Homer and Marge Simpson are breaking up! Or says the latest announcement from the creative team of the Simpsons, who have revealed that the couple make be splitting due to some marital problems in future episodes. The move is very reminiscent of a Family Guy stunt last year, which involved Brian—the wise cracking family dog—dying and being replaced by a new dog character.
The reaction to the announcement was almost universally negative. Fans are tired of these gimmicky stunts, particularly since they seem to have taken off in a bizarre way with animated shows aimed at slightly older audiences in recent years. These stunts are definitely past their prime, and it’s time that the writers and other creatives behind these shows put their foot down and stop them. The following are some more definitive reasons why these stunts simply have to go.
The changes brought on by these stunts never last very long. At most, they last a few episodes—but even that is unusual. On Family Guy, Brian was brought back to life after 2 episodes—that is, if you count the episode where he died as a full episode. And the supposed split between Marge and Homer will probably last just as long.
If the goal of the writing team is to provide something fresh and new to shake up the story—not a bad idea, given that these shows have been one for many, many seasons at this point—then introducing a gimmick that gets reversed within a few episodes is not the way to do it.
The goal of any change in a TV show is to improve the ratings. Yet these gimmicky stunts don’t make a positive impact on the ratings for very long, which means they were essentially a pointless move. The “Life of Brian” episode of Family Guy, where Brian died, earned some pretty good ratings for an animated show on Fox the night that it aired. After Brian returned, however, the ratings dropped back down to what they were before the stunt. If the ratings impact doesn’t last more than a few episodes, at most, then what is the point?
Shows get stale. This is a fact of life, and it’s especially noticeable in shows like The Simpsons or even Family Guy, which have been around for their fair share of seasons. When a show gets stale, the writers may try to freshen things up with new characters or something that radically alters the plot. These gimmicks, however, just aren’t creative. They’re almost always out of the blue and in some cases unrealistic due to huge jumps in character dynamics or personalities. In the end, it shows a general lack of creativity with the writing team, if they must rely on cheap gimmicks rather than any sort of meaningful changes to the show. If you have a Comcast internet package at home, you can stream these shows any time you’d like.