NOSTRAD'OHMUS

An image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's head from the Futurama movie Into The Wild Green Yonder.

As you may have heard, longtime Supreme Court justice and Funko Pop icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently passed away at the age of 87, a tragic occurrence nobody could have possibly seen coming… nobody, that is, except for the genius writing staff of cult classic animated sitcom Futurama! The Simpsons may grab headlines for predicting future events, like the election of President Trump, but its sister series is certainly no slouch in the prognostication department either.

In the December 2002 episode “A Taste of Freedom,” Justice Ginsburg’s disembodied head appeared as an Associate Justice of the Earth Supreme Court. Now, in case you’ve forgotten, the world of Futurama features a technology invented by Ron Popeil that keeps human heads alive in jars, even long after the person has died. Getting goosebumps yet? This means that the people behind the show somehow knew that Justice Ginsburg would pass away at some point between the year 2002, when the episode first aired, and 3003, which, according to The Infosphere, is when the episode takes place. And that’s exactly what happened in real life. Uncanny!

The head of the Notorious R.B.G., as Justice Ginsburg is commonly referred to in the ‘hood, later reappears in the 2009 OVA Into The Wild Green Yonder and the 2012 episode “Decision 3012.” Unfortunately, her name was misspelled as “Ginsberg” in all three appearances. Oh well! When you’re able to use your third eye to peer into the world beyond the veil and prophesize future events with such a startlingly high degree of accuracy, you’re bound to make a few slip-ups here and there.

TREEHOUSE OF ERROR

Here’s an intriguing headline from Vox:

The Simpsons predicted Russia's current economic downturn back in 1999

And here’s an excerpt from the actual story:

Of course it was not actually “predicting” today’s Russian economic downturn, but rather riffing off the earlier downturn, of which there have been several.

So, basically, the show didn’t predict it at all and your headline is a blatant lie. That’s some good reportin’ there, Lou.

Wait a minute… this was all a ploy to get us to learn about the Russian economy, wasn’t it?!

Learning? Russia? Let’s get out of here!

TREEHOUSE OF ERROR

Matt Groening giving an interview

During an interview with London’s Financial Times back in April 2002, Simpsons creator Matt Groening mused “I think we are closer to winding it up.” It was a fairly innocuous comment – the show had been on for over 12 years at that point, and he naturally didn’t think it would go on for another 12 – but our alarmist media took it to mean the show was ending immediately, causing something of a global panic. It was all very stupid:

D’OH! THEY’RE MAKING FUNERAL PLANS FOR… THE SIMPSONS (New York Post)
Save the Greatest Show on Earth; Can Simpsons Creator Matt Groening Be Persuaded Not to Quit? (The Evening Standard)
‘The Simpsons’ may be . . . D’oh! (Philly.com)
Are Homer’s days numbered? (Daily Telegraph)
‘The Simpsons’ soon to bow out (CNN Money)

In an effort to quell the uproar, Groening later clarified, “I don’t want anyone to think I am predicting the demise of the Simpsons. They will live on with new adventures for years to come. As long as there are things to make fun of we will be around.” The next episode’s chalkboard gag also addressed the issue.

At the time of the “wrapping it up” comment, The Simpsons had been on the air for 4,517 days. It has now been 4,518 days since that comment was reported, and there is still no end in sight.

BONGO BEAT

Simpsons Illustrated was an official Simpsons magazine that went on for 10 issues in the early 1990s. Each issue featured exclusive Simpsons comics, news, and pictures of people who worked on the show (Disclosure: the header and title of IN THE NEWS is an, er, homage to this magazine). It was the forerunner to Bongo Comics Group and the Simpsons Comics series.

In 1992, they did a special 3-D issue featuring a barbecue-themed comic with an interesting moment:

panel 1

panel 2

Yes, Lisa requested a vegetarian alternative three years before becoming a vegetarian in the 1995 episode “Lisa the Vegetarian.”

Was this quick moment merely an indication of Lisa’s multiculturalism and non-conformist personality? Was her character so predictable that it was assumed she’d eventually turn vegetarian? Was it simply to set up the use of a long prop, in this case a shish kebab, in order to take advantage of the 3-D gimmick? Or, more likely, did the writer of the comic have access to Simpsons episodes from the future, thus allowing him or her to retro-plagiarize “Vegetarian” writer David X. Cohen?

You can read the whole issue over at the astoundingly comprehensive Spanish Simpsons Comics blog Tebeos de los Simpsons, including an early comic version of the Hey Arnold! pilot.

KANCELLATION KOUNTDOWN

my two centsI’m going to go out on a limb and declare that The Simpsons will finally, mercifully end in 2011, after twenty-two seasons.

  • The show has yet to be renewed beyond the 2010-2011 season (season 22), so there’s no guarantee there’ll be a Season 23.
  • In November, the Animation Guild blog mentioned that the writers were working on “another thirteen episodes”. Each production season, the last couple of episodes become the first episodes of the next season; these are called “holdovers.” The current season (season 21) has eight holdovers – notice the production codes in this chart. Presumably, this means next season will also have eight holdovers, which when coupled with the aforementioned thirteen episodes will fulfill a complete season order of twenty-one episodes, with no holdovers for a 23rd season.
  • The show has been losing a million viewers each season for the past couple seasons with no end in sight. It often gets lower ratings than Family Guy. Each episode costs somewhere around $3 million. All of these must be major concerns for Fox executives… but then again The Simpsons is the sixth-highest earner on television, and makes like a billion dollars from merchandise and syndication, so ratings are probably irrelevant.
  • The 20th anniversary hoopla feels like a final victory parade to me, a last hurrah before they ride into the sunset. It’s probably wise to end it while goodwill is high.
  • I just want to be right so I can look prophetic.