“Hey, Red Hot Chili Peppers, would you guys like to appear on a Krusty the Klown special?” – Bart Simpson
“Sure, if you can get us out of this gig.” – Flea
“No problemo. Hey, Moe, look over there!” – Bart Simpson
“What? What am I looking at? I don’t see nothing. I’m gonna stop looking soon. What? What, is that it?” – Moe
“Hey, Moe, can I look too?” – Homer Simpson
“Sure, but it’ll cost you.” – Moe
“My wallet’s in the car.” – Homer Simpson
“He is so stupid. And now back to the wall.” – Moe
[Note: Apologies for speculating about the end of your jobs, people on the staff. You’ve been nothing but courteous and wonderful when contacting us; please understand it’s not personal.]
Back in October of 2011 there were widespread rumors that the show was at last on the verge of cancellation. FOX and the principle voice actors were deadlocked over the renewal of the contract. But after a very busy week of anonymously sourced leaks to the press, rampant speculation, and confusion about whether or not there had already been a decision to finally let the show die, it all came to nothing. In the end, the negotiations were less cordial than usual, but the very wealthy people on both sides of the table unsurprisingly agreed to continue making each other slightly wealthier.
For all the smoke in the media and on-line, there was very little fire. All those articles, blog posts, comments, Tweets and general what have you stemmed from just three or four anonymous quotes all week. The only person directly involved who was willing to stick his name by anything in the media was the ever admirable Harry Shearer, and all he was doing was dumping on FOX.
Well, it’s now October 2013, which means we’re in the same part of the contract cycle as they were two years ago when “Simpsons cancelled?” was one of the big stories of the week. That deal runs through episode 559. “Homerland” was 531; and given the extremely long production time of each episode, it’s likely that episode #559, which will probably be broadcast next Fall, is even now in its earliest stages.
Contract negotiations can be easily kept private, especially if they’re going well or both sides just want a simple renewal. But any disruption in the production of the show, or even the ordering of a series finale, would be very difficult to keep off the internet. It was never confirmed or anything, but supposedly one of the reasons the negotiation problems became public last time around was that they were up against a deadline as to whether or not they’d be able to produce a series finale. (Jean later said that had the talks failed, they would’ve held over that future Christmas episode until late 2012 and made it the finale.)
If that’s true, then the extension of the show past the current 559 episode contract will become a forgone conclusion sometime in the next few weeks or months, because if anyone in charge seriously thought #559 was going to be the end they’d stop the production of #560. So, in this case, no news would itself be news.
If last time is anything to go by, then we can be at least somewhat confident that the show will be getting a full Season 26 and Season 27 if nothing about renewal or death becomes public by, say, the end of October. (The current contract provides for enough episodes for a shortened Season 26.) If nothing is said until after New Year’s, then things just become that much more likely. Obviously this is all much too speculative to put any numbers on, and we could get news tomorrow that they’ve decided to end things or that negotiations are at a potentially fatal impasse. But if Zombie Simpsons is going to come to an end before the Rio Olympics do, we should find out sometime very soon. It probably won’t, but this is the time to pay attention.