The maxim “all good things must come to an end” will not be much of a consolation for longtime fans of The Simpsons when the series eventually reaches its final curtain call. Now in its 27th season, the celebrated animated show has made an indelible imprint on the entertainment industry and popular culture with an unprecedented run as one of television’s most beloved spectacles. But according to one of the key players behind the scenes, things might finally be winding down for The Simpsons.
Al Jean, longtime showrunner for The Simpsons, recently spoke to the Hollywood Reporter in advance of this year’s season premiere, reflecting on the past, present, and future of the iconic program. Asked where things go for the long-running show in the years to come, Jean seemed to suggest that the show has finally reached a crossroads.
“It’s quite possible that we don’t have to go through the whole negotiation for [season] 30,” Jean said. “I wouldn’t be stunned if we stopped at 28, but my bet is on at least 30. But then you’d have to resign them again. If you made me pick one, I’d say the likeliest is ending after 30, but I’ve been wrong before. I thought five seasons was good when I got there.”
It wasn’t easy for Al Jean to get The Simpsons’ legendary cast of voice actors back to the table for the current season, never mind looking down the road a few years. Earlier this year, original cast member Harry Shearer, who provides the voice for a whole host of integral characters, announced his departure from the show. Although network brass insisted that the show must go on even without Shearer, he eventually negotiated a new contract and signed back on through next season.
Simpsons enthusiasts were also verklempt for a lengthy spell over the summer when news leaked that Homer and Marge were headed for a rocky breakup. After a tremendous backlash via social media, it was Al Jean who took center stage to set things straight and tell faithful fans that the favorite couple would eventually work things out.
If the end is indeed near, Al Jean has already done a bit of thinking as to how he would bring closure to the stories of the men and women who inhabit the fictional town of Springfield. It turns out that this year’s brouhaha over Harry Shearer’s abortive departure wasn’t the first time that it seemed like The Simpsons was at its end.
“If it should end, we want it to be a fulfilling ending for the viewer,” Jean advised. “To be honest, there was one point where we thought it might end in season 23, with the Christmas episode, ‘Holidays of Future Passed,’ (1989) but we didn’t end there, so no plans at the moment. I had an idea, I thought it’d be cool if the last episode ended with them getting ready for the Christmas pageant that appeared in the first episode, so that the whole series was a loop that didn’t have any beginning or end.”
Jean added that his idea to loop the series was never officially approved by anyone affiliated with the show’s production.
Even without a definitive dénouement on the horizon there are some intriguing developments on tap for The Simpsons this season. Al Jean has confirmed that Spider-Pig, who first premiered in the blockbuster film The Simpsons Movie, will be appearing on the show this year. Also, in this season’s “Treehouse of Horror” episode, viewers will see Sideshow Bob finally get his revenge on Bart Simpson. Of course, the “Treehouse” episodes are outside of the primary continuity of The Simpsons universe, so Bart will still be up to his familiar shenanigans in future episodes, at least for the foreseeable future.
[Top photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]