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80s Pop Culture References in Family Guy

I have been watching Family Guy since it debuted back in 1999 and I am still amazed what they get away with for a show that airs in prime time on network television for much of its existence. Family GuyThe ultra-talented Seth MacFarlane really pushes the line on FCC regulations (or acceptable societal values) regarding what is considered offensive, obscene, indecent, profane or just plain wrong. But that is not what keeps me watching all these years; it is the pop culture references that are worked into each show, often through cutaway gags. And the more subtle, obscure or random, the better. I obviously especially appreciate the 80s pop culture references the most. So I thought I would try to share some of my favorites which I was able to find in some video form.

In an early episode of the show titled "Fifteen Minutes of Shame" (Season 2 in 2000), Family Ties by Peterwhile learning to paint from PBS' The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, Peter paints a portrait of the Family Ties cast just like it appeared in the show's opening credits. In the "Brian's Got a Brand New Bag" episode (Season 8), Peter bought the Road House DVD from a going out of business sale at the video store. After watching the film, Peter began to believe that all of life's problems could be solved by kicking. After each time he kicked something, he would say "Road House!" The episode was dedicated to Patrick Swayze, having aired only 47 days after Swayze's death in 2009 from pancreatic cancer. Many of these references are silly, but they often times make me chuckle. One of my other favorite lines was from a January 2013 (Season 11) episode titled "The Giggity Wife" when Peter asked, "Hey, was Beowulf a Teen Wolf sequel with Scott Baio?" I don't know why, but that one really got me. I couldn't find a good video clip of those, but I did find them for many others. Several even include a side-by-side comparison of the actual scene that Family Guy is recreating (thank you DrPepperJNL), so I provided those where available. Here are just some of the 80s Pop Culture References made in Family Guy...

From "Baby Got Back" (Season 12, Episode 18, original air date April 27, 2014) - Peter recreates a memorable scene from Footloose...


From "A Fistful of Meg" (Season 12, Episode 18, original air date November 10, 2013) - Peter changes Meg's birth certificate name to Megatron (from Transformers)...


From "Chris Cross" (Season 11, Episode 13, original air date February 13, 2013) - Peter has to call Damone to bring his money just like Rat in Fast Times at Ridgemont High...


From "Tiegs for Two" (Season 9, Episode 14, original air date April 10, 2011) - Megatron is trying to rally the Decepticons when a new Transformer "Negatron" is being a downer...


From "Big Man on Hippocampus" (Season 8, Episode 10, original air date January 3, 2010) - Crocodile Dundee makes an appearance to let them know "That's not a knife"...


From "Peter's Progress" (Season 7, Episode 16, original air date May 17, 2009) - The guys recreate the musical number from the Revenge of the Nerds talent show...


From "Baby Not On Board" (Season 7, Episode 4, original air date November 2, 2008) - A classic monologue is recreated from Planes, Trains & Automobiles...


From "Family Gay" (Season 7, Episode 8, original air date March 8, 2009) - Peter becomes the character of Dirk the Daring from the Dragon's Lair arcade game...


From "Movin' Out (Brian's Song)" (Season 6, Episode 2, original air date September 20, 2007) - Stewie tries to cheer up Brian by showing him 80s movie robots Jinx from SpaceCamp and Sico from Rocky IV...


From "Meet the Quagmires" (Season 5, Episode 18, original air date May 20, 2007) - Peter is dancing to "Axel F" at St. Elmo's Clam with Cleveland wearing a Thriller jacket...


From "The Tan Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (Season 5, Episode 11, original air date February 18, 2007) - The museum scene is recreated from Ferris Bueller's Day Off in the Art Institute of Chicago...


From "Road to Rupert" (Season 5, Episode 9, original air date January 28, 2007) - Peter imagines himself in an 80s sitcom called "My Black Son" with Emmanuel Lewis with the opening theme recreating parts of Punky Brewster, Family Ties, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, Who's the Boss and more...


Also from that same episode, there is a Ghostbusters reference when Lois opens up the refrigerator...


From "Stu & Stewie's Excellent Adventure" from Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (Season 4, Episode 30, original air date May 21, 2006) - The scene is recreated from Ferris Bueller's Day Off when he is racing the car home...


From "I Take Thee Quagmire" (Season 4, Episode 21, original air date March 12, 2006) - They recreate the opening of The Great Space Coaster with a small twist at the end...


From "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Fonz" (Season 4, Episode 18, original air date December 18, 2005) - Peter cuts away to join Paula Abdul in her "Opposites Attract" video but sings "I'm Dressed Like a Cat" instead...


From "Brian Goes Back to College" (Season 4, Episode 15, original air date November 13, 2005) - The guys pretend to be The A-Team and recreate the show's opening theme...


Also, from the same episode, Brian recreates a training montage from Rocky IV...


From "PTV" (Season 4, Episode 14, original air date November 6, 2005) - Peter remembers his 16th birthday with a Jake Ryan scene from Sixteen Candles that ends a little differently than the movie...


From "Jungle Love" (Season 4, Episode 13, original air date September 25, 2005) - Stewie recreates the scene from Tootsie after he is told "No one in this town will hire you!"...


Also, from the same episode, Chris ends up singing a version of Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"...


From "Breaking Out is Hard to Do" (Season 4, Episode 9, original air date July 17, 2005) - Possibly my all-time favorite when Chris is pulled into a recreation of the rotoscoping a-ha "Take On Me" video...


From "Petarded" (Season 4, Episode 6, original air date June 19, 2005) - Stewie has a recreation of an iPod commercial except his uses "The Warrior" by Scandal...


From the album Family Guy: Live in Vegas (released April 26, 2005) - Includes the song "T.V. Medley" where Stewie and Brian do a tribute to many awesome sitcom theme songs including Diff'rent Strokes, Growing Pains, Charles in Charge, Silver Spoons, Who's the Boss, Perfect Strangers, The Golden Girls, Family Ties and more...


From "Stuck Together, Torn Apart" (Season 3, Episode 19, original air date January 31, 2002) - When Peter and Lois are having marital problems, he says splitting up didn't work for Pac-Man and his wife...


From "The Kiss Seen Around the World" (Season 3, Episode 8, original air date August 29, 2001) - The iconic Phoebe Cates pool scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High is recreated when Meg fantasizes about Tom Tucker...


From "Let's Go to the Hop" (Season 2, Episode 14, original air date June 6, 2000) - The Breakfast Club is recreated with cereal mascots Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Trix Rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun and Cap'n Crunch...


From "Da Boom" (Season 2, Episode 3, original air date December 26, 1999) - Peter comes up in a protective suit and Chris yells, "The government is here! Run, E.T., run!"...

There are so many more that I couldn't find video clips for or that I just missed, but I will try to keep adding more as I come across them. There have also been countless Star Wars references over the years. Family Guy even did complete recreation/parodies of the original Star Wars trilogy with the permission of George Lucas including Empire Strikes Back as "Something, Something, Something Dark Side" (released on DVD in December 2009) and Return of the Jedi as "It's a Trap!" (released on DVD in December 2010) and I didn't even include any of those. Since Family Guy is syndicated on so many stations now, it is not unusual to see any of these episodes playing at any time. So you never know when you might catch an awesome 80s pop culture reference if you tune in. And, no matter how offensive other parts of the show may be, that is always worth it to me.

Let me know what you think and if I missed any of your favorites. You can always read more at my regular blog Kickin' it Old School (http://OldSchool.tblog.com) including many exclusive interviews and Top 10 lists. Please also like us on our Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/KickinItOldSchool/) and follow us on Twitter (http://www.Twitter.com/OldSchool80s/) .  Thanks for reading!

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SegaFanatic Posted on Feb 23, 2015 at 12:21 AM

Their references can be well done, but I pretty much dropped the series when it got brought back again. It's a beast that won't die!

OldSchool80s Posted on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:51 PM

Yes, agreed the show is not what it used to be. I never liked the offensive-for-the-sake-of-being-offensive stuff much to begin with. As I said, I still appreciate a good 80s reference. And you may notice that most of my examples are not from recent years. Thanks for reading!

Benjanime Posted on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:37 PM

in my opinion, this is the only lasting appeal that the show has to offer. everything else, including the running gag with the characters has just become so stale in the past few years. peter hates meg? yeah, it was funny the first time. a pedophile with arthritis that's infatuated with chris? why does this need to be a thing? but i think using brian's death to net in ratings was the nail in the coffin for me as far as i would go with no longer watching it. at least the simpsons did it right with the two part "who shot mr. burns?" special.

SegaFanatic Posted on Feb 21, 2015 at 03:03 PM

I've never been a large Family Guy fan, but I love the Gremlins reference with that chick from The Nanny (Fran Drecher, whatever her name is), made me laugh like crazy when I first saw it.

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