Posted by: ckckred | August 15, 2012

The Principal and the Pauper: The Fall of The Simpsons

The episode where The Simpsons “jumped the shark”

I’m a giant Simpsons fan.  Actually, to say I’m a die hard Simpsons maniac would be an under exaggeration.  Not only is it my favorite TV show of all time, but it’s really changed the way how I looked at TV overall.  The show introduced a new form of comedy quick cut aways and multiple pop culture references, plus both kids and adults loved it.  It paved the way for shows like South Park and Beavis and Butt-Head, and was respected by every TV critic in America.

But, like most die hard Simpsons fans, I don’t watch the new episodes.  Sadly, The Simpsons isn’t on air anymore, but just a shallow imitation with the same title.  I occasionally watch a new episode, usually for tradition (like the Tree House of Horror episodes) or sometimes out of boredom.  The show can surprise (I really liked an award show parody that came out a few years ago), but nothing has come to even approach the greatness of the Golden Age.

And if there was a moment where The Simpsons stopped being The Simpsons, it was “The Principal and the Pauper,” one of the show’s most infamous episodes.  In it, we discover that Principal Skinner isn’t actually the real Skinner but Armin Tamzarian, who fought under Skinner in the Vietnam War.  When Skinner’s presumed dead in an explosion, Armin goes to Skinner’s mother, and unwilling to tell her of his death, says that he’s Skinner.  But then the real Skinner returns (voiced by Martin Sheen), and then things get ugly…

The real problem with this is that the show would do that to Skinner.  The Simpsons cared about its characters, and wouldn’t do anything heartless like that.  In just one episode, they wiped away one character whom they spent years creating and expanding.  Harry Shearer, who voices Skinner, said ,”you’re taking something that an audience has built eight years or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason, for a story we’ve done before with other characters. It’s so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it’s disrespectful to the audience.”

After that episode, The Simpsons became worse.  The show tried to do anything for a laugh, and forgot all the heart all the earlier episodes had.  We cared about the characters, no matter how many times Homer strangled Bart.  That’s why we loved the show in the first place.  But sadly, The Simpsons will never be seen as the show which changed TV but the show that’s still on air.



  1. Agree completely with your first two paragraphs especially. Great post.

    • Thanks! The show has taken a downward turn since the ninth season, and there really hasn’t been anything really first rate SImpsons since then (with the exception of The Simpsons Movie). I will always love the show, but I don’t think any fan would say that the show’s still great right now. I just tend to watch the older episodes from seasons 3 to 8.

  2. I’m confused about this subject.

    I totally agree with you on the one hand, The Simpsons has lost its heart, without a doubt. It’s now so out there that it seems the writers are just searching for weirder and weirder situations to drop the Simpson family in to. The situations no longer have to relate to the characters in any significant way.

    Having said that, I still find the show hilarious. Although I’d like there to be a bit more heart, I think that if I’m still laughing then the show is doing something right.

    I think basically its impossible for a TV show to carry on with the same unchanging characters for so long without making some major changes to the structure, content, message, purpose of the show. It’s a shame.

    • I do think the characters are no longer very well-structured and aren’t the same ones audiences fell in love with them. The writers now just want to make The Simpsons funny instead of being funny with a heart, but I don’t think its either. I just feel like the writers are just trying to hard for a laugh and try to put the characters in too outlandish situations. I’m glad you still enjoy the show though. I wish I still could.

  3. Great post, I’m a huge fan but don’t watch the newer episodes.

    • Thanks. The show has really fallen since the 90s.

  4. […] The Principal and the Pauper: The Fall of The Simpsons – And finally, I get to end with someone who agrees with us: But, like most die hard Simpsons fans, I don’t watch the new episodes.  Sadly, The Simpsons isn’t on air anymore, but just a shallow imitation with the same title.  I occasionally watch a new episode, usually for tradition (like the Tree House of Horror episodes) or sometimes out of boredom.  The show can surprise (I really liked an award show parody that came out a few years ago), but nothing has come to even approach the greatness of the Golden Age. […]

  5. Hi Charles. You have an amazing blog. I have shown it to quite a few people in South Africa.

  6. […] show was never off, its character didn’t change, whether it because of episodes like “The Principal and the Pauper,” or otherwise. […]

  7. I couldn’t agree more with literally every word of your review. The horrible “principal and the pauper” was the first truly awful episode but far from the last. The show just kept going downhill from there. Two big reasons why I see the show as deterioratingafter “pauper” is the new constant use of very unfunny puns and wordplay, both in the episode titles and in the dialogues throughout the episodes, I.e. “The blunder years”, “How I spent my strummer vacation”, etc. The rich and clever satire from seasons 2-8 was dissapearing fast. Season 1 also wasn’t as good as seasons 2-8 due to the Simpsons not quite hitting their stride yet, many of the great characters not having been introduced yet, and the more crudely drawn picture quality. Another reason for the Simpsons deterioration after season 8 was numerous new characters introduced who were less funny and more annoying than the previous ones, such as the rich Texan, Cookie Kwan, Gil, that annoying salesman who always said “yyeeesssss?” in that awful voice, and that one lady (forgot her name) who was such a bad unfunny parody of snobby white collar career women. Barny no longer being a drunk was another of the many mistakes, belching drunk Barny was funny. And I have other examples but not enough room to write them all. The Simpsons just should’ve ended after season 8 or 9. And it just kept getting worse after “pauper”. By seasons 13 and 14, the show was completely a stupid, inferior immitation of the real Simpson’s seasons 2-8.

  8. […] The Principal and the Pauper is a gutsy move, especially when not immediately succeeded by the phrase: worst episode ever. […]

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