By Brendan Tyndall
Like many of you reading this, I was raised on The Simpsons.
I still remember when I was a nine-year-old kid, watching the show back when it was on only once a week. This was back around 1994 or so, and there was something almost risqué about The Simpsons.
It’s hard to imagine it now, as the show seems pretty tame by today’s standards, but according to my mother, The Simpsons was corrupting my impressionable nine-year-old brain. I couldn’t get enough of it.
When I watch an episode from the golden years, I catch myself chuckling at the jokes I’m anticipating in my head before the characters onscreen say a word. When Sideshow Bob steps on the rake for the 35th time in a row, each time uttering the same exasperated monotone grumble, I still laugh as if it’s the first time I’ve seen it.
So, as you can image, news that the show was in danger of being cancelled was a big surprise to me. The show’s been around for so long, its almost impossible to imagine The Simpsons not being on the air. To put this into perspective, for many of you reading who are recent graduates of high school, there has never been a point in your life when The Simpsons has not been around.
Many of you who have been watching it for as long as I have should aware of the sharp decline in the quality of the show.
The early episodes of the show were arguably the best comedy television ever produced. Then came the slow decent in mediocrity. After about half a decade worth of consistently brilliant work, The Simpsons began to let the occasional bad episode slide.
The episode that started it was towards the end of the eighth season, an episode called “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase”, which aired on May 11, 1997. The episode was a series of vignettes revolving around several of the show’s lesser characters.
The ninth season also had a few mishaps; “All Singing All Dancing”–in which the plot of the entire episode is exactly what the title describes–comes to mind.
Overall, the season was decent.
When the tenth season of the show came around, about half the episodes were garbage, and the other half were good.
From there on each season’s ratio of quality to crap became skewed more heavily in favour of the crap category. Now, twenty-three seasons in, there’s hardly one decent joke per show, let alone a good episode.
What went wrong? First of all, in the old episodes, famous people would play people other than themselves. Think of how great Kesley Grammer was as Sideshow Bob, Phil Hartman as Troy McLure and Lionel Hurtz, Albert Brooks as Hank Scorpio, or Jon Lotivz as about fifteen different versions of the same slightly effeminate, eccentric New York type. The guest star’s role would also be relevant to the plot of the episode. Now the show consists mainly of celebrities playing themselves merely for the sake of throwing a celebrity into the show for advertising’s sake. Is there any living celebrity who has not appeared on The Simpsons by now?
Most importantly, all of the clever writing has disappeared. Modern episodes have lost the satirical content, and consist mainly of the characters getting themselves into one zany situation after another with little regard for reality and no sign of social comment. The characters suffered too. Homer did a lot of stupid things, but in earlier episodes you got the sense he was always trying to do the right thing, but always failing miserably. Perhaps emerging shows like Family Guy, with its crude humour that beats the viewer over the head with obvious visual gags and pop culture references that do not pertain to the plot of the episode whatsoever, had forced The Simpsons to change its show in order to keep up with evolving consumer tastes. Or perhaps the show’s writing went downhill around the time when creator Matt Groening began work on Futurama in 1999, a show that was much smarter than what The Simpsons had become, even if it lacked the audience.
The Simpsons has come to the point where it has been terrible for longer than it ever was good. When any show has been on the air for a quarter century, it has the potential of becoming stale. Fox would have been wise to follow the example set by Seinfeld: go out while you’re on top and people will always remember your show as being great. The Simpsons would’ve been wise to do the same thing. Unfortunately for them, it’s far too late. The show’s reputation has been tarnished. The decision to prolong the show’s life for another two years is merely a waste of time and money. Someone please pull the plug and let The Simpsons die.
Filed Under: Opinions
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