As the contract negotiations with the voice cast of The Simpsons have stalled, everyone’s asking, “Will this be the show’s final season?” When I was a kid, the end of The Simpsons was something that I couldn’t even imagine. I thought the series would go on indefinitely like the guitar solo in “November Rain”.
But growing up means accepting that nothing lasts forever. It seems that an era is ending, but hopefully in a way befitting one of television’s most beloved half-hour comedies.
Six Things I Hope To See Before The Simpsons Ends
The Simpsons is an animated show with real heart. I want the public’s lasting memory of the series to be the relationships in the town of Springfield. Yes, it has to be funny, but I want some real moments. Homer proposing to Marge with an onion ring. The adoption of Santa’s Little Helper. Old Gil. Bring on the emotions.
No television show shows characters learning lessons with more humor and inventiveness. Krusty the Clown learned to love his daughter after losing her violin in a card game. Homer discovered the fleeting nature of celebrity as the Springfield Isotopes’ mascot. Mr. Burns found out you can’t just block out the sun. The Simpsons is at its best when the wacky plots are grounded in real life drama. The stories resonate more, and the jokes hit harder.
3. Supporting Characters
Where did the Sea Captain grow up? What’s life at home like for Dr. Nick Riviera? What’s next for Bumblebee Man? Time is running out! I need to know!
4. An Epic “Treehouse of Horror”
The yearly “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween special is a much-anticipated episode for any serious Simpsons fan. Some of the series’ best moments have come from the long-running intra-series series. Who can forget the tension between Homer and Groundskeeper Willie in “The Shinning”? Or the hype leading up to the computer-generated “Homer3”. Wikipedia claims that one of this year’s segments is “Final Dimension,” which with any luck is a long-overdue Final Destination parody. Fingers crossed!
5. Some Love for the Van Houtens
Between Homer’s constant derision of Milhouse as a “nerd” and Kirk’s failed attempts to borrow a feeling, the Van Houtens seem like Springfield’s hardest-luck family. Maybe it was my own childhood pair of thick red plastic glasses that makes me sympathize, but I hope that they catch a break. Milhouse could kiss a girl or Kirk could get that record contract. Something. Anything. Please. And maybe some love for Moe too. He really needs it.
6. The Death of Mr. Burns (or Grandpa Simpson)
Look, Grandpa and Mr. Burns have survived a lot. Wars. Attempted murder. “3 Stooges Syndrome” (the condition wherein an individual has so many medical ailments that they actually cancel each other out). They’ve lived rich, full lives. And now it’s time for someone to die. We’ve had surprise deaths on The Simpsons before (RIP Maude Flanders), but never one as overdue as Mr. Burns or Abe Simpson. Either passing would affect the community in a different, specific way. I’d like to see that. Does that make me a sociopath? Maybe. I’d rather not think about it. Plus I’d probably cry. And sociopaths don’t cry, right?
Six Things I Hope Not To See Before The Simpsons Ends
1. A Seinfeld-style Finale
Yes, the supporting cast of The Simpsons is great. But as we learned from Seinfeld, it doesn’t work to shoehorn them into one last episode at the expense of story. That might provide a fitting conclusion to a show about nothing, but the residents of Springfield deserve a better sendoff. Plus, a full-city tableau wouldn’t be “complete” without Bleeding Gums Murphy, Maude Flanders, Troy McClure, and Lionel Hutz.
2. The Future
We’ve seen flash-forwards in past episodes. It just doesn’t feel right. Bart and Lisa should never leave elementary school. Maggie should never leave diapers. Folks who want to see what happens when the Simpson kids grow up are missing the point. The Simpsons exist frozen in time. Bart Simpson in the future is not the Bart Simpson we know and love. He can’t grow up.
3. The Past
No clip shows, please! Everything’s on DVD or on the way to DVD. Syndication is ubiquitous and has been for years. A rehashing of old episodes would just feel like a cop-out. Let’s live in the now, The Simpsons.
I know I said that I want someone to die. But given Mr. Burns’s physical state, it wouldn’t be that big a change. More disturbing would be if Lisa suddenly gained widespread social acceptance. Or the Comic Book Guy started liking stuff. These characters are avatars for types of people and behavior. They can’t change now. It would feel hollow. And we’d always remember the way they used to be anyway.
5. Family Guy
When the surging popularity of Family Guy on DVD resurrected the show’s television run, The Simpsons went through an identity crisis where it seemed like they were jamming every episode full of absurd cutaways and flashbacks to keep up with the manic pace of the Griffin family. It seems like they’ve righted the ship, but it would be heartbreaking to see a final season overstuffed with jokes that are untrue to the characters we’ve loved over the years.
6. Substitute Voice Actors
An unthinkable nightmare scenario. Though contract disputes are threatening the series, I’d rather see the show fade away than replace even one crucial character with a surrogate voice. It would be like coming home for Thanksgiving and finding a new grandparent there, and no one says anything. This could never happen, right? Oh man. Now I’m depressed. Worst. Hypothetical. Ever.