|Family Guy character|
|First appearance||"Death Has a Shadow"|
|Created by||Seth MacFarlane|
|Voiced by||Seth MacFarlane|
|Nickname(s)||Bri (by Stewie)|
|Education||Brown University (did not graduate)|
Brian Griffin is a fictional character from the American animated television series Family Guy. An anthropomorphic white dog voiced by Seth MacFarlane, he is one of the show's main characters as a member of the Griffin family. He primarily works in the series as a less-than-adept writer struggling to find himself, attempting essays, novels, screenplays, and newspaper articles.
He first appeared on television, along with the rest of the family, in a 15-minute short on December 20, 1998. Brian was created and designed by MacFarlane himself. MacFarlane was asked to pitch a pilot to the Fox Broadcasting Company, based on The Life of Larry and Larry & Steve, two shorts made by MacFarlane featuring a middle-aged character named Larry and an intellectual dog, Steve. After the pilot was given the green light, the Griffin family appeared in the episode "Death Has a Shadow". Brian's appearance is a redesign of Steve the dog, from MacFarlane's previous show.
Brian has been featured in many items of merchandise for Family Guy, and he is considered to be one of the show's biggest merchandising icons. He has also made crossover appearances in the other MacFarlane-produced shows, such as American Dad! and The Cleveland Show.
As a character, Brian has been very well received by critics and fans. When Brian was killed off in the season 12 episode "Life of Brian", the events of the episode received substantial attention from the media and elicited strongly negative reactions from fans of the show. Brian subsequently returned two episodes later, in "Christmas Guy", after Stewie travels back in time to save him.
Role in Family Guy
Brian is a white-furred anthropomorphic dog. He can talk, generally walks on his hind legs (using his front legs as arms), has opposable thumbs, drives a Toyota Prius, and often acts more rationally than the other characters in the series. He is the pet dog and close friend of the Griffin family, and, although anthropomorphic animals are not a regular element of the show, Brian's human attributes receive little acknowledgment and no explanation; he is largely treated as a human character. Brian has a particularly close friendship with Stewie, and many of the show's sub-plots center around them. They are occasionally at the center of the plot, for instance in the "Road to..." episodes. Brian and Stewie have shown affection to each other several times, and in the episode Brian and Stewie, they admitted that they loved each other, not as lovers, but as close friends, though Stewie has shown signs of romantic and sexual interest in Brian in other episodes.
Brian is very fond of dry martinis and is seen to have some issues in various episodes when he is told or forced to stop drinking. These episodes suggest that Brian is possibly an alcoholic. He smokes occasionally, although in the episode "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", after seeing Peter promoting a corrupt cigarette company, he quit smoking, a habit he resumed at the end of that episode. He also occasionally smokes marijuana. After a brief stint as a drug sniffing dog, he developed a severe cocaine addiction, but after spending time in rehab he managed to quit.
He is the son of Coco and Biscuit, who were normal dogs, though Brian's human attributes have been present since he was a puppy. He claims his father is racist, and Brian seems to have inherited these tendencies. Brian received an Ivy League education, having attended Brown University, as seen in "Brian Goes Back to College" but was shy one course from graduating." He is also an Iraq War veteran because Stewie signed them both up for the Army, in "Saving Private Brian". Family Guy uses a floating timeline in which the characters do not age much, so the show is always assumed to be set in the current year. However, several of the characters, such as Meg Griffin, have aged two to three years since the show's pilot episode, while others, such as Stewie and Brian, have aged very little. At the start of the series, Brian was 7, but is currently 8 years old.
In several episodes, events have been linked to specific times, although this timeline has been contradicted in subsequent episodes. An example of this is when in "Brian: Portrait of a Dog", Peter is shown in a flashback finding a fully grown Brian as a stray. However, in "The Man with Two Brians", Brian tries to regain attention from the Griffin family by showing them home videos of him as a puppy, although none of the videos of him as a puppy showed any member of the Griffin family, so it is possible that the videos were filmed by a previous owner. He also has a (human) son named Dylan, who was a regular marijuana smoker, before Brian managed to turn Dylan's life around, from a violent, uneducated teenager, to a well-mannered friendly young man.
Brian is an aspiring but struggling writer – this is said to be a reference to Snoopy from Peanuts. Brian is unemployed, but he is often seen writing various novels, screenplays or essays. His difficult writing career is used as a recurring joke throughout the series. In the episode "Play it Again, Brian", Brian won an award for an essay he wrote, though he later admits that he plagiarized the piece.
Brian has written since college, as told in "Brian Griffin's House of Payne", in which his TV drama pilot is accepted (and then drastically amended) by a local studio.
In the episode "420", Brian finally publishes his novel Faster Than the Speed of Love, and the novel is shipped, but it is critically panned and does not sell a single copy. In the episode "Dog Gone", he receives an invitation (from the Rhode Island Society for Special Literary Excellence) to an award ceremony celebrating his novel. Brian, convinced that he is a great writer, attempts to gain the family's interest in this piece of news but fails to do so. Once he arrives at the "award ceremony", however, he discovers that he has misunderstood the meaning of the word "special".
Later in the episode "Brian Griffin's House of Payne", he writes a television script entitled "What I Learned on Jefferson Street", and it was shown to a TV network who picked it up after reading it. Although the script was good, the finished product was not, as James Woods intervened and turned Brian's script into a farcical comedy piece. In the episode "Brian Writes a Bestseller", Brian writes a bestselling self-help book, Wish It, Want It, Do It, which he wrote in a few hours. The book is an immediate success, but Brian lets the fame go to his head. He eventually causes the downfall of his book's popularity, and things go back to normal. It is mentioned again to get a girl in "Yug Ylimaf".
Brian's latest literary attempt came in the episode "Brian's Play", where Brian writes a play entitled A Passing Fancy. The play becomes very popular in Quahog; however, Brian is upset when he realizes that Stewie had since written a play which was better than his. Stewie's play was eventually shown on Broadway. Brian became depressed by this, as he only wanted to be a good writer for the few years which remain of his life, and not have to be overshadowed by Stewie, who has his whole life ahead of him.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane created a cartoon short entitled Life of Larry. The short centered around a middle-aged man named Larry and his anthropomorphic dog Steve. In 1997, when MacFarlane was working for Hanna-Barbera Studios, writing for shows such as Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Laboratory, and Cow and Chicken, he made a sequel to Life of Larry. The short caught the eye of 20th Century Fox representatives, who asked him to create a TV series revolving around the characters. MacFarlane received a US$50,000 budget to develop a pilot for the show, which was, as MacFarlane stated in a 2006 interview, "[...] about one twentieth of what most pilots cost". MacFarlane claims to have drawn inspiration from several sitcoms, namely The Simpsons and All in the Family. Several premises were also carried over from several 1980s Saturday morning cartoons he watched as a child, namely The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, and Rubik, the Amazing Cube.
In three months, MacFarlane created the Griffin family and developed a pilot for the show he called Family Guy. Brian's character was largely based on Steve, and Larry would be the main inspiration for the Peter character.
The voice of Brian is provided by series creator Seth MacFarlane, who also provides the voices of many other characters including Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, and Glenn Quagmire. Brian's voice is MacFarlane's normal speaking voice. William H. Macy auditioned unsuccessfully for the role.
Ahsan Haque of IGN has given Brian a positive review, calling him the best talking man-dog. He also praised Brian's adventures with Stewie calling them, "center of many of the show's best bits". Haque later made a list titled "Family Guy: Stewie and Brian's Greatest Adventures", where he stated that "Brian and Stewie paired together has always been a winning formula for Family Guy". They also praised the selection of Brian to play Chewbacca as they stated in the "Blue Harvest" review. In their list of "What Else Should Family Guy Make Fun Of?", IGN commented that Brian would be perfect to play Q, if Family Guy ever decides to make a James Bond parody. However, in a review of the seventh season, Haque wrote that Brian "unfortunately was terribly misused this season. He's degenerated into nothing more than a soapbox for the political views of the writers". In a review of the eighth season, Ramsey Isler stated that Brian "left his lofty position as the voice of reason and switched to pretentious loser".
Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club praised the Brian character, and stated that "Brian has always been the show's best character and its most developed one". In a 2004 interview, Seth MacFarlane noted his similarities to Brian. He also revealed that Brian is his favorite character, because he feels most comfortable when playing that role.
In IGN's "Family Guy: Top 10 Fights", Brian's fight with Stewie in the episode "Patriot Games (season 4, 2006) is ranked number 5. In IGN's top 10 musical moments in Family Guy Brian ranked number 6, number 5, and number 3 with the songs, "The Freakin' FCC" from "PTV" (season 4, 2005), "Never Gonna Give You Up" from "Meet the Quagmires" (season 5, 2007) and "This House Is Freakin' Sweet" from "Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater" (season 2, 1999) respectively. In a list of the Top 25 Family Guy characters compiled by IGN, Brian was placed second on the list (behind Stewie). They stated that "man's best friend is a poor understatement" with regards to Brian.
Death and return
Brian's death was the main focus in the season twelve episode "Life of Brian". After Stewie destroys his time machine because of the risks of changing history and losing their lives, Brian and Stewie arrive home with a street hockey net they had found in a dump, where Stewie destroyed his time machine for good. As he is setting it up, Brian is struck by a reckless driver in a hit and run and later succumbs to his injuries at the veterinary clinic. Stewie is unable to rebuild the time machine as he cannot acquire a new power supply. After a month of mourning the loss of their beloved pet, the family replaces Brian with a new dog, named Vinny. The death of Brian in the episode "Life of Brian" was met with massive opposition and anger from Family Guy fans around the world, many of whom threatened to boycott the show due to Brian's absence. Family Guy's official Facebook and Twitter pages were bombarded with messages and comments from fans demanding that they bring Brian back. Hostile messages were also directed towards Family Guy's producing staff, including the show's creator, Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane later thanked fans "for caring so much about the canine Griffin, he is overcome with gratitude." Fan petitions sprang up within hours of "Life of Brian"'s first airing, also receiving media attention including most prominently a Change.org petition directed towards Seth MacFarlane, making the petition one of the fastest-growing entertainment-related petitions on the site, attracting over 120,000 signatures.
Two episodes later in "Christmas Guy", Stewie still misses Brian dearly and spots a past incarnation of himself who has traveled forward in time to Christmas (An event referenced in "Life of Brian"). Stealing the time machine's return pad from his past self while Vinny provides a distraction, Stewie goes back in time and saves Brian's life, at the cost of erasing himself from history. Brian is extremely grateful for being saved, but Stewie of this timeline finds Brian's affections unnerving, not knowing the reason behind them. The episode ends with the family sitting around their Christmas tree with everything back to normal. After "Christmas Guy" aired, Seth MacFarlane tweeted, "you didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we'd have to be fucking high."
In other media
Brian is featured in a Family Guy parody in the South Park episode "Cartoon Wars Part I". The scene depicted a conversation between Peter and Brian leading to one of the show's trademark cut-away gags; like Peter, Brian was rendered in the distinct animation style of South Park. Brian also appeared in one episode of Seth MacFarlene's other animated sitcom, American Dad! titled The People vs. Martin Sugar. When Stan Smith begins to mention his list of "Top 10 Fictitious Dogs," with the last one being Brian, he briefly appears confused asking Stan, "Uh, do I know you?", which is an homage to MacFarlane himself since he voices both characters.
Brian was also featured, along with Stewie, in an advertisement for Wheat Thins. He and Stewie also introduced the 2007 Emmy Awards with a song which recapped the events in television, over the past year. The song was adapted from the one sung by Brian, Stewie and Peter in the Family Guy episode "PTV".
Brian is featured on the Family Guy: Live in Vegas CD, and also plays a significant part in Family Guy Video Game!, the first Family Guy video game, which was released by Sierra Entertainment in 2006. He (along with Stewie) features at the center of Family Guy's second video game, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse.
MacFarlane recorded exclusive material of Brian's voice and other Family Guy characters for a 2007 pinball machine of the show by Stern Pinball. In 2004, the first series of Family Guy toy figurines was released by Mezco Toyz, each member of the Griffin family had their own toy, with the exception of Stewie, of whom two different figures were made. Over the course of two years, four more series of toy figures have been released.
As of 2009, six books have been released about the Family Guy universe, all published by HarperCollins since 2005. This include Family Guy: It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One (ISBN 978-0-7528-7593-4), which covers the entire events of the episode "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One", and Family Guy and Philosophy: A Cure for the Petarded (ISBN 978-1-4051-6316-3), a collection of seventeen essays exploring the connections between the series and historical philosophers. which include Brian as a character. A book written from Brian's point of view (actually written by Andrew Goldberg) was published in 2006. It was called Brian Griffin's Guide to Booze, Broads and the Lost Art of Being a Man.
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