In a perfect world, when a series has naturally run its course, the writers would always have the guts to bring it to a close. When the jokes become stale and the storylines repetitive, they would call it a day with some dignity left intact. However, we do not live in a perfect world; we live in a world of producers, writers and actors with no particular motivation to give up lucrative gigs in the notoriously fickle entertainment industry, and studio executives who are really just looking to turn a profit.
A show overstaying its welcome can take many forms. Sometimes, new storylines are perpetually piled on top with each progressive series ad nauseam; for instance, The Walking Dead’s seemingly endless variations on ‘desperate people try to survive against both zombies and each other’. Sometimes there is a definitive ‘jumping the shark' moment, such as Brian Griffin’s much-maligned death on Family Guy, or indeed Fonzie literally jumping the shark on Happy Days back in 1977. Sometimes it is due to the loss of a crucial actor, such as Steve Carell’s departure from The US Office. And sometimes, the writers just seem to run out of good ideas, for instance the mess that was the second half of Twin Peaks season 2, and countless sitcoms throughout television history.
But all these pale in comparison to the worst offender; a show that has not only overstayed its welcome, but done so for over 20 years. I am, of course, referring to The Simpsons. The animation, once eclectic and bursting with creativity is now soulless and verging on uncanny valley. The plotlines, once both fresh and timeless, now feel stale and forced. And the jokes, once multi-layered and often pure genius, have largely been reduced to lazy one-liners and cringe-inducing cultural references. Yet with Nielson ratings (if not critical ratings) as strong as ever, The Simpsons shows no signs of ending anytime soon. In the (slightly paraphrased) words of the show itself: “Stop, Stop! It’s already dead.”