‘What About That Novel You’re Workin’ On?’: A Look At Brian Griffin’s Writing On ‘Family Guy’

For more than a decade, Family Guy‘s Brian Griffin has been trying to forge a career as a writer. As Stewie once pointed out, it’s the only thing giving his alcoholism any credibility. But for all of his efforts, is Brian actually any good at writing? Let’s sort through 13 seasons worth of evidence and find out.

If you’re a dedicated Family Guy fan, you’re probably aware of Brian’s published works. His debut novel was Faster Than The Speed of Love, which in addition to a dreadful title, had a plot ripped directly from the Iron Eagle movies. The book sold poorly despite the presence of an Oprah’s Book Club sticker. Then, tired of his writing being rejected by the public, Brian decided to deliberately write the worst book of all-time, Wish It. Want It. Do It. An attempt to imitate the faux-inspirational pablum of books like The Secret. But there was an odd twist: People actually loved the book.

Brian quickly became a literary sensation, and in the process, he started to believe his own hype. In addition to treating Stewie — his publicist — poorly throughout that episode, he started to believe that his book is actually good. It all blows up in his face when the book gets critiqued on Real Time with Bill Maher. Unable to defend his work, he admitted that he doesn’t like the book either and that he urinated in Bill Maher’s studio.

So, Brian’s literary works have been met with a fair amount of hostility, but what about his writing endeavors elsewhere? In “Brian Griffin’s House of Payne,” we found out that Brian had once written a television pilot called What I Learned on Jefferson Street under the name H. Brian Griffin. After reading it, Lois is blown away, saying that it was the best thing he’s ever written. She got him a meeting with a TV executive and soon enough, Brian had a TV show. Of course, a combination of network notes and James Woods turned his show into a trashy sitcom, but the reality is that Brian’s show wasn’t any good to begin with. The show had an interesting premise about a 25-year-old man going back to college while trying to take care of his young daughter, but the dialogue could not be more hackneyed. Consider this line that Elijah Wood reads in his audition:

Go ahead, Professor Watkins, fail me if you want. Give me an “F” on the exam. I don’t care because I got an “A” today…as a dad. Maybe this is news to you, but love isn’t some element on your periodic table. [Brian mouth every word Elijah said] So, you know what? Keep you chromium and magnesium, because I discovered a much more precious element. I discovered Dadmium.

Come on, there’s no world where that would pass for good writing. I have no idea why Lois thought Brian’s script was good, and my only guess is that it’s because his other stuff is even worse. So far, things are not looking good for Brian.

The closest thing to a success that Brian’s had was his play “A Passing Fancy,” which we saw in “Brian’s Play.” The show became quite a hit at the Quahog Community Theater and Brian finally felt like he had a victory under his belt. Unfortunately, this fell apart when Stewie wrote a far better play. Not only was Brian’s pride hurt when read Stewie’s play, things get worse when he met several esteemed playwrights, all of whom rip “A Passing Fancy” to shreds. Just when Brian finally has something to be proud of, the wool gets pulled from under his eyes. Still, the play was popular among the simple folk of Quahog, and who’s to say that snobs are always right? Maybe Brian’s play wasn’t anything special, but it seems far more successful than Brian’s other writing endeavors.

Still, there’s one area of Brian’s writing left to consider, and it might be his strongest. What if his best chance to make it is as a songwriter? Remember, he did write the “Bag of Weed” song from the “420” episode that was successful in getting marijuana legalized throughout the land (admittedly, Stewie did help him a bit). Later in the episode, after being bribed by Carter Pewterschmidt, he wrote another song (which we didn’t hear) to convince everyone that pot is bad, thus making it illegal again. Sure, Brian sold out his principles, but consider that his songs were so convincing that he was able to get marijuana legalized AND have it re-criminalized again. Can Dylan or Springsteen claim to have that kind of influence? I don’t think so.

The evidence points to Brian not being a particularly strong writer, but hope is not lost. Perhaps if he dropped the pretension that weighed down his novel and his TV pilot and focused on writing lighthearted songs about weed, he could be a star.