FAMILY GUY (FOX)
Scheduling history: Family Guy aired all over the place during its initial run, but since its resurrection in 2005, it's aired exclusively on Sunday night.
See (who saw) how it all began: I'm not even going to list season averages for the pre-cancellation run for Family Guy in the late '90s and early aughts, so sparse is my info. I know that it premiered after the Super Bowl on 1/31/99 with an 11.5 demo, made its official premiere on 4/11/99 with a 7.1 demo, but it got much worse from there. What few data points I do have from that run (which aired its last episode on 2/14/02) indicate the show often posted demos in the low 3's, and toward the end that was down into the 2's. In other words, aside from very early on, the show was almost always weaker than in any season post-revival.
The best of times: Family Guy has been pretty consistent since its return, with its best season of 2007-08 being a little inflated because the writer's strike allowed it to air a disproportionately high percentage of its episodes in the fall, when the animation block is always much stronger. Still, that was the only season that broke a 5.0 relatively often, in seven half-hours total vs. only once or twice in most other seasons. It still hasn't come anywhere near the 11.5 it did post-Super Bowl in 1999 or even the 7.1 it found in its first episode a couple months later, but it did peak at a 5.6 demo for the one-hour Star Wars parody on 9/23/07.
The worst of times: The worst of times was obviously the nebulous early-2000s run, in which the show performed worse than it has since its revival, something that's pretty uncommon in primetime over a 5+ year period. I have it getting a 2.6 for an original on 11/8/01, but it may well have gone lower than that during its Thursday run against Friends and Survivor in the 2001-02 season. While my demo info is limited, you can see on TVTango how dire the total viewer situation got. It took until the 2011-12 season to get back into that mid-2's range it occasionally found in the early aughts. Its worst point last season was a 2.4 demo on 5/13/12.
Then vs. now: The story of Family Guy is highly improbable on a couple different levels. First, there's the revival itself. After a hiatus of more than three years, that's a pretty rare occurrence in its own right. When it does it happen, it will usually just be with animated shows, for logistical reasons. But it's not unheard of, as another former Fox toon in Futurama has recently been resurrected by Comedy Central for originals. It's also highly improbable for a show to get axed, then get revived, then become a bonafide broadcast hit after not being one previously. But that's also not unheard of... see JAG in the '90s for an example of that, and that case also involved a network switch (from NBC to CBS). What's so amazing about Family Guy is that both those things happened: it got axed, stayed off for three years, then came back and then became a hit. That kind of thing almost defies the imagination. Plenty of shows have loyal fanbases that discover the show after it's axed and buy DVDs, but not many can actually turn the show around on this kind of scale. Futurama, for example, ain't exactly lighting the world on fire on Comedy Central, even though it's hung around for a few seasons. But Family Guy, once a show that Fox could afford to get rid of, is now a pretty massive success, with strong syndicated results on TBS and having supplanted The Simpsons in recent years to become the star of the Fox animation block in first-run. There aren't a whole lot of shows that are still thriving a dozen years after being in legitimate danger of cancellation, but Family Guy is one of them.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
Family Guy note: I'm denoting "seasons" of the show as everything that airs within a broadcast season, not by production cycles. Usually those are the same thing, but in the case of this show, those seem to be different, as the first 10 episodes after the revival are lumped in with the episodes from the 2005-06 season.
Season 1 preview post-Super Bowl: 11.5 A18-49 on 1/31/99
Season 1 premiere: 7.1/18 A18-49 on 4/11/99
|Premiere||Average||Finale||P -> F|
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.