In one of the most irritating and transparent plotline stunts of all time, Brian Griffin's return to hit comedy cartoon Family Guy isn't exactly the most unpredictable move. Brian, the Griffin family's pet dog, was widely accepted to be one of the show's strongest characters but was killed off in a November episode after he was hit by a car.

Stewie Brian GriffinBrian Griffin Has Made His Return To 'Family Guy.'

Within the same episode that Brian died on the operating table, the Griffin's headed to a dog's home to pick up another pet. Vinnie, the straight-talking dog voiced by The Sopranos' Tony Sirico, was brought in to replace the loveable black and white mutt, who was voiced by show creator Seth Macfarlane. Fans reacted in their thousands to Brian's untimely and unexpected demise by creating a petition to bring Brian back.

Though events have been changed and erased in previous episodes, it was shown that Brian couldn't be brought back because Stewie had destroyed his time machine. In a typical Family Guy loophole twist, last night's episode saw Stewie confess to Santa that all he wanted for Christmas was Brian back.

In an effort to cheer the Griffin baby up, Vinnie takes Stewie to a toy shop where he sees a time-travelling future version of himself visiting the store. He steals his own time travel device and transports himself back to the fateful day of Brian's death just in time to save his furry pal.

Watch Stewie Save Brian's Life In 'Family Guy':

It's wonderful that Family Guy's most instantly recognisable character is back for good and we should celebrate the return of the dryly funny, alcoholic aspiring writer. However, after the interest generated by the death and the subsequent negation of the scene, it's hard to shake off the view that Brian's demise and resurrection was little more than a highly effective yet cheap publicity stunt.

While such devices are certainly nothing new in television, fans of the show are likely to feel cheated that a character they had practically an emotional bond to has been toyed with so flippantly by the show. After the initial 'OMG Brian Dead' headlines and tweets had died down, fans began to look forward to the brave new world that the Family Guy team had created, in which they had taken a rare and monumental decision to cut out a key character.

Family Guy
The 'Family Guy' Creators Were Quick To Bring Brian Back Into The Show.

We missed Brian but we waited to see what new angle Vinnie could bring to the show, especially in his interaction with Stewie. The FG team were quick to capitalise on the Brian Griffin tributes and grief by replacing the character unscathed only a few weeks later when a wiser decision could have been to wait a year, see how Vinnie develops, then perhaps bring Brian back.

Nevertheless, MacFarlane was upbeat about his show's emotional rollercoaster: "And thus endeth our warm, fuzzy holiday lesson: Never take those you love for granted, for they can be gone in a flash," he tweeted. "I mean, you didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we'd have to be f*cking high."

"Oh and hey... thanks for caring so much about the canine Griffin. He is overcome with gratitude," he added.