Brian Griffin, the canine member of the Griffin family in the hit animated television series Family Guy is no longer dead and Seth MacFarlane, the series’ creator, admits that the whole thing was just an ornate gag.
Brian died earlier this season on November 24th.
In an episode titled Life of Brian, viewers watched as the family’s talking dog was run down in the street by a careless motorist.
His bloody demise under the carriage of a silver sports coupe came as the brutal punch line to a very subtle joke that started earlier in the episode at the city dump.
After feeding the remains of Stewie’s time machine into a trash compactor—if viewers haven’t seen the episode yet, it was being disposed of because of the trouble it had caused—Brian remarks, “look at all the perfectly good stuff that people just throw out for no reason—”
On cue, the camera pans to include a bright red hockey goal. Pointing, Brian continues, “like here, look at this street-hockey net. It’s in great shape!” It is this hockey net that is the hook that sets Brian in the middle of the street later in the episode, where he becomes the victim of a bloody hit-and-run. Brian Griffin was pronounced dead later in the episode and the news had fans reeling.
The response on social media was immediate and dramatic. Some fans went so far as to start an online “Bring Brian Back” petition that was eventually signed by 27,000 fans. Other fans, more than 300,000 of them, resigned themselves to the sudden loss and joined the “R.I.P Brian Griffin from Family Guy” Facebook page.
It was never MacFarlane’s plan to “kill” Brian the dog. Not for good anyway.
Seen as some as a way to drive traffic back up for the show which had seen a 19 percent slump in viewers from the previous season, speculation circulated.
MacFarlane later admitted that it was just a “warm, fuzzy, holiday lesson,” in a tweet just after the 2013 season’s eighth episode aired.
It was just a ruse, but not one, says MacFarlane, without a point. His message: Don’t take those you love for granted. You never know when they’ll be gone.
His point was made, clearly, because after Brian was rolled—quite graphically—underneath a speeding automobile, the show’s family and many of the show’s fans, were in shock.
MacFarlane seemed genuinely surprised at his fan’s response. As the voice of Brian the dog, MacFarlane is aware of the appeal the four-legged family member has to his audience. Sometimes-drunk-sometimes-bigot Brian is often endearing. He is also the balance to the micro-megalomaniac baby Stewie. Without Brian, Stewie would often go unchecked in his high technology sprees of genius and the world would not be a better place for it.
The staff of Family Guy were hopeful that suddenly snatching the life from a staple character would be enough to get the show’s flagging viewership back in first place and the practical joke seemed to do just that. Seth seemed surprised that people believed the exaggerated notion that Brian had gone the way of Old Yeller, because it was all supposed to just be an ornate gag.
His tweets claimed that it seemed ridiculous that anybody could believe that Brian was actually dead-dead, but the fact that the show had already made plans to replace the loss with a replacement pup named Vinnie only added to the confusion.
It seemed apparent that the team of writers for the award-winning animated serial were doing their best to convince the world that Brian Griffin was dead and gone. For good.
Now that the most recent episode has been shown and all of the plot holes are neatly tied up—future Stewie coming back in time to save Brian with a stolen “return” device fades into oblivion as his timeline becomes illegitimate a la any Doctor Who episode ever—Brian is back in the land of the living.
It remains to be seen if the effect of the big joke is what the writers hoped for, though—increased ratings and an increase in the shelf-life of the Family Guy brand.
Until then, Seth MacFarlane wants everybody to know that the outpouring of rage, surprise, confusion, and support was warmly received by Brian the dog. But Brian’s not gone. The whole storyline was a farce, nothing more than a ratings gag.
By Matt Darjany