The writers of Family Guy made the bizarre choice to kill off Brian Griffin, the beloved pseudo-intellectual talking family dog, in season 12, episode 6 “Life of Brian.” While Brian and Stewie were playing street hockey, a drunk driver came tearing around the corner and ran over Brian. He died in extreme agony at the vet’s office, the family held a funeral in his memory, and he was promptly replaced with a new dog.
Family Guy is no stranger to controversy; it’s been one of the most controversial shows on the air since it premiered. But Family Guy’s biggest controversies are usually the result of its signature brand of shock humor going over the line. Brian’s death caused a different kind of upset. It wasn’t a dark joke that was too offensive; it was the way the writers toyed with their audience’s hearts. The writers’ decision to kill off an iconic, fan-favorite character was truly baffling. But they had a specific creative reason for writing the death of Brian into a season 12 episode.
Family Guy’s Writers Killed Off Brian To “Shake Things Up”
Killing off characters is commonplace in dramas like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, but it’s rare in sitcoms. In an interview with E!, executive producer Steve Callaghan explained why the writers decided on one of Family Guy’s saddest moments: “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.”
The death of Brian gave the writers a chance to explore how the Griffins – particularly Stewie, Brian’s best friend – would deal with the grief of losing a loved one. The writers wasted no time replacing Brian as the Griffins got a new dog, Vinny, voiced by Tony Sirico (best known as Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos). Vinny’s arrival completely changed the dynamic of the show. The dog was no longer the voice of reason talking down to Peter; he was a parody of Italian American stereotypes.
Brian Was Brought Back A Couple Of Episodes Later
Although his death was devastating, Brian didn’t stay dead for very long. After being killed off in “Life of Brian,” Brian was absent from the next Family Guy episode, season 12, episode 7, “Into Harmony’s Way,” but returned just one episode later in “Christmas Guy.” Since Stewie had destroyed his time machine, he couldn’t go back in time and save Brian. But when he stumbled upon his time-traveling self in a toy store, he seized the opportunity to do just that. When Brian came back, the audience appreciated him even more because they’d gone through the hardship of losing him.
MORE: Dark Family Guy Theory Reveals Brian Griffin’s Tragic Origin