Last night’s magician-themed episode got 4.996 million viewers, the first time a Simpsons episode has gotten less than 5 million viewers in its original airing (it still did better than NBC’s Next Great American Restaurant, though… yeesh!). More evidence of the nation’s seething hatred for magicians? [TV by the Numbers via Dead Homer Society]
If you were one of the people watching The Simpsons last night (sucker), you may have noticed something a little different about the opening sequence!
The “couch gag,” if one could call it that, was storyboarded and directed by the pseudonymous Britain street artist known as Banksy, whose distinctive graffiti has shown up across the UK and the US, and whose work has been auctioned off for millions of dollars to limousine liberal luminaries like Brangelina.
Showrunner-for-life Al Jean told the New York Times he seeked out the ostensibly underground (despite having a publicist) “art terrorist” and asked him, via a series of messengers, if he’d do the opening, later receiving the storyboards without ever meeting the mystery man. Although 5% was cut out by request of Fox Broadcast & Standards, Jean insists the final product was as close as possible to Banksy’s original intention.
The response has been enormous – Banksy became a “Trending Topic” on Twitter last night (which is, like, super-important and stuff) and there are currently hundreds of news stories about it – which I’m sure makes up for the 29% decline in ratings from last week. It’s to quantify these things, but I think it’s safe to presume this will get more attention than other recent Simpsons “viral” stunts, from the godawful Ke$ha thing to the Itchy & Scratchy parody of Koyaanisqatsi (in the old days, The Simpsons usually generated buzz with actual episodes instead of context-free YouTube clips, but I guess that’s the way things are now in the New Media Landscape).
Back in 2002, a more innocent time when we were told Saddam Hussein could attack us again at any moment, Futurama was on death watch. Since its premiere, Fox had shuffled its timeslot multiple times, and it eventually wound up in the 7 o’clock hour, the almost-but-not-quite-primetime hour where TV shows go to die (bad news for American Dad) and football pre-emptions occur every other week. Together with a lack of advertising and the fact that it was a niche show to begin with, Futurama could only manage to wring out a pitiful 6.4 million viewers when the show was mercifully put out to pasture by Fox.
In 2010, The Simpsons, which has held the same timeslot for sixteen straight seasons and has always had the full support of the network, recieved 5.74 million viewers for its season finale, which featured guest appearances by four American Idol judges and host Ryan Seacrest. [No Homers Club/Media Life Magazine]
The beloved long-running series that forever changed the face of television, Law & Order, has been cancelled after 20 years and 456 episodes. Although the show and its spinoffs is a billion dollar franchise, ratings had fallen to eight million viewers. [New York Times]
- 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.
Remember when Troy McClure asked, “who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and when the show becomes unprofitable?” Thirteen years later, that eventual day of unprofitability may be coming sooner than you think, according to a Newsday blogger. Verne Gay examines the rising costs of the show, dwindling viewership and curiously-worded contracts and concludes cancellation may be imminent:
I’ll give you the answers right now, born of a quarter century following this business: Because Fox is covering its bets. If ratings continue to fall, as they have precipitously in recent years, then let’s get ready to say goodbye to one of the greatest treasures of our TV lives.
The cast of The Simpsons finally got around to renegotiating their contracts, thus putting an end to the pay dispute that threatened to tear apart humanity and resulted in at least thirty artists losing their jobs while production was halted. Dan Castellenta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Maggie), and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) will now each get
$500,000 $400,000 per episode, an increase from $360,000, to donate to Scientology. Ironically, this pay increase comes at a time when viewership has dwindled by nearly fifty percent over the past five years. Aye carumba! [telegraph.co.uk]
Last Sunday’s episode, Any Given Sundance, was supposedly the least-watched first-run episode in recent history, with only 6.18 million viewers. [Simpsons Channel]