The Simpsons aired “Treehouse of Horror XVII” last night amid little fanfare. I started watching The Simpson’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes before I knew what those roman numerals even meant, which makes it incredible that FOX is still airing new ones. While longevity may be admirable in theory, in practice it’s usually a depressing letdown.

Cal Ripken Jr., while impressive during “the streak”, was a legitimately bad baseball player in his last few years on the diamond. It’s really cool that Joe Paterno is still coaching football in his eighties, but his press conferences do no favors to the thought that the game has simply passed him by. The Simpsons, like JoePa, are an institution. Though they both did enough in their heyday for them to decide exactly when and how they hang it up, most fans would be pleased to see them gracefully ride into the sunset sooner rather than later.

The problem is that The Simpsons still gets ratings. It makes money, its merchandising still kills and the syndication value is patently ridiculous. If you go to Europe or South America, The Simpsons will be on, dubbed, numerous times a day. The Simpsons is a worldwide product. Knowing this, then, if you’re the producers, what’s stopping you from cranking out new episodes, even when you are admittedly churning out a product of diminishing quality?

Thankfully, it looks as if The Simpsons run on television will end in the somewhat near future. The long-awaited Simpson’s movie is slated for a Summer 2007 release and it’s been assumed that FOX will use the movie as a nice way to end the series. I hope this comes to fruition and The Simpsons, as a TV show, is finally laid to rest. It’s hard to watch something you love so much trudge through an uninspired and crickets-filled Halloween episode like last night’s.

Family Guy, on the other hand, came back last night and flashed some of it’s third/fourth season brilliance. A few of Family Guy’s episodes earlier this season were fairly putrid, but last night proved that Family Guy is still the best animated show on television for pure, no-strings-attached laughter. The plot revolved around…well, who cares? It’s Family Guy. Plot is of little concern.

It’s possible to view last night’s dichotomy of animated programming on FOX as a ceremonial passing-of-the-torch between The Simpsons and Family Guy. Unfortunately, however, that already happened a couple of years ago. Family Guy has been ahead of The Simpsons in quality for awhile now and there’s no hope for reversing that trend, no matter how much purists would like to see it happen.

Just like JoePa and football, the world of animated comedy has passed The Simpsons by.

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer

Oscar Dahl

Senior Writer, BuddyTV