"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
It’s awfully rare that abortion is tackled on prime-time television. In a quickfire round of e-mails with the Broadsheet staff, we were only able to come up with the following examples off the top of our heads: “Maude” (the 47-year-old lead had an abortion just months before Roe v. Wade), “Roseanne” (the matriarch considers it but ultimately doesn’t have one), “The Real World: Los Angeles” (a cast member terminates her pregnancy), and“Party of Five” (a planned abortion is thwarted by a miraculous miscarriage). So, it comes as no surprise that Fox just might terminate an abortion-themed episode of one of its most prized shows: “Family Guy.”
On a weekend panel at Comic-Con, series creator Seth MacFarlane revealed that he’s made the abortion episode, but added:”20th Century Fox, as always, allowed us to produce the episode and then said, ‘You know what? We’re scared to fucking death of this.’” The official word is still out on whether Fox will let it air, but MacFarlane speculates that it’s “unlikely.” It’s possible this is just a publicity stunt to get people to watch the supposedly controversial episode and, for the record, Fox scrapped one past “Family Guy” show only to have it air in syndication and pop up on the season DVD.
I’m all for more prime-time, or any time, TV discussions about abortion, but let’s just say that I’m not enthused by the idea of “Family Guy” — an animated series worshiped by actual and, more so, emotional 13-year-olds across the nation — tackling the issue of abortion. That’s particularly true when considering the show’s past treatment of rape (see: Quagmire’s “rape machine” and recent comments by the cast about Meg’s upcoming trip to prison). The show rolls in political incorrectness like a pig in mud or a dung beetle in manure — only difference being that there is no point to the show’s nasty revelry. It might at times successfully execute smart satire, but mostly it’s just laughs by way of oh-no-they-didn’t disbelief.
That said, as a co-worker pointed out, “The mind reels at the musical numbers that must have been planned.” It’s almost enough to make me wish for Fox to air the episode.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)