18 Things You’d Be Surprised Happened on ‘The Simpsons’ If You Stopped Watching in 2003
There’s a widely-held belief among internet snobs that The Simpsons took a dip in quality in the late ’90s/early ’00s and has yet to fully recover. Nevertheless, TV’s longest-running scripted show continues to roll along and to pull in a sizable audience every week as its landmark 25th season continues.
Simpsons showrunner Al Jean announced recently that the writers are killing off a character at the start of next season, but that’s not the only change to the show in recent years. For those of you who stopped watching The Simpsons within the last decade or so and missed the most recent couple hundred episodes, we made a list of some surprising stuff that’s happened to your beloved Springfield characters since 2003, like more character deaths, an unexpected wedding, and Homer and Marge’s secret 12-season-long divorce. Or, for you Comic Book Guy-esque fans out there, you can just continue to treat everything after season 10 as non-canon.
1. Flanders and Mrs. Krabappel are married
Yes, that’s right, Krabappel and Skinner are through, and she is currently married to the Simpsons’ nextdoor neighbor Ned Flanders and the stepmom to Rod and Todd. In the Season 22 finale “The Ned-Liest Catch” in 2011, Flanders saves Krabappel from falling off a ladder and the two begin dating. The Simpsons held a weird fan poll at the end of the episode, allowing viewers to vote on whether Flanders and Krabappel stayed together. The results were revealed in the Season 23 premiere, and fans opted to keep the couple together. At the end of Season 23, in the episode “Ned ‘n Edna’s Blend” (2012), Krabappel and Skinner reveal that they secretly got married and the town throws them a party. Krabappel still keeps her name for teaching though.
2. Fat Tony died
In the Season 22 episode “Donnie Fatso” (2010), which involved Homer going undercover to infiltrate the mob, Springfield crime boss Fat Tony dies from a heart attack after he’s shocked to find out Homer was a government informant. Fat Tony’s cousin, Fit Tony (who looks just like Fat Tony but is in shape), then takes his job but promptly gains a bunch of weight from the stress of the new position and gets the nickname “Fat Tony,” essentially restoring the character in a “this never happened” Armin Tamzarian-style bailout.
3. There were two more future episodes
We saw two episodes set in the future during the show’s first dozen seasons (“Lisa’s Wedding,” where Lisa’s engaged to a charming Englishman, and “Bart to the Future,” where Lisa is president and Bart is a failed musician), but The Simpsons has gone back to that well for two more future-set episodes, Season 15’s “Future-Drama” (2005) and Season 23’s “Holidays of Future Passed” (2011).
“Future-Drama,” set before “Lisa’s Wedding,” followed Bart and Lisa graduating from high school (with Lisa doing so two years early) and competing over a scholarship from Mr. Burns. Bart is dating a skateboarder named Jenda (voiced by Amy Poehler), who he ends up breaking up with, and Lisa is dating Milhouse, who she dumps after he proposes to her, and Marge has left Homer for Krusty, only to come back to Homer by the end of the episode.
“Holidays of Future Passed,” written as a potential series finale in case contract negotiations didn’t go through, took place 30 years in the future with Bart and Lisa as middle-aged parents. Bart is divorced with two sons, Lisa is married to Milhouse and has a rebellious daughter she’s struggling to connect with, and Maggie, the lead singer for a famous band, is giving birth to her first child.
4. Snowball II died
Lisa’s cat, Snowball II, was hit by a car in the Season 15 episode, “I, D’oh-Bot” (2004). Lisa gets two cats to replace it, Snowball III and Snowball IV, both of which promptly die. Her next replacement, Snowball V, doesn’t die and she renames it Snowball II so that she doesn’t have to buy the cat a new bowl and to save herself from thinking about her cat’s death. After Lisa vows to act like the whole thing never happened, Principal Skinner walks by and asks, “That’s really a cheat, isn’t it?” Lisa responds, “I guess you’re right, Principal Tamzarian,” causing Skinner to call the cat “Snowball II” and walk away.
5. Marvin Monroe is alive again
Gravelly-voiced psychologist Dr. Marvin Monroe’s death is referenced multiple times from Seasons 7-16, with a Dr. Marvin Monroe Memorial Hospital and a Dr. Marvin Monroe Memorial Gymnasium popping up in addition to his death being the subject of a trivia question in the Troy McClure-hosted “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular.” Nevertheless, in the Season 15 episode “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife” (2004), he pops up to buy a copy of Marge’s novel. When she asks where he’s been, Monroe says he’s “been very sick.”
6. Selma adopted a child from China
Marge’s sister Selma, who’s desire to have a child was established early in the series, adopted a daughter named Ling from China in the Season 16 episode “Goo Goo Gai Pain” (2005) after she starts going through menopause. The episode involved Selma having Homer pretend to be her husband and traveling to China with her (and the rest of the Simpsons) for the adoption. Even though her plan was foiled, she was still able to adopt Ling anyway.
7. Patty came out of the closet
In the Season 16 episode “There’s Something About Marrying” (2005), Marge’s sister Patty comes out as gay, much to Marge’s surprise.
8. Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel got engaged but she left him at the altar
Principal Skinner proposed to Mrs. Krabappel in the Season 14 episode “Special Edna” (2004) and the two were set to wed in Season 15’s “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” (2005). Skinner had doubts about marrying her, and when Krabappel heard about that, she ran away from the wedding and it was called off.
9. Ricky Gervais and Seth Rogen both wrote episodes
Ricky Gervais and Seth Rogen (along with writing partner Evan Goldberg) each wrote an episode of the show and guest-starred in their episode. Gervais penned Season 15’s “Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife” (2006), in which the Simpson family does a Wife Swap-style reality show, and Gervais voices the perfect new husband who switches places with Homer. Rogen and Goldberg’s episode was Season 21’s “Homer the Whopper,” in which Rogen voices Lyle, a guy training Homer for a role in a superhero movie.
10. Milhouse’s parents got remarried
Milhouse’s parents, Kirk and Luann Van Houten, who divorced in the Season 8 episode “A Milhouse Divided” remarried in Season 19’s “Little Orphan Millie” (2007). They went on a cruise for their second honeymoon but fell off the boat and went missing. They soon turned up and are still together.
11. Mona Simpson died
Homer’s mother, Mona Simpson, passed away in Season 19’s “Mona Leaves-a” (2008). Mona showed up at the Simpsons’ door, asking for Homer’s forgiveness and promising that her days of activism are over and that she wants to move in with the family. Homer refuses to forgive her, upset about her repeatedly leaving him as a kid, but when he changes his mind and goes downstairs to make peace, he finds her dead. Homer then does “one more stupid hippie protest” in his mom’s honor.
12. The Simpsons went to a ton of more places
Episodes set around the Simpson family traveling to a new place and excitedly exclaiming at the top of the episode, “The Simpsons are going to _____!” has become a cliche on the show and something the writers have even made fun of. The Simpsons have still been traveling to a ton of places over the past 10 seasons, including Miami, New Jersey, Niagara Falls, England, China, Italy, Vermont, Utah, Machu Picchu, Colorado, Ireland, Mexico, Israel, Vancouver, Antarctica, and return visits to LA, New York, and Washington, D.C.
13. More people moved in with the Simpsons for an episode
Another cliche on the show has been a side character falling on hard times and briefly moving in with the Simpson family, only to fix their life by the end of the episode when everything goes back to normal. Over the last decade, characters like Gil, Groundskeeper Willie, Mr. Burns (a second time), Kent Brockman, and country singer Lurleen Lumpkin have all been temporary houseguests in the Simpson home.
14. Selma married Abe Simpson and Fat Tony
In the awfully-titled Season 18 episode “Rome-old and Juli-eh” (2007), Selma and Abe Simpson both fell in love after being asked to babysit the Simpson kids together. Selma and Abe quickly got married and moved in with one another, but things didn’t work out and they split up.
In Season 22’s “The Real Housewives of Fat Tony” (2011), Selma started dating then married Fat Tony D’Amico (actually, Fat Tony’s cousin Fit Tony, but whatever). The two divorced when she found out he already had a wife. Selma’s full name is now Selma Bouvier-Terwilliger-Hutz-McClure-Stu-Simpson-D’Amico.
15. Comic Book Guy’s real name
Ever since he was introduced in Season 2, Comic Book Guy’s real name was never said on the show until the Season 16 episode “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” (2005), in which the character at one point says to Flanders, “My name is Jeff Albertson, but everyone calls me ‘Comic Book Guy.'” Showrunner Al Jean says they purposefully chose a plain name to irritate viewers and did it during the post-Super Bowl episode to upset the maximum number of fans. Matt Groening was unhappy with the character’s name choice, telling MTV, that he “had a different, much more tragic design, but I was out of the room when [the writers] named him. In my mind, ‘Louis Lane’ was his name, and he was obsessed and tormented by Lois Lane.”
16. Marge and Homer were unknowingly divorced from Season 8 through Season 20
In Season 8’s “A Milhouse Divided,” Homer secretly filed for divorce feeling that Marge can do better. They were remarried by Reverend Lovejoy at the end of that episode, but it’s revealed in Season 20’s “Wedding for Disaster” (2009) that at the time of their second wedding, Lovejoy didn’t have a valid license to perform weddings due to a bureaucratic error. Lovejoy officiated Homer and Marge’s third (technically second) wedding in the episode, but they were, unbeknownst to themselves, not married for 12 seasons of the show.
17. New opening credits
A new opening sequence debuted with Season 20’s “Take My Life, Please” (2009) and has kicked off every episode since. The new opening is in High Def and features a bunch of changes and different characters. Check out both the new and old openings, side by side below:
18. Springfield was rebuilt in a different place and everyone moved to the new city and abandoned the old one
In the show’s 500th episode, Season 23’s “At Long Last Leave,” the Springfield townspeople held a secret meeting to kick the Simpsons out of the city because their constant antics have bankrupted Springfield. The Simpsons go to live in an unincorporated community called “The Outlands” that’s run-down and has no laws. Soon, everyone in Springfield wants to start a new life in The Outlands, and the entire town abandons Springfield and rebuilds it in The Outlands, so every episode after episode 500 takes place in a second, different Springfield.