The Simpsons (season 31)

Last updated

The Simpsons
Season 31
Thesimpsonss31cover.jpg
Digital purchase image featuring Brandine Spuckler
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes22
Release
Original network Fox
Original releaseSeptember 29, 2019 (2019-09-29) 
May 17, 2020 (2020-05-17)
Season chronology
 Previous
Season 30
Next 
Season 32
List of The Simpsons episodes

The thirty-first season of the animated television series The Simpsons premiered on Fox in the United States on September 29, 2019, [1] and ended on May 17, 2020. Al Jean returns as showrunner, a position he has held since the thirteenth season. Matt Selman also contributed as showrunner for the episodes "Go Big or Go Homer", "Livin La Pura Vida", "Thanksgiving of Horror", "The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson", "Bart the Bad Guy", "Highway to Well" and "The Hateful Eight-Year-Olds".

Contents

It is the last season to feature the voice talents of recurring co-star Russi Taylor who died on July 26, 2019 and had been with the show since the first season voicing characters such as Martin Prince, Sherri and Terri and Üter Zörker. Taylor's characters were adopted during this season's production cycle by voice actress Grey DeLisle starting with the episode "Marge the Lumberjill", though the last episode to feature Taylor would be "Thanksgiving of Horror" which aired afterwards due to being part of the prior season's production run.

The season features guest appearances from John Mulaney, Michael Rapaport, Jason Momoa, Bob Odenkirk, Jane Goodall, Asia Kate Dillon, Fortune Feimster, Scott Bakula, Steve Ballmer, Zach Woods, Beanie Feldstein, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Jim Parsons, Taran Killam, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Billy Porter, Kevin Smith, Joey King, Lilly Singh and Cate Blanchett. Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker has a cameo in a referential segment of "Thanksgiving of Horror" while the episode "Bart the Bad Guy" features Marvel Cinematic Universe producers Kevin Feige and the Russo Brothers in parody roles, along with Maria Hill actress Cobie Smulders. "The Hateful Eight-Year-Olds" features Riverdale stars Camila Mendes, Madelaine Petsch and Lili Reinhart playing three girls who bully Lisa, and in the same episode members of the band Weezer voiced the members of cover band Sailor's Delight, performed the main theme song at the end of the episode as themselves and also debuted their song "Blue Dream" within the episode. [2] Musician Jill Sobule wrote and performed an original song for the episode "Marge the Lumberjill" and John Legend also performed an original song for "The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson" while guest starring with his wife Chrissy Teigen. Several recurring guests made return appearances, including four stints from Joe Mantegna reprising his role of mobster Fat Tony, four different roles from Dawnn Lewis, Natasha Lyonne voicing Krusty's daughter Sophie again, Glenn Close as Homer's mother Mona Simpson, Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob, Jon Lovitz as Artie Ziff, and Werner Herzog and Michael York as new characters Dr. Lund and Clayton respectively.

Accolades

In early December 2019 it was announced that three episodes had been nominated for Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Writing in Animation for the 72nd Writers Guild of America Awards, resulting in The Simpsons having the most nominations overall that year. The writers and episodes nominated were John Frink for "Go Big or Go Homer," Brian Kelley for "Livin' La Pura Vida" and Dan Vebber for "Thanksgiving of Horror" [3] and on February 1, 2020, it was announced that Vebber and "Thanksgiving of Horror" had won. [4]

Only a few days after the WGA nominees were listed, the show also received a nomination for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Animated Series, [5] but lost to Bojack Horseman when winners were announced at the 10th Critics' Choice Television Awards on January 12, 2020. [6]

On July 28, 2020 it was announced the show had received three nominations for the 72nd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. "Thanksgiving of Horror" was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program, while both Nancy Cartwright and Hank Azaria were up for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance. Cartwright was nominated for playing Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum and Todd Flanders for the episode "Better Off Ned" and Azaria for his roles of Professor Frink, Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Carl Carlson, Cletus Spuckler, Kirk Van Houten and Captain McCallister in "Frinkcoin" with the winners to be announced on September 19, 2020. [7]

Production

This season features the first scripts credited to writers Max Cohn and Elisabeth Kiernan Averick. Comedian and writer Pete Holmes also both wrote and guest starred in the two-part "Warrin' Priests" episodes, making him the third freelance writer to do so after Ricky Gervais and Seth Rogen. While in "Warrin' Priests" Holmes plays the character of Bode, he had previously guest starred in season 30 premiere "Bart's Not Dead" as a different character. The episode "The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby" was delayed from the previous season, with the original intent to air it instead of "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say D'oh" on April 7, 2019. The episode was put on hold after the show's producers decided to make a short film related to the episode involving Maggie and another baby named Hudson titled Playdate with Destiny as well. The short film premiered on February 29, 2020, attached to advanced screenings of the Disney/Pixar release Onward with "The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby" serving as a sequel to it. [8]

This season was produced and aired during the COVID-19 pandemic which delayed or canceled the production of many television productions, but as an animated production this took less of a toll on the show than most live-action ones. Executive producer James L. Brooks encouraged the staff to begin working from their homes in early March 2020, before California's stay-at-home order was declared. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in late March 2020 Al Jean stated, "Production hasn't skipped a day or lost a beat. We intend to do the 22 shows we were contracted to do... There's been no change in how we do things." [9]

In April 2020, the show joined the rest of Fox's Animation Domination lineup in a partnership with Caffeine for the AniDom Beyond Show, a recap show hosted by Andy Richter. The hour-long program featured interviews with guests and live interactivity with fans online, with recaps for the episodes that aired through April and May. [10] The Simpsons episode aired on April 26 featuring Al Jean, cast member Yeardley Smith and writer and guest star Pete Holmes. [11] On May 18, Matt Selman joined the show with other writers from the Fox Animation Domination lineup.

Controversy

It was during the run of this season that longtime voice actor Hank Azaria announced that he was officially stepping down from voicing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a character he had played since the episode "The Telltale Head" from the first season. The character and Azaria's portrayal of him had come under scrutiny since the release of Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu . Apu's portrayal came under scrutiny again when the Simpsons staff referenced the criticism as being too politically correct in the season 29 episode "No Good Read Goes Unpunished" which resulted in backlash from some people concerned about the issue who felt that the response was immature. Azaria said that it was a mutual decision made between himself and the senior staff, stating, "all we know there is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's someway to transition it or something." [12]

Episodes

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
U.S. viewers
(millions)
6631"The Winter of Our Monetized Content" Bob Anderson Ryan Koh September 29, 2019 (2019-09-29)YABF192.33 [13]

Homer and Bart become viral video stars. Meanwhile, Lisa takes a stand against Springfield Elementary's new detention policy.

Guest star: John Mulaney as Warburton Parker
6642"Go Big or Go Homer" Matthew Faughnan John Frink October 6, 2019 (2019-10-06)YABF215.63 [14]

Homer is demoted to supervising interns and encourages an idolizing protégé to start up a new business, only for them to run into trouble with the local mafia.

Guest stars: Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony and Michael Rapaport as Mike Wegman
6653"The Fat Blue Line" Michael Polcino Bill Odenkirk October 13, 2019 (2019-10-13)YABF222.13 [15]

A shamed Chief Wiggum must find the real mastermind behind a pickpocketing ring in Springfield to save both an innocent man and his career.

Guest stars: Dawnn Lewis as Investigator Lenora Carter, Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony, Jason Momoa as himself and Bob Odenkirk as Mob Lawyer
6664"Treehouse of Horror XXX"Timothy Bailey J. Stewart Burns October 20, 2019 (2019-10-20)YABF185.42 [16]
This year's trio of terror includes a Stranger Things parody where Milhouse goes missing, Homer dying (again) and his spirit trying out new bodies, and Selma finally finding her perfect mate: an alien living in The Springfield Power Plant.
6675"Gorillas on the Mast" Matthew Nastuk Max CohnNovember 3, 2019 (2019-11-03)YABF202.02 [17]

After Lisa gets her brother to help her release a killer whale into the wild, Bart takes a liking to it and starts trying to liberate more dangerous animals. Meanwhile Homer is conned into purchasing a boat and tries to spread the costs of boat ownership around by convincing others to become part-owners of the watercraft too.

Guest stars: Jane Goodall as herself and Dawnn Lewis as Carlotta Carlson
6686"Marge the Lumberjill" Rob Oliver Ryan KohNovember 10, 2019 (2019-11-10)ZABF025.00 [18]

After Lisa's play portrays Marge as a boring mother, she takes an interest in chopping trees to prove her wrong. Homer is worried he will lose Marge to her friend Paula when he sees signs that they possibly could be in a relationship.

Guest stars: Asia Kate Dillon as Paula, Natasha Lyonne as Sophie and Jill Sobule performing "Lumberjill"
6697"Livin La Pura Vida"Timothy Bailey Brian Kelley November 17, 2019 (2019-11-17)ZABF032.08 [19]

Marge becomes obsessed with getting the perfect vacation photo when the Simpson family are finally invited on the Van Houten's annual trip to Costa Rica, while Lisa becomes worried they can't afford it and Homer befriends Patty's new girlfriend, Evelyn.

Guest star: Fortune Feimster as Evelyn
6708"Thanksgiving of Horror"Rob Oliver Dan Vebber November 24, 2019 (2019-11-24)YABF175.42 [20]

A Thanksgiving take on Treehouse of Horror looking at the past, present and future of the holiday. Turkeys are slaughtered by pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving, Homer purchases an A.I. based on Marge that resents the real one, and an already dangerous space mission escaping a doomed earth becomes worse when Bart's attempts to replicate cranberry sauce turn it into a sentient monster.

Guest star: Charlie Brooker as Social Media App voice
Note: This marks the final time Russi Taylor provided the voice of Martin Prince before her death.
6719"Todd, Todd, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?" Chris Clements Tim Long & Miranda ThompsonDecember 1, 2019 (2019-12-01)ZABF041.99 [21]

Ned Flanders shows Todd some old home movies when he learns his son can't remember his mother's face any more. Reliving fond memories of her make Todd doubt God's existence for not saving her so Ned sends him to live with the Simpsons to try and scare him back to believing.

Guest stars: Glenn Close as Mona Simpson and Marcia Wallace as Edna Krabappel (via archive recording)
67210"Bobby, It's Cold Outside" Steven Dean Moore John Frink & Jeff Westbrook December 15, 2019 (2019-12-15)ZABF014.97 [22]

Bart becomes suspicious when he discovers that Sideshow Bob has been hired to play Santa at a local Christmas-themed amusement park at the same time that parcels are being stolen from the front porches of Springfield's citizens.

Guest stars: Steve Ballmer as himself, Scott Bakula as himself and Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
67311"Hail to the Teeth" Mark Kirkland Elisabeth Kiernan AverickJanuary 5, 2020 (2020-01-05)ZABF051.81 [23]

Artie Ziff invites Homer and Marge to his wedding, only to find that the bride is a robot clone of Marge. Meanwhile, Lisa gets half of a new set of braces, causing her to constantly smile—and finally win popularity among her classmates.

Guest star: Jon Lovitz as Artie Ziff and Rabbi
67412"The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson"Matthew NastukJ. Stewart BurnsFebruary 16, 2020 (2020-02-16)ZABF061.95 [24]

Marge convinces the townspeople to use treasure that Captain McCallister discovered to build a STEM school in Springfield. But it isn't long before both Lisa and Homer have issues with the new school and the computer algorithm that runs it.

Guest stars: John Legend as himself, Chrissy Teigen as herself, and Zach Woods as Zane Furlong
67513"Frinkcoin"Steven Dean Moore Rob LaZebnik February 23, 2020 (2020-02-23)ZABF071.84 [25]

Lisa decides to do an essay on Professor Frink just as the scientist invents a new cryptocurrency. When this makes him the richest man in Springfield, Mr. Burns sees red and he starts plotting against Frink in order to restore his former status, while Frink learns who his real friends are.

Guest stars: Beanie Feldstein as Celebrity Executive Assistant Therapist, Jim Parsons as himself and Ed "Too Tall" Jones as himself
67614"Bart the Bad Guy"Jennifer MoellerDan VebberMarch 1, 2020 (2020-03-01)ZABF081.66 [26]

Bart accidentally sees a new superhero movie one month before its intended release, and uses his knowledge to terrorize the other fans. Two executive producers of the film attempt to prevent Bart from leaking any more news to the public.

Guest stars: Kevin Feige as Chinnos, Tal Fishman as Reaction Guy, Taran Killam as Glen Tangier/Airshot, Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony, Joe and Anthony Russo as film executives, and Cobie Smulders as Hydrangea [27]
67715"Screenless"Michael PolcinoJ. Stewart BurnsMarch 8, 2020 (2020-03-08)ZABF091.63 [28]

Marge sets limits on the family's screen time, only to become addicted herself.

Guest stars: Dana Gould as Himself, Werner Herzog as Dr. Lund, Dawnn Lewis as Female Hotshot Lawyer and Dr. Drew Pinsky as Himself
67816"Better Off Ned"Rob OliverTeleplay by: Joel H. Cohen & Jeff Westbrook
Story by: Al Jean
March 15, 2020 (2020-03-15)ZABF111.70 [29]
A prank with a dud grenade results in a threat to expel Bart from Springfield Elementary, so Ned Flanders offers to mentor him as a compromise. When Ned's positive influence on Bart becomes the talk of the town, a jealous Homer retaliates by mentoring Nelson Muntz.
67917"Highway to Well"Chris Clements Carolyn Omine March 22, 2020 (2020-03-22)ZABF101.66 [30]

When Drederick Tatum convinces Marge to work at his new upscale weed dispensary, Homer learns that there's also demand for a more downmarket experience too, so he opens a competing store out of the back of Moe's Tavern.

Guest stars: Dawnn Lewis as Upset Influencer, Chelsea Peretti as Lauren, Billy Porter as Desmond and Kevin Smith as himself
68018"The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby"Bob Anderson Tom Gammill & Max Pross April 19, 2020 (2020-04-19)YABF131.58 [31]
Mr. Burns tasks Homer with swindling Cletus Spuckler out of his newfound helium fortune. Meanwhile, Maggie is reunited with Hudson from Playdate with Destiny again, only for Marge to tear them apart after his mother annoys her.
68119"Warrin' Priests (Part One)"Bob Anderson Pete Holmes April 26, 2020 (2020-04-26)ZABF121.35 [32]

Helen Lovejoy's request for a youth pastor is answered by Bode Wright, a charismatic young preacher from Michigan. When Bode quickly has the Springfield congregation enamored by his easy-going and liberal approach to religion, an outcast and suspicious Reverend Lovejoy decides to look into the newcomer's past.

Guest star: Pete Holmes as Bode Wright
68220"Warrin' Priests (Part Two)"Matthew NastukPete HolmesMay 3, 2020 (2020-05-03)ZABF131.36 [33]

While Bode has won over most of Springfield, he finds one churchgoer he can't sway in Ned Flanders. Meanwhile in Michigan, Reverend Lovejoy finds the ammunition he needs to get rid of his replacement.

Guest star: Pete Holmes as Bode Wright, Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony and David Silverman as himself
68321"The Hateful Eight-Year-Olds"Jennifer MoellerJoel H. CohenMay 10, 2020 (2020-05-10)ZABF141.40 [34]

After severing her sibling ties with Bart, Lisa attends a sleepover at her new friend Addy's house, only to discover that Addy's clique are a group of cruel snobby rich girls that taunt her. Meanwhile, Homer takes Marge on a sunset cruise for the evening and finds himself at odds with the boat's cover band.

Guest stars: Lili Reinhart as Bella-Ella, Joey King as Addy, Madelaine Petsch as Sloan, Lilly Singh as Kensey, Camila Mendes as Tessa Rose, and Weezer as Sailor's Delight and Themselves
68422"The Way of the Dog"Matthew FaughnanCarolyn OmineMay 17, 2020 (2020-05-17)ZABF161.89 [35]

Santa's Little Helper nips at Marge, causing the family to reflect on the difficult life that the dog led prior to being adopted by the family. They end up taking him to a dog psychologist to avoid having to euthanize him.

Guest stars: Cate Blanchett as Elaine Wolff, Suzanne Waters singing "The Way We Were" and Michael York as Clayton

Ratings

The Simpsons (season 31) ratings
No.TitleAir date Rating/share
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
1"The Winter of Our Monetized Content"September 29, 20190.9/42.33 [13] 0.20.481.12.81 [36]
2"Go Big or Go Homer"October 6, 20192.1/95.63 [14] 0.20.402.36.05 [37]
3"The Fat Blue Line"October 13, 20190.8/42.13 [15] 0.20.431.02.57 [38]
4"Treehouse of Horror XXX"October 20, 20192.0/95.42 [16] 0.30.652.46.08 [39]
5"Gorillas on the Mast"November 3, 20190.8/42.02 [17] 0.20.391.02.41 [40]
6"Marge the Lumberjill"November 10, 20191.8/85.00 [18] 0.20.422.05.43 [41]
7"Livin La Pura Vida"November 17, 20190.8/42.08 [19] 0.20.391.02.48 [42]
8"Thanksgiving of Horror"November 24, 20191.8/85.42 [20] 0.30.672.16.10 [43]
9"Todd, Todd, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"December 1, 20190.7/31.99 [21] 0.20.490.92.49 [44]
10"Bobby, It's Cold Outside"December 15, 20191.7/84.97 [22] 0.20.552.05.52 [45]
11"Hail to the Teeth"January 5, 20200.6/31.81 [23] 0.20.410.82.22 [46]
12"The Miseducation of Lisa Simpson"February 16, 20200.71.95 [24] 0.20.460.92.42 [47]
13"Frinkcoin"February 23, 20200.71.84 [25] 0.10.370.82.20 [48]
14"Bart the Bad Guy"March 1, 20200.61.66 [26] 0.20.420.82.08 [49]
15"Screenless"March 8, 20200.51.63 [28] 0.10.360.71.99 [50]
16"Better Off Ned"March 15, 20200.61.70 [29] 0.20.410.72.11 [51]
17"Highway to Well"March 22, 20200.61.66 [30] 0.20.470.82.13 [52]
18"The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby"April 19, 20200.51.58 [31] 0.10.350.71.93 [53]
19"Warrin' Priests"April 26, 20200.51.35 [32] 0.20.370.61.72 [54]
20"Warrin' Priests Part 2"May 3, 20200.51.36 [33] 0.10.330.61.69 [55]
21"The Hateful Eight-Year-Olds"May 10, 20200.51.40 [34] 0.10.370.61.76 [56]
22"The Way of the Dog"May 17, 20200.61.89 [35] 0.10.310.82.20 [57]

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