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The prolific producer — at Monday’s Television Critics Association’s winter press tour to promote Fox’s docuseries Cosmos — discussed viewers’ reaction to Brian’s three-week “death” with reporters following the session.
“We were all very surprised — in a good way — that people still cared about about that character to be that angry,” he told reporters. “It didn’t occur to us. We thought it would maybe create a little bit of a stir, but the rage was not something we counted on.”
During the Nov. 25 Family Guy, Brian (voiced by MacFarlane) was struck by a car and run over as he prepared to play in the street with Stewie. Ultimately, his injuries were too severe, and he could not be saved.
A fan petition calling for the animated series, currently in its 12th season, to bring back Brian from the dead launched almost immediately. Brian’s apparent replacement, Vinnie, was added to the opening credits a week later.
Three weeks later, the series — which is mapped out and produced months in advance — revived Brian after Stewie finds a way to go back in time and prevent the crash that killed his best friend.
MacFarlane said the stunt — despite the angry fan reaction — served its intended purpose. “Based on the numbers, it helped because it did what it was designed to do: It reminded people that this is still a show where anything can happen despite the fact that it’s been on for a while,” he said.
“It’s season 12, something like that, the show has been on long enough where you can sit back and be on auto pilot or you can try to surprise people,” he said. “All it was, was a three-parter without three words — “to be continued” — at the end of the episodes.
While MacFarlane said he wouldn’t kill off Brian again, he stopped short of saying he’d never try a similar stunt. “Would I do it again? No, we already did it!” he said. “But who knows in season 25.”
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