The producers of Family Guy had warned the television show's legions of fans that a death of a beloved character was imminent. But few expected it to be Brian Griffin, the family's talking pet dog.
In the season 12 episode, Life of Brian, broadcast in the US on Sunday night, Brian was flattened by a car.
Stewie, the child prodigy, was unable to go back in time and save Brian because he could not locate the parts required to repair his disassembled time machine.
There was a happy ending though.
The family went to the pound to adopt a new pooch named Vinnie, voiced by The Sopranos actor Tony Sirico.
Family Guy executive producer Steve Callaghan revealed it was the actor behind Brian, Seth MacFarlane, who came up with the idea to rope in Sirico.
"He's a big fan of The Sopranos and always loved Tony Sirico in particular and he thought it would be fun to write a character based around his voice and his personality and just who he is as an actor."
Callaghan said it would have been more traumatic for viewers to witness the death of a human character than a pet dog.
"This was an idea that got pitched in the writers room and it sort of caught fire, and we thought it could be a fun way to shake things up," he said.
"As soon as this idea came up, we started talking about what the next couple episodes could be and we got very excited about the way this change will affect the family dynamics and the characters."
And he's prepared for any backlash.
"Our fans are smart enough and have been loyal to our show for long enough, to know that they can trust us. We always make choices that always work to the greatest benefit of the series," he told E! Online.
Brian Griffin had appeared in every episode of Family Guy since the series began in 1998.
- Sydney Morning Herald