Have the Simpsons Overstayed Their Welcome?

By Mike on 3:36 pm

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I thought I'd start talking about TV and Movies since so much of this blog is dedicated to how we watch them. Lets talk about the Simpsons, which will be entering it's 20th season this fall. I grew up with the Simpsons and there isn't an episode I haven't seen. A general criticism of the state of the show these days is that it's in decline and has been for some time. The question is, should season 20 be its last?
Back when the show first started, it was one of the first cartoons truly targeted at an adult audience. It dealt with real issues in a humorous manner, yet was still fairly down to earth. In recent seasons, the show has gone from down to Earth to down right surreal and I don't think this has benefited it.

The Simpsons first premiered on the Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 as a series of cartoon shorts used to fill time. The shorts themselves were crude but became hugely popular. The Simpsons first became a show in it's own right in 1989 with an hour long Christmas special, which served as the pilot. The first episode, "Bart the Genius" aired on FOX on January 14th, 1990. It was a groundbreaking show for the network, being FOX's first truly hit show. I can't remember exactly when I first started watching it though I must have been in the third or fourth grade, around 1993/1994. The first two seasons were solid but still crude. Most critics agree the Simpsons really took off in Season 3, when big name guest stars such as Michael Jackson and Aerosmith appeared. The show also welcomed memorable reoccurring guests such as John Lovitz and the late Phil Hartman. The show remained solid right up until season 9 which contained a few memorable episodes. I would peg the death of Phil Hartman's in 1998 as the beginning of the show's decline. I remember back in 2000 talking with my high school friends about whether the show was starting to suck. Even then we thought it had been stale for a while even then.

So today, what's going on with the show? Well, creator Matt Groening and the new writing staff have been able to adapt the show to its changing demographic, which has switched from adults and older teens to a younger set. From about season 12 onward, the show has become increasingly surreal, with nonsensical, poorly written plots. Writers strike aside, I would rate Season 19 as probably one of the worst season to date. Season 19's saving grace was Ralph as a presidential candidate and the "murder" of Martin Prince. Season 18 takes the top dishonour as I didn't contain a single episode I really enjoyed. IGN ranked season 19's "That 90s Show" as one of the worst episodes ever (as Comic Book Guy might say) due to it throwing away all established canon, and doing a bad job of it to boot. This past Sunday's episode brought back Lurleen Lumpkin, a one-off character from the third season. While her original episode was good, we really didn't need to see this character again. Unless you religiously watch reruns or have all the DVDs, most current viewers would not be familiar with her. This particular episode stank of desperation; that they're running out of ideas. The movie itself took the wacky course too and though I found it funny at times, it wasn't worthy of the big screen. TV maybe, direct-to-DVD certainly, but not worth the price of theater tickets. The plot was just way to bizarre and far flung from the series' roots. Of course my tastes aren't the same as everybody's so what I think wouldn't matter if I was the only person saying this. Unfortunately, a lot of critics, both amature and pro, agree. Even the best TV shows produce one or two bad episodes a season. However, when you get to the point where you only have one or two good episodes, it might be time to reconsider keeping it on the air.

The problem seems to be that the original creators and writers have lost control of the series. Add to that that the show has already done every conceivable plot and is starting to get repetitive. As Butters learned, chances are the Simpsons already did it. I really think if Groening wants in the record books, go to season 20 and make it the last. No other prime time comedy is going to break that record. There's nothing worse than a show that's been on too long, especially if it was once one of the greatest shows in history. All in the Family suffered pretty much the same fate and it wasn't on for nearly as long. FOX has plenty of hit shows now, it no longer needs the Simpsons to anchor the network. Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie have overstayed their welcome. It's time to let them die peacefully. Obviously the show is still profitable for FOX but it really is a joke compared to what it once was. The show itself has mocked its critics but they're going to find this harder to do as it drags on. Sometimes it's best to leave on a high note and move onto other things, rather than let it die a slow, painful death.

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