by Tony Panaccio
American Reporter Correspondent
February 28, 2009
FAMILY GUY 1, PALIN 0
HOLLYWOOD -- If you're a reporter, don't ask Sarah Palin any questions. She ain't answering.
Palin stopped talking to the media shortly after getting a public flogging from a cartoon. In fact, it was such a clear, sound and substantial beating, rumors recently began swirling inside the Democratic Party that they might be prepping Marge Simpson for the ticket in 2012.
It began in early February when she decried a gag on the popular animated Fox sitcom Family Guy in an episode that depicted a character with Down's Syndrome. Her character was being pursued romantically by Chris Griffin, a teen-age character voiced by actor Seth Green. In the episode, Griffin asks his potential new girlfriend what her parents do for a living, and she replies, "My dad's an accountant, and my mom's the former governor of Alaska."
Palin, who's 1-year-old son Trig has Down's Syndrome, reacted virulently by stating the joke was "another kick in gut," characterizing it as a dig against her infant son.
Enter Andrea Fay Friedman, a veteran television actress who voiced the Family Guy character in question. She was not acting like a girl with Down's syndrome, because she actually has Down's Syndrome. Friedman launched her acting career in 1992 on NBC's Life Goes On, a series that depicted the lives of several Down's Syndrome characters. She has since been on shows like Baywatch, Walker Texas Ranger, and Chicago Hope, each time portraying a capable, vibrant character who meets life's challenges as an individual, and not as an individual with Down's Syndrome.
After Palin's reactionary rant, including a Facebook message from her daughter - a message that looks suspiciously like it was prompted by mom or one of her handlers - Friedman issued a statement that showed more political skill than the politician's statement.
"My parents raised me to have a sense of humor," Friedman said. "My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."
Since then, Palin's kept her rants on the subject to herself, and Family Guy's ratings experienced a mild uptick both in first run episodes on Fox, as well as reruns on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. And, not soon after, Palin's spokesperson resigned, and it doesn't look like the former Veep candidate is interviewing candidates to replace her.
Without discounting the fact that Friedman totally owned Palin with her response, Palin was barking up the wrong tree in the first place. Family Guy is no shallow contender in both public popularity and smarts. The show makes millions for Fox, and sells millions of DVDs every year, without even talking about the merchandising and branding.
Both Subway and Microsoft have used the show's characters as pitchmeisters. Plus, let's be candid - the show is more consistently brilliant in its biting sarcasm than just about any other show on tv. A few seasons ago, series creator Seth McFarlane turned a rant about the FCC into a musical number that is now legendary on YouTube (it's from the episode PTV - look it up if you haven't yet). In this instance, Palin severely underestimated her target.
The ironies of this situation keep multiplying exponentially, like a combination of Octomom and the Duggars on acid. Palin is actually part of the media she keeps criticizing, with her own stint in punditry on a platform provided by the conservative network.
Does that mean if she interviewed herself, she'd have her husband respond with a text message saying "no comment"? Compound that with the fact that Family Guy is one of the terrestrial network's top-rated moneymakers. I can hear Rupert Murdoch sending his assistant to Sam's Club for the big bottle of Advil.
And the icing on the cake is that Palin's political opponents, who seem stymied on how to squelch Palin's appeal to conservative Americans, are now taking their lessons from a cartoon.
Tony Panaccio, a veteran writer, marketer and producer in the entertainment industry, has worked with William Shatner, Stan Lee and other luminaries.