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No new Family Guy episode this weekend, so Brian Griffin stays dead for now

- December 1st, 2013

Family Guy Brian Griffin

Death and TV comedy always has been an uneasy mix. One struggles to know where the line is between realism and a publicity stunt.

It gets even more complicated with an animated series such as Family Guy. Wedging in a serious moment amid all those poop jokes can get squishy. Maybe it’s a hoax. Maybe the hoax is a hoax.

Either way, consider this a SPOILER ALERT if you don’t want to know any details, but as you probably have heard, Seth MacFarlane’s long-running animated series Family Guy, which airs Sundays on Fox and Global, killed off a major character last weekend. Supposedly.

Brian, the family dog who talked and essentially lived the life of a fully functioning adult, was hit by a car and succumbed to his injuries in a very sad scene with the Griffin family gathered around him. My first reaction was that Brian’s death must be “real,” since MacFarlane took the time to make it so moving.

There can be many factors at play when a TV character in a live-action series passes away. But with an animated series, it usually is nothing more or less than an editorial decision. Family Guy didn’t have to kill Brian. For MacFarlane, it’s just one fewer voice to do.

The question of where Family Guy goes from here, for me, is influenced by the fact that the show – which is in its 12th season – really has nothing to lose. Perhaps Brian’s alleged replacement – a dog named Vinnie, voiced by Tony Sirico from The Sopranos – won’t last any longer than Poochie on The Simpsons.

Speaking of The Simpsons, I’ve quoted this conversation previously, but it was back in the summer of 2009 when, at a Fox event during the Television Critics Association tour, MacFarlane told me, “I don’t want (Family Guy) to go 20 years like The Simpsons. Ideally we would go another couple of years and then wrap it up. I would like to be done before they’re done with us.”

Family Guy already has gone longer than MacFarlane envisioned. But if you’re going to stick around, you need viewers to notice you.

There is no new episode of Family Guy tonight (Sunday, Dec. 1). If you’re not among the conspiracy theorists, you can consider it a period of mourning for Brian. But next weekend Family Guy is getting right back to its madcap adventures, as Peter and Quagmire discover their singing voices create beautiful harmony together and they form a singing/songwriting team, a la Simon and Garfunkel.

Brian’s death scene pierced me. Silly, I know. But I still ache for every pet I’ve ever lost, so maybe it just taps into something.

But has this all been a ruse? Bringing Brian back now undoubtedly would create a backlash to the backlash. Or maybe Brian is getting his own heaven-set spinoff.

Whether he stays dead or not, killing Brian was an attention-grabber for Family Guy. The harder part is grabbing and holding.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

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1 comment

  1. Russell Baker | December 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I want stewie to go back in his time machine bring brian back and kill the other dog

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