What Rick and Morty Can Learn From The Simpsons

Bringing In Guest Stars

Longevity can sometimes be based on ratings and those can be impacted by any number of components. The Simpsons mastered a simple technique to continue to boost their viewing figures, by stealing a trick that is firmly cemented in sitcom history. The guest star spot has seen huge names making their way to Springfield, with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Cash, Meryl Streep, Ed Sheeran, James Earl Jones, and even recently Billie Eilish, lending their vocal talents to the show. 

Of course, while the list goes on and on for The Simpsons, Rick and Morty is beginning to follow a similar approach, with some acting legends of the past and present also getting the opportunity to contribute to the sci-fi series. Taika Waititi, Patton Oswalt, Sam Neill, Susan Sarandon, Jeffrey Wright, Danny Trejo, and Kathleen Turner are just a few examples from the adventures of the Smith family. Rick and Morty would be wise to continue to use this gimmick to build interest in the series, as viewers tune back in to see how some of their favourite performers might fit into this whimsical universe. 

Building Out An Ensemble 

For there to be guest stars, there also has to be a wider range of characters for them to inhabit, that believably contribute to the narrative. That’s easier to achieve when an ensemble has been established. The Simpsons might focus on the titular family that viewers regularly find sitting on the couch, but the list of supporting parts in Springfield is almost endless. So many different figures have allowed for such a diverse range of narratives, that pull from multiple points of view. The sitcom can return to any of these faces at any point, allowing for the core cast of characters to still feel fresh. Everyone has a favourite outside of Marge, Homer, Lisa, Bart and Maggie, whether it’s Flanders, Krusty, Patty or Selma!

Rick and Morty hasn’t fully established itself as an ensemble quite in the same way as The Simpsons. It has returned to a few recurring characters like Birdperson, Tammy and Mr. Poopybutthole, but for the large part the figures that audiences are introduced to don’t last much longer than an episode. The show got great narrative longevity out of the President (Keith David) for instance and that can be achieved on a grander scale with a larger roster of characters to pull from. Rick and Morty can continue to go on their intergalactic adventures with fresh faces each time, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a few return here and there, not just for continuity sake, but to widen the depth of stories to tell. That’s partially how The Simpsons has kept reimagining new escapades for so long. 

Regular Event Episodes 

The Simpsons hasn’t heavily relied upon event episodes in its run, but it has established a few conventions that gives fans something to look forward to. It’s tradition for instance to air a Treehouse of Horror episode for Halloween, with Disney+ day also starting a new trend of themed shorts each year on the streaming service. It’s a fun precedent to set, with the continuity of the show getting completely broken in favor of some kind of event-based celebration. 

Rick and Morty recently moved into similar territory, making a point of exaggerating another Thanksgiving episode. Of course, it didn’t even air during the right time of year, but that only adds to the ridiculous spectacle of the event. Rick and Morty could make these Thanksgiving episodes annual releases, similar to how Treehouse of Horror has set itself as a mainstay of the spooky season. Years down the line, the science fiction show will have formed a new tradition, that only adds to its long-term appeal. 

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