Did ‘Family Guy’ Jump the Shark? Showrunner Defends Major Character Death

Published 1 year ago by , Updated November 26th, 2013 at 10:20 am,

family guy major death Did Family Guy Jump the Shark? Showrunner Defends Major Character Death

- Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead - 


You can’t say that they didn’t warn you. In July during San Diego Comic Con, much was made of the news that Family Guy would crossover with The Simpsons, but there was less attention paid to showrunner Steve Callaghan’s warning that a major character would take their last bow during the animated show’s 12th season.

Last night, Family Guy followed through on that threat, shocking fans and raising questions about whether the series had completely jumped the shark when they killed off Brian; the Griffin’s loyal, opinionated, and occasionally boozy talking dog.

More than a family pet, Brian has stood out as quite possibly the most popular character on the show, serving as a straight man to Peter Griffin and a sidekick for Stewie (with whom Brian often teamed up for some of the show’s most beloved episodes). Brian was also a key part of the show’s widespread merchandising efforts, with bobble heads, action figures, tees, and other paraphernalia bearing his image.

So, why tick off loyal supporters who have been through all of Family Guy‘s ups and downs (from birth to cancellation to syndicated success and an unlikely re-birth) while simultaneously hurting the Family Guy brand by taking out one of its signature assets? Here’s Callaghan, telling E! how this idea took root.

“Well, this was an idea that got pitched in the writers room and it sort of caught fire, and we thought it could be a fun way to shake things up. As soon as this idea came up, we started talking about what the next couple episodes could be and we got very excited about the way this change will affect the family dynamics and the characters.”

family guy major death cast Did Family Guy Jump the Shark? Showrunner Defends Major Character Death

One thing that’s going to change the Griffin family’s dynamic is the addition of a replacement dog named Vinny, as voiced by Sopranos alum Tony Sirico. According to Callaghan, that character had to be brought aboard because “a void needed to be filled both comically, and also for interpersonal relationships between all the characters.”

Will fans accept Vinny and move on from Brian, or will they rebel against a show that felt a need to create a “void” out of a want to “shake things up”? Callaghan doesn’t seem concerned about the latter.

“Our fans are smart enough and have been loyal to our show for long enough, to know that they can trust us. We always make choices that always work to the greatest benefit of the series.”

Callaghan seems to have a lot of faith in the fan’s faith in him and the rest of the writers over at Family Guy, but those fans have never been asked to accept a game changer like this before, leaving them to feel slighted in the afterglow of this grim (and graphically presented) surprise, taking to twitter to voice their dissatisfaction toward show creator Seth MacFarlane while some wondered if this was a stunt or temporary.

Family Guy has a history of killing off its characters to get a rise out of viewers, memorably taking out Lois, Cleveland, and Stewie in the season six two-parter “Stewie Kills Lois” and “Lois Kills Stewie”, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this might all be a dream or something else, but this time it feel more final. It also feels a little desperate.

Family Guy is still a solid performer for FOX, but the bloom has fallen off the rose a bit with many long term fans and critics saying that the show’s comedy has lost some of its bite over the last few years. Perhaps the death of Brian was put in place to convince people that Family Guy‘s waning comedic boldness will reverse course following this extreme shift, but it seems more likely that this may cause critics to scratch their heads while possibly pushing fans to ponder whether they should stop supporting a show that has now taken away a character that inspired many to latch onto Family Guy in the first place.

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Family Guy airs Sundays on FOX @9PM ET

Source: E!, Zap2It

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
TAGS: Family guy
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  1. meh, hell be back, shows too crap not to

    • He will be in witness protection program, the new dog (a sopranos actor voicing him) is a mob dog hoping to find out where brian is hiding out…

  2. I’m not an avid viewer of Family Guy, but I did watch this episode. Here’s my thought, they’ll leave this new dog in for a few shows, Stewie won’t get along with the new dog. He’ll find a way to rebuild his time machine and stop Brian from setting up the goal posts. Thus saving Brian. As I said I’m not a constant viewer of the show, but oddly I do enjoy the Stewie/Brian episodes the most. If they plan to lose viewers then the new dog will stay, if not then we’ll see Brian again in season 13.

    • Like I said on page one, a season 13 episode synopsis says Brian returns so…make of that what you will.

      • Brian in family Guy. Family Guy kill Brian. Brian taste like chicken.

        • as Ernie?

  3. Stewie will get the time machine in order, leap into Simpsons universe looking for Brian.

    • It’d be cool for Cleveland to return to Quahog for Brian’s funeral, Stewie makes friends with Rallo then when Brian eventually returns, they could have a sort of love triangle of friendship.

      • Sounds cool

      • i agree dazz that could be a good storyline with the love triangle and i also think its funny that nobody goes to the family wiki to see brian is not going to be dead forever. like i said in my other post brian has 2 episodes named after him and one in the fall of 2014. i think they are doing to brian what they did to jeff on american dad. i think jeff will be back to american dad too cause they have a upcoming episode called honey im homeland which i think might be jeffs return episode.

  4. The episode at points attempted to get an emotional rise out of the audience but there were too many jokes that made it feel like “oh he’s not really dead, they’re not taking this seriously.” It just never felt like a proper send off. As for the character of Vinnie or Vinny, i didn’t find him interesting, so hoping they add some more dimension to him other than this wise guy angle.

    • Point taken, but on the other hand the show took itself way TOO seriously, at the expense of being funny. The writers seem to have forgotten that its an animated comedy of absurdity and vulgarity, not a sappy drama.

  5. i agree with dazz that brian will be back. if you go to family guy wiki than we got brian is a bad father and brian the closer as upcoming episodes and plus another unnamed episode in the fall of 2014. so im pretty sure he will be back unless they throw them episodes away which i dont think they will.

    • You love Dazz. Jelly baby?

  6. words cannot describe…..

  7. so if anybody on here is a fan of brian dont worry hes coming back unless they throw away upcoming episodes or family guy gets canceled which wont happen cause american dad is moving to tbs in fall of 2014 which i think is stupid but i dont think they would let go of both shows. so the only thing they could do is throw them 3 upcoming episodes away which i dont think they will.

  8. The show has its moments but it got boring a while ago. Brian was annoying. His death can’t hurt the series.

  9. for a show thats been on the air so long killing Brian accomplished what they wanted, people buzzing about it on the internet

    • Just like you.

      • yes

  10. I can accept Brian being killed off (at least temporarily), but I can’t fathom how bringing in a replacement is going to make the show better. Seriously, a new dog with a thick italian accent is the key to the show’s success? That’s like killing off itchy and replacing him with Poochie.

  11. I miss already. : (

  12. dident they already do this with Mr. Burns…????

    • Peter killed Mr Burns?

      Was that like the time they were both held captive in a Turkish prison?

  13. I got a theory. Here is the synopsis for this years Christmas Special for Family Guy.

    “Plot: When Carter Pewterschmidt cancels the annual Quahog Christmas carnival, because he hates the holiday, Peter must transform his father-in-law from a Scrooge into a hometown hero in order to salvage the event. Meanwhile, Stewie devises a master plan to get the one and only thing he wants for Christmas.”

    Does anyone remember Stewie mentioning in the Episode that Brian dies that he went to the future to Christmas to buy all the “cool toys” early? Well, that would mean that a Past Stewie would be in the present time during Christmas…Thus…Stewie will track down Past Stewie who is traveling to the present and will “devise a master plan to get the one and only thing he wants for Christmas.”

    So I’m convinced this will only end in three ways.

    1. Stewie will get Brian back
    2. Stewie will change his mind or realize that he shouldn’t interfere or some other BS.
    3. Stewie will be the one who kills Brian. (The car that hits Brian looks an awful lot like Brian’s car) Out of some knowledge that if Brian lives it will cause some kind of time anomaly or catastrophic event (This was partially mentioned by other individuals)

    I think this is very interesting, just the fact that Family Guy is having a big story arc. These OBVIOUSLY have to be connected in some way.

    • Are you lonely?

  14. The creators of Family Guy have just sent their own show into a spiral that I don’t think they will be able to ever pull it out of…RIP Brian..

  15. It’s in one of the alternate universes, Stewie is looking at this scene through one of his inventions

  16. Of course he’s coming back. (though this raises the question about the above statement that a main character will ” take his final bow”. Presumably nobody actually said THAT, just that a main character would die, which as we all know usually doesn’t mean anything at all.).

    Setting aside the idiocy of anyone who might think the show would improve without Brian or that he might be brutally written out for no obvious reason, the one and only problem in my mind is that comedy is suddenly not the priority of Family Guy, and that is totally unacceptable. Being funny is the justification for every twisted, disgusting or offensive gag. Along those lines I would say that anything that’s funny is justified, and anything that is NOT funny is NOT. If the death of Brian serves the comedy then go for it, but that’s clearly not the case so far. For perhaps only the second time in its entire run, the show abruptly shifted tone, and not only was it not funny, but much more alarmingly, it wasn’t even TRYING to be funny! Entire scenes were taking place in which only somber plot points and tragedy were on screen. How many shots of Lois weeping (and no associated punch lines) do we need? Yes, I want Brian back, but losing the character is not as disturbing as losing the whole premise of funny while writers meander through humorless plot points and story details that bring nothing to the absurdist formula. This ep wasn’t as unfunny as when Meg became indignant at her mistreatment and lectured the whole family on how terrible they were…but it was close.

    Even when eps are weak, I appreciate the dedication to consistent jokes, setups and punch lines. Who the hell cares about anything Family Guy if the show is not first and foremost funny? I don’t even mind if they want to get more dramatic or topical necessarily, so long as being funny is the top priority and everything else is a luxury. With the comedy premise being delivered I won’t begrudge experimentation. Without that basic dedication to funny though, I am more than disinterested: I’m offended.

    The other problem with the show these days is the amount of visually disgusting humor. When did this show become a place for gross out gags? The occaissional barf joke is gross enough, and seeing Brian’s bald body groped or watching Meg spurt her zits on people is the kind of nasty that has never defined this show. It hurts the funny, but it’s also a lot lazier than writing a few more jokes.

    • I must admit I haven’t been keeping up to date with the new family guy eps, but I did watch this one.

      Respectfully I disagree, I think even animated comedies need to have emotional moments to make the characters seem more human. It’s a nice change up from stupid stuff happening every week.

      If you look back at the early simpsons episodes (no I’m not comparing simpsons and family guy…) some of the strongest episodes were about Homer and Marge’s relationship, or Homers relationships with either Bart or Lisa. Obviously as the show went on these concepts got tired because they were used over and over again in episodes, but my point is, you can’t just have characters doing stupid stuff all the time, you have to show them with emotions every now and again, especially when seemingly killing off a main and popular character.

    • I used to love the show, but last couple season the only really good episodes were the ones with Brian and Stewie. Being funny is their only reason for existing and this past weeks episode was one of the least funny ones of the series, it got a couple minor chuckles from me and then they introduce what is already an incredibly annoying character in the new dog. This coming off one of the biggest laughs the show has ever given me (which involved Brian), sad, but at least there’s plenty of good tv on Sunday nights, won’t even really miss Family Guy honestly.

  17. At the start of the episode Brian was squinting at the broken return pad and Stewie made this big deal that he didn’t even know what he was looking at as he wouldn’t know how to fix it. I feel like that is somehow relevant….

    Stewie was also in the future in this episode buying christmas toys early, and theres an upcoming episode around Christmas. Could present Stewie see that Stewie, and grab his return pad and use that time machine to go back at get brian?

    Also, I’m fairly certain that the car that hit Brian was Brian’s Prius, so I think it would be a pretty funny twist if Brian from another time was driving that car and had to kill present Brian. Or it could be Stewie going back and forth in time. Either way I think it being Brians Prius could be relevant too.

    No matter how you look at it, Brians not dead for good because theres an episode set to air next fall and it has a storyline for Brian in it.

    • Oh and I also like that they are bringing in a new dog for a few episodes at least. It really will change the dynamic of the characters for a while: peter now needs a new best friend, stewie has to find someone else to go on adventures with, I can foresee Vinnie sort of being nice to Meg and helpful to Chris, and Lois won’t be hit on all the time – which in some weird way might annoy her seeing as she never gets any attention from Peter, she only got it from Brian (Quagmire excluded).

  18. The worse part is that new dog is already incredibly annoying. They should have killed off a useless character like Chris. Brian and Stewie had become the only reason to watch the show. I probably won’t be watching til that at least get rid of the new dog.

  19. I think it’s one of Stewie simulation machine. I have bin a family guy for a long time now. Let’s see 1999 it came out so I was 17 it was a fun funny show. I always laughed my ass off. Also me and my friends in college enjoyed this show as well. Plus me and my GF loves to watch this show even the new episodes. I guess you can say where die hard family guy fans. Now I am 27 years old, lol if they kick brian off the air, I will stop watching this show. Also is there any other fans that are adults lol.

  20. This show has definitely “jumped the shark” but it started when the show start taking itself too seriously. Killing off Brian was just a confirmation that the writers have run out of ideas. Who the hell does Seth MacFarlane think he is to be getting all preachy with his liberal view point? The show has been way too serious for a few seasons now and not funny. I bet the next twist will be for Lois to get pregnant again? Or the will adopt a spunky kid with big round glasses? The samething happened to The Simpsons, which Jumped the Shark years ago by taking itself too seriously but for some reason that show is still on the air, too.

  21. I like Vinny, H8rs gna h8

  22. when Snowball II dies, nobody say nothing, but when Brian dies, Everyone loses their mind

  23. um…just saw the new episode “Into Harmony’s Way”. yeah, they jumped the shark.

    I don;t mind them killing off brian…the the addition of vinney. really. so the solution was to replace brian with a idiot mobster wanna be dog. really? I mean if the jokes and mob references were funny. That would be one thing…but really? No it aint funny. Someone please wack the new posh and take him swimming with the fishes. Yeah i said it.