Monday, September 1, 2014

How should the Simpsons end?

Ramblings Post #268
This question was posed to a group I write in/read/pretend I'm a part of, and the whole thing got me thinking. I gave a trite answer then, but I've put a little thought into after sitting through some old episodes during the FXX marathon which is over 10 days long. That's a lot of TV. One person in my group said when he started watching the Simpson's he was Bart's age, and now he's Homer's age. It's a cultural milestone, whether we like it on not. So, I put a little thought into it.  

From Fox, Hulu, the Internet and now FXX
Does, what has become the longest running scripted program on TV, finish out its days with a whimper or a bang? Is a Seinfeld ending, a MASH ending or a Sopranos ending? I stopped really watching the Simpson's ages ago, even before I went back to school in middle age. But they're still chugging along, episode after episode, adding breadth to the sad South Park truism "Simpsons did it!" to every idea that can be adapted to a visual medium and minting money as they go. Why end it? Why ever? Not until you absolutely have to.  

If it were up to me, it wouldn't cop out like Dexter or the extremely disappointing How I Met Your Mother finale/last season (so bad I can't even watch the reruns now), but would actually do something the show hasn't done yet...let the characters grow older. I think it should flash forward 15 years...and then they should do a whole last season at that point in time. It's just far enough in the future for things to have changed, but close enough for it to not to be that much. 

A new opening sequence based on the original should set the tone for the season in the first show, all the familiar characters who have evolved. Bart at community college, still writing on the chalk board before skateboarding home. Lisa in a Springfield U college group, listening to jazz on her phone before dancing away. Marge with Maggie at the supermarket, only now Maggie is grown with her own ear buds in.  Consider what new products they might put on the conveyor - which could worked in during the season. Finally Homer, still at the power plant, moving a bit slower. It all continues as normal with the couch gag, only now someone always falls off because the couch is now too small.

The season proceeds as normal, only everyone aged up. It's the near future, no flying cars or Mars colonies or aliens, just slightly more advance technology, except Mr. Burns who is still alive through the miracle of technology.

The characters are older, some fatter, some fitter, all having followed natural arcs. Moe finally found someone, but now wants to return to being single. Apu's kids now run the various Kwik-e-marts around town. Wiggum is still Police Chief, but now Ralph Wiggum is a deputy. Mayor Quimby is still mayor, just older, more corrupt, with Nelson as his young aide. Milhouse is at Springfield U, but still hangs out with Bart at the community college.  

And so it's different, but a closer look and it seems like nothing has changed - Homer is still the comic everyman wrestling with the same problems of being a good father, Bart is still a prankster and now slacker, Lisa still can't make friends even in college (she found out Springfield diplomas aren't really accepted anywhere), and Marge still frets about everyone. Throughout the season Maggie gets the classic just off-screen character treatment - the other characters talk about stuff Maggie has said or quote Maggie, but the audience never hears her speak, and extension of the joke from other in the future episodes.

During the last season, you have two or three episodes that are essentially repeats - copies of the old episodes word-for-word with the characters older, reacting slightly differently (or in Bart's case exactly the same showing that he hasn't grown up). Someone might even mention that the whole thing feels familiar. But now we get to experience the world with Lisa the frustrated intellectual in teenage/young adult situations, Bart a little edgier but still as silly. Maybe a whole episode of just missing hearing Maggie speak, or maybe even a whole episode in silence. The shift opens a whole new set of stories to complete and round out the characters. And as we get down the last ten or so shows, we wrap the lives of the prominent side characters.  

At the start of the last episode, the person who falls off gets up and suggests they get a new couch.

In the last episode Homer retires, Lisa gets engaged to Milhouse. Bart finds out his girlfriend is pregnant and finally feels he has to grow up, and just as Maggie walks into the kitchen and takes a deep breath to speak...the screen cuts to black. 

Okay, so I went with the Soprano's ending. Sue me.

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