Okay, listen up people. We all know The Simpsons can’t go on forever. Yes, it’s been on the air for a fifth of a century. Yes, we’re almost at the point where The Bad Episodes constitute two-thirds of the series. But it has to end at some point. Now, the smart money is on the show wrapping things up when Year 25 rolls around. But Fox can’t just cut and run; the network needs an exit strategy to take care of the gaping hole in its formidable Animation Domination programming block The Simpsons would leave behind. Luckily, the executives have thought ahead and ordered a whole bunch of animated series – some of which is already airing, some of which will probably get cancelled after a couple episodes, and some that probably already died in utero. Just for funsies, let’s pretend it’s a big Sport Game with brackets and stuff, which I have helpfully diagrammed below:
As you can see, these cartoon sitcoms are locked into a NO HOLDS BARRED BATTLE TO THE DEATH. Only one show can take over the coverted 8pm Sundays timeslot sweetspot The Simpsons currently occupies. Or, actually, maybe one can take it over for a little bit, then be replaced in mid-season by another one. Who knows. Let’s take a closer look at the competitors…
The Cleveland Show
Status: Premiered September 2009, returning September 25
People involved: Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad), Richard Appel (The Simpsons, King of the Hill)
Synopsis: Nobody’s favorite Family Guy character leaves Quahog to star in his own spin-off!
Verdict: Seth MacFarlane sees himself as the new Norman Lear, so I guess this is his attempt at doing The Jeffersons. The result is a bad garbage show that’s nevertheless doing strong in the ratings – better than Family Guy, even. I read somewhere that the rude & crude Family Guy can’t be moved from the 9 o’clock hour to the supposed “family hour” of 8-9. But The Cleveland Show – pitched as a nicer, warmer Family Guy – could move up a half-hour easily.
Status: Premiered January 2011, returning mid-season 2012
People involved: Loren Bouchard (Dr. Katz, Home Movies)
Synopsis: Man of a single voice H. Jon Benjamin stars as Bob Belcher, who runs a hamburger sandwich store with his crazy family.
Verdict: This is a Good Show, though I’m not over the moon about it. Most of the things that initially irked me really grew on me. Tina, the awkward teenage girl voiced by Dan Mintz, is probably my favorite TV character at the moment.
People involved: Jonah Hill (Superbad)
Status: Premiering October 2011
Synopsis: Basically it’s Frasier Crane as a 7 year old. Even the logo looks Fraiser-y.
Verdict: I watched the trailer and ugghh. I suppose it’s nice that it doesn’t look like the crude & lumpy other shows on the network, but that Seventeen magazine-style doesn’t appeal to me.
Status: Premiering some time in 2012
People involved: Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), Mike Scully (The Simpsons)
Synopsis: It’s Napoleon Dynamite, but in cartoon form
Verdict: You know, I actually liked Napoleon Dynamite when it came out. But I can’t imagine it sustaining a series.
People involved: Bob Kushell (The Simpsons)
Synopsis: Well apparently it’s either “a half-hour toon about a 12-year-old boy who splits his time between his divorced parents’ suburban homes” (Vulture) or “an animated comedy about ‘the quirky citizens of a suburban subdivision'” (Futon Critic).
Status: Unknown. There’s been no news on this since it was announced a year ago. It’s possible it died during development.
People involved: Brad Neely (the internet), Tim Long (The Simpsons)
Synopsis: A “twisted family show about a couple ill-equipped to raise kids who are forced to take care of their godchildren.” (Vulture)
Verdict: Brad Neely is a cool dude and I’ll watch anything he makes.
Status: Unknown, but I think it’s safe to say it’s dead, as Neely is already doing a show for Adult Swim (China, IL), which might a better fit for him creatively than some lame-o network show.
People involved: Jack Black (every other comedy movie)
Synopsis: A cartoon about “mean, bitchy girls in junior high.” (A.V. Club)
Verdict: It’s Mean Girls, but in middle school! Genius
People involved: Seth MacFarlane
Synopsis: It’s Everybody’s Favorite Stone Age Family Reimagined By The Twisted Mind Behind “The Family Guy”… It’s Gonna Be Twisted As Hell Y’all
Verdict: Given that The Simpsons was basically seen as The Flintstones for the ’90s when it premiered, it would be kinda funny if it were replaced by an unimaginative Flintstones franchise reboot
In addition, Alex Borstein (voice of Lois on Family Guy) is pitching a “female-centric animated show,” but I haven’t heard anything more about that.
So, have you got your picks? Have you filled your brackets? Have you got your flag pennants made up? It may be years before we figure out the winner. But until then… The Cartoon Wars rage on.