Zombie Simpsons Scenarios: Season 24 and Beyond

Selma's Choice7

“I want to get off.” – Bart Simpson
“You can’t get off, we have five more continents to visit.” – Selma Bouvier

Between Comic-Con and the fact that FOX opened up the animation department to a bunch of reporters a couple of weeks ago, there has been a flurry of news-ish reports in my inbox of late.  Most of these are fluff and contain nothing in the way of real news for the already plugged-in Simpsons fan.  However, a few interesting tidbits did slip out, and it’s worth taking a look at the available production, calendar and contract information to sketch out a few rough scenarios about where the show is vis-a-vis the end of its current deal and its continuation into the indefinite future.

Speculating about this is inherently inaccurate, so I’ve broken things down into four scenarios (the first two of which I consider unlikely but which I’ve included because they are possible based on currently available information):

  1. Season 23 is it, the show ends with an hour long finale consisting of back-to-back episodes on May 27th, 2012.
  2. The current contract is it, the show ends in November 2012 with a shortened Season 24.
  3. The current contract is extended to fill out Season 24 with an abbreviated production run.
  4. The current contract is extended to fill out a full production run, which will complete Season 24 and have episodes left over for a potential Season 25. 

First, a note on “production” versus “broadcast”.  To understand this, you need to differentiate between the broadcast seasons and the production runs.  Where the seasons are numbered, the production runs are alphabetical, followed by the letters “ABF”.  (I’ve added a hyphen (e.g. M-ABF) to make it a little easer to read.)  Since Zombie Simpsons settled into its current stupor at the turn of the millennium, it has followed a very predictable pattern.  The first third of a season (roughly seven or eight episodes) is from the previous year’s production run, and the rest is from that year’s production run.

Season 21, for example, had eight episodes from the L-ABF production run (L-ABF 13-20), the rest are from the M-ABF production run (M-ABF 1-15).  Season 22 had the remaining seven episodes from the M-ABF production run (M-ABF 16-22) plus fifteen from the N-ABF production run (N-ABF 1-15).  Season 23 will finish out the N-ABF run and then most of it will be from P-ABF.  [Ed note: see update at bottom.]

So when you read a report that says that the show is signed through Season 23, what that really means is that the current contract ends with the P-ABF production run.  The first episode of Season 23, scheduled for September 25th, will be the show’s 487th.  According to the often dubiously informed entertainment press, the current contract with FOX runs through episode #515, which should be episode P-ABF-22.  The possibilities:

Scenario #1 – Season 23 exhausts the current contract and contains twenty-nine episodes.  There are several problems with this, starting with the fact that there has never been a twenty-nine episode season.  The longest seasons were twenty-five episodes, but those ended with Season 9.  Zombie Simpsons tends to be right around twenty-one or twenty-two.

Furthermore, for reasons of sweeps and advertising rates, most big series finales happen in May.  But they’ve announced that the 500th episode is going to be broadcast on February 19th of next year and there are only fourteen Sundays between that date and the last Sunday in May (the 27th).  In order to cram them all in, they’d need to run a new episode every week from the 500th to the series finale, when they’d have to send things off with back-to-back episodes.  That seems unlikely.

It’s also worth mentioning that the current turnaround time on a typical episode is nine months.  If things were going to end in May, they would already be getting ready to shut down production (telling animators and the like that their contracts won’t be renewed), and something like that would presumably be hard to keep off the internet.

Finally, I’m not an expert on how sweeps months work, but it would also appear that the 27th is outside the sweeps period for 2012.  Put all of these together, and Season 23 seems very unlikely to be the end of things.

Scenario #2 – Season 23 ends normally in May of next year, followed by a brief Season 24 in Fall 2012.  If it’s a standard twenty-two episode season, then the season finale would be episode #508.  That would leave seven episodes left on the P-ABF production run at the conclusion of Season 23, but seven episodes does not a full season make.  A September start to a seven episode Season 24 would allow them to end things in the November 2012 sweeps period, but such a move would be highly unusual.  It would also leave a gaping hole in FOX’s Sunday animation lineup with most of the season still to go.  This too seems unlikely.

Scenarios #1 and #2 posit that the show ends with the P-ABF production run, but the calendar and the vicissitudes of network television argue against it.  The question then becomes how those seven episodes from P-ABF are complimented.

Scenario #3 – FOX orders a partial production run of Q-ABF (approximately fifteen episodes) to fill out Season 24 and end the series in May of 2013.  For the avid Simpsons fan, this is the best, realistic scenario.

Scenario #4 – FOX orders a full production run of Q-ABF (probably twenty-two episodes).  This will allow for a complete Season 24 and enough holdover episodes to get Season 25 started in the fall of 2013.  Essentially, this scenario just winds the clock ahead one year, with the dangling end of a production run still loose for 2013 and the door open for a full or partial order of R-ABF.

What all four of these scenarios take into account is the fact that the overhang from the end of one season to the end of a production run creates some odd broadcasting problems.  As long as FOX continues to order episodes in blocks of twenty-two, this overhang will persist.  When (if?) FOX orders an abbreviated production run, even if it is accompanied by a full order (e.g. they order a full Q-ABF and a partial R-ABF at the same time), then we may be getting close to the end of the show.  Until then, all we have is the nine month delay in production and the fickle whims of the television gods.

Given the nine month delay, we can expect some kind of information about the all but inevitable order for Q-ABF sometime in the next six months.  If it’s a full order and they take the show to episode 537 (or close to it), then the cycle starts over.  If it’s a partial order, then we might finally see the end of Zombie Simpsons.  Don’t hold your breath.

[2 August 2011: Edited letters of production runs because Zombie Simpsons is going to skip “O-ABF”.  See comments for details.]

19 Responses to “Zombie Simpsons Scenarios: Season 24 and Beyond”

  1. 1 John Hugar
    1 August 2011 at 8:01 pm

    As much as I’d like to see them just end things at this point, I do hope they plan the end ahead of time. I wouldn’t want the last episode to just be the last one they had (like with King Of The Hill). Even if a planned, big “last episode” probably wouldn’t be anything special, i do hope they cantake a crack at it. That’s why the shortened Season 24 order would probably be the best scenario.

    P.S> I never got any feedback on the esay I sent you – did you like it? Will it go up soon?

    • 2 fudge
      2 August 2011 at 5:00 am

      the way Fox killed KING OF THE HILL was awful… they held onto those last 4 episodes (season “14”… eh… “The rest of season 13”, I guess?) and then just aired em all and that was that. They STILL haven’t released any new DVD Box sets for the series either, and it’s been like 3 years. And they had threatened to cancel the show MANY times… just stupid. KING OF THE HILL was one of the greatst shows ever, consistently great. I’m glad it didn’t become Zombie. But anyway, Fox’s mishandling of the show in many areas shows their utter ineptitude with just about everything, unless it involves licking Seth Macfarlen’s asshole.

      • 3 Mogambo
        2 August 2011 at 11:07 am

        I know this is a Simpsons website, but the last few seasons of King of the Hill were pretty awful and I would absolutely call them “Zombie Episodes.” However, I’m extremely glad they stopped it before the seasons became stretched out indefinitely, unlike a certain other show we all know and (used to) love.

        They follow an extremely formulaic setup (i.e. Hank and the gang are working on a new project, Bobby has taken up an odd/effeminate hobby, Bill is a pathetic loser, Kahn wants to get into 9 Rivers, etc.), another character has a ‘wacky’ B-story, something bad happens, someone ‘learns a lesson,’ and the status quo is restored. Nothing is really changed, nothing is at stake. All the characters remain the exact same broad caricatures of themselves that they never ever deviate from.

        Granted, it’s leaps and bounds better than anything ZS has to offer (in that it actually has a story that follows, you know, logic) but they are extremely predictable and bland.

        • 4 Stan
          2 August 2011 at 12:37 pm

          Well, every show has a half-life, kinda. You can’t expect running 30 years over even for the shows like Tom&Jerry, even if that’s all they do. Everything must come to an end. And frankly, very few sitcoms make it past season 10 untouched by the stale slugishness of repeat.

          What I find being a good device that helps those kind of shows advance further is the removal/introduction of characters, and not the Maude Flanders way. Take Family Guy for example: although we perfectly know the plot of Brian finding a girlfriend is beaten to the ground, somehow it would still feel fresh if he settles in with someone eventually (what they plan to do in the upcoming season), thus changing the basis of their jokes for something different. With all due respect you never had this kind of stuff in the Simpsons: Milhouse’s family did not separate until Season 9 or something, right? It was funny, yet… stalemate.

  2. 5 Shane
    1 August 2011 at 8:59 pm

    I expect Zombie Simpsons to outlive us all, created by the Ghost of Al Jean.

  3. 6 Stan
    1 August 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I think the fifth scenario is at hand here: going 25 seasons. With the 500th giving to some here-and-there Sunday, the only other spectacular date I can think of is 25 Seasons. Also, I somehow think that they should make a 12 to 13 episode season in their 25th, so that it matches whatever started the show and ends on Christmas of what, 2014? That would make precisely 35 years of The Simpsons…. I’m sorry, 10 years of The Simpsons and 25 years of shit.

    • 7 Stan
      1 August 2011 at 9:42 pm

      lol I think I lost myself in math here… Let’s see again: 25 years precisely. Though that seems to put us to the end of 2014, this somehow makes 26? Little help here please?

      • 8 Charlie Sweatpants
        1 August 2011 at 10:44 pm

        December 2014 would be the 25th anniversary of the show, but it would also be the start of the 26th season. You’d have twenty-five total seasons if you counted Season 1 as a half a season and the seven episode (or so) Season 26 as another half season. 0.5 + 24 + 0.5 = 25. They do like their anniversaries.

        • 9 Stan
          2 August 2011 at 8:37 am

          Thanks for the tip.

          Well, maybe in this case they would complete their 25th, and then produce an hour long Christmas special that would air at the end of 2014 (but would actually be episodes 23 and 24 of the 25th Season combined).

  4. 10 Anonymous
    2 August 2011 at 1:46 am

    Not to nitpick, but they’re actually skipping ‘OABF’, just like they went from HABF to JABF (skipping IABF, presumably because a capital ‘I’ looks too similar to the number 1, and here I’m guessing it’s to avoid confusion between the letter “O” and the number “0”(zero)”, so the Season 23 produced episodes are actually PABF.

  5. 2 August 2011 at 12:56 pm

    They’re not going to stop until they surpass Gunsmoke’s 640+ episode mark.

    I’m half expecting to see the words: “Gunsmoke, you’re next!” at the end of the 500th episode in February.

    • 14 Thrillho
      2 August 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Nah, they’ll probably keep the show going until they have more episodes than Meet the Press and 60 Minutes. Obviously, falling in with that Guinness World Records crowd is more important than quality.

  6. 17 monoceros4
    3 August 2011 at 9:16 pm

    The end of Zombie Simpsons? I don’t believe it. The show’s become like TV’s equivalent of “Blondie” or “Beetle Bailey”; it’ll never cease to exist.

    If it does end, I hope it goes out in the style of “Seinfeld”, with all the characters’ chickens finally coming home to roost.

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