The Simpsons has always had couch gags before the actual episode starts except for when the episode itself is quite long and they need to omit the couch gag due to time constraints. The one thing that all these couch gags have had over 400 episodes is that they have involved, not surprisingly, a couch. Even the much longer gags such as as Homer evolution or zooming through the universe gags still end up with a couch at the end. Recently, that seems to have changed and a couch is no longer necessary.
In the current season there have been at least two episodes where the couch gag has absolutely nothing to do with a couch at all. The first occurrence of the couchless couch gag was in S21E12 where right after the familiar Homer crashing through the door…we find Grandpa Simpsons in a tarot shop having his fortune told. The card have pictures of the Simpsons on them, but the gag does not contain and is not related to a couch in any way. The second occurrence was in S21E18 which had Comic Book Guy eating various dishes that looked like each of the Simpsons. Clever and entertaining to be sure, but also absolutely nothing to do with a couch.
I don’t know why I even really noticed this or am writing about it. Surely it shouldn’t matter at all? I guess I just find it surprising. For more than 20 years the writers came up with interesting and funny ways to make the couch gag work without ever having to resort to abandoning the couch all together. I find it hard to believe they were unable to think of anything as there options are pretty much unlimited as long as they start or end up back on the couch, or the couch is involved somehow. It isn’t due tot he writers lacking – this season has had some of the best episodes in a long time. It seems like the writers just took an easier route, and in doing so killed a 20 year old tradition. It’s not at all significant but at the same time, I found it slightly sad.
Update 1 – October 13th 2010
I just thought I would add this link, which gives a bit of the explanation behind the bizarrely depressing South Korean animation couch gag of this weeks episode, which most certainly has nothing to do with the couch. Showing