This month, the longest running prime time series in television history finishes its 28th season. We’re talking, of course, about The Simpsons. Since 1989, Matt Groening’s dysfunctional cartoon family has provided a conveyor belt of laughs for millions of viewers worldwide. 614 episodes, 27 ‘Treehouse Of Horror’s and more than 80 trips to the hospital (for Homer) later and it’s time to shut up shop.
‘Surely not?’ I hear you cry. ‘It’s an institution!’ That may well be, but there’s many reasons why the good ship Springfield should weigh anchor and sail gracefully off into the sunset. Here are some of the most convincing.
It’s long been argued that The Simpsons peaked creatively some time in its first 10 seasons. Unfortunately, it’s been all downhill since then. Greatest episode lists are strewn with well-known classic titles like ‘Last Exit To Springfield’, ‘Marge and the Monorail’ and ‘Homer The Great’ — all from series four to six. But who remembers ‘Homer Scissorhands’ or ‘The Wife Aquatic’? Exactly, no one. Furthermore, to all those saying ‘better B+ Simpsons than no Simpsons‘ I answer thus: it might look like B+ now, but wait until season 35 when they’ve really run out of ideas. Much better to stop now while it’s not too painful.
The show’s ratings have been declining for several years now and in 2017 they’re lower than ever. Episode 14 ‘Fatzcarraldo’ pulled in only 2.4 million US viewers on February 12, far below earlier seasons’ average of more than 20 million. See below for a graph illustrating the decline. What’s clear from this data is that the franchise has been on a serious slide since about 2005. Now ratings aren’t everything, but no one wants to see a beaten man pummelled further. The show should quit now and retain some dignity.
The focus has shifted
Recently, Homer and Co. have been making headlines for their weird psychic powers. It turns out that the show has predicted the future on a spooky number of occasions. First there was The Rolling Stones’ endless touring, then plonker Trump’s election as president and most recently Lady Gaga’s Superbowl performance. This is all well and good, but the trend also proves that people aren’t talking about the latest episodes anymore. Instead, viewers are reminiscing about past moments, some more than ten years old. A sure sign that a franchise is going down the pan.
Retirement and death
Back in 2015 Simpsons legend Harry Shearer quit. The voice of countless iconic characters from the show (Burns, Ned Flanders, Skinner etc) and veteran of 26 seasons had finally decided to pack it in. It was a worrying time for Springfield fans. Thankfully the 73-year-old changed his mind two months later and signed on for another two seasons, but you can bet it won’t be long before he starts thinking about leaving again.
In sadder news, actress Marcia Wallace (voice of Edna Krabappel) passed away in 2013 after 24 years working on the show. More recently, longtime writer Kevin Curran died at his Los Angeles home in late 2015. The Emmy-winning scribe had been on staff since 2001.
What this proves is that the old guard are moving on. Original cast-members and creative brains behind the series’ unprecedented success are retiring or falling ill and its time to stop while the going’s still good.
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The Simpsons can never die
Whatever your opinion of the new episodes, the show’s long-lasting appeal is undeniable — and that’s why it should call it quits. There’s just so many timeless moments from the past that we don’t need any new ones. So if you get sad at the prospect of no fresh yellow-people antics in the future, just think of that time Homer skateboarded off Springfield Gorge, or when Mully and Sculder made a cameo, or when Sideshow Bob stood on all the rakes.
Oh, and if that won’t do, gather a bunch of mates, load up on cheap lager and chant ‘we want chilly willy’ at the bartender until he calls the cops. The Simpsons can never die. It lives in all of us.