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How That Simpsons Break-Up Will Stand Alongside Other Sitcom Splits

3 minute read

In its upcoming 27th season, The Simpsons is set to split up its central couple, yet again.

Homer and Marge Simpson, who were legally divorced in the show’s eighth season and who questioned their union in the 2007 Simpsons Movie, are to be legally separated next season, executive producer Al Jean revealed. The separation, Jean said, will give rise to Homer’s attraction to a character voiced by guest actress Lena Dunham.

There’s no particular reason for Homer and Marge to get separated now (especially given that they’ve already been divorced and remarried); after that first breakup, which only happened due to a series of contrivances, the couple have stayed together through all manner of financial and child-rearing calamities together.

But divorce on TV comedies is generally taken fairly lightly. Ross Gellar of Friends had three marriages conclude with little real fanfare (first wife Carol has custody of son Ben the vast majority of the time; second wife Emily just disappears; third wife Rachel basically stays pals with Ross until they finally reconcile in the show’s finale.) Frasier and Niles, on Frasier, have both been through at least one divorce by the time the series ended, and all take it very much in stride. Frasier lives on the opposite end of the country from the son he notionally shares with his ex-wife. Ed O’Neill’s Modern Family patriarch only rarely speaks of his ex-wife, despite the fact that he spends so much time with the two kids he shares with her. This goes as far back as The Brady Bunch; the central couple (one a widower, one a possible divorcée whose past is left unwritten) left the past entirely behind them when they got together.

Television comedy is about looking forward to the next plotline or punchline, and it’s no wonder that when divorce comes up, it’s usually to end a plotline that isn’t working, rather than to spark a new one. Ross’s breakup with Emily, for instance, was meant simply to cart Emily off the premises, not to spark a new plotline dealing with Ross’s feelings about divorce. The slate was wiped entirely clean, as it was after Jessa ending her marriage to Thomas-John in Girls or Charlotte divorcing Trey on Sex and the City. In that latter case, at least, Charlotte got to keep Trey’s apartment, but there was little lasting impact on her character; Jessa could be said to have been changed by her divorce, but it was more symptom than cause, and she disappeared shortly afterwards anyhow for a few episodes.

Divorce is one of those aspects of life that, though quotidian, simply isn’t that funny. It’s a good way to clear the decks, and then swiftly move on with little fanfare. (Those comedies that deal seriously with divorce’s aftereffects are, like Louie, the very darkest.) What’s surprising about The Simpsons returning to this well is that the show hardly needs to; it’s not as though Homer or Marge is going to be written off the show. With few exceptions, the show resets back to where it began at the end of every episode.

But perhaps that makes The Simpsons ideally placed to feature divorce; so few comedies deal with the end of a marriage as something other than a way to expediently get someone out of your life forever that The Simpsons‘s reconciliation plotline will, at least, be novel.

Meet the Voices of The Simpsons

The Simpsons
Dan Castellaneta is the voice of Homer, the bumbling patriarch of the Simpson family. He also voices other adult males such as Grampa Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie and Krusty the Clown.Michael Tran—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
Julie Kavner voices Marge Simpson as well as her twin sisters Patty and Selma and their estranged mother Jacqueline.Michael N. Todaro—Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
Nancy Cartwright voices many of the male children in The Simpsons. She primarily voices Bart, but also gives life to Nelson Muntz, Todd Flanders and Ralph Wiggum, amongst others.Amanda Edwards—WireImage/Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
Yeardley Smith is the voice of Lisa, the brains of the Simpson clan.Imeh Akpanudosen—Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
Hank Azaria plays the town barkeep, Moe Szyslak, as well as a wide cast of male characters ranging from Chief Wiggum and Apu to Duffman (can't breathe! oh no!).Brad Barket—Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
The other everyman of the series, Harry Shearer gives voice to Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner and a host of other Springfield residents.Dave J. Hogan—Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
Pamela Hayden voices Milhouse, Bart's sidekick, as well as some other male children in Springfield like Jimbo Jones and Rod Flanders.Frazer Harrison—Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
The late Marcia Wallace was the voice of elementary school teacher Edna Krabappel.Angela Weiss—Getty Images; Fox
The Simpsons
Russi Taylor voiced some of the kids at Springfield Elementary such as Martin Prince, Terri and Sherri, and German exchange student Üter Zörker.David Livingston—Getty Images; Fox

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