Monday, December 2, 2013

Is Brian’s Death a Good Thing for Family Guy?

If you haven’t heard already, Brian Griffin, the beloved dog on one of America’s top comedies (Family Guy), died just a few weeks ago. In the tear jerking episode, Stewie and Brian are preparing to play a game of street hockey when a car flashes through and hits Brian. After the injury, the audience was brought into the veterinarian’s office for a tearful farewell with one of America’s favorite fictional characters.

A Member of the Family

Now, Family Guy is just a cartoon, so no real dogs died during this episode, but Brian’s death still hurts the same. Brian was one of the primary characters of this beloved show for 14 years and well over 200 episodes. Brian was a well-educated, talking dog that at times seemed to be the show’s only voice of reason. Of course, over the years, he did find his way into trouble (sleeping with Quagmire's sex changed father was particularly disturbing) and battle some of his own personal demons (alcohol, womanizing, depression).

This passing is so sad because in many ways Brian had become the family dog for not only the Griffins but millions of Americans around the country. Think about it. Except for immediate family, many people spend more time with Brian than they do most of their relatives, so why wouldn’t we mourn his death in the same way?

Finding a New Family Dog

The beauty of Family Guy (and all classically formatted sitcoms) is the idea of reliability. We turn on the television to spend time with our favorite characters and families, so we can escape into a world of humor and relief. We don’t want our family members to die! It defeats the entire purpose of watching the television show in the f
irst place.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a major sitcom has gotten rid of one of its main characters. Some have actually had success. Two of the biggest examples that come to mind are Two and a Half Men (they eliminated Charlie Sheen’s character: Charlie Harper) and Cheers (they eliminated Shelley Long’s character: Diane).  Both shows took the blows in stride and went on to have success postmortem.

But this question of continued success is now facing Family Guy as well. They too are already taking the change in stride. Just minutes after Brian’s death, a new family dog named Vinny was introduced . Vinny, who is reminiscent of a 1950s Italian mobster from New York, is certainly going to bring a new energy to the show. This means that the family- and its dynamics- that we once loved are no longer around.

Future Questions

My main question to show creator Seth Macfarlane is why would we want to watch this new show? Other shows that he has created like The Cleveland Show and American Dad have not had as much success and aren’t as funny because they didn’t have the chemistry and magic of Family Guy. Now tragically, neither does Family Guy.

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