Posted by: ckckred | February 21, 2012

500 Episodes of The Simpsons

The Simpsons watching a fox on FOX

This Sunday, The Simpsons passed another landmark of going past 500 episodes.  The only other scripted shows that have done so are Lassie and Gunsmoke.  But strangely enough, The Simpsons is currently more known to audiences for breaking TV records than for what it is: a creative, groundbreaking show that remains the greatest thing television has ever brought.

The Simpsons has run for over 20 years now, but the show seems so different than when it began back in the 90s.  Time Magazine TV critic James Poniewozik (who named The Simpsons the greatest show ever on television in 1999) said there are two versions of the show, one from last millennium that was family and character centered, and one from the second millennium that had more gags and jokes on the character development.  It’s no secret that The Simpsons has declined greatly since its golden age, but most people don’t appreciate how long the golden age was.  The show fell off somewhere around Season 9 after the infamous episode “The Principal and the Pauper,” which was criticized for throwing away Principal Skinner’s character away.  Episodes after that seemed more focused on current topics, something that the show did before but not as heavily.  The 21st century Simpsons isn’t bad or unfunny, but it’s disappointing compared to what the show used to be.  There are, of course, episodes that could probably hold a candle to the 90s Simpsons (such as The Simpsons Movie), but any devoted fan will tell you the best of the show came from the last millennium.

But really, sometimes I get sick of hearing about The Simpsons isn’t as good as used to be.  My opinion of The Simpsons hasn’t changed a bit from the show’s last decade and so, or even if it ever becomes as bad as Family Guy or one of those other Seth MacFarlene shows.  What makes The Simpsons so unique is that it represents a bridge from old sitcommy shows (remember Full House) to comedy today.  When The Simpsons came on in 1989, The Cosby Show was still the number 1 rated show and comedy was staged in a studio with an audience.  But during The Simpsons’ run, sitcoms changed from the laugh track to single camera comedies.  In a sense, The Simpsons is a live TV show as it addressed many concerns about the Simpsons family.  Many TV shows owe their thanks to The Simpsons, like Arrested Development, The Office (UK, Ricky Gervais said The Simpsons was his inspiration for the show, and US, which was developed by former Simpsons writer Gregg Daniels), and Community.  And the show proved animation wasn’t just for kiddies and led the way for South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, and Archer.

The 500th episode revolves on a Simpson-like theme, where the town of Sprngfield has had enough with the Simpson family’s shenanigans, and so they are kicked out of town and move to Overland, where they meet Julian Assange.  Is the episode good?  Yes.  I wouldn’t compare it to a classic such as “Last Exit to Springfield” or “Marge vs. the Monorail,” but it is good compared for the show today.

And maybe we can appreciate the show for that.  I don’t think The Simpsons will ever regain its level of greatness again, but it can still capture our hearts.  Congratulations for 500 episodes.

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