, "Big Man on Hippocampus," was attributed to Steve, and I was told Mr. Johnson (when jokingly asked by one of the crew on set about how he got asked to do the scene) commented that he was only there because he owed a favor to 'Steve.' He acted uncomfortable at the time, and even during filming the short. It was done in one take and he was not asked to do it a second time. From what I've heard, Steve was present and seemed pleased by the fact that Mr. Johnson was visibly uneasy.
During one session (the second time I saw him in person), I did question Steve directly about a suggested plot, and when he turned to look at me, I was genuinely scared. I had no idea why; he had never once threatened, swore, or made a personally violent move. I suppose it was the series of ideas regarding violence and gore he pitched to Seth. I should mention that when others did protest suggested violence, Steve would typically switch to sexual themes, racism, mental retardation, or just withdraw altogether until he could work in one of his themes again.
The pitch I was concerned about was for a running gag. The question I asked was something along the lines of:
"I think that what we're doing may be too much for one episode ("April in Quahog"). Blood is okay once, maybe twice in the episode, but showing the same man dying over and over might be a bit much."
The gag being pitched was that Peter, at various points in the episode, runs over the same man, who despite being whole and alive every encounter, is increasingly mauled every instance, with a different reoccurring character running over and screaming that the man was dead.
Seth was unaccompanied to the writing sessions for episode seventeen, and he was much more energetic than I'd seen him in months. He was almost celebratory, and it showed: he picked some of his favorite musical numbers from the series, cut or not, for the end of the episode, the plot of which seemed to have been a symbol for his own self-redemption.
I have been unable to track 'Steve' down since to find out more about him; no records exist within the company to show that he was ever officially signed on or paid, and i believe he may have been privately hired by Seth. For what reason, I have no idea; I'm just glad to know he's gone.