23
May
11

If a Show Falls in the Woods and Nobody Watches It, Does It make a Sound?

Chalkboard - The Ned-liest Catch

“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.]


6 Responses to “If a Show Falls in the Woods and Nobody Watches It, Does It make a Sound?”


  1. 1 Lark
    23 May 2011 at 5:22 pm

    While not as good as the old episodes it was pretty good episode of The Simpsons. Great character driven plot line, some good jokes and I like the big supprise at the end. Can’t whait for the next season

  2. 2 Mr. Incognito
    23 May 2011 at 6:16 pm

    While there were a couple of chuckles for me, this was still terrible. The one part that rubbed me the wrong way was the whole Bart-giving-SLH-his-homework bit. Why did it have take so long? Mrs. K just seemed to disappear there, didn’t she? Does anyone actually think that a drawn-out gag like this one was actually funny? It…just…kept…going…

    You’d think that they’d make fun of the whole gimmick thing, but not so here. It’s nothing more than a publicity stunt, and the numbers also say so.

  3. 3 Stan
    23 May 2011 at 9:37 pm

    The end ruined everything. This episode should’ve ended with them breaking up and that’s it. End of story. People would’ve been less disgruntled.
    What they pulled instead is a pure commercial stunt. They crossed that line between joking about the internet polling like so many animated sitcoms did, and actually proposing it a la PBS or something. Just for that, the show doesn’t even deserve to be watched anymore.
    IMO, I still think it was the best episode of the season. When you mention season 17, that where it would approximately belong, if it weren’t for a couple of stretched jokes, a lot of filler, and that awful ending. I think they might’ve gotten away with “NOT” beating Season 20. Didn’t happen.
    Now we can be sure of only one thing: the 23rd premiere is going to get below 5 million viewers straight off. Just because.

  4. 4 Matthew
    23 May 2011 at 10:43 pm

    All I could think of when I watche the ending of this episode, was the focus group scene from “Itchy,Scratchy, and Poochie”.

    In the scene, Bart, Lisa, Nelson, Milhouse and Ralph participate in a cartoon focus group study:

    Focus Group Guy: “We want you to tell us what you think. And, be honest, because no one from the show is here spying on you. You each have a knob in front of you. When you like what you
    see, turn the knob to the right. When you don’t like what you see, turn it left.”

    I have the same reaction to this lame cliffhanger that Ralph did to be yelled at by the man behind the mirror. I wanted to breakdown and cry. If only I had one of those knobs to turn to repeatedly turn to the left.

    The Simpsons have become the very thing they used to mock. Lisa’s words from “I&S&Poochie” have become so prophetic: “after so many years, the characters have lost their impact”.

  5. 5 Matthew
    23 May 2011 at 10:48 pm

    All I could think of when I watched the ending of this episode, was the focus group scene from “Itchy and Scratchy, and Poochie”.

    In the scene, Bart, Lisa, Nelson, Milhouse and Ralph participate in a cartoon focus group study:

    Focus Group Guy: “We want you to tell us what you think. And, be honest, because no one from the show is here spying on you. You each have a knob in front of you. When you like what you
    see, turn the knob to the right. When you don’t like what you see, turn it left.”

    I had the same reaction to this lame cliffhanger that Ralph had to being yelled at by the man behind the mirror. I wanted to breakdown and cry. If only I had one of those knobs I could repeatedly turn to the left.

    The Simpsons have become the very thing they used to mock. Lisa’s words from “I&S&Poochie” have become so prophetic: “after so many years, the characters have lost their impact”.

    (PS: I double posted. Just wanted to correct some spelling mistakes)

  6. 6 SharoKham
    24 May 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Don’t be modest, Charlie. We all know how much you wanted this ratings milestone. This is your baby. Go celebrate!


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