Digital purchase image featuring Mr. Burns
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||23|
|Original release||September 27, 2009 –|
May 23, 2010
The Simpsons' twenty-first season aired on Fox from September 27, 2009 to May 23, 2010. It was the first of two seasons that the show was renewed for by Fox, and also the first season of the show to air entirely in high definition.
The season received mainly positive reviews from critics, with many praising "The Squirt and the Whale", "To Surveil with Love" and "The Bob Next Door". The show moved up 16 positions in the Nielsen ratings from the previous season and received numerous award nominations, winning two — an Emmy Award for Anne Hathaway for her voicing in "Once Upon a Time in Springfield", and an Annie Award for "Treehouse of Horror XX".
The season featured eight holdover episodes from the season 20 (LABF) production line. John Frink was cred as an executive producer for the first time.
In 2009, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Simpsons, Fox announced that a year-long celebration of the show titled "Best. 20 Years. Ever." would run from January 14, 2009 to January 14, 2010.
As part of the celebration, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock directed and produced The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice!, a documentary special that examined the "cultural phenomenon of The Simpsons". Despite the title, Spurlock said the special "most likely [would] not be in 3-D nor on ice." Production began at Comic-Con 2009, and the show aired on January 10, 2010 on Fox. It included interviews with the cast and fans of the show.
For the week of November 9, 2009, several Fox shows including House, Lie to Me, Bones and Fringe featured clues and homages to the show as part of an "on-air scavenger hunt". Viewers who spotted the clues could win prizes at Fox.com. Marge also appeared on the cover of the November issue of Playboy.
The milestone was also celebrated in the United Kingdom with three special programmes, all twenty minutes long and entitled The Simpsons: Access All Areas, Simpsons...Mischief and Mayhem and Simpsons...Celebrity Friends respectively. They aired on Sky1 and Sky1 HD on three separate evenings from January 11 to 13, 2010. They were followed by the UK premiere of season 21's first episode, "Homer the Whopper".
Robert Canning of IGN gave the season an 8.3 (improving 0.4 from the previous season) saying that it was "Impressive". He criticized the opening part of the season (other than "Homer the Whopper" and "Treehouse of Horror XX"), but praised almost every episode after "Once Upon a Time in Springfield", and considered "The Squirt and the Whale" and "The Bob Next Door" to be the season's best episodes. He also stated "the improved consistency of memorable episodes this season over years past proved that, even after 20 years, The Simpsons can still entertain".
TV Fanatic called the season "great" while reviewing "Judge Me Tender", while Emily VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club, while reviewing the same episode, stated "I think it's picked back up in the last few seasons and particularly in this season, which has had a lot of fun episodes in it."
"The Squirt and the Whale" was also praised for its chalkboard gag, which made a reference to the controversial South Park episodes "200" and "201", while "To Surveil with Love" was considered the "best episode in years" by Sharon Knolle of TV Squad and "one of the better outings" by Ariel Ponywether of FireFox News.
In the seasonal Nielsen ratings in the 18-49 demographic, the season ranked joint 33rd with a 3.4/9 average. It also ranked 61st in the seasonal total viewers with an average of 7.208 million viewers.
The most viewed and highest rated episode of the season was "Once Upon a Time in Springfield", watched by an estimated 14.62 million households and with a Nielsen rating of 6.9/17 in the 18-49 demographic. The following episode, "Million Dollar Maybe", was the least viewed and lowest rated, watched by an estimated 5.110 million households and receiving a Nielsen rating of 2.4/6 in the 18-49 demographic, although this was largely down to the fact that it aired against the 2010 Grammy Awards on CBS and the 2010 Pro Bowl on ESPN.
Anne Hathaway won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for voicing Princess Penelope in "Once Upon a Time in Springfield", while Dan Castellaneta and Hank Azaria were also nominated for "Thursdays with Abie" and "Moe Letter Blues" respectively. "Treehouse of Horror XX" won for Writing in a Television Production at the Annie Awards. "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program, while The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special - In 3-D! On Ice! was nominated for Outstanding Nonfiction Special. The show was also once again nominated for Favorite Cartoon at the 2010 Kids' Choice Awards. The season is currently nominated for three awards at the 2010 Writers Guild of America Awards. Stephanie Gills is nominated for writing "Moe Letter Blues" as well as Matt Selman who is nominated for "Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?". The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special — In 3-D! On Ice! is also nominated for Comedy/Variety – Music, Awards, Tributes – Specials.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.|
|442||1||"Homer the Whopper"||Lance Kramer||Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg||September 27, 2009||LABF13||8.31|
Comic Book Guy creates a new superhero called Everyman who takes powers from other superheroes. Homer is cast as the lead in the film adaptation. To get Homer into shape, the movie studio hires a celebrity fitness trainer, Lyle McCarthy to help him. Homer gets into great shape but his life falls apart when his fitness trainer quits and the movie bombs at the box office. |
Guest Stars: Seth Rogen, Matt Groening and Kevin Michael Richardson
|443||2||"Bart Gets a 'Z'"||Mark Kirkland||Matt Selman||October 4, 2009||LABF15||9.32|
|Mrs. Krabappel is fired for drinking alcohol on the job (thanks to kids in her class spiking her coffee as revenge for confiscating their cell phones and BlackBerrys) and replaced with a hip, young teacher named Zachary Vaughn.|
|444||3||"The Great Wife Hope"||Matthew Faughnan||Carolyn Omine||October 11, 2009||LABF16||7.5|
When the men and boys of Springfield become obsessed with Ultimate Fighting, Marge leads a protest against it when she catches Bart fighting in school — and ends up fighting the head of the Ultimate Fighting syndicate in order to have it banned.|
Guest Star: Chuck Liddell
|445||4||"Treehouse of Horror XX"||Mike B. Anderson & Matthew Schofield||Daniel Chun||October 18, 2009||LABF14||8.59|
Dial "M" for Murder or Press "#" to Return to Main Menu - In this homage to Alfred Hitchcock's suspense/murder mysteries, Lisa teams up with Bart to get revenge on their teachers after Ms. Hoover sends Lisa to detention, but the plan goes awry when Bart kills Ms. Hoover and wants Lisa to murder Mrs. Krabappel.|
Don't Have a Cow, Mankind - In this send-up of such dystopian apocalypse horror films as 28 Days Later and Children of Men, Krusty the Clown introduces a new hamburger that zombifies the entire town – except for Bart, whose natural immunity to the burger becomes the key to stopping the zombie attacks.
There's No Business Like Moe Business - In this parody of the musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Moe creates a new beer that becomes a sensation — thanks to Homer being impaled on the microbrew machine and bleeding into the beer supply.
|446||5||"The Devil Wears Nada"||Nancy Kruse||Tim Long||November 15, 2009||LABF17||9.04|
|Marge becomes a sex symbol after pin-up pictures of her appear on a calendar, which embarrasses Bart and stirs lust in every man in Springfield – including Ned Flanders. Meanwhile, Carl Carlson is chosen as the Springfield Nuclear Plant's newest supervisor, and Homer gets hired as Carl's assistant.|
|447||6||"Pranks and Greens"||Chuck Sheetz||Jeff Westbrook||November 22, 2009||LABF18||7.03|
Bart tracks down an immature man named Andy Hamilton who was once hailed Springfield Elementary's best prankster, and realizes the man who was once Springfield Elementary's best prankster has no direction in his life. Meanwhile, Marge is chastised by the other mothers in her social circle for not serving healthy snacks.|
Guest Star: Jonah Hill
|448||7||"Rednecks and Broomsticks"||Bob Anderson & Rob Oliver||Kevin Curran||November 29, 2009||LABF19||9.02|
Lisa befriends three practicing Wiccans and must save them from being persecuted for their beliefs. Meanwhile, Homer starts hanging out with Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel after discovering that Cletus and his friends make moonshine. |
Guest Star: Neve Campbell
|449||8||"O Brother, Where Bart Thou?"||Steven Dean Moore||Matt Selman||December 13, 2009||MABF01||7.11|
Jealous of Lisa and Maggie's sisterly bond, Bart goes looking for a surrogate baby brother to call his own. |
Guest Stars: Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Cooper Manning, Kim Cattrall, Jordan Nagai, Huell Howser and the Smothers Brothers
|450||9||"Thursdays with Abie"||Michael Polcino||Don Payne & Mitchell H. Glazer||January 3, 2010||MABF02||8.65|
Grampa meets a human interest journalist who writes and publishes Grampa's life stories – and plots to kill Grampa for a Pulitzer. Meanwhile, Bart cares for a stuffed lamb as part of a class project.|
Guest Star: Mitch Albom
|451||10||"Once Upon a Time in Springfield"||Matthew Nastuk||Stephanie Gillis||January 10, 2010||LABF20||14.62|
The Krusty the Clown Show is once again retooled. This time, in a bid to get girls to watch the show, a princess character named Penelope is hired as Krusty's latest sidekick, whom Krusty hates at first – until Princess Penelope reveals that she is Krusty's biggest fan. Meanwhile, a corporate recruiter persuades Homer, Lenny, and Carl to work for a nuclear plant in Capital City, after Mr. Burns announces a moratorium on free doughnuts due to budget cuts.|
Guest Stars: Anne Hathaway, Gary Larson, Jackie Mason, and Eartha Kitt.
|452||11||"Million Dollar Maybe"||Chris Clements||Bill Odenkirk||January 31, 2010||MABF03||5.11|
Homer wins the lottery, but worries when he realizes that he ditched Marge at a wedding to get the winning ticket. To cover his tracks, Homer begins spending his windfall on anonymous gifts for the family, one of which is hiring alternative rock band Coldplay to perform for Bart. Meanwhile, Lisa buys a Funtendo Zii for Grampa and his friends at the old folks' home, and the winning entry for The Simpsons create-a-character contest makes a brief cameo.|
Guest Star': Chris Martin
|453||12||"Boy Meets Curl"||Chuck Sheetz||Rob LaZebnik||February 14, 2010||MABF05||5.87|
The Simpsons head to the 2010 Winter Olympics where Marge and Homer compete as part of a mixed curling team and Lisa becomes addicted to collecting Olympic pins.|
Guest Star: Bob Costas
|454||13||"The Color Yellow"||Raymond S. Persi||Billy Kimball & Ian Maxtone-Graham||February 21, 2010||MABF06||6.08|
While going through her family history for a school project to find one Simpsons ancestor who was not an idiot, a freak, or a failure, Lisa discovers a diary of a Simpsons ancestor named Eliza whose family helped a black slave named Virgil (who looks like an African-American version of Homer) escape to freedom, but Milhouse (whose ancestors lived around the same time as Lisa's) has an alternate take on how Virgil was really treated.|
Guest Star: Wren T. Brown
|455||14||"Postcards from the Wedge"||Mark Kirkland||Brian Kelley||March 14, 2010||MABF04||5.23|
|Once again, Homer and Marge try to discipline Bart after Mrs. Krabappel tells them that Bart has not been doing his homework, but Bart has a plan to manipulate Homer's strictness and Marge's sympathetic ear.|
|456||15||"Stealing First Base"||Steven Dean Moore||John Frink||March 21, 2010||MABF07||5.69|
When Mrs. Krabappel takes an extended absence her students join with the other fourth grade class where Bart falls for a girl named Nikki, who alternates between loving him and hating him. The two are seen kissing which leads to a public display of affection ban in the school. Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama teaches Lisa that there is no shame in being an overachieving girl, and Nelson teaches a blind boy the art of being a schoolyard bully. |
Guest Stars: Sarah Silverman and Angela Bassett
|457||16||"The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed"||Michael Polcino||Kevin Curran||March 28, 2010||MABF10||5.69|
Ned Flanders invites the Simpson family to join him on a church retreat to Jerusalem. Homer is unappreciative of the culture, until a tour guide starts taking him around the city and a dehydrated Homer deludes himself into believing he is the Messiah.|
Guest Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen and Yael Naim.
|458||17||"American History X-cellent"||Bob Anderson||Michael Price||April 11, 2010||MABF08||5.65|
Smithers takes over the nuclear plant after Mr. Burns is put in jail for stealing valuable art – and starts acting like his boss when Homer and his friends begin taking advantage of his kindness.|
Guest Stars: Joe Mantegna and Kevin Michael Richardson.
|459||18||"Chief of Hearts"||Chris Clements||Carolyn Omine & William Wright||April 18, 2010||MABF09||5.93|
While completing his court-ordered community service (after a wrongful arrest for robbing a bank), Homer offers Chief Wiggum a sandwich and the two become friends. Meanwhile, Bart becomes addicted to a Japanese kids' game called Battle Ball, which Marge confuses for a drug addiction.|
Guest Stars: Jane Kaczmarek, Maurice LaMarche and Joe Mantegna.
|460||19||"The Squirt and the Whale"||Lance Kramer||Matt Warburton||April 25, 2010||MABF14||5.94|
|The Simpson family goes environmental by building a wind-powered turbine in their yard and saving a beached whale that washed up onshore.|
|461||20||"To Surveil with Love"||Mark Kirkland||Michael Nobori||May 2, 2010||MABF12||6.06|
Radiation seeps out of Homer's gym bag after a bomb squad blows it up and Springfield officials decide to suspend all civil liberties. Meanwhile, Lisa dyes her hair brown after being mocked for not conforming to the stereotype of the "dumb blonde."|
Guest Star: Eddie Izzard
|462||21||"Moe Letter Blues"||Matthew Nastuk||Stephanie Gillis||May 9, 2010||MABF13||5.66|
Homer, Reverend Lovejoy and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon receive a letter from Moe that states he will steal one of their wives. The three get together and try to remember intimate moments between Moe and their wives.|
Guest Star: Don Pardo
|463||22||"The Bob Next Door"||Nancy Kruse||John Frink||May 16, 2010||MABF11||6.26|
Bart becomes convinced that their new neighbor is Sideshow Bob in disguise, but Marge does not believe him and personally takes Bart to the Springfield Maximum Security Prison to prove it.|
Guest Star: Kelsey Grammer.
|464||23||"Judge Me Tender"||Steven Dean Moore||Dan Greaney & Allen Glazier||May 23, 2010||MABF15||5.74|
Moe discovers his talent for judging in competitions and is invited to appear on the show American Idol. Meanwhile, Homer drives Marge crazy when he starts spending too much time at home, and takes up golf as a hobby.|
Guest Stars: Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, Ryan Seacrest and Rupert Murdoch.
Note: The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice!, which aired immediately following "Once Upon a Time in Springfield", was assigned production number LABF21 and technically counts as a component of the 20th production season (and of the 21st broadcast season). It does not, however, count towards the series' official animated episode count (i.e., it is not episode 452).