Family Guy has never shied away from jokes at the expense of others, from politicians to other TV shows and his own actors, but in season 19 he unexpectedly shot at other animated series Ricky and Morty. In season 19 of Family Guy, episode 13, “PeTerminator,” Stewie makes a joke aimed at another super-successful TV show, and it seems a little more personal than usual. Stewie and Brian must find out who sent the Terminator, modeled after Peter, into the past, and for this they use Rick’s portal gun from Rick and Morty. Stewie’s kidding: “I stole it from Rick and Morty—they borrowed a lot from us.” It looks like a well-aimed shot, and there are several reasons why the creators of “Family Guy” could accuse Rick and Morty of copying them.
Family Guy is no stranger to rivalry. The now infamous double episode of season 10 of South Park–”Cartoon Wars–” destroyed the entire Family Guy approach to writing jokes, and since then Family Guy has been making fun of the South Park animation style. Family Guy has mocked The Simpsons several times, including in the 9th episode of Season 7, “The Juice is Out”, when Mayor Adam West tells Homer: “We don’t love you like in 1993.” Showrunners even took pictures of the spin-off series “The Cleveland Show” and its possible cancellation. Despite this, Family Guy mostly avoided criticizing Rick and Morty, which made the accusation of copying even more surprising.
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Despite the fact that “Family Guy” continues to enjoy undeniable success, the number of viewers is steadily decreasing. Everything started well: season 1, episode 1 of “Death has a Shadow” was watched by 22 million people, and from seasons 2 to 12 — an average of 6 to 7 million viewers per episode. However, the numbers have dropped in recent years, and most recently season 20 dropped below 2 million per episode for the first time. The numbers of “Rick and Morty” never wavered and comfortably held at around 1 million per episode for all five seasons. In addition, it received consistent critical acclaim, while later seasons of “Family Guy” were not as well received. And this is despite the fact that Family Guy was the first to make adult animation more popular, and it would have been difficult for Rick and Morty to succeed if Family Guy hadn’t done it first. The creators could accuse Rick and Morty of copying the success of “Family Guy” while riding on coattails.
There are also more literal examples of Rick and Morty copying Family Guy. In the 1st episode of the 8th season of Family Guy, titled “The Road to the Multiverse”, a family guy introduces the idea that Stewie and Brian jump between universes using a device invented by Stewie. The show uses this concept several times in future seasons. The whole idea of “Rick and Morty” revolves around an eccentric duo crossing the multiverse using a device invented by Rick, his portal gun, despite the fact that it premiered years after the episode “Family Guy”. That’s probably why the Griffins took the opportunity to “steal” Rick’s gun back in season 19– at first it belonged to the Griffins. A more specific case is season 9 of Family Guy season 7, “The Road to the North Pole,” where Stewie replaces himself and Brian with robotic versions of themselves at the dinner table. In “Ricky and Morty”, Season 3, episode 2, “Rickmanizing the Stone”, Rick similarly replaces Morty and Beth during the dinner table scene.
Due to the fact that the number of viewers of “Family Guy” has been declining in recent years, and “Ricki and Morty” continue to develop a cult following consistently well-watched seasons, the disappointment is understandable. Since there are very similar plot twists in both shows, it’s not surprising that the writers of “Family Guy” slightly hit their competitor. It’s unlikely that this will be the Family Guy’s last shot at Rick and Morty while these two episodes are on the air.