11:30am PT by Mike Bloom
'The Simpsons': 30 Times the Fox Comedy Successfully Predicted the Future
Across 30 years and more than 600 episodes, Fox's The Simpsons, while serving as the foundation of modern comedy, has had many moments that have manifested themselves in real life. In a world where truth can often be stranger than fiction, things that writers pitched as jokes were able to, much like the late Poochie, elevate out of frame and make their way to a new dimension.
In honor ofThe Simpsons' 30th season (premiering Sept. 30), The Hollywood Reporter has culled together 30 episodes, plotlines and throwaway jokes that came to fruition in our three-dimensional world. So kick back in your Spinemelter 2000, grab your glass of Skittlebrau or Malk and enjoy!
The Donald Trump presidency (Season 11, Episode 17: "Bart to the Future")
Let's start with the most widely circulated prediction. The second time The Simpsons took a peek into the future, Lisa has become president of the United States. In a cabinet meeting, she offhandedly mentions, "We inherited quite the budget crunch from President Trump." It initially was a reference to Trump attempting a run as a Reform Party candidate. But the words gained much more validity when Trump was elected president in 2016. The week after the election, the recurring chalkboard gag even read, "Being right sucks."
Correctly predicting Super Bowls (Season 3, Episode 14: "Lisa the Greek")
The initial airing of the football-centric episode came only a few days before Super Bowl XXVI, where Lisa correctly predicted the Washington Redskins would win. The next year, the staff decided to dub in the names of that year's competing teams, and they were once again correct with their call of the Dallas Cowboys as victors. The redubbings continued with moderate success over the next few years, finishing with another accurate prediction of the San Francisco 49ers over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
Disney buys 20th Century Fox (Season 10, Episode 5: "When You Dish Upon a Star")
An establishing shot at the end of the celebrity-heavy "When You Dish Upon a Star" shows the 20th Century Fox logo with "A Division of Walt Disney Co." below it. Though they have been quick to poke fun at their parent company, the show certainly did not expect Fox to sell to The Walt Disney Co. in July 2018, now bringing Homer Simpson and Mickey Mouse into the same house.
Smart watches (Season 6, Episode 19: "Lisa's Wedding")
"Lisa's Wedding" was the show's first foray into the future, with several technology jokes in tow that ended up coming to fruition. For example, a botched wedding proposal from Lisa's boyfriend Hugh prompts him to call an audible by talking into his watch. In 2013, smart watches with voice recognition first came out, saving relationships around the world.
Autocorrect (Season 6, Episode 8: "Lisa on Ice")
This is one of the few cases when The Simpsons not only made a prediction but actively contributed to events. A quick gag has bully Dolph writing the memo "Beat up Martin" on his Apple Newton. The text then translates to "Eat up, Martha," a clear crack at the PDA's poor handwriting recognition. Sources allege that years later, when Apple was working on the iPhone keyboard, employees knew that was the part they had to nail. They would even quote, "Eat up, Martha" to each other to signal the feature's importance.
Stealing cooking grease for cash (Season 10, Episode 1: "Lard of the Dance")
One of Homer's many get-rich-quick schemes involved siphoning grease from various establishments, selling it to make a profit. It was a plan so prolific that delinquents were using it in real life, as reports show people stealing grease from restaurants around New York City to sell.
FIFA's corruption scandal and World Cup results (Season 25, Episode 16: "You Don't Have to Live Like a Referee")
The Simpsons' take on the World Cup involves Homer being brought into the world of refereeing, mainly due to the FIFA organization having a shortage from massive corruption. Though he gets the temptation, he decides to call the big game fairly, leading to Germany winning the World Cup. The show enjoyed a one-two punch (or kick) of precognition. First, Germany did end up winning the title that same year. But what followed in 2015 was not as joyous, as FIFA employees underwent a slew of arrests following accusations of bribery, fraud and money laundering.
The Beatles sending belated fan mail (Season 2, Episode 18: "Brush with Greatness")
In the second season, Marge Simpson reveals in high school she sent celebrity crush Ringo Starr a painting. After decades pass, Ringo finally sends back a response, fulfilling a vow to return all fan mail. The prediction seemed to pass between the living Beatles, as, in 2013, two women from Essex received a reply from Sir Paul McCartney after sending him a mixtape 50 years earlier.
Siegfried and Roy tiger attack (Season 5, Episode 10: "$pringfield")
Mr. Burns decided to build a casino in Springfield, with Vegas references abounding. One came from Gunter and Ernst, a clear Siegfried and Roy analog whose act ends in tragedy when their white tiger Anastasia attacks them. Though this one is a bit more understandable given the dangers of working with wild animals, Roy Horn was also attacked 10 years after the episode aired.
Video chats (Season 6, Episode 19: "Lisa's Wedding")
Going back to "Lisa's Wedding," the episode offhandedly features one of the more vital components of the 2010s: video chat. The style of communication throughout the episode is visual via a screen, not by phone. In a world that runs on Skype, Google Hangout and FaceTime, this is one prediction the writers had to see to believe.
The U.S. wins gold in curling (Season 21, Episode 12: "Boy Meets Curl")
In one of the show's many international trips, Homer and Marge get drafted into the U.S. curling team for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Despite the odds against them, they are able to sweep Sweden and win the gold medal. It took eight years before this stone reached its target, as the recent 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang featured the same match-up and result.
An "Average Joe" goes into space (Season 5, Episode 15: "Deep Space Homer")
In a famous Simpsons storyline, NASA elects to send an average person into space to increase ratings for shuttle launches. In 2013, the United Kingdom held a contest to turn an ordinary person into an astronaut, which consisted of multiple interviews and rigorous testing in Cape Canaveral. The winner was 25-year-old Oliver Knight, who beat more than 250 candidates to take a trip into space with 23 other winners. It's safe to say NASA learned from their source material and chose to not stock potato chips or ants on the shuttle.
Lady Gaga's Super Bowl performance (Season 23, Episode 22: "Lisa Goes Gaga")
Regarded as one of the worst episodes of the show thus far, "Lisa Goes Gaga" featured the eponymous pop star visiting Springfield and aiding Lisa's self-esteem issues. When Gaga performed at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2017, many noticed her wire-based, spark-laden stunt bore an uncanny resemblance to one of her many outfits during the episode.
Covering up Michelangelo's "David" (Season 2, Episode 9: "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge")
In an early episode, Marge attempted to get the hyper-violent cartoon pairing Itchy and Scratchy to be more docile. She then realized how censorship could cut both ways when the town tried to protest the nudity of Michelangelo's "David," which made a stop on its coast-to-coast tour. But the state of "David" also became a hot-button issue in 2016, when Russians voted on whether or not to cover the statue with clothes. Luckily, it did not lead them to question the material from their own beloved cartoon duo, Worker and Parasite.
Faulty voter machines (Season 20, Episode 4: "Treehouse of Horror XIX")
In the cold open of the 19th installment of "Treehouse of Horror," (linked to the 2008 presidential election) Homer goes into a booth to attempt to vote for Barack Obama, only for the computerized machines to count it for John McCain. It took a full election cycle for this one to occur, as a 2012 viral video depicted a voting booth in Pennsylvania doing the same thing with Obama and Mitt Romney.
Mutant tomatoes (Season 11, Episode 5: "E-I-E-I-D'oh!")
Homer’s attempt at farming led him to produce "tomacco," a tomato/tobacco hybrid, utilizing some nuclear materials from his day job at the plant (though that job is wont to change, depending on the episode). In 2013, satire mutated into reality, as fruits and vegetables near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant turned into hybridized horrors.
The Higgs-Boson Particle (Season 10, Episode 2: "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace")
Inspired by the work of Thomas Edison, Homer becomes an aspirational inventor in the show's 10th season. One cutaway gag involves Homer scribbling profusely on a chalkboard, the bottom of which shows a math equation. More than a decade later, scientists discovered the Higgs-Boson particle (also known as the "God particle"), startled to find its mass was similar to Homer's work.
The Albuquerque Isotopes (Season 12, Episode 15: "Hungry, Hungry Homer")
This one is less so a prediction, but more the show inspiring a real-life event. "Hungry, Hungry Homer" involves Homer going on a hunger strike to protest his baseball team the Springfield Isotopes' move to Albuquerque. Only about a year later, the Calgary Cannons minor league team relocated to New Mexico, and the Albuquerque Tribune ran a poll for the new team name. The fans came out in droves and, much to Homer's chagrin, the Albuquerque Isotopes became a team.
Ebola outbreak (Season 9, Episode 3: "Lisa's Sax")
In an episode primarily set in 1990, Marge attempted to cheer up a forlorn Bart with a reading of Curious George and the Ebola Virus. Though the disease had existed before the episode, Ebola had its largest outbreak on record in 2014 and 2015, affecting more than just a curious little monkey.
The Shard (Season 6, Episode 19: "Lisa's Wedding")
Here's a "too eerie to be a coincidence" prediction. The episode featured an establishing shot of Big Ben with the joke thrown in of it now having a digital face. But if you look on the lefthand side, you'll see a pointed spire that doesn't seem to fit in with the real London skyline. Construction of the Shard completed in 2012, and the skyscraper not only has a similar shape to the mysterious building but also sits in the same place in comparison to Big Ben.
Bengt R. Holmstrom wins Nobel Prize in Economics (Season 22, Episode 1: "Elementary School Musical")
The Simpsons is known for creating what are known as "freeze frame gags," visual references that would go nearly unnoticed without a pause button at the ready. In the season 22 premiere, Lisa and her group of friends have logged a predictions sheet for the Nobel Prize announcements. Though Milhouse would lose out on his prediction that Bengt R. Holmstrom would win in economics, everything would be coming up him in 2016 when Holmstrom ended up earning the honor.
Selling ferrets as toy poodles (Season 13, Episode 22: "Papa's Got a Brand New Badge")
One of many schemes from Fat Tony, the authority on crime in Springfield, involves gluing cotton balls to ferrets to pass them off as toy poodles. In yet another instance of criminals taking their plans from television, an Argentinean man received a shock when he bought what he thought was a toy poodle, only to find out it was a groomed ferret.
Three-eyed fish (Season 2, Episode 4: "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish")
Blinky is a three-eyed fish that has been used by major news publications, linked to commentary on nuclear waste and mutation. But those messages turned sentient in 2011, when fishermen caught a three-eyed wolf fish in a reservoir that feeds near a nuclear plant in Argentina.
Putting horse meat in food (Season 5, Episode 19: "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song")
A quick visual in the fifth season shows Lunchlady Doris adding horse parts to a typical Springfield Elementary lunch. Little did she know how much of a trailblazer she would be, as, in 2013, health officials discovered that several beef products contained horse meat.
Suing an all-you-can-eat restaurant (Season 4, Episode 8: "New Kid on the Block")
Homer's hunger is cartoonishly insatiable, so much so that in one episode he gets kicked out of a seafood restaurant after pursuing an "all you can eat" deal, only to sue for false advertising. This legal discourse has made its way into courts in 2012 and 2017. Ironically enough, the latter even happened in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Baby translator (Season 3, Episode 24: "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?")
The Simpsons was onto the app game back in the early 1990s. Homer's seldom-seen half-brother Herb, voiced by Danny DeVito, ascended from poor to prosperous, creating an invention that translates gibberish from infants into full sentences. Years later, the “Cry Translator” app would come out, which also analyzes a baby's cry to translate needs.
Bloody billboard (Season 4, Episode 6: "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie")
In line with the gory nature of the show-within-a-show, a billboard advertising Itchy and Scratchy's first movie featured Scratchy getting his head cut off and spurting a blood-like liquid into unsuspecting open cars. TVNZ used the same effect to promote Kill Bill Vol. 1 in 2008, spattering the pavement with remnants from Beatrix Kiddo's latest kill.
Whacking Day (Season 4, Episode 14: "Whacking Day")
The eponymous holiday, which involves killing as many snakes as possible, slithered its way into the real world. The Python Challenge is an annual event where people wade into the Florida Everglades to thin the population of Burmese pythons, whose overpopulation endangers the diverse Floridian wildlife.
Doughnut-shaped universe (Season 10, Episode 22: "They Saved Lisa's Brain")
When celebrated cosmologist Stephen Hawking made his first appearance on The Simpsons, the writers couldn't resist the opportunity to put the world's smartest man and the world's stupidest man in one room. Sharing discourse over beers at Moe's Tavern, Hawking says, "Your theory of a doughnut-shaped universe is intriguing. I may have to steal it." Though there has been a genuine theory that the universe is a shape like a donut, or "torus," since the '80s, it has resurged in popularity in the new millennium.
NSA Spying Scandal (The Simpsons Movie)
In 2007, The Simpsons leaped to the big screen, with its penchant for predictions not far behind. When Marge discussed her plan to out government secrets, we were taken to the headquarters of the National Security Agency. Inside, there is a room full of monitors, with a whole staff listening to phone calls in the hopes of catching America's most wanted. It was almost as if the real NSA was listening in on the film, as in 2013 Edward Snowden revealed to the public numerous secret surveillance programs the agency was operating.