This is a repost from February 2011 that is even more relevant now as FOX continues to desperately searches for a successor to their cash cow.
Over the last 20-odd years, The Simpsons has come to be the most successful TV show ever created. In an industry where plenty of shows don’t even make it to the end of their first season, and the numbers that make it beyond the single digits is extremely rare, the fact that one can make it into its third decade is exceedingly rare.
As a result, the longer the Simpsons remain on our TV screens, the more likely it’s ultimate demise will contribute to the collapse of the dominance of animation on FOX.
Below are the five reasons why this is so.
1. Brand Recognition:
Over the last 20 years, the Simpsons has become a brand in their own right. There are Simpsons toys, clothes, sweets, figurines, records, you name it, it has been Simpsonised at some point. What is sometimes overlooked is that it is the success of the TV show that has driven the demand for these products. Millions saw the show in TV and then bought the merchandise they saw in the shop.
Without the weekly reminder that market is sure to suffer a bit. Now keep in mind that I am referring to new episodes. Re-runs remind viewers of the show’s existence, but they tend not to remind them of good times, not encourage them to buy new products.
2. Brand loyalty
The Simpsons as a brand has phenomenal loyalty, so much so that it was able to transgress a brief period at the beginning where it reached proportions normally reserved for ‘fads’. Simpsons fans are famous for their devotion to their favourite show. Of course, it helped that the show was very well written, and more often than not outshone everything else being broadcast at the time.
Once the series ends, however, that loyalty will begin to (slowly) disappear. It will start off imperceptibly, but gradually, we’ll start to see less and less merchandise, more websites and fansites that are update less frequently. People will remain loyal and devoted, but the majority of fans will move on to other shows, or their tastes will change as they get older. Before you know it, all that will be left is a smattering of hardcore fans who hold on to the glory days and maintain that nothing will ever top their faith in a show from the 90s.
Convincing those many fans of the Simpsons that another show is of equal or better quality is a goal that is akin to convincing people that a tax raise really is a good thing. It can be done, but it’s an uphill struggle if ever there was one.Which leads us nicely into…..
3. Inability to replace it
FOX has known for quite a while that no show lives forever and eventually a replacement will have to be found. This is a perfectly reasonable assumption except for one thing: they haven’t found one yet.
It’s not for lack of trying though. Plenty of attempts have been made over the years to try and at least find something that can come close to attracting viewers of the Simpsons and slowly weaning them onto a different show. Pilots, season fillers, live-action, they’ve all been tried without success and still the problem remains.
Family Guy is perhaps the closest the network has come but since it returned from hiatus a few years ago, it is nowhere near what it used to be and currently attracts a far more narrow demographic than the Simpsons did at its height. The same goes for the other McFarlane children, they all share similar traits that prohibit them from ever reaching the largest audience possible.
4. It’s Still Good
Although I tend to agree with plenty of what the loyal Stonecutters over at the Dead Homer Society have to say, in the grand scheme of things, The Simpsons remains a very well written show. Especially in light of all the other “sitcoms” and “comedies” that the various networks put out during the week.
5. Changes in management structure
Last but most certainly not least, the Simpsons could never be repeated because FOX as a network has changed. When the Simpsons were first broadcast, the creators were given a wide berth when it came to content and biting the hand that feeds them. The simple reason for this was that the network needed ratings and ad revenue, and allowing the producers a bit of leeway went a long way in letting the show find it’s place in the TV world.
Since then, FOX has become successful, and much more mainstream as a result. I can’t foresee a show being given similar leeway (and a share of the merchandising) ever again. It just won’t happen. As a result, we’re unlikely to ever see a show like the Simpsons grace our screen again.
When the Simpsons eventually does get sent to the great big TV in the sky, it’s highly unlikely that a show such as Family Guy will manage to retain many of the Simpsons loyal fanbase and as a result, is more likely to falter when left to carry the network by itself. Once that happens, it seems probable that animation, as a driving force on the FOX network is doomed.