Should this franchise end?
There is no universal consensus as to how when The Simpsons’ golden years ended, but I have never come across a fan who would say they lasted as long as Season 14. Thus, with the entire series now twenty-eight seasons deep, the post-golden years era now definitively represents the majority of the show’s time on the air.
The 2000s were the golden age of complaining about how The Simpsons were no longer what it once was. Nowadays that approach is passé. The 2010s are the era of not expecting too much or too little and being open to the possibility that there might be an excellent episode every once in a while. Judged on the terms of the here and now, rather than comparing it against itself, Season 28 makes the case that The Simpsons is still worth watching, but there is a major problem that is more persistent than any positive qualities.
The most frustrating aspect of The Simpsons of 2016-17 is not the repetition of old storylines (that does exist, but it is not as hard to accept as it once was), it is the repetition of a certain bad habit. It is okay to have multiple storylines in a single episode, but it is maddening when both the A-plot and the B-plot (and sometimes even the C-plot) are substantial enough to justify having an entire episode to themselves. This is an issue I harped on repeatedly throughout my reviews this season. Sometimes in the episode-by-episode recap business, critics can find themselves going out of their way to identify trends that may or may not be significant, but it was no trouble recognizing how overstuffed Season 28 was.
While that nagging issue has been keeping the show away from true greatness, it has hardly rendered it unwatchable. Indeed, there were several episodes this season worth wholeheartedly recommending, and these successes happen enough for me to never regret declining to drop The Simpsons out of my weekly TV rotation. Unsurprisingly, those high points came when the show was most in touch with the beating heart at its core. A couple of episodes that focused on the legacy of family – “Fatzcarraldo” and “A Father’s Watch” – are among the highlights, despite some wonky continuity in the case of the former and despite a multitude of storylines in the case of the latter.
Presently, The Simpsons kind of exists both within and outside of its legacy. When a current episode makes my mind turn to how long it has been on the air, I do not bemoan the loss of greatness, instead, I am amazed at all it has accomplished.