Family Guy: Brian Griffin dies after being hit by a car
Brian the pet dog will be replaced by Vinny (above left)
Voiced by the show's creator Seth MacFarlane, Brian had been a key part of past storylines and gags. Best friend and baby genius Stewie tried in vain to go back in time and save him but was unable to after disassembling his time machine.
Fans were so shocked by the death that an online petition has been launched to 'Bring back Brian'.
Executive producer Steve Callaghan has explained that the idea came about after it "sort of caught fire in the writers' room".
"We thought it could be a fun way to shake things up and got very excited about the way this change will affect the family dynamics and the characters," he told E!.
"As much as we love Brian, and as much as everyone loves their pets, we felt it would be more traumatic to lose one of the kids, rather than the family pet."
Brian had been in the family since the pilot episode, eleven seasons ago in January 1999. His death left a void that the team decided "needed to be filled both comically and also for the interpersonal relationships between the characters".
To solve the dilemma, MacFarlane rapidly wrote in a new dog, Vinny, voiced by Tony Sirico from The Sopranos.
"Seth thought it would be fun to write a character based around [Tony's] voice and his personality and just who he is as an actor," Callaghan said.
"Brian was very smart and studious and intellectual, and Vinny is just a lot more rough around the edges."
But it was the speed at which Brian was replaced that has angered viewers the most. Fans of the show took to Twitter to share their upset and sense of injustice at their favourite dog's untimely demise.
I can't believe Family Guy killed off Brian. Stewie's reaction had me sobbing. I've never felt so upset at a cartoon before.— James (@Jamesgoodall4L) November 25, 2013
The series may have gone downhill but goddammit you don't write Brian out of Family Guy. That is not cool MacFarlane.— Jake Rosenthal (@ScouseyDragon) November 25, 2013
The producers have said they are confident Family Guy fans will move on from Brian's death in time and warm to new pet Vinny.
"Our fans are smart enough and have been loyal to our show for long enough to know that they can trust us," said Callaghan. "We always make choices that work to the greatest benefit of the series."
Rumours that Brian will be resurrected in a future episode have been circulating by hopeful fans while others have vowed never to watch the show again.
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 3 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Avengers: Age of Ultron set to make box office history with $84.5m US opening
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
New on Netflix UK May 2015: From Fast & Furious 6 to World War Z and Grace and Frankie
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds