Notebook: On the death and return of Brian Griffin

By Drew Maron, Daily Arts Writer
Published December 9, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, “Family Guy” made a huge jump back into Internet consciousness with the episode “Life of Brian.” In it, beloved family dog Brian Griffin was struck by a car and killed, causing bitter sadness for the Griffin clan and digital anarchy from the Internet. Yet despite all the outrage and petitions from angered “Family Guy” fans, show-runner Scott Callaghan’s promise to kill off a major character this season finally came to fruition. Brian Griffin, aspiring author, best friend and family pet, was dead … or so we thought.

According to multiple news reports, Brian Griffin will be returning to the fictional town of Quahog, R.I., this Christmas in an unknown capacity.

Let me be honest: I like “Family Guy.” No, it’s not particularly consistent, and even Seth MacFarlane thinks it’s been on for too long. But still, for being a solid source of laughs, it gets the job done.

When I heard Brian was coming back, I simply shrugged. Sure, I got choked up when Brian said his goodbyes, but the rest of the episode just seemed like a sick joke by replacing Brian with new dog Vinny (voiced by Tony Sirico from “The Sopranos”) as the final punchline.

I actually kind of liked the idea of giving Brian a “dog’s death” as opposed to killing him off at the end of an elaborate two-part adventure with Stewie (though it looks like we’re probably getting that anyway). But replacing him with Vinny, a character so one-note, it’s almost suspicious, seems just too clean for a show notorious for not being afraid to get its hands dirty.

I know “Family Guy” isn’t exactly the most daring show, but still, I always felt some sort of rebellious edge to all the nonsense. It was the show that had Elmer Fudd violently shoot Bugs Bunny to death with a shotgun before breaking his neck and dragging away his bloody carcass.

For all it’s success and missteps, the show never avoided the taboo or risqué. It hung it all on its sleeve like a great, big flag, saying, “I don’t care what you think, what you feel or why you feel it; step outside yourself and look at how absurd some people think you are.”

To jump media, in the song “Rap God,” Eminem addresses the criticism he often gets for his offensive comments about women. He justifies his actions to those whom he has offended by asking them to understand the situations someone like Eminem has been through. Only then can the problem of discrimination be accurately addressed.

For a long time, that’s how I felt about the jokes in “Family Guy.” Now, it’s a little different. The desperate need to remain relevant in today’s changing world of television seems to have replaced the countercultural iron sights I originally loved it for.

For now, I think it’s best for those who are still actively invested in “Family Guy” to understand a simple fact: “Family Guy” is no longer the quirky, off-beat and irreverent show many have come to love. It belongs to the studios and the studios only. If you’re OK with that, then great, but don’t spend your time on the internet threatening FOX executives with petitions. It’s a studio decision made for studio reasons. If you’re really so unhappy with “Family Guy,” don’t waste your time with petitions and #BringBackBrian twitter rants. Instead, if you really feel so strongly that the show isn’t what it used to be, or that killing Brian was just one step too far, my advice is to simply take a lesson from the Griffin family: Get a new dog.