Today, we look at how the splintering world of TV entertainment has made it nearly impossible for shows to latch on to viral moments and thus looking at the nearly decade-old Ralph Wiggum scene that was the most recent Simpsons joke to crack into the mainstream.
Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of pop culture history that interests me that doesn’t quite fit into the other features.
Now, let me note that obviously people are still making memes based on new episodes of The Simpsons. Of COURSE they are. There are whole Facebook groups designed on making new memes based on new Simpsons episodes. The issue is that while there ARE new memes created using new episodes of The Simpsons, there are even MORE new memes being made that are based on OLD episodes of The Simpsons, and it is THESE memes that tend to become popular still (like the batch of Limewire Simpsons memes from a few years ago) as that’s the problem in a nutshell. Our collective upbringing surrounded classic episodes of The Simpsons (Season 1-10, basically) and not the last 20-plus seasons of the show. It’s been over 25 years since the Steamed Hams joke in Season 7’s “22 Short Films About Springfield” and people are STILL putting out popular memes about that one joke!
A lot of this is demonstrated by just by the pure math of the ratings of the show. Simply put, MANY MORE people watched the show back in its early days. Season 1 averaged nearly 28 million viewers. The most recent season averaged less than 2.5 million viewers! And the real kicker is that the show is STILL successful, because no one watches live television anymore, so the show obviously adds viewers on DVR viewing or On Demand viewing or when it is watched on Disney+, but beyond that, since, again, NO ONE watches live television, then everyone is in the same basic boat (outside of live sports, of course), so it’s basic “In the Kingdom of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King” stuff here, so if you’re an advertiser looking to sell ads, a show that gets 2.23 million viewers is still valuable to you if no one else is getting 2 million, so the ads sell for close to the same amount of money as they did when it was a 27 million viewer show being compared against a 20 million viewer show. It’s all relative.
Amusingly, though, the most recent Simpsons episode to become a successful meme was not even technically a Simpsons episode. It was instead an episode of Family Guy, the September 2014 Season 13 opener that saw the Griffins head to Springfield where they met the Simpsons (the episode was called “The Simpsons Guy”).
Peter and Homer had an extensive fistfight (an homage to Peter’s extensive fistfights against the Chicken in Family Guy episodes) and during the fight, they enter a Springfield Elementary School bus and knock out Otto the bus driver, and Homer notes that there is a kid on the bus and it cuts to Ralph Wiggum, who chuckles “I’m in danger”).
That “I’m in danger” bit…
has become a very popular internet meme. Here’s an example of how it is used (this is one of the first memes using it that went viral)…
I wouldn’t be surprised if another new Simpsons meme comes along and is a success in the future, but it’s still fascinating that the most recent one that HAS so far is from 2014 and appeared on a different TV program.
Okay, if anyone has a suggestion for a future Knowledge Waits (basically, interesting about pop culture that you’d like to see written about), drop me a line at email@example.com.