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the anticipation index

Who Got a Bigger Buzz Bump This Week, the Muppets or The Simpsons?

The Muppets.

On Tuesday, two aging franchises — one long-dormant (The Muppets) and one still active but no longer culturally imperative (The Simpsons) — sparked web chatter with items tied to two of-the-moment stars: The Muppets released a video of the classic Muppet Show theme as reimagined by viral mainstays OK Go, while The Simpsons announced that Lady Gaga would be doing a voice for a spring episode. Both resulted in a cavalcade of excited commentary, aggregation, tweets, and retweets, and propelled the Thanksgiving movie The Muppets and the September 25 premiere of The Simpsons up Vulture's Anticipation Index, our constantly updating tool that measures pre-release excitement by monitoring web chatter and Twitter mentions. And these leaps provided an illuminating lesson on what energizes nostalgists about creaky old favorites.

Meanwhile, before the Gaga news, The Simpsons wasn't even in the top 100. Unlike the Muppets, the 23-year-old cartoon family has never gone away, so there's never much new to jolt people into commenting. It's only when someone fresh and newsy (or, in the case of Banksy, bomb-throwing) enters their orbit that things come alive, like when the show aired its racy Katy Perry cameo in rare live action. And now, Gaga: The news that she'd recorded a voice brought the show back onto the list at 63. It's now back off the list: Even Gaga can only keep its name out there for so long. But The Muppets still hovers at 59 today.

Meanwhile, before the Gaga news, The Simpsons wasn't even in the top 100. Unlike the Muppets, the 23-year-old cartoon family has never gone away, so there's never much new to jolt people into commenting. It's only when someone fresh and newsy (or, in the case of Banksy, bomb-throwing) enters their orbit that things come alive, like when the show aired its racy Katy Perry cameo in rare live action. And now, Gaga: The news that she'd recorded a voice brought the show back onto the list at 63. It's now back off the list: Even Gaga can only keep its name out there for so long. But The Muppets still hovers at 59 today.

So while The Muppets did get a bump from OK Go, it was likely no bigger than it would have gotten from, say, a solo track from Beaker: People are in a constant state of simmering excitement about this film, and all it takes is another crumb to send them into keyboard-pounding frenzy. But at this point The Simpsons' loyal audience (down from its heyday) takes it for granted and doesn't get too worked up about news of upcoming episodes. Guest voices like James Lipton, David Mamet, Werner Herzog, and David Copperfield are conceptually amusing, but aren’t the kind of things that will make the Internet rise to its feet. To shoot up the Anticipation Index they need to do one of two things: bring in buzzier stars, or go off the air and come back in fifteen years announcing a return to the Simpsons' George Meyer glory days.

Photo: Disney