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Brian Griffin: It's a Dog's Life, 1999-2013
November 27, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

Well, he lived about 14 human years, and in dog years, that made him almost 70. And he went out in sort of the right way – he got hit by a car while playing in the street.

But still, last Sunday's death of Brian Griffin on Fox's Family Guy was a shock.

As Stewie often exclaims: "What the hell, man?!!"

The murder of Hank this year on Breaking Bad was shocking, too, but that series was ending, and the death of Walter White's brother-in-law was integral to the plot winding down.

Family Guy producers had leaked that a Griffin family member would be killed off -- but that it was the beloved talking family dog, who also was a published New Yorker columnist and regular ladies man, was unexpected, and hard to take. Entertainment Weekly and other publications reported Tuesday that fans took to the web on Monday to petition Fox and protest the dog's demise. (As of today, there are over 75,000 signatures.)

It's understandable. While a lot of Family Guy plot lines are steeped in adolescent scatology, Brian and baby Stewie were the intellectual ingredients bringing a highbrow slant to all the intentionally dumb hijinks. The brainy pair gave the silly world of Family Guy a unique, sophisticated blend.

Ironically, Brian's replacement, a street-smart Italian Goodfellas-type mutt named Vinnie, is voiced by Tony Sirico, who played Paulie “Walnuts" Gualtieri on HBO's The Sopranos, a show that regularly capped well-known and beloved characters to keep things moving.

Brian's death is another in a long line of surprise deaths in prime time that have unsettled viewers. Most recently, fans of HBO's Boardwalk Empire saw last week's season finale end with the death of a beloved character -- a card the series has played before, at the end of Season 2, when main character Jimmy Darmody was gunned down in cold blood. Also, there's the death of Matthew Crawley in a surprise car wreck on last season's finale of Downton Abbey.

Family Guy ratings reportedly are off this year, so it remains to be seen whether Brian's exit will bring what seems to be an engineered shake-up for the show, or turn off loyal fans of the literary canine.

Stewie's time machine seemed irreparably destroyed in the Sunday episode, entitled "Life of Brian" and that form of rescue, along with the arrival of Vinnie, seems to make Brian's death a finality. And there was a heartfelt farewell with Brian on the table at the vet's office, telling the Griffin family that he loved them.

But just as quickly, Stewie was pointing out that at least they didn't have to watch all those PBS documentaries that Brian was so fond of.

It's hard to think of The Simpsons, Fox's other long-running animation series, killing off Lisa Simpson anytime soon.

And it's not like the Fox series lost its cartoon canine because he was involved in a network battle over a contract dispute.

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