‘The Simpsons’ Doesn’t HAVE to Keep Going, You Know
If you're 26 years old or younger, you've never known a world without The Simpsons. And maybe you've never seen the show's earliest incarnation, back when it was just a series of crudely drawn shorts on the mostly live-action Tracey Ullman Show. The animated sitcom has continuously evolved in the 9,307 days since it debuted in a half-hour time slot back in 1989: The (outsourced) animation got slicker, and Springfield's residents have experienced very situation imaginable—or so we thought, until today.
Simpsons executive producer Al Jean told Variety that Season 27's premiere will see Homer and Marge will legally separate — not because her "Homie" has the mental and emotional IQ of an ape with less impulse control, and not because he often acts like the equivalent of her fourth child, but because he "has narcolepsy and it’s an incredible strain on the marriage." Sure.
As if this wasn't enough, Homer will fall in love with a local pharmacist, voiced by Girls' Lena Dunham. It's not the first time he's been tempted by other women over the last quarter-century. But a separation? NO. Part of why even the most often-absurd plot elements of The Simpsons work is because they rest on the bedrock of certain accepted realities: Mr. Burns is greedy, Nelson will always be there to "a-ha," and Homer and Marge's family unit is constant. The couple will likely reconcile, and the show (which stars cartoon people who'll never age) can keep going on forever. But should it?
The news of the Simpsons' marriage woes comes on the heels of a report via EW that Sideshow Bob will murder Bart in the alternate reality of their annual Halloween episode. Harry Shearer announced that he's leaving the show back in May, so Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and more of beloved characters will never be the same. In 2014 the cartoon saw its lowest ratings in history for a regular Sunday-night episode — though it still performs better than many series, on average. The show literally does have to continue, at least through Season 28, as the contracts with Fox and cast are a done deal. But after that, maybe it shouldn't.
Longtime fans have complained of a dip in the shows' writing quality for years, though a sub-standard Simpsons episode is still smarter than the best Family Guy episode (offhanded visual references to '80s movies aren't the same thing as "jokes," people). Still, as showrunners tighten their grip on the franchise while they resort to headline-grabbing plot lines that torment the central family members — and veteran cast members leave — one has to wonder how much longer this thing should go on before it starts to become genuinely lifeless.
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