“That crater is where your lousy cartoon crash landed. It’s ratings poison!” – Krusty the Klown
You’ve got to give Zombie Simpsons one thing, when they want to really put on a tour de force of crappiness, they can still do it. They had Bart and Homer acting manic and inserting themselves into other people’s lives just because. They had plenty of pointless filler, including two different scenes with characters clambering over obstacles for no discernable purpose. (And the second one wasn’t even a call back!) They took characters appearing and disappearing from scenes to new heights. And the story managed to be overwrought and nonsensical while still being tedious and needing tons of exposition. On the absolute scale of dull and boring this is worthy of being their season finale, and I haven’t even mentioned the gimmick at the end.
I’m not sure if the conclusion, with Homer and Marge addressing the camera, actually qualifies as breaking the fourth wall; it’s more like shrugging at the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall is when you address the fact that you’re in a teevee show, preferably with something clever. This was the show saying, “Meh”.
Happily, the numbers are in and the audience replied with equal apathy. Last night’s petty excuse for a bad date movie was not called back by just 5.29 million viewers. That is the fifth lowest number in history, and pushed Season 22 below Season 20 for the title of least watched season ever. As recently as March, Season 22 looked like it would avoid this fate; but where Season 20 averaged 7.12 million viewers per episode, Season 22 only made it to 7.10 million.
As much fun as that is to type, it’s worth mentioning that those numbers aren’t the kind of thing that can doom the show. I use the quick and dirty overnights from TV By the Numbers, but advertising rates are calculated using not only live viewers, but anyone who watches it on DVR within three days. Nor do my numbers account for demographics, and Zombie Simpsons does better among the impressionable youth that advertisers lust after. So while it’s certainly embarrassing when your highly promoted, internet gimmick season finale loses in the ratings to a Family Guy special that was released on DVD last December, it isn’t fatal.
However, that doesn’t mean the low numbers aren’t fun to laugh at. Season 22 managed only one episode with more than ten million viewers, and that was thanks to a generous lead in from the NFL playoffs. Of the ten lowest rated episodes in the show’s twenty-two year history, one is from Season 20, four are from Season 21, and five are from Season 22. Of the fifty lowest, all but one of them came in the last four seasons; and compared to just five years ago, when Season 17 averaged 9.46 million viewers, the show has lost a quarter of its audience. So whenever you see someone talk about how the show’s still got it after all these years, you can truthfully say that the numbers don’t agree.
[Edited because I can't count to five, I originally thought it was the fourth lowest rated episode.]