Seth MacFarlane is too much for Microsoft, but 'South Park' and 'Two and a Half Men' are no problem
When Microsoft made the decision this week to drop out as the sole sponsor of Fox's upcoming special "Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show," the software giant said, "The content was not a fit with the Windows brand."
The special from "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein, who also works on the animated show, featured skits and bits with jokes about the Holocaust, feminine hygiene, bowel movements and incest. In other words, it was much like a typical episode of "Family Guy."
But since Microsoft has problems with that sort of stuff and seemed surprised that MacFarlane's humor knows no limits, we thought we'd look at some of the other shows on which they've been buying commercials. That way they can determine whether the programs are a good "fit with the Windows brand." We gave a list of some shows to TNS Media Intelligence, a consulting firm that tracks where companies spend money, and the results were, well, quite interesting.
Microsoft, which spent $3.2 million last season buying commercials on Fox's "Family Guy" (and an additional $1.4 million on reruns of the show that ran on TBS and Cartoon Network), really likes CBS' "Two and a Half Men." The company spent more than $4 million on it last season, according to TNS. Although it's no "Family Guy," the sitcom can get pretty racy. In one recent episode titled "Laxative Tester, Horse Inseminator," there were jokes about condoms, teenage boys being aroused and the benefits to using a bidet. We'd quote some of the lines directly (and they were crude, but funny), but odds are they wouldn't be a good fit with our editors.
Other shows Microsoft helped bankroll include AMC's "Breaking Bad," a violent drama about a teacher who becomes a crystal meth dealer after he learns he has cancer; FX's "Nip/Tuck," which usually has enough sex to make Hugh Hefner blush; and "Rescue Me," which also loves its bathroom humor. Oh, and Microsoft likes Comedy Central's "South Park," where it dropped more than $1 million on commercials.
We're not pointing any of this out in the hopes that Microsoft will stop buying commercials on these shows, some of which are critically acclaimed and very worthy of commercial support. But we know how much big companies hate surprises, and since MacFarlane's brand of entertainment seemed to shock Microsoft, consider this a public service.
As for what sent Microsoft over the edge at the taping of the MacFarlane special, that may never be known. The company was involved in the program from the get-go so nothing should have been a shock. Who knows, maybe hearing those "Family Guy" style jokes coming out of the mouths of real people instead of cartoon figures was just a little jarring. Or it was that one bit about Miley Cyrus and her dad ...
-- Joe Flint
Photos: Top, "Two and a Half Men." Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times. Bottom: Seth MacFarlane. Credit: Peter Kramer / Associated Press.