File this under “news you would have loved to hear when you were in 8th grade.” Fox has picked up The Simpsons for two more seasons, bringing the series’ total number to 22. With this move, Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie will become a part of the longest-running scripted primetime show in television history, surpassing the 20-season record held by both Gunsmoke and The Red Skelton Show. Somewhere Mr. Burns just let out an “excellent.”
We’re tempted to say that everyone has stopped watching The Simpsons, but with an average of 8.7 million viewers during the current season, that isn’t the case; the series still has an audience to make 30 Rock jealous. Clearly, from a business standpoint, this decision was a no-brainer for Fox. Despite the successes, however, we think it might be time for the old warhorse to head out to pasture. After what will be 493-episodes by the time this new contract runs out, how much more can the show possibly accomplish beyond reaching superficial goals like 500 episodes and topping The Ed Sullivan Show for longest running television series ever? (Mr. Sullivan’s show was on the air for 24 seasons.) Every possible situation that the writers could come up for our favorite animated family has either been used before on the show, or stolen by Seth McFarlane.
The Simpsons hasn’t felt fresh in nearly a decade. Even the long-awaited movie wasn’t all that great, front-loaded with jokes and never really achieving the level of sustained hilarity the show enjoyed during its halcyon days. We’re sure if we watched a new episode of The Simpsons we’d think it was funny, but “still being funny” and knowing when the time has come to hang up your spurs are two different things. Former New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre could still technically play football last year, but his performance paled greatly in comparison to what it used to be, so he finally (finally!) retired. It might be time for The Simpsons to do the same thing.
Still, even as we write that, we can’t help but feel that Matt Groening and his cast and crew can stay around for however long they want. It’s possible that The Simpsons is like Saturday Night Live—an institution that will be around as long as television signals are being broadcasted into homes. And Mr. Groening obviously still gets a kick out of doing it, telling CNN, “the popularity of the show all over the world continues and it is gratifying, and the show’s still fun to do. That’s always been my ultimate deciding factor: Is it still fun? And it is.” When it comes to The Simpsons maybe we should be more like Ned Flanders and less like The Comic Book Guy. We’ll see you at episode 500.