Opinion: did Seth MacFarlane kill off Brian to make people hate him?
MacFarlane has threatened to quit Family Guy in the past - maybe public ill-will is what he wants
Was Seth MacFarlane’s decision to put down Brian Griffin an astute attempt to breathe life into a dying show or a cynical manipulation of his audience as he seeks a way out?
The decision to kill off a key character in a long-running TV show is perhaps one of the greatest risks any human being can make in their entire life. Of course, it happens in soapland all the time, where you’re only one episode away from a pub inferno, tram crash or helter-skelter collapse. But Seth MacFarlane took a huge gamble when he chose to send Family Guy’s sophisticated canine Brian Griffin to an early grave after a hit and run accident. Or did he?
With ratings down some 21% on the season before, and word from inside the writers room that permanently neutering the lad Griffin would be ‘a fun way to shake things up’, it seems like a desperate plan to rescue the faltering audience figures was hatched. Admitting that he has considered ending the show on numerous occasions, only to be dissuaded by the more vocal elements within the show’s fanbase, what would be the easiest way for MacFarlane to turn those people against him and make it a less painful decision to pull the final plug? Given that the change.org online petition closed with almost 130,000 signatories, you’d have to imagine that quite a lot of ill-will has been directed his way in the past month.
Of course, many will say that this is just a cartoon mutt a bunch of losers are getting worked up over. And they’d be pretty much correct. Except for some of us (let’s call those people The Brians), the very existence of a cool, witty, sympathetic, urbane cultural figure with that forename has come like a bolt from the blue. Up until then, we had The Magic Roundabout’s Brian the Snail, Monty Python’s Brian Cohen (‘a very naughty boy’), and Brian Johnson, the imbecilic dad in My Parents Are Aliens, while in Mike Leigh’s Naked, David Thewlis rightly abuses Brian the security guard for ‘possessing the most tedious job in the world’.
And this year, in Channel 4 sitcom Man Down, we have a moustachioed Brian (played by Mike Wozniak) who cranks the notion of anally retentive up many notches. And how about the real-life Brian cultural figures? Well, there’s Clough (arrogant), De Palma (largely rubbish), Eno (Lib Dem), Blessed (shouty) and May (a human poodle who did play Sun City). OK, Prof Cox has shown that things can only get better for us Brians, but some would argue that the identically-monikered Dundee actor cancels him out.
The rumour mill is currently grinding itself into a frenzy and heavily suggesting that MacFarlane will bring Brian back from doggy heaven for Christmas (or pooch hell, given that he once admitted to voting Republican: jeez, even this Brian is flawed). While this is perfectly plausible given the existence of Stewie’s time machine, plus the fact that just about anything should be allowed to happen in a cartoon, this senseless act of cynicism will still have been laid bare. So, thanks a lot Seth, with your effortlessly cool first name and your ability to destroy what little hope those of us with less fortunate titles might once have had.
Family Guy is broadcast pretty much constantly on BBC Three.