Family Guy is an American animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company that premiered on January 31, 1999. The series is produced by Fuzzy Door Productions and 20th Television.
Production and development
The episode was first announced at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International on July 25, 2009, by series creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane. It was written by fellow executive producer and series regular Danny Smith and directed by Joseph Lee, during the show's eighth production season. The storyline was pitched by series regular Tom Devanney, and periodically references Billions and Billions (1997), a book of essays by Carl Sagan. Seth MacFarlane asked Danny Smith to read Sagan's essay, "Abortion: Is It Possible to Be Both 'Pro-Life' and 'Pro-Choice'", before beginning to write the script. The episode was originally intended to air along with the rest of the eighth season schedule, and was approved for production by 20th Century Fox. However, the Fox Broadcasting Company asserted their right not to air the episode due to the subject matter. This was the second time that MacFarlane had been warned by Fox about the sensitive nature of an episode's subject. Previously, the network had also disapproved of the season 3 episode "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein", which was originally prevented from airing on Fox, but finally aired on Adult Swim, and eventually on Fox more than four years after it was rejected. Thinking the same would happen with "Partial Terms of Endearment", MacFarlane believed that Fox would eventually run the episode on their network, stating, "Most of the time these things turn out to be nothing." In a statement released by Fox, they noted their full support of "the producers' right to make the episode and distribute it in whatever way they want." Series' creator Seth MacFarlane announced on July 25, 2009 at the San Diego Comic-Con that the episode had been banned by Fox. At the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International, MacFarlane announced that the episode would become available on a special DVD release, with series producer Kara Vallow confirming the release would be available on September 28, 2010, along with Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show. A month after the announcement, Kevin Reilly, President of Fox Entertainment, stated that the final decision not to air the episode was largely due to concerns about finances and advertisers: "Of all the issues, [abortion] is the one that seems to be the most of a hot button. Particularly at that moment in time, the economy was really struggling and there were a lot of very tough conversations going on with clients." Reilly said that "the advertisers know what they’re getting" with Family Guy, and he thought that the episode handled the subject fine, but "this one felt like it could cause trouble, and it was just not worth it." Despite the concerns in the U.S. about the episode, it aired on June 20, 2010, on BBC Three in the UK, as a part of the season's regularly scheduled Sunday night run on the station. Although it was originally speculated that Adult Swim might air the episode, Adult Swim stated that there were no plans to air it on their network. Several months before the episode debuted on television, the script was performed in a live table read at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood, California on August 12, 2009. The special reading was attended by Academy of Television Arts and Sciences voters on the heels of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. Family Guy was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, becoming the first animated program to be nominated in the category since The Flintstones in 1961. Commenting about the event, MacFarlane said, "We did this to drum up Emmy votes, so we could lose by fewer votes."
In addition to the regular cast, actor Jackson Douglas, then-husband of Alex Borstein, appeared in the episode as Dale Robinson, actress Julia Sweeney appeared as Naomi Robinson, actress Rutina Wesley appeared as Cheryl, actor Wil Wheaton cameoed as an anti-abortion protester and actor Michael York voiced the nature narrator. Actor Gary Beach, voice actor Phil LaMarr, and comedian/actor Will Sasso guest starred as various characters. Recurring guest voice actress Alexandra Breckenridge, actor Ralph Garman, and writers Danny Smith, Alec Sulkin and John Viener made minor appearances throughout the episode. Recurring guest cast member Patrick Warburton guest appeared in the episode as well. This episode marked Sweeney's first guest appearance since the season two episode "Wasted Talent".
"Partial Terms of Endearment", along with Seth and Alex Almost-Live Comedy Show, was released on DVD in the United States on September 28, 2010. The set includes a brief audio commentary by Seth MacFarlane, voice actress Alex Borstein, writer Danny Smith and director Joseph Lee, as well as animatics, a table read of the episode, and nine downloadable original Family Guy songs. It was also released for digital retail in the United States the same day without the bonus features included on the DVD.
Clips from the episode were shown during the special Family Guy: 200 Episodes Later, in which MacFarlane describes it as being the closest the writers have come to doing a modern-day All in the Family episode. Additionally, Smith calls it a relatively balanced and intelligent discussion of a very difficult subject and Sulkin claims that it, like "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein", is not controversial at all.