Feb 1 2012

The Family Guy Maneuver


Let’s take a look at that new super bowl ad with Matthew Broderick:

Now at first glance, this appears to be a parody of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But it isn’t. A real parody takes something you recognize and puts a comedic twist on it. Okay yes, traditionally the purpose is to mock the original work which isn’t exactly happening here, and technically maybe this is more a pastiche or whatever. But my point is this is supposed to be funny. You’re supposed to laugh when you see present day Matthew Broderick doing a parody (or whatever) of his role in Ferris Bueller. Only there aren’t any jokes in this.

It’s not bad. It’s a reasonably competent commercial. But every potentially funny moment is just a carbon copy of a moment in Ferris Bueller. The sick day call, the parade, the stuff with the car, all straight up lifted–and this is the important part–WITHOUT any new twist. They could have shown Broderick failing at all his wacky antics, playing on the fact that he’s not a kid anymore but his fancy Honda makes him feel like one anyway. In that scenario, you’re taking something familiar and changing it a little to get your joke. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the original pitch. Instead we get exact scenes from the original movie, and you’re expected to laugh just because you remember it.

I like to call this the Family Guy Maneuver because that show does it all the time. Let’s check out an example in high quality taped-off-TV-o-vision…

So yeah it’s an exact recreation of the Power of Love part of Back to the Future…and nothing else. This is basically the same as the drunk guy in the bar trying to reenact the standup routine he saw last week. Listen, I love parodies. But before you laugh, please double check your parody contains jokes.