On Sunday night, Family Guy shocked its viewers by killing off the show's talking dog and beloved character, Brian. Not cool, FOX and Seth MacFarlane, not cool. Naturally, longtime fans were pissed and retaliated by starting an online petition (someone needs to police who's allowed to start online petitions because this is getting ridiculous now) to resurrect the Griffin's pet pooch. And now, two days after the "shocking death", a mysterious and potentially infuriating countdown clock has appeared online that's promising "A Special Announcement From... Brian" in 10 days time. So was Brian's death a hoax? Is a fake death the route Family Guy's execs chose to revive the show's ratings, which are down double-digits from last year? If yes, that's even less cool, FOX and Seth MacFarlane, even less cool.
There are some seriously suspicious circumstances surrounding the oddly simple death-by-car of Brian that are enough to piss any television fan off. First of all, if you're going to have something as elaborate as a well-spoken, talking dog on your show, how could you give him such a unceremonious and basic death? We know your brain doesn't work that way, Seth. Even though Brian was buried by the Griffins, something just seems sketchy, especially after the family ran out and replaced him with another dog right away. Where was the mourning period? Also, since Stewie has a time machine (which is temporarily out of order), why would he not just use that to go back in time and prevent Brian from getting run over by a car? Something is not right here and everyone knows it.
Family Guy isn't the only show that's down in ratings this season, so a "fake death" is a rash and potentially alienating decision to make considering how fans usually react to such stunts (not pleased, feeling degraded). There's also the idea that with the holiday season coming up, and Brian being one of the show's most profitable merchandise characters, that killing off the talking pooch is a way of racking up some extra revenue in terms of collectables and souvenir items now that the character seems dead and gone. Still uncool and pushing exceptionally uncool on this one. When Deadline approached 20th TV and asked about its plans to bring Brian back, it responded with "no comment" and remarked on the financial benefits of the sales spike in Brian-related paraphernalia.
Aside from the obvious evil-greed-machine issues with killing off a beloved and popular character for merchandise profit, staging a fake death is the unarguable worst. Did Seth MacFarlane not watch Dexter and see the epic fail that was that fake-death situation? Fake deaths only make audiences feel dumb, and they'll feel even worse after they spend a ridiculous amount of money on Brian merchandise to later find out that he's alive.
If it's a ploy to gain ratings, Family Guy is taking a huge gamble on this one. If its writers don't pull it off just right, they might lose more devoted fans. Either way, we're disappointed in you, Family Guy.
*UPDATE: Family Guy producers have announced that "Special Announcement From... Brian" website is a hoax and not connected to anyone at the studio or the show. Perhaps we've really seen the end of Brian after all...