There are quite a lot of series (usually animations, because doing it for something live-action would be rather hard, I presume) with one common trope: the timeline never progresses forward.

"The Simpsons" has aired for 28 seasons (almost 30 years!), yet its characters never age and never change. Same thing with "South Park" and "Family Guy". Whatever happens in any episode, it (almost) never has any lasting impact on anything.

In "South Park" this is a basis for some running gags (like the death of Kenny), but neither "The Simpsons" nor "Family Guy" ever acknowledge their "Groundhog day"-ish existence.

Does this trope have a name?

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    "neither "The Simpsons" nor "Family Guy" never acknowledge their "Groundhog day"-ish existence." This isn't strictly true, I recall some Simpsons eps referring to the incredible amount of jobs Homer has had for instance.
    – BCdotWEB
    May 22, 2017 at 12:46
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    Sorry, but the "groundhog day" trope is misused in here - it should only refer to stories where the characters are repeating a specific day. They are not re-living the same day over and over. It is just the passing of time that is never mentioned. May 22, 2017 at 14:08
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    Actually in the Simpsons, there are references to several past episodes, so they are moving forward in the timeline, but not growing up. May 22, 2017 at 15:10
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    There was an episode in Futurama where New New York was destroyed and at the end of the episode the professor said something like "all that matters is that everything will be back to normal in the next episode". May 23, 2017 at 0:34
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    As others have noted, The Simpsons maintains continuity when it suits the writers. Maude Flanders died in an episode that aired over a decade ago and stayed dead. May 23, 2017 at 1:08

3 Answers 3


This is called Comic-Book Time aka Floating Timeline aka Sliding Timescale.

The problem is this. On one hand, Superman is a high-selling, successful character with a lot of licenses and so on based off of him. You don't want him to age or die, because that means losing that successful character. On the other hand, Superman exists as part of a greater universe, and if all the stories in that universe are continuously frozen in time, that cuts off a lot of possibilities. So what do you do? Comic-Book Time. You use the illusion of time passing. You never refer to specific dates if you can help it, and you let characters change, but only a little.

Also related to Not Allowed to Grow Up

Or you might be thinking of Negative Continuity

Not only is there no established continuity, but the show is free to completely wreck the continuity and be assured of a full reboot by the start of the next episode. Burned a hole in your favorite outfit? Don't worry, it'll be better next episode. Burned down your house? No worries, it will be back next time. Turned into a frog, died, destroyed the universe? No problem! If one episode ever continues from the last, it's only because it's part of a storyline too long for just one episode — don't expect any apparent changes from the previous episode to be recognized outside that specific storyline.


TVTropes calls this Status Quo is God.

Within a work, particularly long-running series and franchises, almost nothing changes. If something does change, it's generally reset back to the way it was before very quickly.

A more extreme form of this is Negative Continuity where events happen which should have lasting consequences for the characters and their environment, but which are completely ignored in following episodes. The "Kenny dies every episode" running gag of earlier South Park seasons is a parody of this.


Also worth a mention, the Reset Button Technique.

The reset button technique (based on the idea of status quo ante) is a plot device that interrupts continuity in works of fiction. Simply put, use of a reset button device returns all characters and situations to the status quo they held before a major change of some sort was introduced. Typically it occurs either in the middle of a program and negates a portion of it, or it occurs at the beginning, or very end, of a program to negate all that came before it. Often used in science fiction television series, animated series, soap operas, and comic books, the device allows elaborate and dramatic changes to characters and the fictional universe that might otherwise invalidate the premise of the show with respect to future episodes or issues continuity.

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    Ah, I see you leveraged the Futurama entry into an answer :) May 23, 2017 at 10:17
  • @user1803551 absolutely, no one knows tv better than Phillip J. Fry.
    – martin
    May 23, 2017 at 13:00
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    Thank you for linking to something other than TVTropes! Although I find Wikipedia almost as hard to leave as TVTropes...
    – wizzwizz4
    May 23, 2017 at 15:51

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