How can we possibly have a website about pop culture without talking about The Simpsons. Arguably they had an impact on the 90’s like The Beatles did on the 60’s. A mark of their success could be measured on marketing, for you couldn’t move in a supermarket without seeing an endorsed t-shirt or cereal box. But any old crap is endorsed these days, with enough money behind it companies understand that if they can get a child attached to a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy for their latest created character, the chances are they’ll want the video game and eventually get round to seeing the movie, good or bad. But The Simpsons was, and still is, one of those things where people were demanding it before the corporations even thought of it. I’m currently tracking down a copy of Bart vs. the Space Mutants for the Sega Mega Drive and it’s looking like it will cost me a few bob. Maybe I’ll just get an emulated version, but you can’t beat that authenticity…
Sorry, I was getting sidetracked, what I wanted to look at was the demise of The Simpsons. Or maybe, celebrate what was so good about it back in the day. Like I said, they are still very much an important part of modern day pop culture, demanding high viewing figures, but the quality of the stories, character design and jokes has dramatically dropped since I was an avid fan. And I can say season 9 was the cut-off point for me. Season 7 was bit of a downer, but 8 delivered once more with some stellar episodes. Then what went wrong? I’ll have a go at breaking down the main reasons:
– Busy, over-the-top storylines. Much more likely to now see the family uprooted to another country all in one episode, to introduce new characters around which an episode revolves and for several side stories to be crammed in for good measure. I have a theory about a one-set sitcom when you think of the living room in The Royle Family or the coffee shop in Friends and it is down to the power of the characters, the chemistry between them and the excellent writing, and The Simpsons used to be able to rely on this too.
– The animation style is too polished. And this is before the new High Definition opening sequence. Slightly taller in drawings, better clarity in the lines and a lighter shade of yellow. Also, no more blue hair. New characters were drawn to be closer to human reality, i.e. the only thing separating them from real people was the colour of their skin. It makes the impossible world of animation less believable, for example; injuries were felt rather than laughed at.
– The loss of the early rules which confined the storylines to the town’s population. The odd guest-star every now and then did them no harm but a strong theme for the show now is the celebrity cameos. I personally feel this is a weakness, it’s like the episodes are written around the latest celeb having 5 minutes of fame rather than an episode being written and a famous face (or voice) being approached because they fit the already written character so well. Maybe it’s the strength of the writing back then but it felt like things were done that way around rather than the former.
– Homer got stupider. Yes he’s always been getting into mishaps but his mistakes were clumsy. He has now turned into a buffoon and it is harder to care for him on this basis. He was a loveable idiot but now he is careless and unforgiving.
Like I said, there was a lot of this going on in Season 8, but there are still some very, very good moments and episodes that I could not leave out. So it was definitely a gradual thing, and to consider they had 7 high quality seasons of television, is no mean feat. They belong at the top table and are allowed to continue making them until whenever they wish; it’s much like your favourite band from back in high school: there will be some great moments for sure still to come but I feel different about them now. They’ve not ruined what went before but there’s definitely a particular period where they did everything right.
These moments still stand up, and between myself, Una and Alix here are our ten personal favourite episodes which capture the Simpsons at their best, with Maggie’s adventures, Lisa’s ideas, Bart’s mischief, Marge keeping the family going and the one and only Homer, supplying the laugh’s with his innocent everyday life:
– Season 2: Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment (originally aired 7 Feb 1991)
“So you decided to steal cable.”
– Season 3: Homer at the Bat (originally aired 20 Feb 1992)
– Season 4: Marge vs. the Monorail (originally aired 14 Jan 1993)
– Season 4: Duffless (originally aired 18 Feb 1993)
– Season 5: $pringfield (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) (originally aired 16 Dec 1993)
– Season 5: Homer’s Barbershop Quartet (originally aired 30 Sep 1993)
– Season 6: Lisa on Ice (originally aired 13 Nov 1994)
– Season 6: And Maggie Makes Three (originally aired 22 Jan 1995)
– Season 6: Homie the Clown (originally aired 12 Feb 1995)
– Season 8: You Only Move Twice (originally aired 3 Nov 1996)
You can find just how much Joni relied on The Simpsons during his childhood, but they weren’t always the most reliable source of information. Follow this link: I THINK I MAY HAVE MISUNDERSTOOD…