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In this image released by Fox Broadcasting, the characters from Fox's "Family Guy," animated program, from left, Peter, Lois, with Stewie on her lap, Meg, on ground, Chris and dog Brian, are shown.

The Associated Press

Oh, Brian. We miss you already.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the popular Fox sitcom Family Guy has rattled fans by killing off Brian, the animated Griffin clan's droll but lovable dog.

But was the show's immediate replacement of Brian with a tough new pooch named Vinnie – voiced by The Sopranos fixture Tony Sirico – disrespectful or a smart move?

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The abrupt departure of Brian in Sunday night's new outing of Family Guy surely ranks among the biggest shockers in the show's 11-year history.

As voiced by series creator Seth MacFarlane, Brian was very often the only sane person (even though he wasn't a person) in most episodes. He was also the unofficial partner of the genius baby Stewie.

In last night's episode, ominously titled "Life of Brian," it was announced that Brian had been run over by a car, just like that.

To make Brian's death even more permanent, the same episode saw Stewie dismantle his time machine, therefore making it impossible to go back in time and save the canine (this will probably make more sense to regular Family Guy viewers).

And in the blink of an eye, Brian was replaced with a new talking dog named Vinnie, described as a "pooch with attitude," and unmistakably voiced by Sirico, best known for his portrayal of wiseguy Paulie (Walnuts) Gaultieri on The Sopranos. Bada-bing.

Family Guy producer Steve Callaghan recently teased the decision to kill off Brian in an interview with E! Online.

"This was an idea that got pitched in the writers' room and it sort of caught fire," he said. "We thought it could be a way to shake things up."

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And of course the killing of Brian follows the recent news that The Simpsons plans on killing off a significant character in the near future.

Even the voice cast of The Simpsons has no idea which character is going to perish. Las Vegas bookmakers have made the ornery senior Abe (Grampa) Simpson the favourite with 3-1 odds, followed by Sideshow Bob (4-1) and Comic Book Guy (5-1).

But Brian is already gone from Family Guy, and many of the show's loyal fans have already taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

Tweeted Bryan Kerver (@BKerver1994): "Wow, I can't believe Seth MacFarlane killed off Brian." From Ahlea Y (@Leuh2219): "That's the end of Brian…. Dear Jeezus I'm crying." From Terrence C.O.G. (@Nerd_Sage): "OMG. HE'S DEAD."

And this to-the-point tweet from Matt Trifoso (@tryyyeefoso): "Well they killed Brian… And replaced him with a crappy Italian stereotype. Awful just awful."

They may have a point. All power to the Family Guy writers, but what is the world coming to when beloved cartoon characters can be dispatched so easily?

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Can you imagine the public reaction if The Flintstones had Barney Rubble suddenly succumb to dinosaur-related violence or George Jetson's boss Mr. Spacely die of a heart attack on The Jetsons?

May we live in interesting and unpredictable times.

Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewRyanTV

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