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BIG BANNED: Not content with just canceling their own shows, Fox TV has issued a cease and desist order against a Toronto comedian for doing a one man show telling the story of the Swiss Family Robinson in the voices of Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy – itself once canceled by Fox before the network brought it back after nearly two years of fan petitions.
Brian Froud, a Toronto comedian and impressionist, had been performing the one hour show since last summer until he was told to shut it down by Fox lawyers two weeks ago. “When we learned that this production had made unauthorized use of the Family Guy characters and material, we asked that the producers cease and desist and they have complied,” Chris Alexander, vice president of Media Relations for Fox Television, told the Toronto Star in a statement. “Protecting our intellectual property and copyrights is something we take very seriously at Twentieth Century Fox Television.”
“Essentially, it's a live action touring commercial for Family Guy,” Froud wrote on his blog after receiving the letter. “We are huge fans of the show ourselves and would never do anything to harm it's stellar reputation. We simply want to frolic within the hysterical realm of the freakin' sweet madness created by Mr. Seth MacFarlane. We're curious to know what he would think of all of this. Seth, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd give you my phone number, but some CBS lawyers are on my ass about my one man Airwolf show.”
In a press release issued yesterday, it was pointed out that another Fox show, The Simpsons, had been used as the basis for a one man show called MacHomer, starring another Canadian comic, Rick Miller, which has played for a decade “with Fox’s approval ... When asked by the Toronto Star why MacHomer was given Fox’s blessing, yet Swiss Family Guy Robinson received a ‘cease-and-desist’, Chris Alexander refused to comment.”
“What’s frustrating is that this cease-and-desist may become a real drag for our image,” said Steven Shahori, one of Froud’s show’s producers. “We’re respected comedians with a lot of our own TV comedy projects we’re trying to get off the ground, and we’d hate to be labeled as some sort of network-fighting pariahs. That’s really not what we’re about.”
The ironies here are rich – by overzealously guarding the copyright sovereignty of a show that sells irreverence to its viewers, Fox is making people who’d obviously love to be part of the mainstream entertainment industry Fox represents look like anti-corporate rebels, all for creating a show that, as Froud points out, is essentially free publicity – it would be hard to argue that Froud’s show actually discourages viewers from watching The Family Guy or buying DVD box sets. It’s a move that might actually damage the credibility of the show for its audience. Readers can go to SwissFamilyGuy.com to sign a petition pleading with Fox to cease and desist – exactly the sort of petition that brought MacFarlane’s show back from limbo. Irony must be getting cheap.