What The Simpson’s Couch Means to You

Posted on December 2, 2010

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What happens next?

Insomnia Sucks! I like to sleep! But every so often I go through a stretch where that doesn’t really work. Oh I’ll be plenty tired at tomorrow night’s poker game but sleeping from Wednesday night to Thursday, not so much. Being up at 1 a.m. I found myself watching an old South Park re-run that had an interesting premise; anything the South Park characters tried to do had already been done on The Simpsons.

According to Wikipedia at the end of the 2011 season The Simpsons will have reached 500 episodes. Consider that for a second, 500 main plots, 500 subplots, 500 different phrases Bart is writing on the blackboard and 500 different couch scenes.

Now I may be wrong but I don’t believe they have changed the show’s opening sequence except for what Bart writes on the blackboard and what happens when the family reaches the couch. Yet as the show approaches 500 episodes viewers have a reason not to fast forward through the opening sequence.

Then there’s the anchor bits and contests on your show. Sure a great feature scheduled at the same time each day can help drive tune-in; that’s consistency. But, as the Simpsons prove, consistent does not have to mean boring. If you add a Simpson’s couch-esque element to your recurring bits even your biggest fans who tune-in everyday will have  a reason to pay closer attention.

I can already hear you thinking, “Well sure Stern. It’s easy for The Simpsons. They have a team of writers and only do 20 shows a year. I’m on five days a week and I work alone.” Fine, you’ve forced my hand. It’s time for math! And believe me, this hurts me more than it hurts you. 

In 2010 there are 261 weekdays. If you watched a Simpsons’ re-run each day after-work, just like listening to a daily radio show, you could watch for nearly two years straight without seeing the same couch scene. But the Simpons’ have a handicap you don’t. If they repeat a couch bit it lives on forever in syndication. Once your show airs it’s gone. You can repeat.

If you came up with just 15 ways to introduce the same bit, changing just a small piece like the couch, each one will only play 17 times in a year. Think about how fresh any song that only plays 17 times a year sounds when it comes on. This isn’t a lot of work to help keep your audience’s attention focused on you.

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