"Brian Writes a Bestseller" is the sixth episode of the ninth season of the animated comedy series Family Guy. It premiered on Fox in the United States on November 21, 2010. "Brian Writes a Bestseller" follows anthropomorphic dog Brian after he publishes a self-help book that becomes an immediate success, following the failure of his novel, Faster Than the Speed of Love. Once he hires Stewie as his publicist, however, Brian becomes increasingly self-centered, and fires him when he continues to botch his schedule. However, when Brian goes on Real Time with Bill Maher, he ends up getting a wake-up call from Maher himself.
The episode was written by Gary Janetti and directed by Joseph Lee. It received high praise from critics for its storyline and many cultural references. According to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed in 6.59 million homes in its original airing. The episode featured guest performances by Dana Gould, Arianna Huffington, Christine Lakin, Bill Maher, Katie Sah and Ashley Tisdale, along with several recurring guest voice actors for the series. It was first announced at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International.
The plot may be unintentionally based on the real-life 1969 romance novel hoax Naked Came the Stranger, which was deliberately poorly written by 24 coauthors in an attempt to make a commentary on the literary content of the top-selling books of their time. The average reader completely missed this point and the book became a top-seller itself.
Receiving hundreds of packages in the mail containing unsold copies of his failed novel Faster Than the Speed of Love, Brian is convinced that he isn't meant to be a writer and gives up. While reading The New York Times, Brian discovers that a self-help book is the highest-selling book on its bestseller list, and after some persuasion by Stewie, decides to write his own in order to prove that self-help books are useless. Finishing it in three hours and titling it Wish It, Want It, Do It, Brian publishes the book, and it immediately becomes a commercial success. Brian decides to hire Stewie (because of his astounding connections that helped publish the book) as his publicist when the book becomes popular. Though Brian is initially skeptical of Stewie's arrogant demeanour, Brian soon follows suit and becomes an arrogant egomaniac towards dinner. While reflecting on his fame during dinner, Brian becomes angered when Stewie botches his dinner reservations and punishes Stewie by refusing to give him a lift to the hotel. Seeking to reconcile his relationship with Brian, Stewie books him an appearance on the talk show Real Time with Bill Maher.
During the program, Stewie and Brian are informed that the show's topic and its guests have been changed two hours before the show begins. Blaming it all on Stewie, Brian again becomes angered at him. Brian dismisses Stewie and continues on to the show's panel. While on the show, Bill Maher, along with other panelists Arianna Huffington and Dana Gould, begin to criticize Brian's book, stating that it doesn't meet the expectations of the public and is shallow, repetitive, unhelpful and banal. Brian attempts to defend it by talking down to the panelists, but finds himself under pressure from them. In anger, he ends up blasting and insulting the panelists for having little sense in literature, but is constantly put down and attacked. He ultimately confesses that he wrote the book in a day, believing that it would only sell because it is "crap". By that point Maher loses all respect for Brian, stating that a real writer would stand by their work despite what others think. When trying to think of a way to regain popularity, Brian urinates on the set, prompting Maher to angrily chase him off the program with a newspaper. Humiliated, Brian attempts to apologize to Stewie, but ends up with the idea that Stewie caused all the problems and that he was rude to expect too much from Stewie. Realizing that this is going to be as good an "apology" as it would get, Stewie bluntly tells him that he can't write, promptly ending the episode.
First announced at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International by executive producer and series showrunner Steve Callaghan, the episode was written by series regular Gary Janetti, and directed by series regular Joseph Lee before the conclusion of the eighth production season. The episode featured a live-action sequence on the set of the HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher, with the animated Brian Griffin superimposed on the panel. Bill Maher appeared in the scene opposite co-hosts Dana Gould and Arianna Huffington.
In addition to the regular cast and that of Real Time with Bill Maher, actor Chris Cox, Christine Lakin, actress Katie Sah and actress Ashley Tisdale also appeared in the episode. Recurring voice actors Alexandra Breckenridge, actor Ralph Garman, writer Alec Sulkin and writer John Viener made minor appearances.
"Brian Writes a Bestseller" was broadcast on November 21, 2010, as a part of an animated television night on Fox, and was preceded by The Simpsons, and Family Guy creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane's spin-off, The Cleveland Show, and followed by an episode of American Dad!. It was watched by 6.59 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings, despite airing simultaneously with the 38th Annual American Music Awards on ABC, Undercover Boss on CBS and Sunday Night Football on NBC. The episode also acquired a 3.3 rating in the 18–49 demographic, beating American Dad! and The Cleveland Show in addition to significantly edging out both shows in total viewership. The episode's ratings decreased significantly from the previous week's episode.
Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave "Brian Writes a Bestseller" a positive review, writing that it had "just about everything you'd ask for from the show: a story that was just present enough to keep the jokes coming, featuring the show's two best characters [...] lots of gags at the expense of Brian's ego; and a satirical target that's not exactly fresh but at least leaves the show room to maneuver." However, he criticized the sequence with Brian on Real Time with Bill Maher, calling it "bafflingly poor". He rated the episode B. Jason Hughes of TV Squad praised the episode's satire of self-help books, saying: "Wrapping the message in humor is a clever way to maybe get people to think about it".