It all started with a schedule error. I thought that The Simpsons was returning from Christmas hiatus on January 14 rather than January 7, and so I didn’t even realize I’d missed the 1/7/18 airing until glancing at a Wikipedia list of Simpsons episodes. The description (Lisa meets a kid voiced by Ed Sheeran that I’m guessing essentially is Ed Sheeran) didn’t fill me with anticipation, so I put it on the back-burner.
The actual January 14th episode featured Professor Frink coming up with a Doomsday Ark to save Springfield from an unspecified future apocalypse. The idea stems from Mr. Burns getting spooked by an old Orson Welles documentary, which gives frequent voice guest Maurice LaMarche the opportunity to once again bust out his Welles impression, and I once again pause to marvel at the long careers of the top voice actors and how much LaMarche has been able to work due to his Welles impression alon. He was the voice of The Brain, for god’s sakes!
LaMarche aside, I found my attention during the episode….wandering. As I recall, I had some work to do that evening and decided about halfway through the ep that I really needed to stop procrastinating.
And that was it for me and the Simpsons. After over 25 years of faithfully watching every single episode, I’m tapping out. (Not to be confused with The Simpsons: Tapped Out.) I did threaten to walk back when it looked like Harry Shearer might be quitting the voice cast, though rather than another kind of “big event” reason to give up, it just wound up being simple apathy. Now a half-dozen episodes have passed and it’ll be harder and harder to catch up, and Homer-esque ennui is setting in, knowing that I’ll never catch up.
Obligatory “the Simpsons is still funny” comment here, and the also-obligatory “it’s not as good as it was in the golden age of seasons 3-11, but even still” follow-up. The issue isn’t a lack of laughs, however. In a perhaps even more damnable indictment than simply not being funny anymore, it’s been a while since I’ve found Simpsons episodes to be memorable. I can’t remember the last time I recommended that someone watch a previous week’s Simpsons episode because it was a true classic. Honestly, maybe as much as the last 10 seasons have gone by in more or less a blur. Watching The Simpsons became just a thing to do, a routine, occasionally a chore, rather than a program I was anxious to watch on any given Sunday night or Monday morning.
I realize that I’m one of the few who actually stuck with the show all these years. Literally all of my friends moved on from the new episodes ages ago, and my recent decision has led to a universal response of “wait, you were STILL watching every week?!” It’s Simpsons, man! It’s the show that has made an incalculable influence on my personality, sense of humour, and view of the world. Part of me deep down hoped that the show would have a (very) late-career renaissance, and return to its A+ form once more, though that may be an unrealistic ask. I feel like reinventing the show too much in an effort to make it “better” would really make the show worse in the big picture, since then it wouldn’t be The Simpsons anymore. There truly is no single greatest victim of its success in TV history than this show, as an astounding 18 YEARS have elapsed since the peak, and even then, you’ll definitely get some criticism from the fanbase about when specifically the Simpsons jumped the shark.*
* = my vote is Season 11, which is uneven in the first half of the season and also includes the first legitimate run of bad episodes in Simpsons history. Everything from Saddlesore Galactica through Pygmoelian (four episodes) ranges from weak to terrible. The 10th season is probably the real instance where you started to see weak episodes pop up, but S11 was the first time legit “this episode stinks” comments started to be made.
So I’m checking out on The Simpsons and now just gained an extra 21 minutes of my life every week. Needless to say, I will be back for the last few episodes whenever the show finally does decide to end its run….so I might not ever watch again, since the Simpsons will outlive us all. Forget Professor Frink, the program itself is the real Doomsday Ark.