Can you imagine a world without The Simpsons? Though its cultural domination peaked over 20 years ago, the Fox animated series created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon is still going strong — and maybe as strong as ever in the changing tides of network-vs.-streaming landscape. Fox announced on Thursday that The Simpsons had once again been renewed, and for two more seasons. The order will shepherd in season 35 and 36 for the series, maintaining the show’s record as the longest-running scripted sitcom in television history. (Saturday Night Live, considered a variety show, sits at the top of all-timers with 48 seasons.)
The Simpsons order comes at a time when live appointment television beyond major sporting events is in a tailspin. But the animated series maintains a solid ratings streak; recent episodes have had as many 4 million viewers, trouncing most other non-sports network programming. The renewal also comes with good news for the animated series bolstered by and in the orbit of The Simpsons: Bob’s Burgers will return for seasons 14 and 15, while Family Guy will receive a 22nd and 23rd season.
Maybe the most surprising factoid about The Simpsons is that it’s also one of Disney’s only streaming hits. What The Office did for Netflix, The Simpsons does for Disney Plus. Nielsen U.S. revealed this week that while tentpole shows like Stranger Things, Wednesday, and Cobra Kai were massively popular in 2022, seasons new and old of The Simpsons did comparable numbers, to the tune of 15.9 billion minutes of screen time. Having 667 available episodes on the Disney Plus platform can’t hurt.
Since the acquisition of 20th Century Fox, Disney has mostly used The Simpsons to leverage other brands. On top of newly added episodes, Disney Plus has released six short films starring the characters, that have integrated everything from Star Wars to Marvel to Billie Eilish’s concert event. It might seem crass if not for the show’s legacy of merchandising!
No, The Simpsons ain’t what it used to be — but the writers aren’t content with doing the same old same old 35 seasons in either. This is a show that, for all the Disney brand awareness, has also in recent years paid Don Hertzfeldt to design his own couch gag and committed space to an extended Edward Gorey tribute. The Simpson family and its wide cast of characters aren’t that different than The Muppets in their ability to plug and play in weirdo animated worlds. No wonder The Simpsons fandom is thriving, even when the expression of that fandom has little to do with the show itself.
The Simpsons season 34 is currently on hiatus, with new episodes set to premiere later this year.