Late last year I went to a Simpsons trivia night at Goodgod Small Club in Sydney's Chinatown. Having never been to one before, I was keen to finally put my dense knowledge of this show to some use. Each Simpsons trivia event focused on a specific season, and for this occasion, the questions were all based around Season 8. Luckily I was able to smash out all of season 8 the day before, much to the dismay of my girlfriend (just kidding, I'm forever alone). The place was packed with die-hard Simpsons singing Shary Bobbins show-tunes and attempting to draw dignity. All of these people meeting up to show off their appreciation and knowledge for The Simpsons. We ended up coming 4th out of 20 teams, and I was keen to do it all again, but found out that they only do trivia night up to season 10 as no-one wants to go to the later seasons.
After a bit of thought, I could understand why the crowd would die down for later seasons. There has been much debate as to what classifies The Simpsons' 'Golden Age'. Some fans argue its seasons 1-10, others say 2-8, or 2-12. I personally believe it's seasons 3-8. Whatever it is, it's clear that the quality of the Simpsons took a significant dive as the show grew close to the new millennium.
Rather than being a witty cartoon with character-driven plot lines and emotional heart, The Simpsons began to focus a lot more on sight gags and outlandish antics. The plot lines began to move away from being the Simpson family, and instead, the writers began to focus more on the secondary characters of Springfield. Celebrity cameos were funny and well-integrated into story lines, whereas now it seems there's an unnecessary amount of celebrity appearances. The once-loveable Homer is now just moronic, and the rest of the Simpson family are now a parody of their old selves. The Simpsons used to pump out pure gold. Most, if not all episodes from the Golden Age were quotable classics that we could forever re-watch and never get sick of. These days, you still might find the occasional episode that harks back to their Golden Age, but I'm talking about one or two episodes from a 22-episode season.
There's no denying the steep decline in quality of the show, which makes me beg the question: Is it time for The Simpsons to leave our screens for good?
Look at the recent use of the couch gag. The segment is a beloved hallmark of the show, and has been since The Simpson's inception. It gives us a quick giggle at the end of the opening sequence, but at the end of the day, it's just a small running gag, right? Over the past few years the creative team behind The Simpsons has been putting in a lot more effort and energy into them, featuring guest animators and directors for certain couch gags. But it's not that these are bad gags. In fact, some of them are incredibly creative and detailed.
Adapting to the new realm of social media, Fox are attempting to make these couch gags trending and popular, by uploading couch gags on Youtube and Facebook prior to the episode's airing. Recently the team behind Adult Swim cartoon Rick & Morty featured in the couch gag of the 26th season's finale. While the gag was pretty funny, the amount of advertising both cartoons did via social media would make you think that it would be a full cross-over episode. But no, all of this attention and advertising was just for a one-minute gag. I do like some of the more recent couch gags, but it's sad knowing that these minute-long segments within the opening credits are more memorable than the episodes that they feature in.
In May this year, long-time Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer announced via Twitter that he would be leaving the show after 26 seasons. For any long time fan of The Simpsons who has watch the quality of the show deteriorate over the years, this announcement would've made you roll your eyes yet again. You would assume that because Shearer is such an integral part of the show, you would just stop the show altogether. You can't continue without having the man behind iconic characters like Mr Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner. After discussions of replacing him with multiple voice actors, Simpsons fans can now relax, as Shearer just recently signed back with the show for four years, earning approximately $300,000 per episode. Here's a GIF of Harry Shearer celebrating below.
The Simpsons has been renewed for its 27th and 28th seasons, but the contract does give Fox the option to continue the show up to season 30. Even if you're not a fan of the recent seasons, Harry Shearer's decision to re-join the cast is good news. At least this way, when The Simpsons does conclude, it'll be able to do so with a bit more dignity.
I absolutely adore The Simpsons. Most of my childhood memories are watching classic Simpsons repeats, every night at 6 o'clock. It's where I developed a sense of humour and learned most of my morals as a young child. It didn't matter whether I was having a good day or a horrible one. Knowing that The Simpsons was on instantly made me feel happier. Even today, I mainly use Facebook for pages like Rock Bottom, and of course Boss Hunting. The stranglehold the show has had over society, redefining popular culture for over a quarter of a century is pretty boss in itself. It's influence and legacy will live on well after the show's eventual conclusion. I can understand why Fox wouldn't want to get rid of the four-fingered family. It's made them billions, and would leave a noticeable hole in their programming. But after 500+ episodes, albums, comic books, video games and a feature-length movie, it seems that every conceivable idea has already been done.
The time is right for The Simpsons to finally pack up shop, something they should've done 15 years earlier. But don't be too upset, because in the wise words of Barney Gumble...