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Griffin is Risen
December 16, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

[Editor’s note: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's "Christmas Guy" episode of Fox's Family Guy.]

And they didn’t even wait for Easter.

On Sunday night (12/15), the Fox animated series Family Guy put down its recent stunt storyline of killing off beloved talking dog Brian Griffin. In Sunday's episode, Baby Stewie managed to recoup his time machine to arrive at the start of the street hockey game and save Brian from the usual canine comeuppance: getting run over by a car.

Whether you bought into the storyline as, ahem, some fans did, or thought it was a stunt all along depends on a variety of things — including your trust in your favorite content makers to play within some kind of boundaries and including your willingness to follow wherever the trail is laid out for you.

Those who grieved Brian were probably the same sort that were aghast when Matthew Crawley greeted a tree too fast in his car last season on Downton Abbey.

And yeah, that’s right, that was a Family Guy-Downton Abbey analogy. But the point is, you either play it in a way that has a minimum of respect for your most loyal fans or you don’t.

But perhaps that’s the real story here. We were expecting some sort of underlying good faith from Seth MacFarlane and the Family Guy gang, a comedy team that's made its hay by aiming at every demographic possible including women, gays, the disabled, the poor – in addition to every religious group out there. They usually take no prisoners and now their most ardent audience is obviously just another target.

So, hey, it’s just a cartoon. Get over yourself. The bald-faced irreverence is probably one reason why we love the show so much.

But another is that as badly behaved as characters like Peter, Stewie and Brian are, there is usually some shred of goodness or smarts in there somewhere. At the bottom, we find true heart.

And we identify with that.

So, we went along. MacFarlane and Family Guy producers went as far as putting the new Griffin family dog Vinny, (a street-smart Goodfellas-type mutt voiced by The Sopranos Tony Sirico) in Brian’s place in the opening credits the past few weeks to shill the stunt all the way.

MacFarlane, publicly silent since the dog’s demise, tweeted after Sunday’s episode: "And thus endeth our warm, fuzzy holiday lesson: Never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash," and then added: "I mean, you didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we'd have to be f*%king high."

Just to underscore (what… never trust a series, especially a cartoon?) Family Guy writers had Rescuing Stewie fade and return to his timeline where Brian had died. Then, the Stewie in the “Saved Brian” timeline (who never knew Brian had been killed) resorted to his usual extreme measures as their street hockey game was to begin.

With glee, he whacked Brian between the legs with his hockey stick and ran off to score on the undefended goal.

Groaning, Brian grabbed his crotch and hit the ground.

We kind of knew how he felt.

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Chris Conboy
This was a nice writeup, and enjoyable to read. I appreciate the 'spoilers' warning at the top of the text. But the title of the piece already gave it away!
Dec 29, 2013   |  Reply
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