Fans Boo 'Family Guy' Dog Death, But Will It Bring Bryan Back?

Fans of the animated comedy Family Guy got a shock Monday. Some wailed about it on Twitter and Facebook. Spoiler alert: The episode was about the death of Brian, the family dog. One fan started a petition to insist that Fox bring back Brian. It reached 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. But the internet has made petitions so easy, they may have lost their power.

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Some Sunday night TV watchers are outraged, and tens of thousands have signed an online petition to bring back a rather cheeky talking dog. Brian is a favorite character among fans of the animated comedy "Family Guy." The character died on the show, on Sunday. And the reaction on social media was swift, as we hear from NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: First, Brian is no Clifford the Big Red Dog. This white lab is sarcastic, drives a car, drinks martinis.

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SETH MACFARLANE: (As Brian Griffin) I'm not drunk, all right? I just have a speech impediment.

BLAIR: Sunday night, Brian...

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MACFARLANE: (As Stewie Griffin) Brian, look out!

BLAIR: ...was hit by a car, and died.

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MACFARLANE: (As Stewie Griffin) Brian, you can't die. We were going to do so many things together. We were going to become windsurfers. I was going to be a little better than you, but we were both going to be good.

BLAIR: Pretty soon, fans were all over social media, lamenting the shocking news. The petition on change.org warned Fox that it would lose viewers. TV producers do pay attention to what fans are saying online. Consider the action drama "Jericho," from 2006.

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KENNETH MITCHELL: How do you know about radiation, Mr. Hawkins?

LENNIE JAMES: (As Robert Hawkins) Because I was a cop in St. Louis. And after 9/11, we got up to speed.

BLAIR: The ratings were poor, and CBS canceled it after one season. Fans attacked with petitions and websites.

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UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: Now, "Jericho" fans, fight once more for quality programming. Help us save "Jericho" again. Paid for by the fans of "Jericho."

BLAIR: CBS brought "Jericho" back. But the ratings did even worse, and the series was discontinued. "Family Guy" isn't at risk of being canceled, but its ratings are down. The show's executive producer told E! Online, they killed Brian partly because they thought it could be a fun way to shake things up.

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MACFARLANE: (As Brian Griffin) Hey, get out of here! This is our yard.

BLAIR: The Griffin family pet was a unique character. He used to berate squirrels.

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MACFARLANE: (As Brian Griffin) You don't belong there. Don't you touch anything. I told you all this yesterday.

BLAIR: James Hibberd, of Entertainment Weekly, says the producers are probably thrilled with the reaction to Brian's death.

JAMES HIBBERD: I mean, if they killed off Brian and nobody cared, that would be a bummer.

BLAIR: Hibberd points out that "Family Guy" has been saved by its loyal following before. Back in 2001, Fox canceled "Family Guy" after just three seasons. But it was so popular in syndication on cable, the network brought it back.

HIBBERD: I mean, the entire show has died and come back. So I definitely think that the dog is going to be seen again.

BLAIR: Meantime, there's a new dog on the show.

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TONY SIRICO: (As Vinny Griffin) Well, you know, I'm just a regular guy. You throw a stick, maybe I bring it back. Maybe I bring back an iPhone that fell off a truck.

BLAIR: His name's Vinny, and he's voiced by the actor who played Paulie on "The Sopranos."

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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