BARELY a month ago, Family Guy shocked its fanbase by killing off the family dog Brian.
It was a brutal and surprising move to eliminate the fan-favourite walking, talking, boozing canine, and then replace him with a new dog all in the same 22 minute timeframe.
This proved to be a spectacularly unpopular move. Every post on the official Family Guy Facebook page has been met by a barrage of comments appalled by the decision to kill off the character, while the shows actors and creators have received a shedload of hate-Tweets, although its a moot point exactly what sending death threats over this is going to achieve.
Anyway, the show has already decided to fly back through the loophole that, in hindsight, it was always going to aim for, as Stewie fixed his time machine and saved the dog.
It seemed likely because the show loves the use of time-travel as a narrative arc, even despite the destruction of the aforementioned time machine. It was also the Christmas present the fans wanted, even though the fact it takes nine months to construct together a Family Guy episode means this plot sequence had been decided ages ago.
But it does beg the question: “Why kill him off him the first place?”
Seth MacFarlane bravely attempted to make it sound like a lesson to all the unhappy viewers suddenly relieved at the mutt’s comeback, tweeting: “Thus endeth our warm, fuzzy holiday lesson: Never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash.”
Saying that, it was quickly followed up by a Tweet saying: “I mean, you didn’t really think we’d kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we’d have to be ****ing high.”
Despite his love of obscene jokes, MacFarlane is a clever man. He almost certainly knew that killing off such a popular character permanently would only have gone down apocalyptically badly.
It was interesting enough at least to attempt the vision of “what would life be like if the Griffins got a new dog?”
It would be easier and less controversial, though, to have had Brian on holiday for a few episodes and a stray dog the Griffins couldn’t shift in its place. Which could still have potential for the future, but that’s one for another series.
In any case, Family Guy isn’t really a show people watch for its narrative skills – if anything, its success has been achieved because it doesn’t really do much in the way of narrative. Its just a group of humorous situations and cutaways, which worked very well at first following its revival in 2005 but has started to feel a bit unconvincing recently.
The argument is that the only real reason for doing this was to be a publicity stunt. Its ratings and standards are weak in comparison to its heyday of years gone by, and if this was a way to draw attention, it did an unbelievably impressive job.
But its just questionable if there really was a point to doing this beyond that…