The Simpsons is known for playing with continuity, but which characters from the recurring cast has the long-running show brought back from the dead?
The Simpsons is known for playing with continuity, but which characters has the long-running show brought back from the dead? Over its 30 years on the air, The Simpsons has always laughed in the face of continuity. Particularly in its classic early seasons, the anarchic animated sitcom seemed hell-bent on subverting, twisting, and straight-up breaking every rule of the TV writing handbook.
The series had a built-in disdain for golden moments, hugging and learning, and anything resembling a family-friendly moral at the end of each episode. The satire of The Simpsons extended into its approach to TV writing, with the show often messing with its continuity and canon in Treehouse of Horror specials and future-set installments. But despite its apparent disregard for the rules of TV, one thing The Simpsons has remained relatively straight-faced about is death.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
The Simpsons rarely kill characters in canon and usually when a character is killed off on the series, they stay dead for good. That’s how the show was able to pull off genuinely moving moments like the death of Homer’s estranged mother Mona Simpson (a rare solid post-season 12 outing) or the poignant passing of jazzman Bleeding Gums Murphy. But what about the rare cases when The Simpsons kills off a character only to bring them back with no justification or explanation? That’s where the likes of Dr. Marvin Monroe, Dr. Nick, and Ralph Wiggum end up, with each character having a surreal revival on the show at one point or another during its long run.
The most recent temporary casualty of The Simpsons’ strange non-continuity, Ralph Wiggum was killed off temporarily in a season thirty outing of the cartoon comedy. In a classic Tex Avery-style sight gag, the dim-witted but well-meaning character drank too much water from a gutter causing an immediate Mr. Creosote-style explosion. The death is barely addressed in-show and sure enough, Ralph appeared in the very next episode none the worse for wear, meaning this death can be chalked up to the changing tone of The Simpsons. Originally a relatively grounded series in its earliest outings, the show gained a zanier sense of cartoony humor from season three standout ‘Homer at the Bat’ onwards, and soon became the bizarre series fans know and love. However, the show’s balance of more grounded moments and outright surrealism eventually started to tilt more toward the latter from season eleven low point ‘Saddlesore Galactica’ onwards, and it’s this sillier humor that explains Ralph’s temporary demise (and to The Simpsons‘ gradual decline).
This one is a little complicated since there’s the issue of TV show versus movie continuity to address. It may have taken them eighteen long years, but in 2007 The Simpsons made a movie and the result was surprisingly great. While not on par with the show’s finest hour, the movie was a fast-paced and funny throwback to the golden age of The Simpsons which many fans felt was worth the long wait. But the film killed off minor recurring character Dr. Nick, whose infamous catchphrase “Hi everybody!” was transformed into a morbid “Bye everybody!” during his unexpected demise. It’s a throwaway gag with little impact on the film’s plot since Nick’s death takes place shortly after the events of the film’s climax have wrapped up. The death seems to have had little effect on The Simpsons TV series too, as Dr. Nick cropped up again in a season twenty episode a few years after the film’s 2007 release only to be reinstated as a series regular in the seasons since.
Dr. Marvin Monroe
The gravelly-voiced psychiatrist may be the strangest case of miraculous revival in the history of The Simpsons, as Marvin Monroe seemed very much dead after season seven of the show. As in the series named two locations, a school gym and the “Dr. Marvin Monroe Memorial Hospital” in his honor, and showed his tombstone onscreen. Yet despite this, Dr. Marvin Monroe nonetheless cropped up in a season fifteen outing where he explained to Marge that he’d simply been very sick when presumed dead.
More: Why The Simpsons Halloween Specials Are Called ‘Treehouse of Horrors’
Predicting The Eternals’ Future In MCU Phase 4 & 5