By Emily Mullen
The longest-running scripted comedy series in US history just won’t quit.
Ever one to read the room, The Simpsons released their special announcement with the words, “Woo-hoo! We’ve been renewed for Seasons 33 and 34 on @FOXTV”. While the entire world let out a big long collective sigh. The image attached to the announcement is even depressing, an aggressively clear and detailed illustration of the family. An echo of what once was and of what can never (no matter how many series are produced) be again.
It’s even painful to see it written down, “Seasons 33 and 34”. Because if they haven’t ended it by the mid-thirties, they just aren’t going to stop.
The main issue is not the illustration, it’s what they represent. They are a symbol for the new-Simpsons, the series that continuously buries its head in the sand and maintains that a crisp, clear, and updated illustration will do the trick and keep people watching. But with their faces and heads covered in sand particles, they have well and truly missed the point. The point is the sheer level of disengagement from the program felt by anyone who once called themselves a Simpsons fan (see the comments below the announcement for context).
This notion of disengagement does beg the question, of why this series still being produced? A reasonable explanation- which not reasonable at all but it helps to preserve the magic of old Simpsons- is that Groening has locked himself into a contract with Fox which lasts until either his dying day or until he repays Fat Tony.
Either way, the creators need to own up to the sad knowledge that no one watches The Simpsons anymore. The last time anyone showed any semblance of enthusiasm for the franchise was the 2007 Simpsons blockbuster movie. Which everyone went to see and which was initially buoyed by the mildly fresh and funny concept of spiderpig. But as with all mutant pigs, what goes up must come down, and with it went our gra for the franchise.
What we really want from The Simpsons is for it to end. For it to be in the past, for us to flick on the TV see a rerun and think “ah, remember that”, nudge whoever is unfortunate enough to be next to us at the time and wistfully say “that there, that’s my youth”.
What we don’t want is for it to keep being produced, ad nauseam.
Any argument about the quality of Simpson’s social commentary and the value it has to our shared social histories has long since gone out the window. Because anything that happens to those little yellow characters feels too much like a remembrance from the past, and cannot be pulled into the present. They are past the point of being engaged with on a current level.
That’s not to say that nullification of The Simpsons should happen, merely a veneration. The importance that the Simpsons has had, cannot and will not be forgotten. Mainly because the inhabitants of Springfield have seeped into almost every fold of our conversations. We can’t make reference to an awkward situation without sending a “Homer Simpson Backs Into the Bushes” meme, or discussing something vaguely displeasing without utilizing a “That’s a paddlin” .
Ideally, The Simpsons would be retired. Sobbed over for several years, then brought back, in much-beloved ugly old Simpsons illustrated form. But that’s not going to happen. It’s going to carry on being produced, living in a paralleled new illustrated reality while the rest of us keep the grubby old-Simpsons memories alive every time we share a meme.