I remember back when Family Guy was cancelled after just a few seasons, and fan outcry actually brought the series back to life. Now, it’s season 12 and that seems like nothing more than a distant memory. Season 12, which aired this past year, was a departure for the series for a few reasons, but namely a big plot twist where Seth MacFarlane announced that yes, a major character would die. And it would be one of the Griffins. The Simpsons has done this a few times now, announcing that a character was going to meet their end. They followed through, and perhaps Family Guy thought that they could capitalize on that same sort of buzz-building with their own attempt.
The Griffin in question was Brian, the family talking dog, who met his end much to the dismay of fans everywhere. The death also came with a promise that the character would actually be replaced, but fan outcry was swift. Petitions were started to bring Brian back, and sure enough, he was resurrected less than two weeks later when Stewie went back in time to save him.
After this, it was hard to know really what the plan was ever supposed to be with Brian. Did they plan on resurrecting him all along? Cartoons, namely South Park, have been known to make last minute changes to their episodes based on current events, but that’s not usually the case with Family Guy. Rather, the reversal and undoing of Brian’s death just two episodes later drew criticism from fans who viewed the entire ordeal as nothing more than a ratings stunt.
And really, of course it was. When your show is heading into season thirteen, you’re going to probably start pulling out all the stops to keep things fresh, and that may contain killing a character or two, and announcing it to the world. Even The Simpsons, paragon of animation excellence, has done the same thing. Only their dead characters stay dead.
It may sound silly to say, but even in a cartoon show, it rubs many the wrong way when death isn’t permanent. Some supernatural shows get away with this all the time, with characters dying and coming back to life repeatedly, but it even gets old in that genre. When death ceases to matter, the threat of death is no longer a threat at all. Think about shows where death is certain and permanent, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, etc. No one comes back from that (except as a zombie, of course). But killing a character only to bring it back to life, and two episodes later, no less, is something of a poor storytelling technique, even for a silly show like Family Guy. It’s no wonder fans viewed it as something as a cheap trick. When The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones kills a character, it’s national news, but when Family Guy did it, it was little more than a stunt.
Hopefully they’ll have learned their lesson for season thirteen, and we won’t have to deal with anything else like this going forward as the show marches toward another ten seasons on the air.
[Photos via FOX]