Even the Pet Sematary Couldn’t Bring Back Zombie Simpsons

New Staff

“The cafeteria staff is complaining about the mice in the kitchen.  I want to hire a new staff.” – Lunchlady Doris

The first sad news out of Comic-Con was that there was going to be a Christmas 2011 episode, which implied a full Season 23.  This was made official in a link e-mailed to us by reader Landry H:

The cast are signed through season 23, the creators see no end in sight as long as people keep watching.

Drag.  (And nevermind that “people” is a fairly loose term given the unstoppable slide in the show’s ratings.)  On the plus side, they only signed for one more season, so we might finally see the rusty machinery of Zombie Simpsons grind to a halt in the spring of 2012.

Since we’re dealing in sadness today, I might as well undermine any remaining hope even some of the most jaded fans of the show still maintain.  What hope, you ask?  Specifically, the hope that if they just got some fresh blood in there, then things might in some way improve.  John Ortved neatly expressed this while he was promoting his book (emphasis added):

There’s really two rooms working on the show: One room is [executive producer] Al Jean and his yes men, and the other room has the younger, hipper comedians. [The second room] sends jokes to the first room, and all their good stuff gets written out of it. I think if they were to save the show, they would need to get rid of the show runner and really shake up the writing room. I don’t know if they’ll ever get it back to the level they had, but they could start making great episodes again.

This is just another way for Simpsons fans to torment themselves with the cruel notion that a show about Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie could someday be watchable again.  (This is similar to, but distinct from, the “But It’s Getting Better” self-delusion, this one is anticipatory.)  All it really does is allow heavily invested fans a moment to fantasize about a future for the show that doesn’t resemble the last decade.  And it’s made all the crueler by the fact that Zombie Simpsons shows no sign of stopping despite its universally acknowledge slide into senility.

Ortved’s not the only one, either.  Here’s our sometime co-conspirator bobservo (in about the third time I’ve linked to this post of his):

I’d be happier if The Simpsons was completely restaffed with cranky, childless Harvard grads instead of these frightened old men that we have today.  There’s a certain mentality you need to write for The Simpsons, and these guys lost it a long time ago.

And here’s all around on-line Simpsons all-star Jake from comments earlier this week:

I used to think Al Jean (along with Mike Reiss) were awesome and now when I see Mr. Jean’s face, I just think: “man, just leave and let someone else try, at least!”, but that won’t be happening. :(

The basic idea here is “If only the powers that be would fire most of the staff and hire a bunch of acerbic nihilists with the words ‘Harvard Lampoon’ somewhere on their resume, then the show could perk up a little.”  As Jake points out, this isn’t going to happen.

Even if we imagine the miracle that it did happen, however, the show would continue to be forgettably mediocre.  Within the comedy template of Homer, Marge and their three precocious children, what more is there to be said?  Giving Homer new jobs, Marge new hobbies, Bart new girlfriends, and Lisa new causes, along with the occasional trip to another country, has been done to death.  I’ve seen people suggest that they flash everything forward, give Bart and Lisa families of their own, turn Homer into Grampa, and introduce a whole slew of new characters.  That would give our hypothetical team of new writers some play space, sure, but it would also be a wholly new show.  And if you’re going to do that, why not cut the crap and just make a new show without the burden of all that backstory?  A slight uptick in the number of decent one-liners won’t change the fact that “Simpsons Already Did It”.

Of course, even that fanciful notion assumes the producers could actually find a new staff capable of pulling off such a miracle.  From a creative perspective, would highly talented young people even want to write for Zombie Simpsons?  There will always be financial/career reasons for wanting to write for a show with a fat budget and an iron grip on a swanky timeslot, but that’s not going to attract daring and highly creative people.  That’s going to attract hacks.  If you’re smart and edgy and want to be a Los Angeles big shot making waves in television comedy, Zombie Simpsons is the last place you would want to work.  Just in the last five years there have been a ton of critically acclaimed new comedy programs broadcast on all variety of channels.  Premium cable has produced Party Down, Weeds, Flight of the Conchords, and Eastbound & Down; regular cable has done Archer, The League, Ugly Americans and Drawn Together; even fusty old broadcast networks have gotten high praise for shows like 30 Rock, Glee, Ugly Betty and Parks & Recreation.  Whatever your opinion of each of those programs, those are the kind of shows that get people talking these days, those are the shows that generate press and launch careers.

By contrast, Zombie Simpsons is old hat.  They haven’t done anything creative or controversial in years, and the only time the show ever pops up on the non-Simpsons parts of the internet is when they do a travel episode or nakedly piggy back on someone else’s work.  Zombie Simpsons itself is never news, the hook is always the place they’ve sent the family or that Celebrity X is guest voicing.  This boredom with Springfield-only content includes fan interest as well.  The only two examples of Zombie Simpsons in the top 100 rated episodes on IMDb we looked at a few weeks ago were the 24 episode and the one where they copied a YouTube video.  If you’re a smart and ambitious comedy writer who thinks the world of your talent, Zombie Simpsons provides no platform to show what you can do.  Cranking out cookie cutter episodes that vanish into the ever expanding garbage dump of forgettable pop culture about six seconds after they’re broadcast will never get anyone at The New York Times to call you brilliant.

So yes, there will be a Season 23 and, unless one of the big six voice actors quits or dies, there’s nothing stopping them from Season 24 or 25 or any other number you care to name.  Even if they had what Jules Winnfield famously referred to as a ‘moment of clarity’ and decided to restaff the whole show, it still wouldn’t make a difference.  The kind of crazed geniuses that made The Simpsons what is was likely wouldn’t want to work there, and even if they did, they’d be laboring under two decades worth of baggage, most of it crap.  Better writers, even if they existed and could be hired, can’t help the show.  The Simpsons ended a long time ago.  All that’s left now is a badly rotted corpse rolling down the hill of trash television.

5 Responses to “Even the Pet Sematary Couldn’t Bring Back Zombie Simpsons”

  1. 5 August 2010 at 11:44 pm

    About jumping ahead a few years (12 years) is something I’ve wished would happen, but only if they made a new ‘spinoff’ on the FX network that would air a minimum of 5 years after Zombie Simpsons ends. What would make this spinoff unique compared to the current show is the tone would be dark, like the first two seasons of the Simpsons ‘dark.’ And one-time characters would be regular characters, like Gina Vendetti, who is dating Bart as Maggie’s not happy here:


    But anyway, the set-up of the Family would be:

    Homer & Marge: Pretty much the same, but going thru midlife strife.
    Bart, age 22: Morning show DJ, single, yet is seeing Gina Vendetti
    Lisa, age 20: Travelling Road Musician, depressed that Maggie hates her.
    Maggie, age 13: Lisa-hating Tomboy who’s hobby is skateboarding (which is a big part of her character, unlike Bart) and being ‘outdoorsey’.
    Eric, Age 10: (new kid) Spoiled, and has a permanent Girlfriend

    Sorry, if I rambled on…

    • 2 Stan
      8 August 2010 at 12:25 am

      I used to admire your shit as back as 2001, until you never finished that comic. So, nine years done, three to go, eh, Mr. Lennington? =)

      Hey, don’t frown at me, I also support the idea of a spinoff with older characters and new, *fresh* ideas (that’s the word here) to stir things up a little. Everyone does it today: McFarlane got his Cleveland show thing going for Season 2 now. It’s not a breakthrough, but it’s fun to watch, especially if you’re in a position to milk in-jokes as freely as they do.

      The problem with Al Jean (besides the fact that he’s one of them never-aging baby boomers who are the cancer that kills social healthcare today) is that he’s afraid to laugh at himself. He sees the end of the Simpsons as his own death, that he would rather accept than allow new content into the basic plot ideas of the show. It’s like those old folks who always go for the same cafe, read the same newspaper in the morning and always order a muffin with marzipan on the top. It’s senility (thanks for that Jasper vs Lovejoy quote).

      What I’d say is that they don’t need necessary undergraduate cannon fodder to run the show, but throwing in a man in his late-thirties, who’s not as young as to linger in his own maximalism, and the same time not as old as to suffer mild to severe demetia, and the one who understands what the heck those fat tv slobs called “viewers” want today.

      Or… there’s also plan B: cancel the show. Just get this off the air. Into infinity. Give a year or so to sob about it, then get over and start something else. Futurama is also falling apart – why not do that instead?

  2. 3 Cassidy
    6 August 2010 at 1:04 am

    “Within the comedy template of Homer, Marge and their three precocious children, what more is there to be said?”

    Yep, exactly this. It doesn’t matter how talented the writers and showrunners are at this point. The best they could do would be to string amusing gags together in an episode. Fundamentally though the Simpsons have pretty much explored their world. They’ve done what they can with the characters – there’s nowhere left to take the underlying stories.

  3. 4 D.N.
    6 August 2010 at 3:16 am

    Rather than flash-forward and age the family, I’d say that the only way to wring anything new out of The Simpsons universe is to drop the family completely. Make a spin-off, focusing on some, or many, of the other citizens of Springfield. OK, the show already made fun of this kind of idea way back in the Spin-off Showcase episode, but bear with me. I’m not suggesting that the characters be removed into a new locale, I’m just saying that you can do a lot more with Lenny and Carl, Skinner, Kent Brockman, etc than you can do with Homer and the Simpsons family. Hell, make a show around Krusty, or Burns. That would be a good way to make the series dark (putting aside the fact that both characters have been damaged significantly by Zombie Simpsons. Burns should be restored back to the added but cruel tyrant he used to be, rather than the witless buffoon he’s become).

    I’m not saying that this idea is going to make for a great series, but for shit-sure it has to be better than Zombie Simpsons.

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