Brian Griffin, Family Guy’s talking left-wing booze-hound, died in the first act of Sunday night’s episode.
Brian Griffin, Family Guy's talking left-wing booze-hound, died in the first act of Sunday night's episode.

I'd say "Spoiler Alert," but can you really spoil a 30-minute cartoon sitcom?

An icon was unceremoniously killed off on Sunday night. No, not the one on Boardwalk Empire. Or on The Mentalist. Or on the Denver Broncos.

Brian Griffin, Family Guy's talking left-wing booze-hound, died in the first act of Sunday night's episode. He was viciously run over by a hit-and-run driver, the irony being that an animal so spectacular as Brian ended up meeting the same grisly fate as any other unlucky dog trying to play hockey in the street with his genius baby friend.

The common knock against Family Guy is how it's derivative, but it would be false to say it didn't experiment with stretching the animated sitcom form as much as its cartoon counterparts, if not more so. Some haven't worked (Season 10's back-to-back episodes focused on hallucinogen use and domestic abuse were unwatchable) but others, like the Star Wars specials, the "Road to the Multiverse" episode, or the episode where Stewie and Brian are stuck in a bank vault, did.

And has any show like Family Guy killed off its (at worst) third most important character? Sorry, Maude Flanders -- you're not Brian Griffin.

I don't think I've watched a new episode of Family Guy in two years, despite having seen every single episode from the first seven seasons multiple times. Funny -- it's pretty much the same way with The Simpsons.

After reading about Brian's demise, I watched Sunday's episode. Though his death is poignant for a cartoon, it's still not a very good episode. Brian gets quickly replaced, seemingly permanently, by a new dog voiced by Tony Sirico, which is only funny because of the simple concept of Paulie Walnuts voicing a cartoon dog.

Here's the thing: I have a hard time believing this arrangement will be permanent. It will probably last an episode, maybe even a couple. But I can't help but look at a future episode title called "3 Acts of God" and not wonder.

Seth MacFarlane knows as well as anyone about Spock's not-too-long-lasting death at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Doesn't this feel like that?

Family Guy needed a shakeup. Its ratings are the lowest they have been since the show returned to Fox. When it's all over, people may look back on Brian's "death" and call it the show's "jump the shark moment."

But at least this was a little more interesting than Fonzie actually jumping the shark.

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