Family GuyIt's been a long time since I last watched Family Guy, but even I was shocked to hear that one of the characters was killed recently. (Spoiler warning to click away now if you don't want to know who!) It's not entirely unprecedented for an animated show to do this, since The Simpsons has killed off a number of folks including Maude Flanders, but it's definitely unusual to lose a favorite character who's not only played a key part in almost every single episode, but is often cited as the best reason to watch the show.

Still, Brian got fatally hit by a car in Sunday's Family Guy, and he was replaced with a new family dog called Vinnie, voiced by Sopranos actor Tony Sirico. Viewers have been freaking out over the development, and there's even a Change.org petition complaining that "They killed America's dog!"

Fans should hold out hope, though, because it's looking more and more like this "death" is actually one hell of a publicity stunt.

After the show aired, Fox confirmed that Brian really did die:


Family Guy executive producer Steve Callaghan explained the thinking behind their decision:

Well, this was an idea that got pitched in the writers room and it sort of caught fire, and we thought it could be a fun way to shake things up. As soon as this idea came up, we started talking about what the next couple episodes could be and we got very excited about the way this change will affect the family dynamics and the characters.

He added that a dog dying was closer to the "realm of a reality" than tackling the loss of a human, and that the new dog should fit in just fine:

Where Brian was sort of a match for Stewie intellectually, Vinny is a good match for Stewie because he doesn't let Stewie get away with any crap. He'll call Stewie out on his b.s. freely. (...) Our fans are smart enough and have been loyal to our show for long enough to know that they can trust us. We always make choices that always work to the greatest benefit of the series.

It sounds like we should maybe read between the lines on that last part, because a new website from Fox has quietly popped up, titled "BRIAN GRIFFIN'S SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT." In addition to an amusing sign inviting Quahog visitors to "Come taste our clam," the site has a clock counting down to December 6.

So, what will Brian's special announcement be? A heartfelt goodbye from beyond the grave ... or some sort of dramatic return to the show? I'm betting on the latter, but either way, you have to hand it to the Family Guy crew. No one's talked this much about this series in YEARS.

Are you hoping that Brian will come back to Family Guy?


Image via Fox