Could The Simpsons go on forever? (Picture: Moviestore/Rex)
The Simpsons may never come to an end. Fact.
The long-running animated series, which is in its 32nd season, is showing no sign of slowing down, despite the long-contested ‘golden era’ of ‘good’ episodes, as well as the close precipice of cancellation it faced 10 seasons ago.
According to Mike Reiss, long-time writer and producer of Fox classic, we shouldn’t be holding our breath for a finale any time soon, though.
With a stable of satisfied lead voice actors and the ability to switch voice actors if need be – plus the fact the show is still rating in the millions – Reiss tells Metro.co.uk the show ‘may just go on forever’.
He tells us: ‘It’s sort of built like the kind of show that runs forever. The Simpsons, is just about the world, about humanity and what’s going on in the world and what we do as humans, and for us to give up on the show is to say we’ve explored everything human beings can do and anything that can ever happen in the world.
‘It’s the same with Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show, anything that’s covering current events should keep going because why should it stop? The show could run forever…and even if The Simpsons gets canceled, five years later it’ll get rebooted, or spin-offs. Certainly, there would be another movie. We haven’t even had a chance to go and come back again.’
Reiss, who spoke with us amid the launch of his podcast, What Am I Doing Here? denied there was some ‘magic formula’ they were working behind the scenes. It’s just luck it’s the one that’s on top all this time.
‘When people ask “why has The Simpsons run so long?” like we have some magic formula, if The Simpsons wasn’t on air the longest-running show would be South Park, if it wasn’t South Park it would be Family Guy,’ he says.
‘Cartoons go forever. The only reason a hit show goes off the air is because the cast gets tired. That is not an issue on cartoons.’
Referencing the healthy salaries each of the principal cast members – which consists of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer – earn, which is reported to be around $300,000 (£215k) per episode, Reiss believes the stars are so well-paid to ever quit.
In fact, in 2011 all the cast and crew agreed on a substantial pay cut – thought to be 30% for the main cast – in order to keep the show going, after Fox revealed it was unable to financially keep the show going unless it trimmed the bottom line.
Because of the lingering, and very real, threat season 23 would be its last, Reiss explained that series’ Christmas episode was created to be its full stop finale.
Holidays Of Future Passed was intended to be the series finale (Picture: Fox)
He says: ‘Since season two, 30 years ago was the first time we started discussing how we would end the show and in 30 years I’ve never heard a good idea.
‘There was a point [where] the show was going to get cancelled, the ratings were still good but the show had got wildly expensive. We’ve been on for 25 years, everybody would get a little raise every year and those raises piled up and we were the most expensive half-hour show on TV. Fox was going to cancel it.
‘The moment had come. We have to figure out the last episode.
‘What happened was an episode came back fully animated, so we’d forgotten about it, and what came back was The Simpsons Christmas episode set 25 years in the future. It would see what had become of the family.
‘We go, “this is it, here’s our last episode”, it felt so perfect. Then we got picked up.
‘Everybody in the show across the board took a 30% pay cut, which shows you how much we love doing the show – every single person from top to bottom took a cut to keep working there.
‘We go, alright maybe we should keep this great final episode but we just went “what if we never get cancelled?” That would have been a good finale for the show. But we don’t know, that’s it.’
Asked about the so-called ‘golden era’ of the show, which fans believe places its ‘best’ episodes anywhere from season two to four all the way up to season 14 sometimes, Reiss laughed off the idea there was such an arbritary measuremeny.
‘They can say it, it’s fine,’ he shrugs. ‘I always say we joke every now and then the Simpsons has a bad decade.’
Referencing showrunner Al Jean, Reiss goes on: ‘He said something really smart which is, the body may go up and down, the one thing we can always say is we work really hard on every episode. There is never one that goes on the air and people don’t like it and we say we should have worked harder. Every joke in every show is edited and run over.
‘The key thing on the golden age theory is the length of that golden age keeps extending as time goes on. People used to say the show stopped being good in season six, that was years ago.
‘Then they moved it up, up through season eight is good, now the current thinking goes as far as season 12 or season 14, so at least six or eight years they say were terrible now they think is the golden age.
‘The show sucks, it goes off the air. If they don’t like the show, stop watching. If enough people stop watching it’ll end.’
What Am I Doing Here with Mike Reiss is available on the Bleav Podcast Network now.
The Simpsons is available to stream on Disney+.