The Simpsons season 34 brought back a long-forgotten supporting character and justified their lack of screen time in the years since they appeared.

Warning: Spoilers for The Simpsons season 34, episode 13.

While The Simpsons has a cast of thousands, season 34 of the long-running series picked a surprising long-forgotten supporting star to bring back for a brief cameo. Like any series on the air for over three decades, The Simpsons has amassed a massive back catalog of one-off characters. Some of these characters, like Lisa’s short-lived teacher Mr. Bergstrom, are beloved by longtime viewers after making a huge impression despite their brief screen time. Others, like the Honorable Avril Ward, are largely forgotten by all but the most obsessive fans.


As part of the show’s commitment to changing up The Simpsons’ formula in season 34, the series brought back a long-forgotten supporting star in season 34, episode 13, “The Many Saints of Springfield.” While this character has appeared in numerous episodes of The Simpsons before, they are more of an Avril Ward than a Mr. Bergstrom. Not only has the character never had a significant story dedicated to them in The Simpsons, but they are also limited in their narrative potential. Like many of the characters that make up the sprawling supporting cast of The Simpsons, this returning character can’t sustain more than a short cameo appearance.

Related: The Simpsons Season 34 Successfully Swapped Bart & Lisa’s Roles

Why Ned’s Father Returned In The Many Saints of Springfield

Ned and Maude in the church in The Simpsons

Ned’s father, Nedward Flanders, appeared in “The Many Saints of Springfield” for the first time since his appearance in The Simpsons season 23, episode 21, “Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend Agenda.” After The Simpsons episode’s wild couch gag, the story saw Ned anger Fat Tony and the rest of the Springfield mob. As such, Nedward Flanders briefly returned in a cutaway gag when Ned mentioned that his father was harboring Rodd and Tod from the mob. Nedward was horrified to find his grandsons took after their strait-laced father, and he bemoaned how conservative Rod and Todd were as the pair stayed in his bohemian home.

This gag repeated the same basic punchline as Nedward’s most substantial appearance, a flashback in The Simpsons season 8, episode 8, “Hurricane Neddy.” In both scenes, Nedward claims to be a laid-back beatnik but soon proves himself as neurotic as his high-strung son when people fail to behave according to his expectations. While the gag worked, it did underline a sad reality about Nedward and his son’s relationship. While The Simpsons’ canon is full of plot holes, the reason that Nedward doesn’t often appear on the series is not due to the character’s impossible old age but rather the nature of his parenting.

Why Nedward Flanders Rarely Appears In The Simpsons

The Simpsons Rod Todd Flanders age plot hole explained

It beggars belief that Nedward is still sprightly since, if he were a beatnik parent in the 50s/60s, he would be between 90—100 in 2023. However, since characters don’t age normally in The Simpsons and the show has an infamously elastic approach to canon, this issue can be discounted as a reason for Nedward’s diminished role. The real reason Nedward appears so rarely is that, even though Ned’s dad being a stereotypical beatnik is a great one-off gag, he is otherwise a non-entity in his son’s life. Since Ned is now twice widowed, addressing his lack of support from Nedward could be too dark a story for The Simpsons.

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