The Simpsons has been running for 3 decades! It’s all gone by pretty fast, with the show now entering it’s 31st season. But how much longer can the beloved town of Springfield stay on the TV map?
Theme composer Danny Elfman gave fans a scare recently when he claimed Homer might be shouting his last “D’oh!” In an interview with the website Joe, he mentioned something in passing that turned out to be a bombshell.
When asked about the show’s future he said, “from what I’ve heard, it is coming to an end. So, that argument will also come to an end…” The argument being whether the show was past its best, as posed by the interviewer. The movie maestro added “I don’t know for a fact, but I’ve heard that it will be in its last year.”
An unwary Elfman set in motion a tidal wave of media mayhem. Current Simpsons showrunner Al Jean set the record straight in a chat with Metro. “No disrespect to Mr. Elfman but we are producing season 32 starting next year and have no plans to end after that.”
The Simpsons began in 1989, following a debut in sketch form for The Tracey Ullman Show (1987 – 1990). The concept was the brainchild of artist Matt Groening. Jean has been in sole charge of the show since 2001, having ran it alongside Mike Reiss during its 3rd and 4th seasons.
The upcoming season features its 700th episode! Not only is it an animation colossus, The Simpsons is the longest-running US sitcom ever.
For Groening, the characters were invented on the hoof. Brought in by producer James L. Brooks to talk about some animated sketches for Ullman, he had a comic strip about rabbits called Life In Hell. But the idea he might hand over copyright to Fox led to him drawing Homer and family at the last minute.
“I believe they kept me waiting for over an hour—I very quickly drew the Simpsons family,” he told Smithsonian. “I basically drew my own family. My father’s name is Homer. My mother’s name is Margaret. I have a sister Lisa and another sister Maggie, so I drew all of them. I was going to name the main character Matt, but I didn’t think it would go over well in a pitch meeting, so I changed the name to Bart.”
This small alteration would have a seismic effect. Bart became one of the show’s early breakout characters, appearing on merchandise such as video games and singing his own chart hits. Voice artist Nancy Cartwright has played the spiky-haired yellow rebel from the beginning.
Ullman Show cast members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner took the roles of Homer and Marge. Then Yeardley Smith came aboard to play Lisa. As for the famously tight-lipped baby Maggie, her first words were spoken by none other than Elizabeth Taylor.
Members of the cast even performed a live reading at the Edinburgh Festival in 2000. The Simpsons’ guest stars have become the stuff of legend, with everyone from Mick Jagger to the late Prof. Stephen Hawking lining up to take part. A hit movie was released in 2007.
Over the years virtually every person in Springfield has been explored. And as times changed, not all remained welcome. There was a documentary made on the subject of Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu in 2017. The Problem With Apu was made by comedian Hari Kondabolu, who addressed racial stereotyping. Actor Hank Azaria voices the character.
The Simpsons is notoriously self-referential, joking in a Season 8 episode about how it would keep itself going: “Magic powers! Wedding after wedding after wedding. And did someone say long-lost triplets? So join America’s favorite family and a tiny green space alien named Osmodiar that only Homer can see on Fox this fall.”
For Elfman, the show’s longevity caught him off guard. “I’m so flabbergasted and amazed that it has lasted as long as it did,” he told Joe. “I wrote this crazy piece of music, and I expected no-one would hear it, because I really did not think the show had a chance in hell…. that is one of the truly big surprises in my life.”
The composer of Batman, Edward Scissorhands and many other iconic movies will be surprised for at least another couple of seasons. It’s clear America’s defining dysfunctional clan are on the air for a while yet.