Did you hear that sound? If you happened to tune into The Simpsons for Episode 700 this past weekend, you may have noticed something a little different. While family secrets and a holiday-themed redemption story were the main draw, something even bigger was brewing in the background of the record-breaking episode. Season 32 has featured multiple moments where the animated comedy (and its filmmakers) have gotten self reflective. With this sudden sentimentality, is that finally a wrap for The Simpsons?
For more than three decades now, the show’s been wacky, irreverent, shocking and heart-warming at times, but never has it really displayed self-reflective characteristics. Maybe a lot of the social-media hubbub to finally be more inclusive with its voice actors ruined some of the shine on the previous plateau for the show (636 is a Record-Breaking Number for The Simpsons), but the writers, directors and producers have really raised their game in 2021. Who knows? Maybe the global pandemic is partially to blame.
After a rollercoaster binge-watching session, “Diary Queen” focused on beloved voice actor Marcia Wallace, of Mrs. Krabappel fame, who passed away way too soon not very long ago. She is dearly missed, as her character always sparred with Bart, usually winning (which was a rare occurrence on the show). “Do PizzaBots Dream of Electric Guitars” brought Homer’s teenage years into the grungy ’90s, but don’t call it a retcon — the writers just don’t care about continuity (get more behind-the-scenes details in Part 1 and Part 2 of my interview with Writer and one-time Showrunner Mike Reiss). But most of all, I was focused on watching the four episodes offered up for Writers Guild Awards consideration this year.
“Three Dreams Denied” dealt with the pitfalls of voice-acting work, “Bart the Bad Guy” tolerated superhero spoilers and “A Springfield Summer Christmas for Christmas,” involved basic-cable holiday movies that always seem to bring happy endings, no matter how contrived a premise. “Manger Things” was No. 700, but it was a quick scene at the conclusion of “I Carumbus” that really caught my attention. What seemed like random, throwaway meta commentary about the show possibly gave hints about its future. And comments made recently by Executive Producer Al Jean in a Variety interview seem to support that theory.
The Simpsons has been renewed for two more seasons (and counting…), so the show will definitely reach 757 episodes, and if you read into his comments, that could be the cut-off.
“We’re going to definitely do 757,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that’s the end, but I don’t know how much further we can go.”
That doesn’t sound very promising for our favorite family found in Springfield. When asked what might happen when the show ends…
“As soon as they cancel us, they’ll reboot us,” he said. “I’m confident, after I’m gone, there’ll be some sort of Simpsons coming. It’s too ubiquitous to think that it’ll just disappear.”
As the winner of 34 Primetime Emmy Awards, 34 Annie Awards and two Peabody Awards, this show has definitely influenced many sitcoms that have aired throughout the years, and many more people who have watched the series. When asked if 1,000 episodes was a possibility, he sounded less than enthusiastic, noting the current season’s dialogue has been recorded remotely thanks to the pandemic, and there really hasn’t been any other major challenges lately, but the timeframe involved to reach 1K would take at least 12 more years!
Longevity is incredibly difficult for just about every TV show that airs, especially one that’s made the cultural impact of The Simpsons. But believing the series will last for 45 years is not one that I would bet on (even though I’m truly hoping it’ll happen). The longer this show lasts, I hope to find more unofficial behind-the-scenes stories from its employees like The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, even if their true stories may be fudged a little.
While I’ll always tune in for pop culture-themed episodes (Only The Simpsons Can Reveal True Holiday Nightmares), the show’s in-jokes have always been my favorite type of fan service. I’m hoping that it won’t conclude any time soon, but I also don’t want the series’ canon to be flexible, erasing the events of past great seasons.
I am looking forward to seeing what other surprises Season 32 might have in store, as the writers have outdone themselves with their work so far this year.