CDP Wayback Machine – Halloween Humiliation Edition.

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(Originally published October of 2005.)

When I was in Kindergarten in 1986 or 1987, it was the school’s policy to have everyone in the building parade around each other for the afternoon. Every year, all the kids would dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes, and show them off for the remainder of Winneconne Elementary to view.

I think the big thing in the mid-80’s was the California Raisins, so there were a lot of kids in purple-face, wearing garbage bags stuffed with newspaper. This was not only sad and lazy on the part of the parents, but also a tad racist. I never quite jived with the thought of 4 overweight prunes donning sunglasses and singing soul tunes. Maybe I’m just sensitive; after all, it was the most successful marketing campaign in fruit and vegetable history.

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Anyways, my Mom was far too refined to send me to school wearing a garbage bag. Man, I was set. Today, I was Sylvester the cat, complete with full costume and a giant head. I looked like the mascot for a football team, that’s how rad this costume was. Screw the plastic masks with the cheap rubber band and staple, I was going for broke this year. If this didn’t score me some more friends, I didn’t know what would.

On the day of the parade, I brought my amazing costume, neatly folded and packed in a paper bag, and placed directly under my hanging jacket in our cubby section along the wall. There it would sit, unassuming and quiet, waiting patiently for the afternoon to arrive to spring itself free from the bag and blow the minds of about a thousand educated minds. I felt like a suicide bomber before the big moment. Before you could say “Allah,” the afternoon was upon us.

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Frantically, the entire Kindergarten class darted over to the cubby, tearing their meager raisin costumes and cheap masks out of their tragic paper bags. I sauntered over slowly, as to not draw too much attention to myself. The time for that would be soon enough. As the dust began to settle, I strolled in and started looking for my costume.

But…I couldn’t find it.

The bag that I thought it was in was empty, and all the other bags seemingly belonged to other kids. After a thorough check of all the bags again (thorough for a 5 year old, mind you), I realized that my awesome Sylvester costume was no more. It was either stolen or had simply disappeared.

Again, being a refined and dedicated parent, my Mother was actually there as a chaperone for the proceedings. She asked and re-asked me if I was absolutely positive that my costume wasn’t over by the cubby. I gave her my word that it had dropped off the face of the Earth. Suddenly I went from almost being the coolest kid in Kindergarten to the loser without a costume. Something needed to be done, and my Mother was getting a bit frantic.

Mrs. Broderick, my Kindergarten teacher, had a plan. “We have some spare costumes in the closet,” she said, doing her best to make the most of a bad situation. She was an amazing teacher, and away she went, digging around to find something for me, just minutes before the big parade.

“Here we go,” she said. “Try this on.”

“This” happened to be the saddest looking dog costume I’ve ever seen. Yes, a dog costume. Why someone would neglect a costume like this, leaving it for dead in a Kindergarten closet for 80 years was beyond me. Oh, wait, it was because the costume sucked a boatload of ass.

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Imagine the cheapest Halloween costume you can think of. Good, now pretend that it’s of a dog. Okay, good. Now cross-breed that dog costume with a clown costume, make it horribly ill-fit and make it orange and yellow striped, and you’re getting into the ballpark of what this costume looked like. It certainly didn’t look like something a dog would wear, but the mask assured me that it was indeed a canine outfit. Perhaps this particular dog worked at a circus or something, but I was really in no position to ask questions. While my Mom literally held back tears of embarrassment and anger, I slipped into a skin-tight circus dog uniform.

(INTERMISSION.)

A dog walks into a hardware store and says, “I’m looking for a job.”
The clerk says, “I’m sorry, we don’t hire dogs. Why don’t you work for the circus?”
The dog looks at him and says, “What would the circus want with a plumber?”

(END OF IMTERMISSION.)

Okay, back to the story.

So, furious, sad, heartbroken and humiliated beyond my wildest dreams, I was forced to get in line with my friends and respected quad-partners, and parade this obscene costume in front of every single person in the school, grades K through 8.

Peering at the other kids through the tiny plastic slits in the mask, I didn’t know if they were making fun of me, or just didn’t recognize who I was. For a fleeting moment, I was on top of the world. I had everything I needed for a successful afternoon, and in less than a minute, everything came crashing around me. Instead of going out with a bang, I was wishing to God that I would turn into a California Raisin.

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It didn’t happen.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, at the tenderest of ages. Life is hard. Nothing should be taken for granted. If you think that everything’s going to go well, that’s going to be your first of many mistakes. Billie Joe Armstrong says, “Don’t pat yourself on the back, you might break your spine.” Well, on Halloween 1987, I gave myself a Christopher Reeve-style thrashing.

It was one of the worst days of my entire childhood.

So, after the parade, everyone was changing out of their costumes and getting ready to go home. I was peeling the circus dog outfit off of me, dripping with sweat and failure, when my Mom asked me a question that I’ll never forget.

“Hey, what’s in that bag over there?”

I don’t think I have to tell you what I found in it.

Happy Halloween. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

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The CDP’s 24 Hour Halloween Movie Marathon.

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Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, here are 14 great Halloween films to watch over the course of 24 hours, right down to the minute. If you’re looking for a scary movie marathon with your friends, cats or merely a bucket of Sour Patch Kids and deepest regrets, the CDP has you covered.

Honorable Mentions go to Seven, Race With The Devil, Rear Window, Poltergeist, Halloween, Psycho, Scream, Nosferatu, The Blair Witch Project and Frankenstein. Feel free to add these films if you ever wish to hold a 48 hour marathon.

Let’s go.

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NOON – 1:36pm
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Might as well kick things off with a masterpiece. You’ll soon see that when it comes to scary movies, I tend to stick with the classics, and Night Of The Living Dead takes residence in my Holy Trinity of Horror Movies.

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1:36pm – 3:27pm
The Omen (1976)

They don’t make movies about Satan like they used to. Enjoy the Missus’ choice for her favorite scary movie, and one of the only ‘demon possessed kid’ films that matters.

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3:27pm – 5:22pm
The Ring (2002)

The newest film on this list by a long shot, I argue that the American remake of The Ring is not only better than the original, but one of the top 10 horror movies of the last 10 years.

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5:22pm – 6:46pm
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

By now, the sun should be going down, so what better time to take in Movie #2 in my Holy Trinity of Horror Movies? Endlessly influential, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre spawned countless (for better or worse) knockoffs.

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6:46pm – 8:45pm
The Birds (1963)

One of three Hitchcock films I considered for this marathon, The Birds is a perfect example of mixing brilliant direction with suspense, mystery, and everything else that makes Hitchcock one of the greatest of all-time.

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8:45pm – 9:49pm

Freaks (1932)

Not ‘scary’ per se, but an absolutely essential movie to locate and view, if only because the concept (legit circus freaks murder a scheming trapeze artist and her strongman boyfriend) is guaranteed to never see a camera lens ever again. You’d be thrown out of Hollywood for even pitching it.

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9:49pm – 12:13am
The Shining (1980)

The Shining gets a prime timeslot in our marathon, and I consider it more than worthy. One of the most artful films of the genre, and featuring a legendary performance by Jack Nicholson.

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12:13am – 1:55am
The Burbs (1989)

After the emotional annihilation of The Shining, watch the criminally-overlooked comedy, The Burbs. I don’t know why; maybe it’s because the movie never quite decides what it wants to be (dark comedy, horror, spoof), but it’s honestly one of my favorite movies ever. Due to the Missus not sharing my sentiments, I only watch it once a year with her, right around Halloween.

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1:55am – 3:42am
The Changeling (1980)

I watched The Changeling for the first time a couple of years ago, and it took me completely by surprise. George C. Scott is (predictably) fantastic, and the slow burn of the first half will suck you in and claim your emotions for the twisted climax. A really good, classic paranormal film, and I recommend watching it as I did, with no reservations of what it was supposed to be about.

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3:42am – 5:40am
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

The influence, legacy and memory of The Silence Of The Lambs cannot be overstated. The only ‘Horror’ movie to ever receive a Best Picture Academy Award, it seemingly does everything perfect, creating a very real, very grimy world of serial murderers, psychological manipulation and the best leading cast in the history of the genre. Not just a must-see; but a must-own.

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5:40am – 7:18am
The Eye (2002)

For my money, one the best of the ‘Asian Horror’ films, The Eye takes an interesting concept (woman accidentally goes blind and can now see the dead), and sprinkles all sorts of Asian cinematography dust on each frame. Like The Changeling, The Eye snuck up on me, and if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t need wanton gore to be interested in a scary movie (like me), this should do the trick.

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7:18am – 9:34am
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Horror movies from this era did two things I really liked: First, they mentioned Satan a lot. Secondly, movies were allowed to end badly, meaning that main characters were killed, the bad guys got away, and in the case of Rosemary’s Baby, the seed of the Dark Lord was planted in Mia Farrow. If you haven’t seen this one by now, you may want to remedy that. Dark, looming, paranoid and remarkable.

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9:34am – 9:58am
Trilogy Of Terror – ‘Amelia’ (1975)

So, we’ve almost made it through the 24 hour marathon. Chances are a lot of your friends have fallen asleep, the DVD player is smoldering and you’re almost completely out of Zagnut bars. What better time to watch the iconic final short film from Trilogy Of Terror, where Karen Black is terrorized in her apartment by a Zuni fetish doll come to life? Trust me, it’s awesome.

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9:58am – NOON
The Exorcist (1973)

Here we are. The final piece of my Holy Trinity of Horror Movies, and without question the greatest (and arguably scariest) horror film ever made. The Exorcist wins, and most other arguments exist only because said curmudgeon doesn’t want to accept that such a popular movie is also the best. It is. Nothing else comes close. Even at 10am, even upon the 20th viewing, it’ll send you reeling.

Just to be sure, I re-watched The Exorcist shortly before I put this list together, and you know what? It was better than I remembered. If you’ve never seen it (or haven’t seen it in awhile), it’s more than Linda Blair flopping around on a bed (which she does brilliantly, I might add). The real star of the film, Jason Miller, does a masterfully understated job as Damien Karras, a priest losing his faith and wracked with guilt at the recent loss of his mother. An early scene with him visiting his mother at a psych ward was particularly unnerving. Also, Ellen Burstyn plays the role of Regan’s mother with just the right combination of terror and frustration. There are no ‘unbelievable’ characters in this movie, and considering the subject matter, that’s pretty unbelievable in and of itself.

The influence The Exorcist continues to have on horror is undeniable. Moments like listening to Regan’s speech backwards, or the hospital surveillance footage of her mania are surprisingly contemporary. Finally, this movie is, at the end of the day, a huge victory for Catholics. I’m surprised they don’t play this at least once a year during mass (okay, maybe not, but still).

The Exorcist earned a whopping 10 Oscar nominations, winning two. With a gross of over $450 million, it’s also one of the most popular films of all time. Finally, The Exorcist was named ‘Scariest Movie Of All-Time’ by Entertainment Weekly, IMDB, Movies.com and AMC. Not too shabby. It’s also on Netflix streaming in HD right this very instant, so give yourself a couple of hours and watch it tonight.

The marathon is over. Change your pants and get some rest. Sound off in the comments section, let me know what your marathon would look like and enjoy your day. More Halloween stuff tomorrow.

See You In Your Nightmares!

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(This pretty much explains it all, doesn’t it?)

Considering that Halloween is my favorite holiday, you’d think I would have written about it extensively by now. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this last week, and concluded that while I grew up with many fun and memorable Halloweens, none of them are really interesting or unique enough to elaborate upon in depth. I grew up in a microscopic town, my cash-strapped family made the majority of my costumes (see the unfathomably tragic photograph above), and as I lived 30 minutes away from school, I didn’t spend the evening with my friends until much later on. It was usually just my parents and I, hitting up friendly faces for no more than a couple hours a year.

On one hand, it was beautiful and picturesque. Halloween in Winchester (Population: 700 at most) was as you would see it portrayed on an ABC Family movie, or The Adventures of Pete & Pete. The weather was perfectly cool, each yard was decorated meticulously and the children were free to run and roam as they pleased until late at night. On the other hand, it was brief and isolated. Once you were done with a certain street, you either had to be driven to another spot in the town, or you were just done for the night. Outside of visiting a few stray relatives, Small Town Halloween was relegated to a quarter-mile stretch of land. Exciting land, but extremely limited nonetheless.

I went to school in Winneconne (Population: 2000), and their gridlike streets and dense population of children in the late 80’s made it fertile ground for creating Halloween memories. That being said, I never spent a year trick-or-treating there, due to some longstanding feud between my mother and the Village itself. More than likely, her anxiety caused her to avoid any circumstance where she may have had to knock on the door of a former classmate. The first time I was able to celebrate Halloween in Winneconne with my classmates, I think I had a Learner’s Permit.

Very early on, I was able to travel to the town of Dale, where the family grocery store was located (see above). Dale is an almost comically small town, but their main drag of taverns and banks allowed for rapid candy accrual and consumption. Often times in my older years, I would stay home and rig up our front yard in an attempt to scare visitors. One year, I made a dummy out leaves, pillows, old clothing and a hand-painted basketball, and proceeded to heave it off the roof at trick-or-treaters. I was allowed to do this approximately once.

Perhaps my positive memories (like most aspects of my life) have more to do with the overall mood and media portrayal of the holiday than anything personally tangible. My happy nostalgia doesn’t necessarily lie in the house-to-house trips, copious amounts of candy or even what I was allowed to wear. It lies more in the advertising, movies and electric aura of Halloween.

Next to Christmas, Halloween is a holiday that you can feel in the air more than any other, and it’s a feeling you can take with you forever, even if the parties I attended were never as cool as the ones I saw in Kit-Kat commercials. As is usually the case with advertising, the products never made my gatherings as interesting than the ones on television. I sometimes think about going overboard on decorations and inviting everyone that I’m even passively fond of to my house in an attempt to recreate that magic, but the dorks would probably just end up standing around the kitchen or smoking on my deck. Nothing I do is ever appreciated as much as I’d like it to be.

With that in mind, here’s what you can expect to see on the CDP in the next few days.

For the remainder of the week and into Monday, we’re going to dig into equal parts personal and commercial concerning my favorite holiday. Tomorrow, I’ll compile my 24 Hour Halloween Movie Marathon. On Friday, we’ll (re)revel in one of the most humiliating moments of my life, which just so happened to take place on Halloween. Finally on Monday, I’ll let you read my long-lost Halloween novel from 1990, and that’s going to be awesome for you, incredibly embarrassing for me.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

The Cutest Loser.

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Almost nine months ago to the day, the Missus started doing something remarkable.

After years of false-starts, hiccups and self-doubt, she finally researched a diet plan she was happy with and hopped on board with a specific goal in mind. She stuck to it, changed her eating (and cooking) habits, and remains fully committed to the plan nearly nine months later. She came out of the chute with both guns blazing, showed incredible resilience in the face of constant temptation, and emerged a new woman. So, what does she have to show for it? Down a couple dress sizes? Lost 10 pounds? Twenty, even?

Try 100 pounds. That’s one hundred. A one followed by two zeros. It’s all gone.

Losing 100 pounds is, to me, an outstanding feat. I mean, it’s ‘Results Are Atypical’ outstanding. She should have her own commercial on late night television, plugging the product and making people green with envy from coast to coast. They should send her a new goddamn car. While I’m not surprised she saw her goal through (her David Ortiz-like clutchness was the main attribute that made me want to marry her), I’m blown away that it happened so quickly. What kind of superwoman without a personal trainer, chef and nutritionist loses 100 pounds in nine months?

For starters, it’s not like the Missus weighed a thousand pounds or anything. She had 100 pounds to lose and she lost it, which is an accomplishment that is worlds easier said than done. The last 10 pounds doesn’t exactly melt away as effortlessly at the first 10, and it’s that proverbial brick wall that sends most dieters off the deep end.

Furthermore, she shares a home with a beer-swilling, alfredo sauce-drinking, Cheeto-inhaling metabolism machine that has little-to-no context as to how calories are distributed throughout the body (the heart attack is a scant few months away, I reckon). I weighed 150 pounds in 2002, and I weigh 160 pounds in 2011. I have no rational concept of what it means to struggle with weight, but I sympathize that it’s an unbelievably frustrating endeavor.

Watching your wife lose three pounds a week is an experience almost too surreal for words (next to experiencing it first-hand, I presume). It was like watching bamboo grow; I could see it happening with my own eyes. She would climb into bed with me at night, and it was if she were visibly thinner than when she woke up that morning (she technically was). Friends and co-workers took notice immediately. Her former wardrobe became obsolete. Every Friday during our commute to work, she would tell me where she was at that week, and I’d silently shake my head in a sort of unsurprised disbelief. I knew she could accomplish anything she set her mind to, but I was still sort of blown away by the whole thing.

My main job was to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. Don’t say anything stupid, show support only when needed and spend the rest of my time pretending that my wife wasn’t in the process of losing the mass equivalent of Manny Pacquiao. It was like watching your buddy try to win Super Mario Bros. without losing a single life. You only get one crack at this. Don’t say a word, don’t reach for the Doritos, don’t even breathe. There will be time for celebration later, and any failure will be your fault.

At the grocery store, something interesting happened between the two of us. We were eating separately now; she had her food and I had mine. This, for some reason, caused me to revert to Bachelor Mode. Her cart would be lightly stocked with low-carb this and fat-free that, and my cart would be stacked to the rafters with ‘Double Stuf’ Oreos, Marshmallow Fluff and multiple cheese wheels. I didn’t fully realize the sheer amount of garbage I shoveled into my face until I was forced to take full responsibility for it. Thanks to my complete inability to take care of myself, I actually gained five pounds while the Missus was losing her 100. I like to call it ‘sympathy weight,’ but I think the Frito-Lay company holds the lion’s share of the blame.

I also proved a theory that I’ve long held suspicion towards: Female friends do not want you to succeed at anything they’ve ever failed at. Sure, they’ll tell you to your face that they’re proud of you and that you look gorgeous and that they knew all along you’d see it through, but there’s a tiny part of them that really wants to see you put all that weight back on (for one reason or another). The faux excitement that arrives at the beginning of diet leads into quiet envy and disdain as you, you know, continue to keep the weight off, and you can feel it in their body language and tone. The Missus is enjoying that disingenuous aspect, as am I. As a man, I wouldn’t even mention a friend’s weight loss (or gain) until the situation was urgent enough for the paramedics to be called. It just wouldn’t come up.

I’ve been with the Missus for 12 years this December, and there has never been a day when I didn’t think she wasn’t the most perfect woman on Earth for me. Never a day when I didn’t find her presence to be the most attractive thought I could mentally conjure. I sincerely mean that; in 12 years, we have never had a conversation about how we had grown disenfranchised with the other’s appearance. Never ever came close. I’m not saying this to sound like a rad husband or anything, I honestly have never been concerned (or even unenthused) with the way my wife looked. It was too superficial for even a fleeting thought. The way I see it, if anyone’s going to be thrown out of the house for looking like they’ve given up, it would have been me three days after the wedding. She had never once lost the attributes that made me turn my life over to her in 1999. 100 pounds didn’t mean shit to me in that regard, and it still doesn’t, no matter what happens tomorrow.

In short, she nailed it. According to her, she still has a few things left to do before she starts on the path to ceasing the plan and maintaining the weight loss for the remainder of her existence, but for now, I’m relishing in her outstanding achievement. She doesn’t mind being in photographs anymore. She looks forward to buying clothing. She cuddles with reckless abandon. She regained a huge chunk of her self-confidence and worth (about 100 pounds of it), which is something that had been missing in her for years. She’s back. All of her.

Well, almost all of her.

Canceling The Simpsons? Best. Idea. Ever.

A brief history of FOX programming, legacy versus relevance, and the future of television’s greatest show.

The Simpsons is the greatest, most iconic, most influential and most beloved television show of all-time. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with that statement, it’s a pretty difficult one to argue. It’s akin to the claim that The Beatles were the greatest band in history; even if you generally don’t care for The Beatles, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with another band worthy of rebuttal. In all actuality, thinking of a Beatles rival is considerably easier than thinking of a Simpsons one. Nothing else seems to come close.

Initially, The Simpsons was revered as a cultural movement for their wit, characters, controversy and weekly classic episodes for its first several years on FOX. However, after more than a decade on the air (and after three or four straight seasons criticized for their declining quality), The Simpsons became known for something else. It became the show that might be on the air forever. At some point (let’s say somewhere around 2001), it no longer mattered what the episode was about, how much funnier it used to be, nothing. It just became that thing that you watch because it’s on and you’ve always watched it. And I was fine with that, honestly.

Much like the music of the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan, The Simpsons had reached a point where the longevity of their career (or the quality of their output) would in no way tarnish their initial legacy. For example, nobody would dare argue the merits of Let It Bleed against, say, Voodoo Lounge. In this regard, The Simpsons became untouchable. For my money, The Simpsons did so much for television (and comedy, and the 90’s, and global Pop Culture as a whole) in their first five seasons, they could coast on mediocrity for the next 20 or so without bothering me. And that’s sort of exactly what they did. You can’t deny that the last 14 seasons have produced some classic episodes, but something’s different than the way it used to be. It’s not the same, and everyone knows it.

I’ve always found it interesting that two of the longest-running shows on television, The Simpsons and Cops (both on the FOX network), have been quietly running parallel with each other since 1989. What I find especially interesting is their stark differences and surprising similarities. In The Simpsons, we have an expertly-crafted animated series that takes nearly six months (and hundreds of employees) an episode to script, record, animate and produce. In Cops, we have a show that could theoretically be filmed on a Monday and air that same Saturday. There is no script, the format is always the same, and unlike The Simpsons, there is never the threat of a shortage of material (Cops has also been satirized a few times on The Simpsons, a comedic honor if there ever was one).

That being said, they’ve both been wildly successful in similar ways. Both never receive notes or suggestions from Standards & Practices, both have ran eons longer than the typical shelf life for a 30 minute national television show, and both have woven themselves into the very fabric of American Pop Culture (for better or for worse). You could even argue that The Simpsons and Cops were the cornerstone shows that launched FOX into serious contendership with the then ‘Big Three’ networks at the end of the 1980’s. FOX owes these shows a serious debt of gratitude, and considering that they’re both still on the air a staggering four decades after their respective premieres, I’d say it’s a debt that’s been paid tenfold.

I want Cops to air for the rest of my life and beyond, perhaps until the very medium by which we take in entertainment has shifted completely away from the television. And it could. Unlike The Simpsons, Cops has a built-in, Cinema Verite failsafe concerning the waning of the product. America’s Funniest Home Videos has the very same failsafe; as long they don’t monkey with the format (and as long as methamphetamine and piñatas are easily attainable), the show is virtually guaranteed to never decline in quality. It doesn’t matter where our values and interests migrate as an entertained society, we will always have a constantly-replenishing trove of drug arrests and footballs to the groin (also satirized by The Simpsons) to keep us warm. I sincerely want Cops to run forever, and I wanted The Simpsons to run forever, too.

At least until last week.

This all brings me to a recent news article about FOX claiming they can no longer produce The Simpsons with the $8 million-a-season price tag that the six principle voice actors are currently earning. If you recall from a few years back, the Simpsons voice talent agreed to somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 an episode per season, and the undisputed role of Best TV Job On Earth. This title rings especially true for Yeardley Smith, the only cast member who is relied upon for one solitary speaking role (Lisa). To put that into perspective, Dan Castellaneta, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria are responsible for at least 70 Simpsons speaking roles between the three of them, and there are many episodes that feature nothing more than one or two lines from the usually-overlooked Lisa.

Logically speaking, $48 million a season is a drop in the bucket for the casting costs of the most popular American television show of all-time. Especially if you consider the billions (and billions) of dollars that The Simpsons franchise brings in annually. Next to the eventual deal FOX signed with the National Football League (and perhaps the success of American Idol), I would have to assume that The Simpsons is the greatest cash cow in network history. This is not about money. The real story of this dispute goes back to the first time FOX squared off with the Simpsons cast.

Up until 1998, the six cast members were paid $30,000 per episode, a number that, considering the success of the first decade of The Simpsons, is almost unbelievably low. In 1998, the speaking cast took a stand and butted heads with FOX, looking for a bump to $125,000 an episode. FOX played hardball, even going so far as to (ridiculously) threaten to replace them with sound-alikes, but they eventually won out and got their raises from 1998 to 2004. When the DVD sets were released to major acclaim (and billions more in revenue), the speaking cast once again demanded a “healthy” raise, and by the end of 2008 they were earning somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 an episode. This seemed to be the end of it. The actors got their (huge) asking price, the show maintained popularity (and revenue), and FOX executives backed off. But they did not forget.

This brings us to present day. The Simpsons are currently in their record-shattering 23rd Season, the voice actors are almost certainly multi-millionaires, the ratings are adequate and everyone seems happy. Then we get the news that FOX can no longer afford the $400,000 an episode fee (this is a lie), and are asking they take a pay cut somewhere in the neighborhood of 45%. This will obviously not happen, and I think that FOX knows this. I would assume it’s the first lowball offer in what will be a season-long negotiation as to whether or not The Simpsons will return for Season 24. FOX wants their money back, the voice actors will not budge, and the show will be held hostage with the (very real) possibility that it will wrap at the end of this season, with no Series Finale in place. For a show of this significance to be unceremoniously dumped from television without a finale would be an act just short of criminal, and all involved parties seem to not only know that, but are using this information as a weapon in their fiscal battle.

The last time this issue came up in 1998, I was all for the raise. The show was still carving out new territory, the $125k price tag seemed fair and it was mutually assumed that it would not bankrupt the Fox Broadcasting Company. Now, things are different, and I’m not so sure. Honestly, I don’t think The Simpsons has much of a leg to stand on. Even hardcore fans have taken a ‘meh’ stance on the prospect of another season, and each time creator Matt Groening is asked about the subject, his opinion is remarkably similar. When you’re a show that has become famous for being on the air for a long time (and are acutely aware of this), it becomes more difficult to march into a meeting room with the intention of having your demands met.

Furthermore, this could also be a tactic by FOX to push The Simpsons off of the air while at the same time making it look like their fault for being greedy. That way, they can deflect the inevitable backlash, publicly proclaim that they tried their hardest and throw another Seth MacFarlane show in its place. The voice actors will look greedy, the fans will blame the show, and FOX can move on with their dignity (and burlap sacks full of money) intact. I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but I know it’s not about money.

I also don’t want them to agree on terms, and for The Simpsons to be canceled. Here’s why.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Simpsons fan than yours truly, but not even I can argue that their time isn’t up. Not because of their waning quality, but because of this: The mind-blowing prospect of a final season. It almost sounds mythical when you say it out loud, and it wasn’t something I even considered until I read the aforementioned news article. But consider this. The Simpsons returns for their 24th (and final) Season with the full knowledge that this is the end of their series. How exciting would that be?

To think about a world without The Simpsons is almost a bit like suddenly discovering one’s mortality; it’s too weird and overwhelming to comprehend for more than a few seconds. But now that I’ve thought about it, it’s all that I want. I want to see a season of The Simpsons with the knowledge in the writer’s room that it will be their last. What loose ends will they tie up? What guest voices will return? What on Earth could the final episode possibly be about? Suddenly, The Simpsons is fresh and exciting again, ratings (and revenue) would skyrocket and even long-gone fans will return to see how they handle the light at the end of the tunnel.

Last week, I proposed to a friend that the 2012 return of Arrested Development was a terrible idea, and was promptly lambasted. My theory was that Arrested Development ran for the exact amount of time it should have (53 episodes over three seasons), began cannibalizing itself and devolved into a self-parodying trough of callbacks and in-jokes. My hipster cred was strewn across the living room floor; it was the biggest controversy since the time I (to my friends’ horror) hypothesized that the city of Madison wasn’t as cool as its residents thought it was (or they were). I was nearly run out of my home on a rail. Some things, apparently, cannot be messed with.

You need to be careful of what you wish for, and sometimes too much of something you love is unhealthy for you. I know this because I’ve watched The Simpsons since I was six years old. I have the syndicated episodes memorized. I cannot go five minutes in conversation without quoting a classic (or embarrassingly obscure) line. The Simpsons has shaped my sense of humor, my worldview and my mind as a whole. I don’t know who I would be (or who any of my friends would be) if The Simpsons didn’t exist.

I think I’m ready to find out.

(Note: In a shocking turn of events last weekend, the voice actors agreed to a (much less than 45%) pay cut, and it appears that the show has been saved from the chopping block for at least one more year. However, the future of the series still remains in jeopardy after the current season concludes.)