Seven ‘Simpsons’ Superfans on the Exact Moment the Show Should Have Ended
Despite the fact that The Simpsons is still turning out bangers like “A Serious Flanders” and “Lisa the Boy Scout,” as well as the narrative that the show has been hitting a new stride the last few years, there is still a sizable portion of the Simpson fandom that says the series has overstayed its welcome. From complaints about “Jerkass Homer” beginning around Season Nine to the notion that The Simpsons Movie was the last worthwhile venture to come out of Springfield, the opinions on when exactly The Simpsons went sour is a matter of intense debate. Along with that, the question of when (or if) the series should have ended is equally open to interpretation.
Which is why I reached out to a handful of Simpsons superfans to see when they thought the show should have called it quits. This is what they told me…
Generalissimo Shabbadoo, superfan of The Simpsons: The Season 11 finale, “Behind the Laughter,” is considered the last classic episode, so perhaps The Simpsons should have ended there? It touches on both the on-screen and meta elements that made the series so great — the jokes are rapid-fire with an impressive hit ratio and the overall vibe of the episode is fan service by way of a love letter that rewards viewers for sticking with it.
And what makes the subtle love letter tone of “Behind the Laughter” so effective is that The Simpsons existed for a decade at that point with no real interest in “fan service” as we know it today. The writers did their thing, and millions of us had the level of trust to tune in. “Behind the Laughter” is, after such a long television-viewer relationship, a nice meta semi-exploration of the show in a fresh format without being overly self-indulgent or cautiously self-deprecating. Quite the opposite: It’s a confident, “this is the ride you’ve been on, you know what you signed up for, you stuck by us and we thank you for it.”
As a finale, it would have been more of a statement than a closure and the structure of the episode would have sidestepped all potential “I can’t believe that character ended up that way when they deserved better” criticisms that most finales suffer from.
Neil Arsenty, creator of On This Day in Simpsons History: I think people’s answer to this question has as much to do with where we were in our own lives as it does with the show itself. For me, I feel like “Behind the Laughter” is the most appropriate answer, but part of that is the fact that I was in college at the time and it was a transitional period for me. So while me and my friends would still hang out and watch The Simpsons, we started to get more interested in other things and other TV shows. Also, by that point, we’d already had 250 episodes of this thing, so that seemed like enough.
Hilary Marie, a member of Simpsons Shitposting Gold Facebook Group: The movie should have capped it off. If you’re going to culminate a huge cult following into a movie, that really should have been it. Why did they do the movie in the first place if it wasn’t the end? I feel like, for people who were in high school when that movie came out, like me, we made a big deal to go see it. Then we kind of just stopped watching The Simpsons after that because it felt like it had ended. The movie felt like a bookend.
Lionel Mendez, a member of Simpsons Shitposting Gold Facebook Group: This might be a hard stance to take, but if we want it to end at the moment of perfection and leave behind a pristine corpse, it should have ended after Season Seven. That cuts out lots of classic episodes that I would badly miss, but it would have created the most flawless body of work. Aside from every episode being stone solid, we also had the resolution to the “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” episode, which had to be the height of Simpsons Mania, we had meaningful change happen when Lisa became vegetarian, we established the lore behind Homer’s mom, we even had some fun experimental noodling with the “22 Short Films” episode.
It’s more about what Season Eight is, as opposed to what Season Seven is. Season Eight is solid, but some of the plotlines betray established character-building for no good reason (e.g., Ned Flanders is secretly a repressed maniac that sublimates his rage into altruism, instead of being a genuinely good-hearted man). The experimentation takes a darker turn with “Homer’s Enemy,” an episode that was so clever and darkly funny that we excuse the way it betrays the tone of the show.
JM McNab, Cracked writer and fan of The Simpsons: Perhaps just before Season Nine, when they start getting into “Jerkass Homer.” That’s when Homer stopped being such an endearing dumb guy, and he got more angry and aggressive, like chloroforming Marge or trying to run people over with his car. By then, the show had been on for so long that it had evolved to this weird, angry place. Even the episode where Homer buys a gun is, to me, out-of-character for him. When I rewatch the show and get to those episodes, it no longer feels like the comforting nostalgia I’m looking for.
Also, while I’m not sure if they should have ended the show here, I do think an imperceptible change occurred when Phil Hartman died (in Season 10). With Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure not being in the show anymore, it just never felt the same.
Gerard Power, a member of Obscure Simpsons Characters Facebook Group: It should have ended with the Don Hertzfeldt couch gag from 2014. It takes the show's slow deterioration, makes it part of the text, then deliberately extrapolates it to the end of time, with Homer as the audience identification figure. There’s really nowhere left to go after that. This is the real ending — all episodes made since have just been slowly marching toward it.
Warren Evans, Bart of Darkness on Instagram, host of Simpsons Is Greater Than… podcast and co-author of Collecting The Simpsons: The Merchandise and Legacy of Our Favorite Nuclear Family: I don’t really ever think that The Simpsons should have ended. The only downside is that it’s existed through so many good and bad times for comedy, which reflects poorly on the show at times, which is unavoidable for such a long run. However, I don’t think it can go on forever, but it should only end the moment a main cast member can no longer do it.