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 - 

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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

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  1. So in a whole show you have 2 characters that are great and you, just on a whim, decide to kill one of them? Jesus.

    • Yea, i mean, it’s Brian man… That made me kinda sad. I’m not sure if thats what a comedy show should aim for.

  2. Simpsons should have done something similar a decade ago, by aging the kids with Bart now in high school, Lisa almost ready to graduate to middle school and Maggie just entering elementary. A lot of fresh stories would instantly amp up the quality of the show, instead of just redoing the same stagnant plotlines.

    • I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Can you imagine the kind of stuff Bart will be getting up too in high school. I think you could go further and make Bart a snr and Lisa a freshman in high school. I’d love to see them both older.

    • I don’t know. I never felt there was a need to age them, because I always enjoyed the show. At no point was I thinking “man, I wish they were older…”

      However, that’s just me, and you have a valid point about moving forward, but I think there would need to be a high enough need for that. Ratings would have to reflect that the people wanted a change and I don’t know if that’s the case.

  3. Yes, please try to turn mindless fun into something else. Great idea.

    *sighs*

  4. I have a feeling that if the ratings drop then Stewie will be ‘righting’ the wrong via time travel.

    • They made it a point to have Stewie dismantle his time machine and be unable to rebuild it.

  5. Dammit. I loved Brian, he and Stewie is what kept the show going.

  6. what the heck??!!!!

  7. Maybe they can borrow Poochie from the Simpsons…..

  8. Cheap ratings grab. How can you explore the changed family dynamic if you just replace him?

  9. Honestly, Im kinda glad killed off Brian.I used love him because of how ironic his character was(of all crazy people in the world, the normal, reasonable guy was the talking dog). After a while, though, he became incredibly obnoxious and showy about his atheism and was one of the main reasons I stopped watching FG. I’ll always miss what he used to be, but Im glad they got rid of him.

    • Agreed. I haven’t really cared for Brian that much recently. However, I would have MUCH preferred if they just wrote him more like he used to be than KILLING HIM OFF! I just think that was a pretty bad idea.

  10. meh change sometimes is good.

    Im dying for the first knock down drag out fight between Stewie and Vinny….. :D

  11. Bad idea. Just a bad idea. He was one of the best, funniest characters on the show. I hope they bring him back in a lot of flashbacks.

  12. i like Vinny eh oh i’m a pu$$yhound

    • i´m 2, hi 5

  13. Hope he stays dead, never really liked his character.

  14. Yet Meg lives…oh the humanity!

  15. they should have drawn the grey hair wings on Vinny

  16. One episode in the near future will probably have Stewie wake up one morning, walk into the washroom to wash his face, hear someone in the shower thinking it to be Chris, then goes ahead and washing his face, pauses, sniffs the air then says

    “Why does it smell like wet dog in here?”
    Then Brian pulls the shower curtain aside and says some witty remark.

    It would be like the Dallas episode with Bobby Ewing’s return after his supposed death that was just a dream by his wife.

    I could see it happen.

  17. Sounds to me that they’re getting desperate.

  18. I have to say I stopped watching Family Guy a while ago, whether I just got older or the show stopped being funny it’s hard to tell but killing of Brian seems like a bad idea.

    Like the Simpsons, the show focus has shifted from it’s original premise, Simpsons started out all about Bart but as the show progress it’s all about Homer. FG started with the focus on Peter and shifted over to the Brian & Stewie dynamic.

    Taking Brian out of the equation is maybe a change too far and one the show won’t recover from.

    However if the reaction is sufficiently negative and there’s a significant ratings drop off I’m sure they’re be a magic reset, if this whole thing isn’t a pre-planned publicity stunt in the first place (a’la Stewie Kills Lois) and it’s not a permanent change.

  19. Booooooooooooooooo!

    Bring him back!

  20. Nothing screams out of ideas like adding a new character or doing something dramatic like killing off a character. There is really only a few ways they can go with this.

    1.Brian really is gone for good and Vinny is the permanent replacement: I don’t know how long a bad caricature can really last. He’s one step away from using “fugget about it” as his catch phrase and after the tenth wise guy crack will even the fans who did like him still be laughing?

    2.They plan to bring Brian back after a certain amount of time or fans force him back: This is almost the worst of the options because if they planned to bring him back it will just come off as a cheap marking ploy that’s just another sign the show is nearing its end. If they don’t plan to bring him back but the backlash is too much it just makes the show overall feel week and unstable.

    3.Trying to kill the show: I don’t know how much I believe this but Seth McFarland has gone on record talking about how he’s looking forward to the end of Family Guy. Could this just be a lame way to try to kill the show? I doubt it but it sure feels like a really bad move.

    For me the show lost its luster a while ago, but the Brian and Stewie episodes where always great. I would hate to think they are over and I would really hate to think the writers on that show would try to pass off bad stereotypes as possible replacements and expect the fans to enjoy it just as much as the characters they want to replace.

  21. Screw Brian he sucked

    • yo´re right, Vinny rocks

  22. Sorry, but this show has been bad now for many years.

  23. Brian will return, ala Starbuck from BSG…How many times has Death shown up and the family helped him out…

    • That’s pretty much my thoughts as well. I was actually waiting for Death to come in for a cameo and restore order to the show. If this is a permanent change though, I’m not totally against it. It could give the writers a new angle to work from but it’ll depend on how they go with it. I’m not as harsh on the decision only because we don’t know what’s to come yet. I’ll take a wait and see approach.

  24. Shake-up does not equal funny.

  25. I think they handled it pretty well. Not as may jokes in that episode. If they were to do another episode next week that dealt with it, or waited until next week to introduce Vinny i would have liked it more though

  26. Historically on television a show is doomed and shortly cancelled whenever they bring in a new face or try to replace a cherished character…NEW CHARACTERS BROUGHT IN WITH ESTABLISHED ONES HISTORICALLY DOES NOT WORK AND THE NEW PERSON ALWAYS SUCKS….THE FLINTSTONES – the great kazoo, SCOOBY DOO – scrappy doo, TRANSFORMERS – roddamus replaced optimus, GI JOE – serpentor and sgt slaughter replaced main guys, THE X-FILES – agent dogget replaced moulder, GOOD TIMES – carl replaced james, THREES COMPANY – terri and cindy replaced chrissy, BEWITCHED – new darren, FRESH PRINCE – new aunt vivian, BRADY BUNCH – cousin oliver,,,,,the list goes on and on, and in every case the show was cancelled within a year or two after the switch,,,,,,I am hopeful family guy pulls a JEFFERSONS with brian, when they brought in a new lionel then realize he sucks and brought back the old one without a good explanation.

    • That 70′s Show, Eric was replaced with who gives a f@%#! I completely agree, replacing beloved characters with new ones on a show that’s been around for MANY years NEVER WORKS.

    • x files and fresh prince went on for a long time after those changes i cant speak for the other shows as i havent watched full seasons, but if those two are dead wrong i can only assume how wrong you are on all the rest!

  27. I feel this change was kind of necessary due to the same procedures Family Guy seemed to be copy and paste as much: Kill off large character, epic adventure, bring him back, rinse, and repeat. And in an honest manner, I have always felt that Brian has always stole the humor of the show by showing off his knowledge and rubbing it in towards the face of others just so he can be sitting in the bar banging chicks that aren’t even in his species. I don’t know about you guys, but I like Vino way more than Brian since his character is so fun and three-dimensional, as opposed to Brian’s which is logical and mature (we already have Meg and Louis for this one, there is no need for another). And did I forget to mention that this is a damn cartoon show? Logic and maturity never blend in well with comedic animated shows such as this one.

    • Considering how little they care about Meg and how little attention she gets, along with Lois, I don’t think their maturity/logic does much to/for the show, anyway.

      As for Brian, it was more about his being the foil to Peter’s childishness and immaturity, as well as Stewies’ “big brother,” in a sense, (considering how little Stewie actually did interact personally with his big brother,) as well as his best friend. Stewie is the one who’s going to suffer most from this as a character. His growth with Brian was arguably one of the more fun stories to watch. Half the time, I’d forget or ignore whatever Peter would be doing. Hell, I’d rather see more Meg.

  28. I think this was an incredibly stupid decision. I haven’t seen the episode yet but I saw the news on Yahoo and I’m still in shock, why the hell would you kill off the second best character? I’d be able to forgive them if they killed off any of the adults, even Quagmire, but Brian & Stewie are untouchable…at least I thought they were anyway.

  29. A synopsis for a season 13 episode outright says that Brian returns.

    Maybe this is a good way to bring Cleveland and his family back to Quahog in the meantime?