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August 25, 2014 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What Happens When 'The Simpsons' Becomes Dad Humor? With a ratings-smashing marathon running on FXX and a streaming app due to launch in October, perhaps now is the time to ask an impertinent question: When will The Simpsons become passé? Culture has moved on from The Simpsons, despite the show’s unwillingness to pass into comedy Valhalla. In other words, Simpsons is becoming dad humor: structures so well trod that they can never again surprise, no matter how perfectly crafted. The aesthetic earmarks of this mid-90s humor juggernaut are becoming as antiquated as puns and pies-in-the-face.
posted by Cash4Lead (111 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Then dads watch it, I guess.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:58 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


The Simpsons' idea of wit is nothing more than an incisive observation humorously phrased and delivered with impeccable timing.
posted by Iridic at 8:59 AM on August 25 [56 favorites]


Puns are antiquated? But they've been around since Adam...
posted by Devonian at 9:03 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


As a Dad, I'm glad to hear I could someday be as boring and predictable as The Simpsons.
posted by straight at 9:05 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


"Against the modernist tendencies employed by early Simpsons, today’s internet-heavy conditions seem rabidly post-modern"

So he's saying that The Simpsons have become Dada Humor.

Oh no! It's happened to me toooooooooo...
posted by Kattullus at 9:10 AM on August 25 [18 favorites]


The Simpsons' idea of wit is nothing more than an incisive observation humorously phrased and delivered with impeccable timing.

Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?
posted by MoonOrb at 9:10 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]


I propose we respond to this slander with a litany of Simpsons quotes!

Now where did my daughter get off to...
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:12 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Last week on The Zombie Simpsons...
posted by pajamazon at 9:12 AM on August 25


I call hogwash.

I have…somehow…obtained Seasons 4 through 9 and I put them on whenever possible when random friends and I want something random to watch. And they still work. I love showing people old Simpsons for the first time.

There's a lot of different types of humor in the Simpsons, but most summaries of how good the show was say "oh, it's because you know they care so much about each other." No no no no no. It's because it takes itself mostly seriously, until it doesn't, and then it's practically surreal, and then it will try and top it.

Mr. Burns is grocery shopping for the first time (in "Homer the Smithers" I believe), he sees Krusty buying "Krusty-Os" (worthy of a chuckle, these boxes display people, sometimes those people could buy those boxes, why wouldn't they), so he looks to find the Burns-Os (that's pretty silly, the purpose of the person on the box isn't to tell you who to buy it, Burns has gotten this entirely backwards), but he obviously can't find the Burns-Os, so he picks up Count Chocula and says "well, this kind of looks like me."

It has worked EVERY time I've shown it to somebody.
posted by Brainy at 9:14 AM on August 25 [16 favorites]


"This guy's a genius! He's going to change the way we think about getting hit by pies"
posted by thelonius at 9:16 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


When will The Simpsons become passé?

Fifteen years ago.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on August 25 [9 favorites]


When will The Simpsons become passé?

About 16 seasons ago?
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:16 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Jinx!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:17 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


YOU THINK THIS IS MAKEUP?!

EDIT: Eh, looks like I'm misquoting Krusty.
posted by I-baLL at 9:17 AM on August 25


Now you reminded me of the makeup gun, and I'm giggling like a maniac at the image of the skewed misfire at the wall.
posted by CaseyB at 9:20 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


It is sort of interesting to see something that use to be edgy and somewhat rebellious become conventionally unthreatening not in retrospect, but while it's still occuring. But the question of "when" this will happen is about 15 years too late.

On a more personal level, it's crazy to think a show I got bored with when I was 11 is still around.
posted by spaltavian at 9:23 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Pie throwing is eternal and unchanging.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on August 25


It's like Monty Python sketches. You know them by heart. You know their last intonation and even the blocking, you can literally move from one part of the imagined set to the other, in perfect synchronization with what's on the screen.

You get tired of them. You move on. Years later, for reasons unrelated to wanting to watch Monty Python, you find yourself watching the Musical Mice sketch, and when Arthur Ewing is being physically removed from the stage, and he fights to give his Mouse Organ one final whack... you lose it all over again.

This is from a comedy show that was cancelled before I was born.

Now, the Simpsons introduces another component, which is that it's been running for decades. Plural. Well, Doonesbury and Peanuts are good examples - sometimes they're irrelevant and boring, comfortable echoes of when they meant something. Othertimes, they are right on top of our culture and society, and nothing is better at distilling a thought or sentiment into shared experience. The question is, do the periods of mediocrity outweigh the moments of brilliance?

There are so many shows that decided to stop at or near their apex - maybe we can have a few that tries it another way? The original brilliance of The Simpsons remains undiminished despite the hit-or-miss nature of the show in the new millennium... so why not?
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:23 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


You get tired of them. You move on.

I'm not sure it's just familiarity that has taken the edge of the The Simpsons. I think society has moved around it.

All in the Family, for example, was ground breaking, but it would pack less of a punch today, because society has changed on a lot of these issues.

The difference is that All in the Family didn't run until 1996, so we didn't see it become less edgy, and then less relevant. We appreciate it retrospect, and scale it to its times.
posted by spaltavian at 9:29 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Well the Pythons were never cancelled, they are in the "decided to stop" category. Until recently at any rate.
posted by anazgnos at 9:29 AM on August 25


As gifted as Simpsons was at referencing great cultural works from all walks of life, part of the reason why the show was so memorable was because it was so damn quotable. Yet quoting The Simpsons wasn’t merely a sterile act of mimicry, since one quote would lead to another, forming a chain of appreciative juxtaposition. The show taught riffing as a creative act.
It may well be that The Simpsons had a lot to do with the mainstream pattern of riffing/referencing humor that rose to prominence in the years that followed.

But it would be easy to overstate its influence, too. I was in college when The Simsons debuted. The riffing/referencing thing was already very much underway in youth culture at the time. Simpsons was just disseminating a tendency it was already swimming in.

In fact, I most strongly associate that style of humor with a group we MeFites love to hate, largely out of embarrassed self-recognition: teenage Monty Python fans. Endlessly retelling each other the same jokes as a sort of secret handshake but also adapting them and their patterns to present circumstances.

The boom in Python's American popularity is probably due most of all to its exposure through MTV in the 1980s. The riffing/referencing culture may ultimately be rooted in the late 20th century cable/media explosion. Maybe the riffing thing doesn't work so well if your cultural library to draw on is either too large (the accumulated literature of recorded history, like in a real library) or too small (three national TV networks).
posted by Western Infidels at 9:29 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


Great Dad humor (forgive Buzzfeed).
posted by shothotbot at 9:31 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


Yet quoting The Simpsons wasn’t merely a sterile act of mimicry, since one quote would lead to another

This is just a chain of sterlie mimicry. Uhh, I still can't stand it when people replace actual jokes with Simpsons references.
posted by spaltavian at 9:31 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Well, Doonesbury and Peanuts are good examples - sometimes they're irrelevant and boring, comfortable echoes of when they meant something. Othertimes, they are right on top of our culture and society, and nothing is better at distilling a thought or sentiment into shared experience. The question is, do the periods of mediocrity outweigh the moments of brilliance?

The answer is no, not even remotely. Al Jean has made sure of that.

Another question is: Do we need The Simpsons (or Peanuts or Doonesbury) to have these flashes of relevance once in a blue moon when there are many other venues that are constant firehoses of relevance? The answer to that is also a resounding no.

The only threat to the legacy of The Simpsons we love is its being buried in the collective conscious by The Simpsons we don't give half a shit about.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


When will The Simpsons become passé?

Fifteen years ago.

When will The Simpsons become passé?

About 16 seasons ago?


But this is totally noncontroversial; when people talk about The Simpsons (especially in this context), they're talking about 1990-1997. If we were really talking about the entire stretch of the show, this question wouldn't even be interesting. What's really being asked is, "Are the things that were hilarious at the time of peak-Simpsons still funny, and if not, why?"

And, honestly, I will never get tired of seeing Homer slay the vampire Montgomery Burns by ferociously drive a stake through him, only to have Lisa say, "Uh, dad, that's his crotch."

To quote Bart from the "I Love Lisa" episode, "that is funny for so many reasons."
posted by MoonOrb at 9:32 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]


The Simpons bits everyone remembers had a very particular grammar and beat to them, Mystery Science Theatre had a similar structure of joke telling, and that "beat, beat, cutaway to BIGGER BEAT" has become the default joke structure for so many things after it.

People may not know where the rake bit comes from but it's influence is all over modern comedy.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


"Kill my boss? Do I dare live the American dream?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 AM on August 25 [8 favorites]


The Simpsons golden years have got something you can't learn in school. Zazz!

You know, Zing! Zork! Kapowza! Call it what you want, in any language it spells mazuma in the bank!
posted by Sangermaine at 9:37 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Oh man I just realized that I'm one rhinestone jacket away from being SIMPSONS STU
posted by The Whelk at 9:39 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I thought Simpsons Stu didn't advertise?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:42 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched Simpsons in a very long time, but back when I did watch it, there was a particular form of humor that I remember thinking was the show's most distinctive element. It was based on extreme repetition. You'd have some simple loop a few seconds long -- say, Homer remembering Apu asking the monorail guy "Is there a chance the track will bend?" A few repetitions of this would make a joke of how weirdly phrased it was, but the loop would keep on repeating for far longer than necessary for that joke, until the repetition itself became the subject of the joke, and often until that joke was lost too, to the point where it suggested a hellish eternity, endlessly repeating a single niggling thought to the exclusion of all else.

I don't know if this form is capable of becoming dad humor or not, but if it does, it will be the very daddest of humor. Maybe it already is, or always was.
posted by baf at 9:45 AM on August 25


I have a the first few seasons on DVD and the writer commentary is pretty interesting. They felt that if you repeated something it gets less and less funny until it makes it out of a humor valley and then becomes even funnier the first time the line is delivered.

Dental plan, lisa needs braces
posted by cmfletcher at 9:51 AM on August 25 [10 favorites]


*rake smack, shudder*
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on August 25 [11 favorites]


All I know is I spent about 18 hours watching the Simpsons marathon this past weekend and I regret nothing. I was reminded of a bunch of stuff that wormed its way into my personal humor vocabulary and that I had entirely forgotten came from the Simpsons. Also, there was a lot of stuff that went over my head entirely as a kid, which made the rewatch genuinely entertaining as opposed to just an exercise in nostalgia.
posted by yasaman at 9:54 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Things would have been different if Parker Lewis hadn't lost.
posted by ericbop at 9:54 AM on August 25 [10 favorites]


What a load of rich, creamery butter
posted by bondcliff at 9:55 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Homer remembering Apu asking the monorail guy "Is there a chance the track will bend?" A few repetitions of this would make a joke of how weirdly phrased it was, but the loop would keep on repeating for far longer than necessary for that joke, until the repetition itself became the subject of the joke, and often until that joke was lost too, to the point where it suggested a hellish eternity, endlessly repeating a single niggling thought to the exclusion of all else.

FWIW, you're misremembering some key elements of that scene (pretty sure it was Marge, for one), and conflating it with Dental plan! Lisa Needs Braces!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


So this is written by a self avowed comedy writer who doesn't find The Marx Brothers hilarious to this day... I see.

This guy seems to have mistaken the actual funny part of The Simpsons (timing and consistency of voice) for the references. Of course someone's going to look slack-jawed at you if you're spouting references to a thing they're too young to remember. But that's not the funny part of the show. The idea that humor could change that much is ridiculous, since a lot of the funny parts of The Simpsons (like Bob getting whacked in the face repeatedly with a rake) wouldn't be out of place in The Marx Bros or The Three Stooges.

In fact, The Simpsons itself is in constant conversation with all of the old shows that he cites as being hallmarks of passe forms of humor. The good seasons are well-versed in comedy throughout the ages. No doubt the comedy that's being written today is also likely to be informed by one of the most influential and well loved sitcoms ever made. Comedy isn't broken up into discrete blocks.

The cringe-worthy dad humor that he's talking about is when someone who stopped paying attention to culture after the 70s provides an irrelevant "DY-NO-MITE" or "THAT IS CORRECT SIR" as a short-hand to actual humor. Timing and wit are core parts of comedy that never die.
posted by codacorolla at 10:01 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Sorry, Sys Rq, the mob has spoken ...
posted by cmfletcher at 10:02 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I always thought that despite nominally taking place in the early 90s, The Simpsons occupied a vaguely 40s universe in tone and references
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 AM on August 25


They felt that if you repeated something it gets less and less funny until it makes it out of a humor valley and then becomes even funnier the first time the line is delivered.

It's also mentioned in a commentary that those repetitions were often employed when shows ran short. Conversely, they often sped up audio when shows ran long. It's interesting how the symbiosis between the writers room and the larger craft of producing the show contributes to some of its most memorable tropes. These classic joke constructions still rule broadcast TV and I think they still govern a lot of what is funny in what this article calls postmodern humour. All that's missing is the polished, finished product. I imagine snippets from a classic-era writers room would fit right in on weird twitter. Why is Selma's iguana called Jub-Jub? Because Conan kept saying it in the writing room, over and over, and was determined somehow to get it on the show. What's funny on the internet now may be a different branch, but it's the same old tree.
posted by Lorin at 10:03 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


despite nominally taking place in the early 90s, The Simpsons occupied a vaguely 40s universe in tone and references

I find this to be the case with an awful lot of media, not just The Simpsons, because creators, especially when telling childhood and family stories, draw from their own childhoods. As the pace of social and technological change increases, the incongruity becomes more stark.

I remember an essay that touched on this, WRT The Simpsons, and that had as its premise the question of when it will become necessary to retcon Principal Skinner's military service from Vietnam to Iraq.
posted by gauche at 10:07 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Also,

Against the modernist tendencies employed by early Simpsons, today’s internet-heavy conditions seem rabidly post-modern, with an emphasis on the eradication of structure, a flurry of rapid re-mixes, and the invention of new grammars and patois that dissolve as soon as they are understood.

Two darlings of "rabidly post-modern" Internet era of comedy, which were saved by their young millennial aged fan-bases, are Arrested Development and Community. Arrested Development is so far into comedy based in narrative structure that it's impossible to follow some of the jokes unless you've been watching since episode 1. Community features several interlacing Sci-Fi storylines to each season, including a broader over-arching storyline about alternate universes. If you want to go younger than that, Adventure Time (which is at least partially a comedy) often uses highly structured long-reaching narratives that cut across episodes.

Two of the most commercially successful comedies which actually do shit on strong narrative structures, The Big Bang Theory and Family Guy, are largely enjoyed by broader, older audiences.
posted by codacorolla at 10:11 AM on August 25 [7 favorites]


The Simpsons are perfectly cromulent IMHO.
posted by Talez at 10:11 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Yeah the successful, or at least respectable comedy of today is HIGHLY FORMAL and INTRICATELY STRUCTURED. It's all very Wes Anderson, very carefully fussed over fun.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


They felt that if you repeated something it gets less and less funny until it makes it out of a humor valley and then becomes even funnier the first time the line is delivered.

Repetitiveness is my job!
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 10:21 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


This town is a part of us all, a part of us all, a part of us all.
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


What I always found (and continue to find) so endearing about The Simpsons are the visual gags that aren't given any attention in the dialogue; often of the blink-and-you-miss-it type.

Example: Bart puts a can of Duff beer in a paint shaker and places it in the fridge. Bart hides in next room. Off-screen we hear the "psst" of the can opening. Bart leaps into the doorwaay to shout "April Fool" and there is a momentary flash of light on his face before the whole house goes up in a mushroom cloud.

If these are "dad jokes" then call me dad.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:23 AM on August 25 [7 favorites]


Yes, one day the world will move on, and the writing, the rhythms and the jokes in the Simpsons won't be funny anymore. Just like the Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Sergeant Bilko...
posted by PlusDistance at 10:24 AM on August 25


Also apparently Swartzwelder had an affinity for old fashioned jokes and tropes like hobos with bundles and sandwich board men so he can blamed for the lost in time feel to a lot of the series.
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


I would like everyone to know that my default* ringtone is Homer shouting "Where's my burrito?" over and over.

*My beloved gets 2d Kroykah, aka "Star Trek fighting music," because pon farr. And my mother gets the Imperial March because reasons. Everyone else gets the burrito.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:46 AM on August 25


I am evil homer, I am evil homer. (*shakes maracas*)
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


My default ringtone is "The Land of Chocolate" by the amazing Alf Clausen.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:52 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Yesterday was Peak Day for the Simpsons marathon watching. Homerpalooza, You Only Move Twice, Homer vs the 18th Amendment, and the rest of the late 6th til early 9th season Golden Age.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:53 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I WANT MY ELEPHANT
posted by The Whelk at 10:55 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Yesterday was Peak Day for the Simpsons marathon watching. Homerpalooza, You Only Move Twice, Homer vs the 18th Amendment, and the rest of the late 6th til early 9th season Golden Age.

It'll be fun to see how suddenly FXX's numbers dropped off after that.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:55 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I would like everyone to know that my default* ringtone is Homer shouting "Where's my burrito?" over and over

My default ringtone is "The Land of Chocolate" yt by the amazing Alf Clausen.

Not nearly as interesting, but ever since I had a phone where I could download ringtones, my alarm clock tone has been The Simpsons theme music. I have woken up to that music nearly every day for...wow...nearly a decade now?
posted by MoonOrb at 10:56 AM on August 25


The author also does a standup piece entitled My Dad is Cooler Than Me, so there you are.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:59 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I've always thought Homerpalooza was the second bad episode. It's also, to my knowledge, the first "CELEBRITIES! LOOK, CELEBRITIES!" episode.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:00 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Dad humor? Maybe. I remember watching Young Frankenstein with my mom and she giggled the entire way through. I just didn't get it. And even as a kid, I never found The 3 Stooges funny.

Comedy has evolved but the Simpsons is the grandfather of this new wave of comedy. It's no longer current, but it's not irrelevant. I don't race to watch it on tv, but it still makes me laugh.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:00 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I never had cable growing up, so the only episode of the Simpsons I've ever seen was (what was advertised as) the "last episode" ... in 2002. I can't believe it went on another 12 years after it was already considered passe.
posted by miyabo at 11:05 AM on August 25


The Simpsons will always be important for the first "geek" show to become mainstream. Without it, none of the subsequent animated comedies could've been made, nor would many live action comedies. It has shaped and created the 21st century media landscape to a greater extent than any other show.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:05 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I never had cable growing up, so the only episode of the Simpsons I've ever seen was...

The Simpsons have always been on Fox, an over-the-air station. Imagine all those years you could have been watching it. You've been robbed, my friend. Robbed.
posted by bondcliff at 11:11 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


I've always thought Homerpalooza was the second bad episode. It's also, to my knowledge, the first "CELEBRITIES! LOOK, CELEBRITIES!" episode.

It wasn't, but it was the first time there wasn't really anything for the au courant CELEBRITIES to do beyond being the hip setup for a washed up punchline: "Peter Frampton!"
posted by Sys Rq at 11:17 AM on August 25


They're playing that elephant song again
posted by bitteroldman at 11:17 AM on August 25


... and then there's Grand-Dad Humor: "BLONDIE!"
posted by panglos at 11:19 AM on August 25


"BLONDIE!"

Sploosh.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:20 AM on August 25


"We're not doing sploosh anymore."

"Phrasing!"

"or that."
posted by The Whelk at 11:22 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Watching this weekend, I was struck by how firmly the infant Internet was imprinted by the golden years. (See especially SNPP.) The influence remains prevalent (See, e.g. all of YouTube).
posted by whuppy at 11:23 AM on August 25


Bob's Burgers seems to be obvious heir to the Simpons, it's character based and jokes come from conversation rather than cutting away to something absurd or repetition ( my one problem with the show is that they let the exchanges go on a little too long and are overfond of "annoying noises" as shorthand for humor.) and while the Simpsons is a show from the 80s/90s that feels like the 50s/60s ..Bob's Burgers is very 70s/80s in feel.
posted by The Whelk at 11:25 AM on August 25 [9 favorites]


I've always thought Homerpalooza was the second bad episode. It's also, to my knowledge, the first "CELEBRITIES! LOOK, CELEBRITIES!" episode.
Clerk: The what festival?
Homer: The Us Festival! Yeesh! It was sponsored by that guy from Apple Computers.
Clerk: What computers?
My how times have changed.
posted by Talez at 11:28 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I never had cable growing up, so the only episode of the Simpsons I've ever seen was...

The Simpsons have always been on Fox, an over-the-air station. Imagine all those years you could have been watching it. You've been robbed, my friend. Robbed.


In fact, where I grew up, all the kids in town were deprived of the Simpsons, because the cable company didn't have Fox. The Simpsons* were reserved for us hicks in the country with big ol' antennas on the roof that could pull in the brand-new Fox station from the Quad Cities.

*Also 21 Jump Street, Betamax tapes of which were responsible for a brief surge in my popularity in 10th grade.
posted by BrashTech at 11:35 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Also apparently Swartzwelder had an affinity for old fashioned jokes and tropes like hobos with bundles and sandwich board men so he can blamed for the lost in time feel to a lot of the series.

I always thought the show was conceived as an intentional send-up of the wholesome Leave It To Beaver small town town America paradigm. It's a prototypical American small town where, instead of father knowing best, every authority figure and institution is portrayed as corrupt, incompetent, and apathetic.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:37 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


It has shaped and created the 21st century media landscape to a greater extent than any other show.

For one they pioneered the pause button gag. Where you'd have to record the show on your VCR, and pause it to read the sign and see the joke. Of course, back then VCRs had pictures of bumblebees on them. Bumblebee the show tonight, you'd say. We had to say tonight show 'cause the kaiser had stolen the word Leno.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:38 AM on August 25 [20 favorites]


my one problem with the show is that they let the exchanges go on a little too long and are overfond of "annoying noises" as shorthand for humor

I'll just leave this here.
posted by jeoc at 11:43 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I remember an essay that touched on this, WRT The Simpsons, and that had as its premise the question of when it will become necessary to retcon Principal Skinner's military service from Vietnam to Iraq.

But they don't have to. Sgt. Seymour Skinner was in Vietnam. It was Armin Tamzarian who was in Iraq. Now let us never speak of this again.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:58 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


(what was advertised as) the "last episode" ... in 2002

Do you remember which episode it was? It's probably because I wasn't a regular viewer in 2002, but I don't remember this ad campaign.
posted by box at 12:15 PM on August 25


But they don't have to. Sgt. Seymour Skinner was in Vietnam. It was Armin Tamzarian who was in Iraq. Now let us never speak of this again.

I will never understand the people who hate that episode. It's no Homer's Enemy, but it's a lovely bit of meta.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:51 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


I will never understand the people who hate that episode.

Troy McClure badmouthed it once, and FORGETTING THAT TROY MCCLURE IS AN IDIOT, these people took it as gospel that The Principal and the Pauper was terrible.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:53 PM on August 25


I will never understand the people who hate that episode. It's no Homer's Enemy, but it's a lovely bit of meta.

To be clear my "Let us never speak of this again" refers to the end of the episode with the 'real' Skinner on the train out of town, not that I want to never speak of it again. That's actually one of my favorites. I also don't understand the hate, but I defy you to find any episode that doesn't get hate. I mean there are people who will try to convince you that "Marge vs. the Monorail" is the worst episode ever. That's unpossible.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:21 PM on August 25


there are people who will try to convince you that "Marge vs. the Monorail" is the worst episode ever. That's unpossible.

I don't think a week goes by in which I don't have the "is it Batman?" "It's a scientist" "Batman's a scientist!" "It's not Batman!" exchange with my wife.
posted by gauche at 1:24 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


The Zombie Simpsons on the Principal and the Pauper:
Not only were the stories becoming ever more outlandish, they often wrapped up in ways that left the audience scratching its head. Wild turns of fate became common.

The most well known of those is the infamous “The Principal and the Pauper”, perhaps better known as the Armin Tamzarian episode, or just the one with two Principal Skinners. In a twist that’s more than a little reminiscent of the kind of shocking revelations that are often used to prop up dying shows, the real Seymour Skinner returns from being a prisoner of war to find that one of his men had come back from Vietnam and assumed his identity. That man, the upright public servant known to the audience since Season 1, is revealed to be “an imposter” named Armin Tamzarian. Much gasping and exposition ensue.

There’s no real mystery as to why this episode is so widely reviled. Not only does it contradict many things that had been shown about Principal Skinner in the past, but the episode is so thick with abrupt plot twists, expository flashbacks, and unbelievable character turns that there’s hardly any humor to it. The dialogue that just a few years before had been packed with punchlines, observations and jokes had been reduced to the kind of cheap filler better suited to a movie of the week. Instead of fun and funny situations and ideas, there is an excess of heart-to-heart moments and earnest conversations. And, befitting Season 9, there’s a bizarre ending.

To his credit, Ken Keeler, who wrote “The Principal and the Pauper”, used his appearance on the DVD commentary to rebut the longstanding complaints of fans about this episode. (This is in stark contrast to later commentaries which are often filled with awkward silences and unrelated tangents when the episodes begin to disintegrate.) His defense was basically to say that people get too attached to long running fictional characters. Whatever the truth of that, Keeler is certainly right that Principal Skinner had been on television a long time by that point.

As one of the original Season 1 characters, Skinner/Tamzarian had been known to audiences for almost eight years by the time “The Principal and the Pauper” was broadcast in 1997. That’s quite a stretch of time, both culturally and individually. It’s a full two-term presidency; it’s someone’s entire trip through junior high and high school. A person born the day The Simpsons premiered would’ve been old enough to watch and understand most of “The Principal and the Pauper”.

In those years, Skinner had, among other things, been fired, rejoined the army, seen his school strike oil, settled a teacher’s strike, flashed back to Vietnam several times, and fallen in love in two separate episodes. At some point, there just isn’t a lot left to do with a particular character, and that more than anything explains why both the “imposter” storyline was conceived and why it was so universally loathed. The writers were out of ideas, and the fans were attached to what they already knew. In hindsight, an episode where the two crashed head-on seems almost inevitable.
posted by nubs at 1:33 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Alao that episode is basically the plot to early Mad Men seasons
posted by The Whelk at 1:50 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I love this stupid golfing joke:

Mr. Burns: For god's sake, man. Use an open-faced club! A sand wedge!

Homer: Mmmmm... open-faced club sandwich.
posted by freecellwizard at 2:00 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


This AskMefi question is 10 years old next month and it's definitely not passé yet: Is there a way to gently steer someone away from constant Simpsons or Monty Python quoting?
posted by fuzz at 2:32 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


i've always loved the way they have evolved marge + homer's life-flashbacks over the decades. in the early days of the simpsons, marge and homer dating scenarios were very 70s. then as years moved on, they were 80s, then 90s. etc. i haven't watched with any real regularity in a while, but i presume they're up to the early 2000s now?
posted by rude.boy at 3:28 PM on August 25


They still never retconed or explained away the fact that if they where high school sweethearts who skipped colledge and had Bart fairly early on ( which was the reason he took the job at the Nuclear Plant) then Bart should be well into hi s late teens, early adulthood if Marge and Homer are in thier 40s.
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on August 25


One "being on the air for decades" thing just occurred to me watching the intro. Bart skateboards home from school, Lisa bikes. In 2014 a parent who lets young kids do anything alone is looked on with suspicion.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:06 PM on August 25


Also, baby carseat in front.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:07 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


i've always loved the way they have evolved marge + homer's life-flashbacks over the decades. in the early days of the simpsons, marge and homer dating scenarios were very 70s. then as years moved on, they were 80s, then 90s. etc. i haven't watched with any real regularity in a while, but i presume they're up to the early 2000s now?

They did "That '90s Show" in the 19th season which was basically a parody of Nirvana with Homer as Kurt Cobain and Marge with a blue haired Rachel do.

They still never retconed or explained away the fact that if they where high school sweethearts who skipped colledge and had Bart fairly early on ( which was the reason he took the job at the Nuclear Plant) then Bart should be well into hi s late teens, early adulthood if Marge and Homer are in thier 40s.
Stewie Griffin: How can you have a 13-year-old son when you're only 7?
Brian Griffin: Those are dog years.
Stewie Griffin: That doesn't make any sense.
Brian Griffin: You know what, Stewie? If you don't like it, go on the internet and complain
posted by Talez at 4:29 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


I hope someone was fired over that blunder.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:50 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


despite the show’s unwillingness to pass into comedy Valhalla

Comedy Valhalla? That's where I'm a viking!
posted by radwolf76 at 5:27 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


They still never retconed or explained away the fact that if they where high school sweethearts who skipped colledge and had Bart fairly early on ( which was the reason he took the job at the Nuclear Plant) then Bart should be well into hi s late teens, early adulthood if Marge and Homer are in thier 40s.

That is precisely what the grunge episode retconned. Like, that was explicitly the exact setup, almost word for word. Like, Lisa or Bart or whoever was like, "Hey, mom and dad, if you where high school sweethearts who skipped colledge and had Bart fairly early on ( which was the reason dad took the job at the Nuclear Plant) then Bart should be well into hi s late teens, early adulthood if you guy s are in you're 40s." And then Homer or Marge or whoever was like, "Sit down and I'll tell you a story that ruins the whole show."

It was a terrible episode. The absolute nadir, IMO. They did a parody of "Glycerine."
posted by Sys Rq at 5:41 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


The Simpsons is actually three shows: the golden age, zombie Simpsons, and season 1.

Season 1 had crude art and a half-formed supporting cast that hadn't yet become the vast sprawling world it would be. What it did have was a sadness and humanity less prominent in later seasons.

Homer loses his job, and intends to kill himself by throwing himself off a bridge while tied to a large rock. As he struggles down the street tied to a boulder he whimpers to himself "why does everything have to be hard?"
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:59 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Homer loses his job, and intends to kill himself by throwing himself off a bridge while tied to a large rock. As he struggles down the street tied to a boulder he whimpers to himself "why does everything have to be hard?"

A lot of the season 1 episodes contain callbacks to The Flintstones. That is one of them.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:23 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


If you read this OP in the voice of Kent Brockman, it all makes sense.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:34 PM on August 25


You mean Kenny Brockelstein.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:45 PM on August 25



It was a terrible episode. The absolute nadir, IMO. They did a parody of "Glycerine."


I hated it. The original Marge/Homer origin story was great, with the Feminist Marge and Barney being a straight A student turned to a life of alcoholism by one beer offered by Homer, the fake French lessons, Artie and his grabby hands, Homer's "ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, I'LL WALK IN THE MUD" which I always think about when a day is especially crummy.

Also, the Carpenters' song "Close To You," which was used heavily in that episode, shows up as a theme for years - in a later episode Marge has it installed as their doorbell ring and it malfunctions and drives everyone crazy - Lisa complains "I have a test tomorrow on Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear" because she has nothing else going through her head.

It's just a lovely episode full of so many details and the 90s remake/reboot/retcon was one of those few "Simpsons: The Decline" episodes that made me think "yeah...I'll pretend this show ended years ago."
posted by sweetkid at 8:09 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


It was a terrible episode.

Probably why I never saw it! Also cause the Orginal story is so sweet and I love how ....seriously the show at it's best took the Marge/Homer relationship. Homer thinks Marge is the smartest person he ever met and Marge thinks Homer is the kindest man she ever met. He's not a sitcom oaf with a long suffering housewife - they're two people who fell powerfully in love as teenagers and are still perfect for each other.

I mean, I give The Simpons Movie all the leeway cause it *got* how Marge and zhimer's marriage is the fulcrum of the show.
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


The Simpsons and The American Man: The Tragedy of Sideshow Bob
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:04 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Marge and zhimer
To obtain a special typing wand, please mash the keyboard with your palm now.

posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


I do think this is a great idea on how to "end" the Simpsons.
posted by Mezentian at 6:10 AM on August 26


Another great idea on how to end the Simpsons:

The show begins with the family watching Itchy and Scratchy. They announce that the show is coming to an end and the entire family gasps in horror. They then announce that the last episode will be aired in a years time, and until then, a contest will be running; this contest will offer the winner the chance to write what will happen in the finale. The entire Simpson family applies. Krusty is in charge of choosing the winner. He falls in love with one of the Simpson's idea and puts it in winners box. He makes a mistake though, he puts all five of their ideas in the box by accident. He goes on his show to announce the winner and pulls out five cards out of the box. Stumped, he reads all five names out, "Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie." Flash forward a year later and Bart is in class describing his take on the Itchy and Scratchy finale to Milhouse, while showing us Itchy and Scratchy with Bart's voice-over. He finishes and the class is silent, Edna Krabappel is staring at him and says, "After-school detention." The scene then cuts to the power plant and Homer is describing his finale to Lenny and Carl. He finishes, a bell rings and he gets in a radiation suit. The scene cuts to a supermarket and Marge is describing her take to Helen Lovejoy, she finishes and strolls Maggie in the trolley to another aisle. Here, Maggie sees the unibrow baby and starts describing her take via waving and motioning. She finishes and the scene cuts to Lisa, she begins describing her take to Sherri and Terri. She finishes and picks up her saxophone to go to music practice. She walks in the music room sits down and then sees the time. She realises the show is going to be on in ten minutes. She plays the Itchy and Scratchy melody on her sax and bolts out. It cuts to Bart, he's writing on the black board: "I will not talk in class ever again" he hears a bell, realises the time and runs out. Cut to Homer holding some plutonium at a conveyor belt when a bell rings at the plant and he too realises the time and runs off, dropping some plutonium. Cut to the supermarket and we see Marge and Maggie checking out and running through the exit doors. Cut to a birds eye view of their home and we see everyone rushing to take a seat in the couch. They look at each other, they smile, the Itchy and Scratchy music plays, and it cuts to credits.
posted by jeremy b at 6:18 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Yes, true.
But where's Poochie?
posted by Mezentian at 6:24 AM on August 26


The show needs to get out of this rut and back into the groove.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:46 AM on August 26


Yes, true.
But where is Poochie?


Had to go, planet needed him.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:22 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


But where's Poochie?

AND WHAT ABOUT ROY?
posted by entropicamericana at 7:48 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I do think this is a great idea on how to "end" the Simpsons.
They'll Never Stop The Simpsons!
Have no fears, we'll have stories for years, like
Marge becomes a robot,
Maybe Moe gets a cell phone, has Bart ever owned a bear?
Or, how 'bout a crazy wedding?
Where something happens and doo doo doo doo doo...
Sorry for the clip show.
Have no fears we'll have stories for years.
posted by Talez at 8:42 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


My first favourite for that was from Clinging to the Wreckage. Eponysterical.
posted by Talez at 8:57 AM on August 26


I thought the jocky episode was the low point, but no, it's the dolphin episode.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:25 AM on August 26


and it goes on like this
posted by Drinky Die at 11:29 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


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