Celebrity deaths are never a pleasant experience.
Aside from the heartbreak of seeing a beloved cultural icon pass from this world, there’s also often the challenge faced by movies and shows that these celebrities might have been working on at the time of their death.
The passing of Adam West, beloved Batman icon, has left Family Guy in an awkward position. West played a character based on himself, known as Mayor Adam West, in over a hundred episodes of the irreverent Simpsons knockoff cartoon sitcom. At the time of his passing, West was still in the middle of recording voiceover work for future episodes of Family Guy, and as-yet unproduced scripts make heavy use of his character.
While it might be tempting to replace West with an entirely new voice actor, Family Guy producer Steve Callaghan has explained that no, they won’t be taking this action – instead, the character of Mayor Adam West will be fittingly retired, after five more episodes air that the late star had already recorded before his death.
“I think the proper way to honor him is to keep the character in the show. There were two or three episodes where his character had been written in, but he hadn’t yet recorded those, so obviously we’ve made accommodations for that. There was one scene where he was officiating a wedding, and it was easy enough to just have a different character do that. I [wouldn’t] even consider having someone come in and try to imitate his voice.”
This, though, creates the strange situation where Family Guy deserves to be praised.
The show, on the whole, is somewhat past its prime. Even when it was young, the jokes were aimed at a very, very specific audience who appreciated long, empty awkward scenes and inappropriate throwaway gags about sexual assault and trauma.
Family Guy on the whole is an acquired taste, and it’s strange to think of the show as erring on the side of decency rather than playing up shock antics for the sake of grabbing attention.
In their approach to the passing of a beloved member of the voice cast, though, the producers of the show have shown that they are capable of dealing with sensitive situations with tact and respect. For this, the show should be praised.
The decision to air West’s few remaining episodes as recorded isn’t entirely different to NBC’s tribute to the late actor, in which the network released an entire unaired episode of Powerless in which West cameos.
We all grieve in our own ways, and it’s wonderful to see media professionals paying appropriate tribute to one of the most iconic actors of the twentieth century.