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Family Guy's First Episode Had A Subtle Nod To Seth MacFarlane's Upbringing

From its first episode, "Death Has A Shadow," "Family Guy" quickly establishes that it is an animated series unlike any other. The premiere episode is full of edgy pop culture-related jokes, including a memorable scene where Peter Griffin is the only one laughing while watching Tom Hanks' powerful drama "Philadelphia," while everyone else in the theater is understandably crying. Sure, Peter's unfiltered action is an introduction to the show's brand of offbeat and, at times, controversial humor, but for creator Seth MacFarlane, it was also a subtle nod to his upbringing. During an interview with Larry King, MacFarlane noted that Peter, during that scene, was meant to highlight a type of New Englander he grew up with.

"I knew a lot of these guys, who ... their hearts were in the right place, but they weren't the most critical, most in-depth thinkers out there," MacFarlane explained to King. "And you know, Peter Griffin embodies that type of guy. And in his mind, everything he had seen Tom Hanks in up to that point was hilarious, so he was looking for the comedy. He went to see 'Philadelphia' looking for the jokes."

It's probably not surprising that MacFarlane pulled influences from his time growing up in New England. He already revealed that a former Rhode Island School of Design Security Guard also serves as a real-life inspiration for Peter Griffin. Yet MacFarlane may have also thought the Hanks joke was one of the best ways to establish Peter's personality for an audience, as he used the same scene for another project.

Seth MacFarlane transferred the Tom Hanks bit from his college thesis film

In a 2004 New York Times article, Seth MacFarlane gave a little more insight into his personal New Englander influence on Peter Griffin when he talked about his father's friend who once fell asleep during a screening of "Philadelphia." That clearly had a notable impact on MacFarlane, as he used it as inspiration for another project before "Family Guy." 

For his senior thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995, MacFarlane created an animated film titled "The Life of Larry." It only takes one quick look at the short to immediately get a sense of déjà vu. In the film, while they do look different, Larry and his brown dog are basically Peter and Brian Griffin. Not only do they sound the same, but they act similarly as well.

But characters aren't the only thing transferred from the short film into the pilot episode. Some jokes featured in "Death Has A Shadow" are also seen in "The Life of Larry," including the same "Philadelphia" bit. In fact, besides a live-action scene of MacFarlane setting it up in "The Life of Larry," the entire moment is virtually unchanged compared to what later appears in the "Family Guy" pilot. MacFarlane definitely thought the scene was the best way to establish the link between his main characters and the type of people he grew up with.