The FXX marathon enters seasons 9 and 10 today, broadcasting episodes that aired in the late 90s. Many of these are considered fan favorites, but dark clouds loom for later in the week. Even some of the voice acting talent has admitted that the show’s later seasons have not lived up to the quality of earlier episodes.
The Simpsons holds numerous records, including longest-running television sitcom and longest-running American animated series of all time. In 2011, the show’s high production costs forced FOX to threaten cancellation after 23 seasons. After a brief, and very public, showdown, the actors agreed to a pay cut and the network authorized several additional seasons of the show.
Next month, The Simpsons will begin their 26th season, starting off with the most buzz the show has had in more than a decade. Crossover episodes have been announced with the casts of Family Guy and Futurama, and a major character is supposedly going to die in one of the season’s early airings. Ultimately, these stunts and the success of the current FXX marathon will probably lead to a ratings spike for the veteran member of FOX’s Sunday night lineup.
However, creatively, it feels to many that the show is now running on fumes.
Harry Shearer, the voice actor behind numerous iconic characters, will turn 71 later this year. He recently became the last member of the core cast to win an Emmy award, providing the voice of Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy and many others. In 2004, he criticized what he perceived as the show's trend of declining quality, stating that: "I rate the last three seasons as among the worst.”
In 2013, the show lost Marcia Smith, the voice of teacher Edna Krabappel, to breast cancer. Other cast members are now in their 60s. Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge, turns 64 next month.
There’s no denying that The Simpsons is an expensive show, with an aging cast and stagnant ratings. An end is likely not far off, even executive producer Al Jean is publicly contemplating how to bring the show to a close.
Jean recently suggested a final scene that might mirror’s the show’s Christmas episode premiere, tweeting: “My idea for last episode - ends w/arrival at Xmas pageant (beginning of first episode). Whole series a continuous loop...”