I've often heard complaints about the character of Meg Griffin on "Family Guy" and I wanted to touch on how the use of Meg is an example of Family Guy's strength.
For those that don't know (READ: Skip this paragraph if you're already familiar) , Meg is the middle child on the animated family sitcom and she's inexplicably the butt of her otherwise decent family's jokes. Her dad won't openly admit that he even likes his daughter. Aside from being not as attractive as her mother, no reason for this is ever given, and that incongruity is the source of humor.
Speaking of incongruity, isn't it ironic that the girl playing Meg is played in real life by an actress beautiful enough to convince movie going audiences that heart throb Justin Timberlake would be swooning all over her? In fact, considering Hollywood's obsession with the question "Is a beautiful actress capable of truly embodying the soul of a not-so-beautiful woman?", then either a) Mila Kunis is more worthy of an Oscar than Charlize Theron or Nicole Kidman because she's really nailing the whole ugly thing better than "Monster" and "The Hours" or b) perhaps, it's not that hard to play ugly and it says more about our male perception of outward beauty that it's such an issue.
OK, enough philosophizing* and let us get back to my theory on why Meg is written the way she's written:
*Yes, I enjoyed spelling that word wrong for stylistic purposes
Look at the E! Hollywood True Story of any family sitcom and you'll see that behind the scenes, the Seaver kids on Growing Pains or the Winslow kids on Family Matters (two of whom got written out of the show entirely) or the Taylor kids on Home Improvement were all battling for equal story lines (or rather their agents and parents).
When a sitcom is in development and the cast is getting hired, it's really difficult to tell which characters will be breakout stars and catch on with the audience. The writers will probably focus on the parents and service the kids by devoting an episode to each of them with care. For whatever reason, audiences will inevitably respond to different characters differently, and this could become especially jarring for the actors playing the kids. They are far less able to professionally or personally recover from failure than the actors playing their parents (usually established stars like Bill Cosby or Tim Allen). Already secondary characters, the kids could get written out of the show or usually significantly marginalized.
Meg was written poorly in the first couple seasons (to be fair, Chris hasn't really grown as a character past the obligatory Chris episode) and rather than try harder to develop her, the writers went the opposite way and decided to use her as a stand-in for every underwritten child character ever. It's what we in the TV blogging business call lampshading.
For reasons I don't entirely understand, "Family Guy" is a pretty big target of criticism when compared to the works of Matt Groening or the South Park boys. Comparisons aside, I always find McFarlane to be not just genre-savvy but consistently able to utilize it for laughs.
As for the last week's episode, "Seashell Seashore Party," it was highly uneven. Beyond a curiosity to see how well Family Guy's animation team could go all-out Tim Burton, the plot didn't start kicking in until the 3rd act. How weird was that?