Monday, March 2, 2009

The Simpsons: 20 Years and Still Going Strong!

There is no better time to give a long overdue shout out to one of the most brilliant comedies on television than now. The Simpsons (Fox-Sundays at 8pm) has entered its 20th season on the air and it's still going strong.

A few Simpsons Factoids to set the tone:
  • The Simpsons premiered in December 1989 and quickly became a cornerstone program for the then fledgling Fox Broadcast network
  • It was created by Matt Groening and James L. Brooks and they are still producing the program
  • It has won 24 Emmys, 26 Annies and a Peabody Award
  • It spawned one feature length, very successful theatrical movie
  • The Simpsons is the longest running sitcom in US television history
  • It has added countless catch-phrases to the American language, including Homer Simpsons' hapless, "D'oh!"
The original actors who have provided the voices for America's yellowest family are all still part of the series including Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa). There have been dozens of guest stars (including U2 and Mick Jagger) as well as a Who's Who of comedy writing deities including Conan O'Brien and (a Nose favorite!) Ricky Gervais.

This past Sunday's episode (Season 20: Episode 11), "How the Test Was Won", proved that The Simpsons still has the spark of genius. It gave us horror (Lisa got test anxiety), fantasy (Homer forgot to mail an insurance bill and imagined death and dismemberment), a road trip (down a river on a garbage barge with the Bart and the Principal) and literary references at Marge's book club. It also managed to completely smear the folly of public school standardized testing. All this in a half hour that moved like greased lightening.

My son, who will turn 19 this weekend, has quite literally grown up with this program. As an avid enthusiast he sometimes grumbles that it "jumped the shark" a few years back, but he still watches The Simpsons (AND all the repeats... it's a DVR clogger that's for sure) every chance he gets.

The Simpsons has created a cottage industry of products including shirts, boxer shorts, mugs and books. It's just so darn...big, that this humble Flaming Nose post could not possibly do it justice. All we can do is stand back and Or, more appropriately, "Cowabunga"!

My favorite episode of The Simpsons is one where Marge decides she needs a creative outlet so she tries out for the part of Blanche DuBois in the Springfield community theater production of "A Streetcar Named Desire". Maggie the baby has to go to pre-school, and she lands at a gulag for tots where Ayn Rand is the principal. In a 5 second gem of amazing obscurity, the Ayn Rand character writes "A is A" on the blackboard, paraphrasing John Galt from the novel "Atlas Shrugged". The Simpsons won my heart for life by throwing in this joke that probably only .001% of their viewers understood.

I've posted an example of the clever and ever mutating open sequence above. Be sure to visit the website, as there are games and free streaming video for current episodes. Fox plans to have many surprises and events to honor this historic 20th season on the air. It won't officially be 20 years for The Simpsons until next January, but here at the Nose we want to be among the first to wish them all a happy birthday!


Dean Treadway said...

I still stick by the 1st or 2nd season ep where Lisa got a crust on a substitute teacher (voiced by Dustin Hoffman). That's the one that made me realize that THE SIMPSONS was bigger then it first seemed. When she calls Homer a BABBOON! and then he comes up to reassure her that he's still a loving dad! That's pure joy to me. Congrats to a true original, deservedly the most revered sitcom in TV history (even IF it jumped the shark long ago, it still packs more laughs than most hal-hours can ever hope for).

Dean Treadway said...

Crush, not crust...damn, I gotta even proof COMMENTS????

Jane said...

Dean, your second comment made me LOL, which is not an easy feat in the morning as I brace myself for another day of torture in the media sweatshop. I've often wished that the comment section had a spell check! Huzzah for the Simpsons!

Lisa said...

You may not believe this, but I probably haven't seen more than about 20 episodes of "The Simpsons" in total. Not sure why I never got into it -- actually I am...I've never been a big animation fan -- but it's surely something for me to look forward to savoring via DVD. Better late than never!

(Although Dean, I must say that Lisa getting a "crust" on a teacher would appeal to me.)