In February 2014, I wrote a post where I attempted to establish an alternative timeline of how I feel The Simpsons would play out if it operated realistically instead of on its sliding timeline (wherein the characters remain the same age while the world around them changes). Since then, it became apparent that I had made a few goofs in terms of realism, and I covered the Simpson family almost exclusively, largely ignoring the other characters. In today’s post, my aim is to revisit the timeline, making revisions as I go along, and this will hopefully result in a more fine-tuned timeline.
But first, let me clear up why I wanted to do this in the first place, and why it took me so long to amend the existing timeline. I came up with the idea with creating an alternative timeline because, while I loved the show when I wrote it, I got tired of the show’s lack of continuity. I saw this as a sign that the writers were clearly seduced by mainstream success, to the point that they have forgotten about the show’s artistic potential. In my timeline, I aimed to fix the holes left by money-grubbing producers who were slowly losing their integrity.
As with last time, I should point out that this is purely speculation, and should not be taken as the show’s official canon, even though it really should be the official canon of the show. For this to work, let’s assume the following.
- The Simpsons timeline starts at December 17th 1989 (which was when the pilot episode aired)
- Homer starts the show at 33 years old, and his birthday is April 24th, 1956
- Marge starts the show at 32 years old, and her birthday is March 18th, 1957
- Bart starts the show at age 9, and his birthday is January 9th, 1980
- Lisa starts the show at age 8, and her birthday is September 21st, 1981
- Maggie starts the show at only 7 months old, and her birthday is May 12th, 1989
- The other characters’ dates of birth will be mentioned for continuity purposes, as long as it is mentioned anywhere how old they are (e.g. Mr. Burns, who reveals himself to be only 81).
- Springfield is located in the state of Oregon, since the show’s creator, Matt Groening, came from that state, and he even named the town after an existing town in Oregon that is also named Springfield. Besides, I’m getting damn tired of the writers dancing around that just for kicks.
Also, only certain relevant episodes will be highlighted in this timeline, which means all “clip shows” and “flashback episodes” will not be accounted for, since they look back on official episodes. Also, since the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes are officially non-canonical anyway, they won’t be counted. The same rule applies for “future episodes”, since their events violate the integrity of my timeline.
Anyway, now that the rules are established, let’s get started.
The beginning (1989-1992)
Naturally, we start at the first season. I’ve already talked about it in great detail, so lets focus on where it fits. The events of the first season start at the end of 1989, at the very tip of the 1980’s, and continue into 1990. This is the only official season of the Simpsons that fits perfectly with the more realistic timeline. All the episodes after that follow the floating timeline, which I’m ignoring in order to focus on realism. If the characters were allowed to age, I’m very certain that things would turn out quite differently.
To be fair, however, season two fits naturally into the timeline as well. By the time season 2 has gotten under way, Bart is now aged 10, and Lisa is now aged 9, which means that Bart should advance from the fourth grade to the fifth grade, and he does. The second season is widely regarded as having some of the best episodes in the show’s history, and it is here that we start to learn about some of the other characters. It also has the only flashback episode that even applies in the more realistic timeline (“The Way We Was” being set in 1974).
Also in this season, we get to see more of the decrepit energy tycoon C. Montgomery Burns (D.O.B.: September 15th, 1908), who attempts to run for governor, but is ultimately foiled by the Simpsons. A day after Bart’s 11th birthday, Mr. Burns accidentally runs Bart over with his limousine, while Homer ties to squeeze as much money as he can from the trumped up lawsuit, with the help of an incompetent lawyer named Lionel Hutz. Of course, he fails because Marge tells the truth, yet Homer and Marge inexplicably remain together. We also see Homer and Ned’s rivalry escalate further (mainly because of Homer), Marge rallying to censor Itchy & Scratchy, and in a classic TV moment, Lisa befriends her substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom.
Since most of the second season fits very well into the timeline, let’s move on to Season 3. The year is 1991, so by this point, Bart is now 11 years old, and Lisa is about to turn 10. Season 3 pretty much starts out as normal, but there’s a noticeable difference I should take into account. By this point, Bart should have entered the 6th grade started middle school. Because of this, the events of “Bart the Murderer” don’t apply in the alternative timeline, but “Separate Vocations” happens a little differently. In this version of events, only Lisa’s class gets the career aptitude tests, and an 10-year-old Lisa finds herself more depressed than ever, and eventually hangign out with the “bad girls”. In the official version of events, Lisa is caught stealing books, but Bart takes the fall to save her future. But in my version of events, things would be decidedly different. In a more realistic version of events, Lisa seeks advice Bart, who helps her come to the conclusion that grades are ultimately meaningless. Feeling better about herself, she begins her path of rebellion, while still getting good grades because she’s smart enough that she could get grades by her own merits.
On another note, Bart’s life takes various turns that see him develop as a person. After winning the Soapbox Derby in “Saturdays of Thunder”, Bart begins to bond with Homer, and even has dreams of becoming a rock star. In my timeline, Bart continues practising the guitar until he starts being really good at it, Otto Mann teaching him a few things. In “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”, Bart and Milhouse’s friendship is tested when they meet a girl in middle school named Samantha Stanky, whose family moved to Springfield from Phoenix, Arizona. Aside from that adjustment, the events of the episode should play out normally, except in my version of events, Samantha is simply grounded for a month, rather than being transferred to a girl’s school.
Finally, the events of “Colonel Homer” would play out as normal, except for the fact that Homer at least elopes with Lurleen once before ending his relationship with her.
The winds of change are blowing (1992-1995)
By season four is where I feel some of the most important changes into the timeline. The year is 1992, by which point Bart should be 12, Lisa should eventually turn 11, Maggie should be 3, Homer should be 36, and Marge should be 35. I’ll start with “New Kid on the Block”, where Bart falls in love with Laura Powers, a girl who moved next door to The Simpsons. The only problem is that she’s already attracted to Jimbo Jones (who by now should be 14 years old), one of the local bullies who still torments Bart in middle school. Eventually, he pranks Jimbo into whimpering in front of a knife-wielding Moe Szyslak, causing her to dump him. In the official version of events, Bart would be too young to Laura to pursue a relationship with him. But in the alternative timeline, Bart and Laura continue to be friends, and after about four months, they start dating each other.
Then, in the year 1993, things get a little complicated. First, just like last time, I now have to disqualify “I Love Lisa” from the timeline for the following reasons.
- Ralph will have been held back a few times, if not transferred to a special needs school.
- Lisa would be in the fifth grade, and I’m very sure they don’t make Valentine’s Day letter boxes in the fifth grade, even back in 1993.
- As far as my timeline is concerned, Lisa probably doesn’t give two shits about Valentine’s Day.
“Krusty Gets Kancelled” might also have turned out differently, since Bart is now too old to be part of his show’s primary demographic. He wouldn’t care about watching Krusty the Clown anymore, so he wouldn’t care much about saving Krusty’s show from low ratings, and thus Krusty loses his celebrity status and ratings to Gabbo.
Moving on to season five, let’s talk about Sideshow Bob. Last time I wrote an alternate Simpsons timeline, one commenter suggested that I may have been a bit too harsh in ending Sideshow Bob’s story arc so early, so let’s wrap this up right away. The events of “Cape Feare” would play out normally, with Bob getting arrested again, but later being released by special order of Mayor Quimby in 1994, due to popular demand stoked by Birch Barlow (a.k.a. Springfield’s answer to Rush Limbaugh). This time, I thought it would be more realistic if Sideshow Bob’s story arc ended here. After being found guilty of electoral fraud, he is sentenced to at least five years in prison.
Next, I now turn my attention to the next major episode, “The Last Temptation of Homer”, which is set near the end of 1993. By this point, Homer is 37 years old, Marge is 36 years old, and the cracks in their marriage are deepening, but appear to have been ignored for quite some time. Naturally, this opens the door to temptation. Enter Mindy Simmons, an attractive young woman who was recently employed by the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in order to comply with government policy. The way I see it, Mindy is a far better woman for Homer than Marge ever could be. They have a lot in common, and Homer is attracted to her like crazy. The only problem, however, is that Homer is married, and for some reason I won’t understand, a devoted husband. In the episode’s official ending, Homer breaks it off with Mindy, and we never hear from her again. In my timeline, however, Homer merely informs Mindy of his desire to remain faithful with Marge, but would like to stay friends with Mindy, and give her his number so they can still talk to each other. In turn, they wind up being friends with benefits, so Homer’s still having extramarital relations (given the events of “Life in the Fast Lane”, I find this highly justified). However, that Homer is still married is important if the events of “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” are going to make sense.
Before I move on, I should discount “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” from the timeline, because by the time the episode is set, Bart would 14 years old, and nearing the end of his time in middle school, and also because Lisa should have started middle school at the beginning of Season 5. In April 1994, the events of that episode would be implausible.
Ignoring the rest of season 5, it’s time to move on to Season 6, which starts in September 1994. By this point, Homer would be 38 years old, Marge would be 37 years old, and Maggie would be 5 years old, and starting her first day in school. Bart is now 14 years old, and starting his first year in high school, and Lisa is now 12 years old (but should turn 13 a few weeks after), and is still in middle school with Bart.
Before I continue, I should point out that in my hypothetical timeline, Season 6 is rife with potential timeline errors. In order to resolve this, the following episodes are omitted.
- Lisa’s Rival (rendered impossible unless Allison is a new student in middle school)
- Another Simpsons Clip Show (since clip shows are irrelevant to the timeline)
- Treehouse of Horror V (which is non-canonical anyway)
- Bart’s Girlfriend (if Bart were dating Laura, why would he be seeing Jessica to begin with?)
- Lisa on Ice (because Lisa is in middle school now)
- And Maggie Makes Three (because its version of the past conflicts with my timeline)
- Bart’s Comet (because Bart should now be in high school)
- Lisa’s Wedding (because it tells a false version of the future)
- The PTA Disbands (rendered impossible unless the strike goes on without Bart’s interference)
- Lemon of Troy (because why would Bart give a crap by this point?)
At this point, less than half of season 6 doesn’t apply in the more realistic setting, so let’s focus on the major plot points. In “Round Springfield”, the year is 1995, and Bart and Lisa are still teenagers (with Bart having turned 15). After three years of being cynical and depressed about the world, this is the point that turns a 13-year-old Lisa around, mainly because of her idol and mentor, “Bleeding Gums” Murphy. He was the man who made Lisa feel better by teaching her to display her emotions through music. In my timeline, Lisa may no longer care about school, but she never gave up on jazz, which is why she was crushed when her mentor died. She vowed to make sure his name was known throughout Springfield, and when she succeeds, her long time depression finally comes to an end. From now on, Lisa’s outlook on life becomes far more positive.
Next, in “The Springfield Connection”, a 38-year-old Marge becomes a police officer to bring some excitement into her life. Homer initially begins to like the idea, but that’s mainly because Homer’s been abusing the perks of Marge’s new career. When Marge arrests him for parking illegally, the next crack in the marriage unravels. In the official version of events, Marge finds that that the Springfield Police Department is too corrupt, and resigns. In my version of the timeline, Marge becomes aware of the corruption, but, not wanting to sacrifice the excitement and purpose that the police force provides, stays in order to try and clean up the force.
Who Actually Shot Mr. Burns? (1995)
Here is the most important part of any fan’s theory on a more realistic Simpsons timeline. The year is 1995, and believe it or not, Mr. Burns is still alive, but he’s gotten bitter and crazy over the years. After the Springfield Elementary strikes oil, Mr. Burns attempts to take financial control over the entire town so that all the money will go to him. Naturally, he becomes the most hated person in town, and he becomes so blinded by his lust for power over the town that he fires Smithers when he tries to reign in on his shenanigans. But then, at the end of part one, Mr. Burns is shot, and collapses on the town’s sundial, and everyone in town’s a suspect. Mr. Burns dies at the age of 86.
In the official version of events, Mr. Burns miraculously survives the gunshot, and the culprit is identified as Maggie, who accidentally fires Mr. Burns’ gun after it fell into her hands. Obviously this is bullshit, so that can’t happen. Last time, I asserted that the culprit was Waylon Smiters, and though I outlined my reasons for it, I realize that, as Troy McClure pointed out in the show’s 138th episode, for Smithers to be the culprit would mean ignoring the Simpson DNA evidence. By taking that into account, the culprit has to be Homer Simpson.
Think about it for a moment. Everyone in town had a reason to kill Mr. Burns, and even Smithers felt betrayed by Mr. Burns. However, I don’t think Smithers has it in him to kill another man even if it was him. Homer, meanwhile, was driven mad by Mr. Burns’ numerous failures to remember his name, and is quite capable of irrational violence, and as shown in the episode’s second part, he has a gun, and I doubt that someone would plant it in his car. Naturally, Mr. Burns dies of his wounds, so at this point, Homer faces charges of murder. With that in mind, let’s settle how this would end.
Before Homer was arrested, Lisa tried to solve the mystery herself. When Homer was arrested, Lisa tries desperately to clear his name, but it was too late. Homer is found guilty of murder, and is given a 20-year prison sentence, and is sent to jail that’s not unlike Oz. Furthermore, Mindy Simmons appearing to visit Homer in prison spark’s Marge’s curiosity-turned-outrage, causing her to finally divorce Homer after enduring 16 years of a loveless sham of a marriage.
This is the part that I get to make things up as I go along, since at this point, the timeline cannot be restored to the official status quo. Therefore, every episode after “Who Shot Mr. Burns” no longer applies to the timeline, which means that Frank Grimes never appeared in Springfield, and Maude Flanders doesn’t have to die the pointless death that she does in the official series.
Waylon Smithers takes over ownership of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant after Burn’s death, and does a better job at managing it than his former boss does, slowly making the repairs that Burns never did. Also, since Homer’s incarceration, accidents at the plant have drastically decreased. Suffice it to say, life is a lot better without Homer ruining it for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s not so good for the guy who sells donuts. Also, with Burns dead, and later Asa Phelps’ death in 1996, Grampa Simpson becomes the last surviving member of his war squad, the Flying Hellfish, and thus inherits the paintings as part of a tontine. However, he is arrested by the US State department, who gives the paintings to their rightful heir.
After Homer and Marge’s divorce, Marge successfully gains custody of the kids, since Homer is obviously a dangerous criminal now. Mindy, meanwhile, still stays by Homer’s side, and wants to marry him even if he’s in prison. In a related subject, Marge successfully campaigns to clean up the Springfield Police Department, which results in Chief Wiggum being relieved of his position, and Marge taking his place, effectively giving Marge the power to clean up the town. Marge is now more successful than Homer ever allowed her to be, and although she sometimes still misses Homer, she also remembers how much of an incompetent, lazy, uncaring jerk Homer was.
In 1996, Mayor Quimby’s years of corruption finally catch up to him. He becomes so unpopular that he loses the next mayoral election to an unnamed Republican opponent, who succeeds in tapping to the public desire for change. After Quimby’s exile, Springfield becomes a slightly better place to live in. Quimby now resides out of state, and is presumably retiring in luxury.
Others, meanwhile, aren’t so lucky. Barney’s years of alcoholism catch up to him, and he gets involved in a drunk driving accident, wherein he ends up getting killed. Having lost his two best customers, Moe the bartender becomes trapped in a hopeless situation. All of his other customers are now increasingly satisfied with their lives, and thus Moe’s Tavern goes bankrupt. With nothing left but an endless harrowing nightmare of a life, he only has one option, and it’s not something that the Simpson’s writers are willing to talk about openly.
Over the next two years, Bart lives out the rest of his high school years as a free-thinking rebel who has become friends with Nelson, who used to bully him a lot. With Kearney, Nelson, and Richard (the gray-haired kid in Bart’s class), he begins concentrating on forming the rock band of his dreams, and graduates from high school in the summer of 1998. Lisa, meanwhile, develops a romantic relationship with an intelligent boy named Langdon Alger, and continues pursuing her dreams of being a great jazz musician, and graduates from high school in the year 2000. In addition to that, she helps Maggie through her years in elementary school, and a strong sisterly bond develops between the two. Bart never got into college, but he successfully forms the rock band of his dreams, and eventually lives the fast life of a rock star, becoming a big success, and a local legend at his current age of 35. Thankfully, he’s still alive. Lisa decides not to go to college after learning that it would mean having to repay student loans for much of her life. However, she succeeds in becoming a jazz musician, and in the year 2005, she marries Langdon. She is now 33 years old. Maggie, meanwhile, goes to college and becomes a successful businesswoman who is constantly grateful to her big sister for her success. She is now 26 years old.
Homer dies in the year 2013, at the age of 57, due to a heart attack brought on by years of poor dieting. He is survived by his second wife, Mindy, who has unfortunately become just as fat as Homer was 25 years ago. After years of service in the Springfield police force, Marge successfully runs for mayor in the year 2001 as a Democrat candidate. She never forgot about Homer, regardless of his flaws. She is now 58 years old.
At this point, much of what I’ve written is the same as last time, though I have made numerous adjustments. That being said, I think it’s time to address two more characters.
Milhouse and Bart began drifting further and further apart ever since middle school. While Bart became a free-wheeling rocker, Milhouse developed into a square, buttoned-down nerd who, though he finally got better grades and eventually made it college (with his girlfriend Samantha Stanky by her side), he never became popular, he was still socially awkward for much of his life, and he would eventually grow up into someone like Alan Harper from Two and a Half Men (though hopefully he won’t be too bad). He is now the same age as Bart (with his date of birth being October 13th, 1979).
Finally, let’s address Sideshow Bob again, which also means that the only episode from seasons 7 and onward that counts in the more realistic timeline is the season eight episode “Brother from Another Series”. I know I wanted to end his story arc at the end of “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, but then, I remembered a suggestion for a much better ending. Sideshow Bob is still in jail for a few years, but by 1997, Sideshow Bob appears to have redeemed himself, to the point that he is recommended for the work release program under the care of his brother Cecil. The story carries on as normal, but in my timeline, it ends a little differently, and not just because Bart should be 17 years old by that point. In the official ending, Chief Wiggum foolishly arrests Bob for a crime Cecil commits. In the more realistic version of events, when Cecil tries blowing up the dam, Bart stops him, and Bob saves his life. He and Bart finally bury the hatchet, and develop a lifelong friendship that inspires Bob to abandon his life of crime, thus ending Sideshow Bob’s story arc.
As was the case the last time I wrote an alternative timeline theory, this is purely the speculation of a childhood fan, but I feel that this could have worked. It’s a far more realistic approach than the floating timeline the show currently operates, and it offers oodles of room for character development, exposition, and social commentary. If the writers did go with this approach, or something similar, I feel that it would have improved the show significantly. Besides, in its current state, The Simpsons has no real timeline. The show’s universe is now a convoluted mess that’s riddled with gaping plot holes, all because the producers used a floating timeline instead of a more realistic timeline, and the producers kept changing everything about the characters and even the setting itself to fit newer episodes (which is why I had to exclude them from the alternative timeline to begin with). Compared to the official timeline, the alternative timeline that I’ve suggested (and I did this purely because I loved the show) would be far better, and make more logical sense than a universe filled with plot holes.