Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's a TNG reunion—on Family Guy?

Sure, where else?

Famliy Guy regulars know that TNG bits pop up regularly, and that creator Seth MacFarlane is a true Trekkie with cameo-extra cred from Enterprise; head writer David Goodman wrote the classic Futurama TOS parody and had two years writing on Enterprise as well. (Someday we'll talk about that lost Trek sitcom, Herb 'n'Rita—right, David?)

The show has basically assembled the first-ever TNG reunion (post-Nemesis) when "All Dogs Do Not Go to Heaven" airs Sunday, March 29 at 9 p.m. EDT/8 CDT on FOX. There's been bits out elsewhere, but David sets us up at TREKLAND about his own cameo, too:

LN: So, the name of the TNG episode is “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven"—a reference back to the animated movie …??
DG: Right. There are two stories going on in the episode; it is not exclusively a
TNG episode. One story involves Meg and Brian, and the other is the rest of the family, but in that story Stewie didn’t have a lot to do. So we came up with a story to go along with that that just involved Stewie: The family, in the opening of the show, goes to this Star Trek convention, and we have a lot of fun doing that; even though it’s been done before, we did our own spin on it. And I make a cameo appearance!* They drew me; a Star Trek narrative—it’s a real reach for me! (laughs)
And then Stewie’s upset cause he never gets a chance to get his question answered by the cast, so he buys plans for transporter at the convention, builds it, and beams the entire cast of
The Next Generation to his bedroom.
LN: As only Stewie can.
DG: As only Stewie can.
LN: Has this become a case of “the B-story that took over the world,” as far as the attention, the publicity?
DG: I wouldn’t say it took over the world. The whole reason we did it was we felt like the original
Star Trek’s been parodied on TV a lot, going back to SNL in the ‘70s, going right up to my Futurama episode. But we felt like there hadn’t been a lot of parodies of The Next Generation, and we also recognized just what a popular show that was. Y'know, a lot of people are familiar with that show; a lot of people outside of Star Trek fans are familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

That, plus the fact that Patrick Stewart has been on our show a couple times—and he’s a recurring character on [sister series]
American Dad; he’s always been very game for comedy.

LN: And Seth [creator MacFarlane] had done his cameos—

DG: Well, Seth did his cameos on
Enterprise, and strictly because I was there; I take full credit for getting him on! And the first episode he’s on was one of mine [Ensign Rivers, “The Forgotten”].

LN: And he had been a fan before that, though; you didn’t hook him?

DG: That’s how I got the job on
Family Guy—Seth and I shared an affinity for Star Trek, so that’s how far that goes back. And then I wound up on Enterprise; and he and I were still in contact with people, and Brannon and Rick [co-execs Braga and Berman] were big Family Guy fans, and it was easy for me to get him on the show. And after he was on once, they brought him back on again. Brannon and Seth since have become very good friends.
So—we’d also had
Next Gen castmembers on the show. We’ve had Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes—we’d had a bunch of them already voice themselves. And they were again all very happy to do it, and game.
LN: Just very little, one-off cameo bits, though—
DG: Yeah,—so we said, let’s just get the whole cast. And it was a blast—everybody was happy to be there, and excited. Wil Wheaton came in and spent the whole day! Recorded his voices, then was hanging out with the artists the whole day! Gates McFadden ended up selling her
Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine to the episode’s director—it was a machine with a plaque on it, I think it was worth something and he collects pinball machines, so it was a very big thing for him. And then Denise Crosby came in, Marina—and they were all terrific. It was our own little … well, I said it about “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” [on Futurama], but the reality of producing the episode imitated the episode itself—because we basically were having our own little Star Trek convention at the offices.

LN: Doing your own Stewie beam-ins, as it were. … But you were recording the cast one at a time, correct—not in groups?
DG: You had to do them separately, because schedules didn’t permit them all at once. Patrick recorded from London; he was in a booth in London patched into ours here. Jonathan—initially we did him remotely, and then he came in recently to do some pickup lines. But yes, it was all scattered and spread out. … But it was great that everyone had a real sense of humor about it, and were willing to send themselves up.
LN: Did you consider anything else, as far this plot, to use them in?
DG: I don’t want to give away the story, because it takes a surprising twist; what Stewie actually does with the
Next Generation cast, it’s definitely a Family Guy-esque twist. I don’t think anyone will see it coming, and we definitely had a lot of fun taking it in the direction it did. It’s not particularly racy or anything, but it’s just a very funny twist on this idea of getting this cast and spending time with the Next Generation cast. So, that was fun, too. It bears no similarity to any other Star Trek parody (laughs), I’m kinda confident.
LN: Stewie doesn’t put on a Barclay uniform and zap everyone into a module, or anything?

DG: Oh, no no… (laughs)
LN: How did the story idea develop? Were there any roads not taken?
DG: It actually started with the writer of the episode, Danny Smith, who came up with the idea with some of the writers. The original idea, what Seth had pitched was much of the first act of the episode—and we often do what we call a “first act mislead,” where the first act of the show doesn’t necessarily connect to the rest of the episode. And originally Seth had pitched a first act mislead that they go to a Star Trek convention; we hadn’t done it—let’s do it! And then it was Danny and a small group of writers who came up with the idea that Stewie doesn’t get his question answered, and he kidnaps the whole cast. So that was how the story developed.
LN: So it was pretty much this story, right out of the box, then.
DG: Yeah.
Well, the very first mention I’d heard was in a comment dropped by Jonathan; I asked you, and you said you should do more publicity on it—
DG: Yeah, we were then in TV Guide, and then FOX sent out a press release and it was picked up…
LN: —because I believe this was the first time, even though they were not physically together, that you had all the cast—even with Wil and Denise, too—for any kind of a production, even as a parody or a sketch.
DG: Yeah, I’m pretty geeky about that kind of stuff and I don’t believe there’s been one. So, doing this has been really fun!

*Nerd alert: David latter clarified that his cameo comes at the convention and he has a couple of lines, but plays ageneric con ATTENDEE, I'M NOT ID'd as a writer at all, I'm a geek in a blue original series shirt.

Something like this, perhaps?

No comments: