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Did Family Guy Really Just Kill Off a Major Character For Good? Probably Not, But Do You Even Care?

Posted on the 26 November 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Oh,my god!  They killed Brian on Family Guy!  You bastards?

You bastards, indeed, or at least that appears to be the general consensus among Family Guy fans.  Within hours of the airing of Sunday’s episode of Family Guy in which the character of Brian was shockingly killed off, a fan petition to bring the character back had become the top entertainment petition on Change.org.  Who knew that Family Guy fans actually care about the characters and don’t just watch to see the cavalcade of pop culture parodies teed up by one of the characters remaking, “This is like that one time I…”

Let’s back up.  When Family Guy originally premiered in 1999, the central friendship of the show was between Griffin family patriarch Peter and his dog Brian.  The two were established in stark contrast to one another, Peter a loud, oafish figure and Brian a liberal intellectual who drinks martinis.  In general, it seemed as if show creator Seth MacFarlane just thought it would be funny if your dog could talk and turned out to not only have nothing in common with you but also harbor an increasingly not-so-secret crush on your wife.  Peter and Brian were thus a comedy duo on the show while the family baby, Stewie, was mostly isolated to stories revolved around his matricidal tendencies.  That, too, seemed inspired by nothing more than MacFarlane thinking it funny if a baby had a voice like Rex Harrison’s and was constantly attempting to kill his mother with no one seeming to notice either that the baby could talk or that it was clearly some sort of evil genius scientist.

Rather quickly, though, the central friendship of the show shifted toward Brian and Stewie, the latter’s obsession over killing mommy turning into an only every now and then thing. The pairing of the two characters who absolutely should not be able to talk (a dog and a baby) seemingly freeing up the writers to explore all sorts of crazy genre pastiches with the two regularly engaging on road trips and traveling through time.  They were also often used as the mouthpieces for the majority of the show’s patented (or lazy) self-criticism, such as Stewie observing upon a brief return appearance from Cleveland that the ratings for his spin-off The Cleveland Show must be abysmal for him to return and try and woo Family Guy viewers.  By the time a Family Guy video game came out last year, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse, Stewie and Brian’s prominence as a buddy duo had risen enough that they were the central characters of the game.

As such, this past Sunday during the episode “Life of Brian” very few likely believed Brian was really dead until the closing credits arrived with no hint of any kind of imminent return.  The entire story line centered around Stewie having destroyed his time machine to prevent any further destructive meddling with history only to almost instantly regret his decision when Brian is run over by a car the next day.

Family Guy Life of Brian

As such, it seemed logical Stewie would simply re-build his time machine and rescue Brian, or that Brian had faked it all to teach Stewie a lesson, or that Doc Brown from Back to the Future would show up in the Delorean and battle H.G. Wells for the right to Brian’s soul (or some pop culture mish-mash nonsense that is Family Guy‘s speciality).   After all, they couldn’t seriously be killing off Brian.  We would have heard about it beforehand, right?

However, Brian is dead…at least for now.  They’ve replaced him with a tough-talking Italian mobster-esque dog named Vinny, voiced by Tony Sirico from The Sopranos.  The explanation for why this has happened is they thought it would be “a fun way to shake things up,” as per producer Steve Callaghan’s interview with E! (via the AVClub).   Fans aren’t taking the news particularly well.

You would think it would be completely obvious to everyone that this is a temporary thing, and that Brian will return before the end of the current season.  Apparently, Brian’s name is even included in the titled of multiple upcoming episodes.  Plus, it’s not like they had to write him out over a pay dispute with the voice actor.  Seth MacFarlane does the voice of Brian (as well as Stewie, Peter, Stan on American Dad, and multiple supporting characters).  Granted, he’s an increasingly busy man with multiple film and TV projects to juggle.

Here’s the cause for concern for those fans who want Brian back:

Jef American Dad

Family Guy‘s sister show, American Dad, recently wrote out the character of Jeff at mid-season last year, banishing him to space with his survival left a question until it was revealed he was alive and doing everything to head back home to his wife.  That reveal happened near the end of the season, and at this point he has yet to actually re-appear in the current season.  That reveals that at least on the other side of the MacFarlane animated lot at Fox they have been willing to play the long game with a character’s apparent death.  However, Jeff had only recently become a full time character when they wrote him out, and he was certainly nowhere near as central to American Dad as Brian is to Family Guy.

Here’s the cause for rejoice for those who want Brian back:


Remember when South Park actually killed off Kenny because the writers were tired of killing him off every week as part of their recurring joke established way back in the pilot?  Probably not because after a season or two they brought Kenny back, the character merely showing up at the end of an episode and the other kids innocently asking where he’d been.  

In general, it’s incredibly rare for an animated series to kill off a character in any long-lasting way.  [Spoiler Warning] The Venture Bros. once cliffhange’d a season with the apparent death of the titular Venture Bros. only to reveal they were actually clones, easily replaced by yet other clones.  Young Justice recently killed off one of its young superheroes in its series finale just as Wolverine and the X-Men did, though in the latter occasion they left it open just enough for that character to potentially return had the show been renewed beyond its one and only season.  The Simpsons might have the most notable death, in that Maude Flanders was killed off and has yet to return.  Recent reports indicated they will kill off another character for good relatively soon.

Is Family Guy the type of show that will actually stick with this?  Or will Brian be back within four episodes?   One would guess the latter lest they actually force themselves to explore the rest of the Griffin family and do episodes about Meg and Chris without apologizing for doing so.

This is like that one time….

What do you think?  Are you surprised by this reaction as well?  Don’t watch Family Guy anymore?  Just want to know who can actually hear Stewie when he’s talking?  Let us know in the comments section.

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