Family Guy has been on the air since 1999, but despite a strong start in the ratings, the series has been dwindling every year. In September, the show which originally premiered to an impressive 22 million viewers, had just 5.2 million viewers during its season premiere. So, in what seems to have been an effort to regain viewers, producers opted to make a major change.
“During Sunday’s ‘Life of Brian’ episode of Family Guy, the Seth MacFarlane-produced series killed off a major character when the Griffin’s sophisticated talking family dog, Brian, was struck by a car and run over as he prepared to play in the street with Stewie,” The Hollywood Reporter announced on Monday. “Ultimately, his injuries were too severe, and he could not be saved. ‘You’ve given me a wonderful life. I love you all,’ he said before flat-lining as his loved ones looked on with tears in their eyes.”
Prior to the episode airing on Sunday, executive producer Steve Callaghan spoke out about his decision to give Brian the boot.
“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,” Callaghan explains to E! News. “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.”
Right away, Brian was replaced with another dog and while everyone was quite shocked at the loss of Brian, they were even more surprised that he was so quickly replaced, which is another issue Callaghan addressed.
“It felt like the way that this show was conceived by Seth all those years ago, it was this entire family unit including the parents, kids and a dog,” he said. “So by losing Brian, it felt like a void needed to be filled both comically, and also for the interpersonal relationships between all the characters. We felt that we needed to fill that role.”
Still, fans weren’t all buying the story line and many took to Twitter and other social media outlets where they expressed their shock and disdain for what had been done.
“Some fans aren’t willing to sit idly by while MacFarlane and the ‘Family Guy’ crew toy with their emotions,” the Los Angeles Times reported on November 25. “A petition on Change.org, launched early Monday by Alabama-based fan Aaron Thompson, asks MacFarlane and Fox to bring Brian back.”
The petition, which was started by a man named Aaron Thompson from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, reads, ”Brian Griffin was an important part of our viewing experince. He added a witty and sophisticated element to the show. Family Guy and Fox Broadcasting will lose viewers if Brian Griffin is not brought back to the show.”
As of Monday afternoon, the Change.org petition had been signed by over 3,300 fans.
Below the petition, fans weighed in with their thoughts on Brian’s death. “Brian was a key character. He’s not someone who can just be ‘killed and replaced’ out of nowhere,” one fan wrote. Another said, “Brian was a great character, and watching this show for years, he began to grow on us all, and for that reason, I believe that he should be brought back into Family Guy.”
As for the backlash that’s happened since the episode aired, Callaghan claims he’s not worried about losing viewers. “I’m not, only because our fans are smart enough and have been loyal to our show for long enough, to know that they can trust us,” he explains. “We always make choices that always work to the greatest benefit of the series.”
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