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.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 2 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 3 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Artist Jamie McCartney: How The Great Wall of Vagina is a stand against 'body fascism'
A Very British Brothel, Channel 4 - TV Review: These insights into people who buy and sell sex are particularly relevant
Cilla Black: Her 12 best songs, from 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' to 'You're My World'
Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara handle excruciatingly awkward and offensive interview questions like pros
Game of Thrones season 6: 'A Song of Ice and Fire should be finished by 1998,' said George R. R. Martin, 'but don't hold your breath'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality