PASADENA, Calif. – The joke was a quick one: It showed “Family Guy’s” infant Stewie running naked screaming, “Help! I’ve escaped from Kevin Spacey’s basement!”
But that 2005 animated clip went viral when Spacey was accused of molesting several young men in a November 2017 bombshell that lost the 58-year-old actor his “House of Cards” gig and led him to “seek evaluation and treatment.”
“Family Guy” creator, and star, Seth MacFarlane said on Thursday at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour he wasn’t the one who pitched the controversial joke that made its way into the years-old episode and left many fans wondering what MacFarlane knew about Spacey ahead of the public revelations.
“I don’t remember who pitched the joke,” he told reporters on Thursday. “I remember when it was pitched that was a rumor that I had actually not heard, and other writers in the writers’ room had. It had to be explained to me.”
Showrunner Alec Sulkin said he too wasn’t the one who came up with it, but he remembered a bit more about its genesis. He said the timing of the quip came because Spacey initially said he had been attacked by a young person in London one night in 2004. Later, he changed his story and said he tripped over his dog after the young person mugged him.
“I think he had sort of been... beaten up in a London park, and he claimed he was walking his dog and fell and I think that sort of raised a lot of eyebrows,” Sulkin recalled.
MacFarlane insisted the show doesn’t have a sixth sense running the writer’s room.
“The idea that 'Family Guy' is this cartoon Ouija board that predicts things… I was just watching things happen from afar,” he told the room full of journalists on Thursday. “I think it’s sort of modern media. The idea that it’s more important to be first than to be right. It’s a strange thing to observe. We write our show the same way as everyone else. We make the same kind of topical jokes that ‘The Simpson’ does, [that] ‘South Park’ does. And you work with what you have whether that be swirling rumors or political [material].”
The show previously made headlines for a 2009 quip in which Stewie called then Bruce Jenner “an elegant, beautiful Dutch woman.” In 2015, the former Olympian opened up about being transgender and began using the name Caitlyn Jenner.
“The myth that 'Family Guy' is this Kreskin-like prognosticator of this kind of stuff is a little bit sensationalized,” MacFarlane insisted.
The show is currently celebrating its upcoming 300th episode.
“I don’t know that anyone ever really expected this show to go this long,” he said.
He says the show has evolved “with the times,” which has enabled it to succeed.
"Family Guy" is currently in its 16th season and airs Sundays on Fox.