The creator of The Simpsons has given his first hint that the show may be nearing its end, despite a worldwide audience of more than 60 million and television executives' plans to "wring every last penny" from it.
Channel 4 has just secured the rights to the hugely popular programme for nearly £1m a show, but Matt Groening said it was increasingly difficult to keep surprising viewers.
"I think we are closer to winding it up. Although what happens generally if we win the Emmy for best animation show is that that gives us another couple of years to run it into the ground," he said.
He added that Fox, the US channel that has been backing the programme for the past 13 years, would be happy for it to continue for ever because of its huge financial success. "I think Fox will wring every last penny out of the show before they call it a day."
He continued: "Because animation is such an intensely painstaking process, it wears people out, and audiences are always looking for surprises.
"When any character is as stupid as Homer Simpson, it's hard to keep surprising the audience."
Mr Groening was critical of Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch, for refusing to order a new series of his science fiction animation series, Futurama.
He said that Fox had failed to promote the programme over the past three years. However, he said he would not break from the network because of the disagreement.