Some of the most beloved iconic animated characters and shows have all had their epic, sad, or even goofy finales at one point or another. While some of those shows went out with a bang, there are other classics that continue to this day with no end in sight, some of these being featured below.
A famous sponge in the sea once said, “Isn’t this great? I’m back forever!”. This seems to be the case nowadays. Created by marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg and first airing in 1999, Spongebob Squarepants was a sensation for the Nickelodeon network. Now spanning a 20 year run consisting of 13 seasons, and 3 movies, it’s been one of the most profitable properties for Nickelodeon and Viacom. The character is arguably the star of the network on par with mascots like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. He’s also an internet icon with multiple meme templates spawning from hundreds of episodes.
And with 2 new spin-off shows along with a current 13th season, it seems as if this sponge may never run dry. However, it's not only children’s animation where some shows seem to have no end. The Simpsons is another popular show that seems to have no end to it, originally created by Matt Groening as a series of shorts that aired during the Tracey Ullman show.
Eventually, it was picked up by the Fox network as a half hour series. Debuting in 1989, and became an animated success as audiences regularly tuned in to the antics of Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie. It’s been infamous on the internet for rumors of it supposedly predicting the events of the future, and even current day events. With a 32 season run, it may very well continue to run into the future as it predicted. The show itself seems to acknowledge this in the credits of one of its episodes, with the song They’ll Never Stop The Simpsons, a parody of Billy Joel’s We Didn't Start the Fire. One of the clips throughout this end credit sequence even shows Homer Simpson quite literally jumping a shark.
However, with success often comes imitators, and a lot of people today can assume Family Guy could be seen as just that; a knockoff of The Simpsons. While this is a way to look at it, the show’s origins go farther back to a little known pilot episode called Larry and Steve, created by Seth McFarlane.
It was pitched to the Cartoon Network as a children’s show in 1996, on their testing ground show “What A Cartoon .” This show was where a lot of Cartoon Network’s best shows began — as a simple short with a basic concept that would become the final show. However, Family Guy evolved far from its original concept. Later on, many changes were made resulting in a different target audience, becoming an adult animated series. This is where The Simpsons and Family Guy seem to quickly differentiate as The Simpsons seems to take a more family oriented approach, Family Guy stepped in with crude and mature humor for older audiences, while The Simpsons seems to make references that most people, even younger generations would likely understand. However, Family Guy’s unique brand of humor throws in satire on modern issues and current events. The youtube channel WatchMojo has said that, “A pop culture focused show with reverent takes on politics, religion and other social issues Family Guy looked like it would be a short lived cult classic”. This appeared to be the case for some time as the show had been cancelled, renewed and once again cancelled for low ratings and poor scheduling that resulted in said low ratings.
However, Cartoon Network had bought the rights to the show to air on its late night programming block, [adultswim], and became the highest rated show on the block. It also was a success in DVD sales, with its first DVD selling nearly 3 million copies in 2003. Soon, Fox executives began to take notice, and in 2005, the show was again renewed. It continues to run to this day.
Now, shows with a similar type of humor seem like they’ve got infinite potential to create episodes correlating with the events of today. Some might even say that these shows will have made satirical commentary on almost everything during their time on television. At the rate these shows continue, they may very well manage to do so. Similar to Family Guy, South Park also aimed for a more mature audience, with crude humor and parody/satire of world events, celebrities, and other such topics. The show began as a stop motion short created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker called “The Spirit of Christmas” with characters resembling Stan Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman as they might look in the final product.
Thanks to the spreading of the short through VHS copies, the video went viral long before the internet, and after Matt and Trey were discovered to be the ones responsible for the short, they immediately got meetings with many big networks. However, due to its style of mature humor and an animated style that made it appear to be a children’s show, many networks shied away from showing something of that nature on their network. But in 1997, a struggling Comedy Central eventually aired the new pilot episode. This was mainly because they knew it would get the network attention. They had low expectations for the pilot, assuming they’d get only 200,000 viewers if they were lucky. But the premiere garnered 889,000 viewers, and by the end of the first season, they had an average 5.6 million viewers. The show has also had numerous episodes that’ve been considered so controversial that they’ve been banned from being shown on TV and streaming services nationally. Despite controversy, the show continues to this day, and now has a 24 season run with one movie and multiple video games. More recently, it’s had a huge renewal across the series with 14 original upcoming movies for the Paramount+, and a continuation of the main series for 6 more seasons after a $900 million deal.
All of these shows are quite unique in their own ways, and are labors of love and lots of effort from their team of creators, artists, animators, and writers. While it’s amazing these characters have been continuing their adventures for so long, it begins to take a toll on the quality of the show with some seasons or episodes having their ups and downs for each series based on the conditions in which they were developed or created. I think at this point, as much as I love to see these shows continue and watch them today, it’d be even better to see some of these shows get a proper send-off with a great series finale.