The Simpsons Folder
The Simpsoffs – Hell, d’oh, Bart must go
Slate, Feb 7, 2001 By Seth Stevenson
In its prime, it was among the greatest TV shows in history. Even now, it has moments of brilliance. It’s still better than 95 percent of television. But it’s time to cancel The Simpsons.
During The Simpsons’ peak years (roughly coinciding with Conan O’Brien’s tenure there), the writing and performances were near flawless, week after week. But no one maintains perfection forever, and indeed, the show has been slipping of late. Jokes often fall flat. Timing isn’t as razor sharp. Punch lines are overexplained, and the show’s light touch is gone. Where before there were hilarious grace notes—clever tidbits caught in passing—now everything’s a ba-dump-bump: setup followed by laugh line.
More alarming, the show has no vision. With Matt Groening gone to Futurama, and the reins handed to folks with little institutional memory, The Simpsons has lost its soul.
It was never one-liners that made the show what it was. Sure, they were great, and the show thrived on zany creativity, but its humor was always grounded in well-formed, honestly drawn characters. To quote Homer, “It’s funny because it’s true.” But lately, plots are far-fetched. Characters do anything for a laugh instead of staying in, well, character. Before it falls any further, I say take it off the air. I know fellow fans will call for my head, but surely they admit the show’s lost a step. Do they wish to watch it die slowly, wasting into something unrecognizable? Already, its animated Sunday night colleagues surpass it: Futurama does one-liners better, and King of the Hill excels at character-based comedy.
If I don’t sound the death knell, who will? The (truly genius) actors who perform the voice-overs have a lovely gig—no makeup, no hairstyling, presumably very lucrative—that they won’t want to abandon soon. Much of the animation process is outsourced to Asia. The ratings will stay strong for years after the sell-by date because Americans suffer from TV inertia. (Look at the continued success of ER.) Fox won’t murder its flagship show until it absolutely must.
But calling it quits right now might give The Simpsons a brief shot in the arm. Writers could concentrate quality into a few final episodes. And imagine how America would gather for a Simpsons farewell tour! The show could go out on top, by choice, as it richly deserves to. Join me in my cry: Cancel The Simpsons!