Bart to the Future
October 22, 2013 7:36 PM   Subscribe

 
What? Eat my shorts!
posted by eriko at 7:39 PM on October 22, 2013


No.

No to eriko, too.
posted by codswallop at 7:44 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Zombie Simpsons is an excellent read on what happened to the simpsons. Its not just gripe-fest, as internet threads about the golden era turn into, but actually pinpoints several reasons (Writing staff turnover, the Death of Phil Hartman and a showrunner), and the change in tone of the charcters (the first season suicidal father becoming Homer the invincible idiot).

Well worth a read, and covers why it is important to have a distinction of the influential early work, and "still pretty good for a TV comedy-to-irritating celebrity promotion vehcile" scale that they are on now.
posted by lkc at 7:48 PM on October 22, 2013 [34 favorites]


Make Simpsons Relevant:

Step 1. Create time machine.
Step 2. Go back in time and cancel Simpsons some time in the 90s

Stretch goal. Go back in time, kill your grandmother, and marry Hitler.
posted by device55 at 7:48 PM on October 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


seconding Zombie Simpsons. It is excellent. There's a Kindle version on Amazon if you prefer that format.
posted by Bwithh at 7:50 PM on October 22, 2013


DEAR FCC MARYING HITLER IS NOT FUNNY PLEASE CANCEL SIMPSNOS
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:50 PM on October 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


Bob's Burgers does what the Simpsons used to do for me in its first ten years: provides a strong, character based comedy with great writing.
posted by codacorolla at 7:51 PM on October 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


The Simpsons has already done a bunch of "future" episodes over the last quarter-century. You could very easily compile your own season where they age.

My favourite episode is "22 Short Films About Springfield," specifically because it contains stories without the Simpson family. I've always felt that was the direction things should have gone.

But it's far too late to fix the show at this point.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:57 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Simpsons has already done a bunch of "future" episodes over the last quarter-century. You could very easily compile your own season where they age.

Did you read the article? They said there are only 4 flash forward episodes.
posted by OwlBoy at 8:09 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


So start with the flashback ones.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:24 PM on October 22, 2013


I wrote a short story where the final episode was shown by a drunk Matt Groening, having been created back in season 10, it's existence was a part of a crazy insurance policy. Matt also explains that the voice talent has been synthesized since season 15, and by season 27 the entire show was created from AI scripts via Cray supercomputers.
posted by hellojed at 8:24 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why not just reduce output? Twenty-two episodes per season may be too much for the creative team to fill. Maybe they should focus their efforts on six or eight at a time.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:26 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


They should just cancel it and do something new.

My younger cousin got nicknamed 'Bart' by his brothers when the show came out. They still call him that and he's 35 now.
posted by empath at 8:28 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been saying this for years. Their last season should, at the very least, age the characters and give them a Six Feet Under style send off. So many of us started watching this show when we were the ages of Bart and Lisa, and now we're Marge and Homer and it should have come with us! It could have come with us! But it didn't, and goddamnit, why did they show so little intuition that this wasn't sustainable? It's so disappointing.
posted by saturnine at 8:29 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


And then they could add a new baby, that always fixes things[TVTropes].
posted by Mitheral at 8:35 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Being in my mid 30s, I just like the show is still on...reminds of Sundays before high school, playing outside, playing Tecmo Bowl, and having an episode of The Simpsons. the show ending would be sort of like the moment when no major league baseball player is older than you....feel its stopping would make lot of us feel real old too.
posted by skepticallypleased at 8:39 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sys Rq is right - they built a full world and have tried to tie almost every story into the original family instead of fully taking advantage of the world they built. South Park came to understand this, focusing episodes around the characters best suited to the stories, involving the main four characters where that made sense, and sometimes barely at all.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:42 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Really never understood the love-to-hate thing about Simpsons, or all the plans people have always had to reinvigorate (age them! draw them realistically! all new characters!). The solution to this is just move on, look around for all the other good work being done out there.

It was a great show for awhile (a long while, by my reckoning), but it's over now. They won't stop making it until, in the immortal words of Troy McClure "the time when the show becomes unprofitable". That doesn't mean that the newer episodes pollute the older ones, or that it's worth being mad about how a once great show is no longer entertaining.
posted by skewed at 8:45 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


"That's what I like about these high school girls The Simpsons; I get older, they stay the same age."
posted by crossoverman at 8:46 PM on October 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Death of a major character they say; sounds familiar...
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:02 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]




To remind folks of how far Zombie Simpsons has fallen, the median episode these days averages around 7.0 on IMDB. Also rated 7.0? A fucking clip show from Season 4.

I agree that Bob's Burgers scratches my Simpsons itch nowadays, but I still hold out some faint hope that The Simpsons could be restored to watchability some day. I don't think having the characters suddenly age after being frozen in time for 25 years would be necessary or sufficient, but it's not like the problems that Dead Homer Society chronicles each week are impossible to fix, and, hey, it's no skin off my back if the show runs another 20 or 30 seasons -- maybe they'll accidentally crap out a great episode in one of them.

Besides, what good does killing the show off do other than open up a time slot for another Family Guy spinoff? It's more than a decade too late to quit while they're ahead, so the legacy is already tarnished by so many bad seasons. Why not screw around with it, bring in some new writers, maybe a new producer at some point -- just see what happens? What's left to lose?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:35 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zombie Simpsons ? Clicked.

“Man, that is flagrant false advertising.” - Otto
posted by Cog at 9:36 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


codacorolla: "Bob's Burgers does what the Simpsons used to do for me in its first ten years: provides a strong, character based comedy with great writing."

Anyone recommend a particular episode to start with?
posted by mannequito at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's pretty strong from the start. I looked back at the first season to pick my favorite but I can't really choose.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:45 PM on October 22, 2013


Anyone recommend a particular episode to start with?

It hits its stride within five or six episodes, so I'd just start with the Season 1 pilot and work through the first season. It's worth it.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:48 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone recommend a particular episode to start with?

I agree that it's solid from the get-go, but "Sheesh! Cab, Bob?" (S1E6) is probably my first favorite among the early stuff. Simple sitcom set-up (Dad has to work an extra job to make his daughter's wish come true) with great pay-offs, and which introduces you to all of the characters.
posted by codacorolla at 9:57 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


How to make Slate relevant again: Hire back all of the writers Jacob Weisberg fired two years ago. And fire Jacob Weisberg, of course.
posted by jackbrown at 10:01 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, Futurama has been cancelled for the third time.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:01 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


So many of us started watching this show when we were... Bart and Lisa, and now we're Marge and Homer...

And soon you will be Abe Simpson. As the Velvet Underground once sang It's the beginning of a New Age...
posted by y2karl at 10:01 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Huh. I really liked Holidays of Future Passed.

You know what I'd like more (and if The Simpsons ever has a finale they could do a hell of a lot worse than this)?

Give Maggie a voice, and tell her story to adulthood.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:04 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


DIE HERETIC
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 PM on October 22, 2013


You what's scary about The Simpsons? People 10 years younger than me have no idea The Simpsons was ever a big deal. To them, it's just some show that's always been on, like soap operas or M.A.S.H. reruns.
posted by evil otto at 10:21 PM on October 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


My younger cousin got nicknamed 'Bart' by his brothers when the show came out. They still call him that and he's 35 now.

The thing that always gets me is the fact that I'm the same age as Lisa Simpson.

And I'm 32.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 PM on October 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I saw a new episode circa 2011 and it had a few genuinely funny moments and an agile social criticism thrown in. Plus, the animators really nailed some gestures in one scene. The yearly Treehouse of Horrors usually are good for some delights as well. So, yeah, glory days gone by and all but it's not a total shitfest. It's sadly one of the least caustic and lowbrow cartoons on a major channel, anyway. I'll take Zombie Simpsons over Tosh's pedobear wankfest any day.
posted by planetesimal at 11:07 PM on October 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


The problem is, there's ALLREADY a huge time problem within the canon of the Simpsons, said as someone who thinks season 3-9 are basically a master class in American Comedy As It Applies To Television.

Okay so, canonically, Homer and Marge meet in High School, fall in love after, and Marge gets knocked up with Bart prompting a wedding and Homer running toward his inspector class drudge-work job ( man how sad is it of all the the things that have aged badly it's that Homer might have a decent job that can support a family is the hardest one to swallow?)

This is all, more or less, for values of, Canon. Bart was born to two very young , rushed into it parents. Fine. Later, they have two daughters. That's okay. So... Why is Bart still ten?

By any Logic, if Homer and Marge are still entering their late 30s, early 40s by the time of the main continuity ( and all canon supports this) then Bart should be well into his teens and possibly early adulthood while the main show time line is going on. This is before any and all other conversations, if Marge had Bart as early on as she said she did AND we know Homer and Marge are hugh school sweethearts, then yeah, by the time we tune into middle aged Marge and Homer, Bart should be well into his late teens, early twenties.

That's the big problem I have with the timeline of the Simpsons.
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 PM on October 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Meh, it's pretty clear the Simpsons has never made any serious attempt at continuity.

HOWEVER, there was one episode in the last couple years that disturbed the fuck out of me. They essentially revealed that Homer is actually choking Bart when he's doing that Homer-choking-Bart thing. Wish I could remember what episode it was. I think it was in some downbeat episode where like Homer has to confront his alcoholism or gets kicked out of the house or something. Anyway, some character makes a joke or a reference or says something to the effect that Homer is always choking his son. And then I thought about it, and that's like 26 years of Homer choking his son! Really makes the show less funny when you think about it.
posted by evil otto at 12:12 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK so you have this episode where Homer goes waterskiing, there's a shark in the water and it eats him. Fade to black.

This way no one can accuse the Simpsons of jumping the shark.
posted by three blind mice at 12:30 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I worked on this show hundreds of years ago as an art monkey, and I'm haunted by the thought of how much I helped contribute to the Fox News Network, etc, I just don't think t was ever funny enough to warrant everything it eventually paid for.
posted by biddeford at 1:07 AM on October 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


wow, that Zombie Simpsons book is fucking awesome. I clicked on the link idly, and now I realize it's about two hours later and I've read nine chapters.

One part in particular really resonated with me:

The Simpsons premiered just two weeks before the 1980s ended, instantly going beyond “hit show” and becoming a cultural sensation. 1990 was the year of “Bartmania”, famously epitomized by t-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Bart underneath the word “Underachiever”; slingshot in hand, he declared “And proud of it, man!”. The huge reaction to the show, both positive and negative, was greatly abetted by all those years of timidity and repetitiveness on the part of the three major networks. The revolt had begun with shows like Married . . . with Children and Roseanne, both of which took as a given a working class, explicitly anti-”Cosby” mentality.7 But while those shows had the attitude, they were inherently limited by their laughtracked, live action, living-room-with-a-couch setup. The Simpsons had no such restrictions, and cast its scorn over everything.

The reaction was as intense as it was polarized. For Americans who more or less liked television and America the way they were, The Simpsons represented a near blasphemous rejection of things they held dear. For Americans who felt ignored on television and in general, The Simpsons was a perfect send up of everything they’d been told to love but actually hated. Both groups had been inured to dumb and inoffensive programming, and something that was neither came as a shock.

The people who loathed the show, up to and including the sitting President and First Lady, had become accustomed to a television landscape that was rife with families that looked like them and messages that confirmed their beliefs. The Simpsons, especially Bart, enraged them for not conforming to the usual television morality. That it was animated made it even worse. Cartoons were considered children’s programming and, in a classic case of the “Think of the children!” mentality The Simpsons would skewer later that year, Bart and Homer were derided as terrible role models who would surely lead America’s youth astray.


This brought to mind a vague memory from way way way back. My seventh grade shop class teacher, who was legendary throughout the school for being the coolest, most laidback teacher. First day of class, sure enough he does an introductory speech about how he doesn't really care about casually swearing, he knows people 'going to the bathroom' will be slipping out to smoke ("only cigarettes though, don't get high before you touch my fucking drills!") etc.

Then he stops and gets real serious, looks around, and declares "But I have one hard rule - no Simpsons quotes!!" He then went on a tirade about how offensive it is to have a popular show that regulary depicts a son constantly insulting his father, and the father responding by physically abusing the son.

Anyways not sure what my overall point is here, just that it's easy in retrospect to forget how jarring and groundbreaking The Simpsons was in that era. It really did have the ability to make rational people react irrationally or from-the-gut emotionally. Always a sign of powerful art I guess.
posted by mannequito at 1:28 AM on October 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


oh, also a question for TV buffs. What show is this, mentioned in chapter 2?

There were so many shows about ex-cop detectives that CBS had to resort to time travel to come up with a fresh twist, trying out a show about a sheriff from the 1800s who goes to 1986 and opens a detective agency.
posted by mannequito at 1:32 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]



It was Outlaws.
posted by themanwho at 1:42 AM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mannequito's story means I get to tell my Bartmania story.

So The Simpsons were big. And my mother hated it. This was nearing the tail end of her massive Focus on the Family/Christian Right/Protesting Planned Parenthood phase - in that we were allowed to go to public school, but we still had to go to church on Wednesdays and twice on Sundays. And she hated how Bart talked back, how the entire family was dysfunctional, how it represented Bad Moral Fibre and The Downfall Of The American Family.

So we did watch it, but mostly when she wasn't around. My dad liked it, and he also liked introducing us to things my mother hated (as part of the decade-long post-divorce cold war), so it all worked out rather well for me and my brother, as we were preteen nerds who liked Star Trek and sarcasm.

During the summer, we would go to this Christian day camp, and my mother also worked there (to pay for our tuition). Every week, the counselors would have us make up teams, and they'd pick team names based on a theme.

One week, in an attempt to prove how cool they were, they had Simpsons names for the theme. So there was the Bart Team, the Lisa Team, the Maggie Team, etc.

I didn't tell my mother, but she found out somehow. And she was furious.

So the next day, we go in, and the names have all changed. There's the Magpie Team. And the Bark Team. And counselors giving me the stinkeye.

Thanks, Mom.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:12 AM on October 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Anyway, some character makes a joke or a reference or says something to the effect that Homer is always choking his son. And then I thought about it, and that's like 26 years of Homer choking his son!

I think that one of the Springfield inhabitants is in an unending hell, I just haven't worked out which. Maybe Maggie, actually an adult soul doomed to watch the repeated mistakes of the never-ageing and immortal people around her yet unable to ever advise them against it or communicate her own unending misery.

This is why I can never be a scriptwriter for the Halloween episodes.
posted by jaduncan at 3:06 AM on October 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


hellojed, spot on. I've known for years that nobody works on the Simpsons. Matt Groening get a a check, Fox gets a tape, nobody knows how.
posted by dr_dank at 3:54 AM on October 23, 2013


"Old Man Yells at TV Series"
posted by La Cieca at 4:13 AM on October 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


"Yes, the Simpsons have come a long way since an old drunk made humans out of his rabbit characters to pay off his gambling debts. Who knows what adventures they'll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?" - Phil Hartman as Troy McClure, "138th Episode Spectacular", Airdate 12/3/1995.
posted by graymouser at 5:46 AM on October 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


When I was in the 4th grade, I remember reading an article in a kid's magazine about how Bart Simpson, the new character on this new show, was a 4th grader just like us!

I turn 34 in March.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:08 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


This way no one can accuse the Simpsons of jumping the shark.

Too late. (S13e17, I think)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:09 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What an awful idea, and completely contrary to what Matt Groening likes about cartoons.
posted by agregoli at 6:28 AM on October 23, 2013


The Simpsons makes a shitload of money for Fox and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Anyone who thinks that Fox is going to fiddle with the one series in its stable that is the closest television has ever come to a perpetual motion money machine is an idiot. They certainly not going to listen to some schmuck from Slate about it.
posted by jscalzi at 6:29 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mitheral: "And then they could add a new baby, that always fixes things[TVTropes]."

You mean a poochy?
posted by symbioid at 6:29 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody ages because a wizard did it.
posted by Renoroc at 6:36 AM on October 23, 2013


I mean, the whole point is that nothing ever really changes in their world. It's dependable. I wish it had ended hears ago though, the show is pathetically sad now.
posted by agregoli at 6:38 AM on October 23, 2013


Man: How many of you kids would like Itchy & Scratchy to deal with real-life problems, like the ones you face every day?

Kids: Oh, yeah! I would! Great idea! Yeah, that's it!

Man: And who would like to see them do just the opposite -- getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers?

Kids: Me! Yeah! Oh, cool! Yeah, that's what I want!

Man: So, you want a realistic, down-to-earth show... that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?

Kids: That's right. Oh yeah, good.

Milhouse: And also, you should win things by watching.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:09 AM on October 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Kitty Stardust, that basically describes Adventure Time and Gravity Falls.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:10 AM on October 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've always loved the fast-forward episodes and would love it if they aged. Imagine Lisa trying out for student council, losing to "Ha-HAW!"
posted by Eyeveex at 7:17 AM on October 23, 2013


I think we can all agree the only way to save the Simpsons is to add a little green alien that only Homer can see.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:47 AM on October 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've always loved the fast-forward episodes and would love it if they aged. Imagine Lisa trying out for student council, losing to "Ha-HAW!"

God I hate that Nelson Muntz. I hate him so much!
posted by bitteroldman at 8:21 AM on October 23, 2013


i really do
posted by bitteroldman at 8:21 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


God I hate that Nelson Muntz. I hate him so much!

And the Pupli kids!

But I think that even aging everyone 5 years could be useful and could drive different plots.

I'd like to see Bart, Lisa and their gang in High School, then we could do more with Maggie, Ling, the one-eye-brow baby and the Quadruplets as grade schoolers.

Marge can start to get out of the house, perhaps get a job (she's done it before) or get a graduate degree, or just struggle to define herself now that all the kids are occupied during the day.

Where's Homer in 5 years?

I like the Simpsons, and I've been a fan since the show debuted. I still think that the crappy 30 minutes they do now yields more than the average show on tv in the way of entertainment. It's just that it could be so much better!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on October 23, 2013


Octuplets.
posted by lkc at 8:52 AM on October 23, 2013


Where's Homer in 5 years?

That's Senator Simpson to you.
posted by delfin at 8:54 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty surprised that there hasn't been a legit spinoff a/o mkre movies, not that I think there should be. I'm guessing that's partly Fox being really protective of the property and partly the voice talent demanding way too much for a new venture.

Can we just give the show back to Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein? They seemed to know what they were doing. .
posted by elr at 9:06 AM on October 23, 2013


That's the big problem I have with the timeline of the Simpsons.

In conclusion, the space-time continuum is a land of contrasts.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:11 AM on October 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nope. Look at the Outlander books. Does making the characters get older add relevance? Nope.

Also I hate change. grr.
posted by Namlit at 9:15 AM on October 23, 2013


Or they could just call it a day and shut it down. Plenty of entire seasons I haven't seen, and I actually like the show.

One thing I like about some British comedy is that they (often) quit while they're well ahead of the game. (Chef I regret for going downhill as fast as it did. Blackadder changed for the worse when they brought in Ben Elton. Not to diss him in particular, but the first season had a brilliant, original lunatic air that was totally lost when it turned into one more insult fest.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2013


I held out longer on the Simpsons than most. But then came the day when Lisa threw an unread book out the window of a moving car after she'd flipped to the end. (This was around the time the last book in Harry Potter was released.) That was the day that I realized the writers neither understood nor cared to understand their characters. I haven't watched a single episode since.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:18 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kitty Stardust, that basically describes Adventure Time and Gravity Falls.

And The Simpsons. (Which was the joke of that joke.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing I like about some British comedy is that they (often) quit while they're well ahead of the game.

I once had a nightmare that Red Dwarf ran for more than six series. *shudder*
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I once had a nightmare that Red Dwarf ran for more than two series.
posted by heathkit at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


The thing that always gets me is the fact that I'm the same age as Lisa Simpson.

And I'm 32.


Nope. I went to Reed a few years behind the real MAGGIE Simpson (Margaret Groening, Matt's baby sister) and she's around 52 now, so Lisa would be around 59 or 60. You're young enough to be Lisa's daughter.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:27 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]




Meanwhile, Futurama has been cancelled for the third time.

I'm actually really happy about this. I have a feeling the dead homer society team could write a similar "arc" of futurama quality, but the thing was it got nipped in the bud right before it started getting noticeably shitty in an unsettling way.

They had just started to do stupid fucking things like revisiting the near death star where you could feel the show starting to implode under its own weight, but simultaneously had actually returned to some of the basic original season 1 ideas like "bender is a fucking asshole and really only in anything for himself".

And yet things like the episode about benders ass, where it flies through space to find him and saves a kid in the process were simultaneously good and that exact kind of show-ruining zombie simpsons awful in this weird quantum state kind of way.

It really really just needs to be allowed to quit while its ahead. The simpsons would be remembered with six feet under like reverence if it had been cancelled after 7 seasons. It would be like the freaking original series star trek of the 90s.
posted by emptythought at 4:36 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I really like this idea, and I even trust the writers to be able to execute it well, but if you think people are accusing the Simpsons of jumping the shark now, imagine how bad it would be if there were this entire new era added at the end of the show where the characters are all older. Oh my god I can just imagine the bitching now.

Which is a shame, because the future episodes do give a hint of how much good stuff is really there to be tapped. In Holidays of Future Passed, the most recent flash-forward episode, there's a scene where Bart and Lisa get drunk on wine in the treehouse and discuss the difficulties they're having with their kids, and have a little drunken sibling bonding moment, and it's just such an amazing moment for those characters that feels familiar while still more mature.


I went away from the Simpsons sometime around the show's original downturn in quality, around season 10 or whenever. But due to its ubiquity, I caught an episode somewhere around season 16, and was pleasantly surprised. Maybe my expectations were lowered by the consensus that it sucks now, which has been the consensus for roughly 60% of the show's run at this point.

So anyway I ended up binge watching the new episodes starting from season 15 or so. And you know what? There are some great gags in there. Great episodes, even. It's just changed, is all.

Everyone gets mad that they turn on an episode of Simpsons these days and it's anything short of the Be Sharps, or Homer at the Bat, or Flaming Moe's, or Mr. Plow, or any of the show's best. It's just not that show anymore. Plot is somewhat less important now, the jokes come faster, and there are more pop culture references (though there were plenty before). If you're willing to give the show a chance, and not expect it to be the same experience as it was when you watched it at 6:30 each evening while procrastinating on your homework in the 8th grade, you are bound to laugh. The show is still really funny, and more than that, the humor comes from a relatively more kind-hearted place than a lot of comedy on TV these days.

There is something rare about the Simpsons that I think would be a real loss if it were to go away: the world of the Simpsons is so well-developed now, so ingrained into our culture, that it's become an institution. I don't mind that the Simpsons baldly references pop culture and current events a lot, because that's What They Do, and it's usually interesting to see the Simpsons' take on things. I love that the same characters who were criticized by Barbara Bush are now walking on the High Line in NYC and using smartphones and becoming foodies in Springfield's Little Ethiopia and listening to This American Life ("Today's theme in five acts: condiments. Act 1, Ketchup"). The Simpsons is approaching the kind of document you could put on a Voyager spacecraft and say, "Aliens, this is us."

Probably my favorite later episode is the 500th episode. The residents of Springfield hold a town meeting and decide to exile the Simpsons from the city. This episode is classic, and it deserves to stand with the most memorable episodes from the 90s as one of the show's best. But if you watch it with the attitude of hurf surf new Simpsons sucks, then you'll probably reflexively hate it too.

Everyone I know grew up on the Simpsons, and it's been so influential on everyone's sense of humor that it's like the air, you can't even see it anymore. That's why it bothers me that the conventional wisdom is that it sucks now. Everybody loves the humor of the Simpsons and its just like, I wanna grab people on discussions like these and say, it's still going on! It's not over! But I guess if it's still on the air, someone's still watching, so I guess I'm not completely alone.
posted by malapropist at 7:43 PM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Plot is somewhat less important now, the jokes come faster, and there are more pop culture references (though there were plenty before).

No, no, and no on all counts.

Maybe you just didn't get the jokes and references in the old episodes? There were way more of them back then. They just didn't bash you over the head with them like they do now.

And plot? The good years didn't give half a shit about plot. Watch anything from season 3 to 8; they rarely even get to the plot before the ten minute mark. Plot is all the new stuff's got. Unfortunately, it's all just warmed-over retreads of stuff they've already done three times (how many first loves has Bart had now? a dozen?) and these days the characters are so unrecognisable in their words and actions (not to mention their voices) that the plots rarely even make sense. It's like back in the '70s when Hanna-Barbara resurrected Tom & Jerry, only now the famously antagonistic cat and mouse were friends. I mean...what?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:17 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a difference of opinion on this matter.
posted by y2karl at 8:24 PM on October 23, 2013


Teach the controversy? Climate change is a lie, fossils were planted by Satan, The Simpsons is still good?

No. These are just factually untrue.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:33 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I really like this idea, and I even trust the writers to be able to execute it well, but if you think people are accusing the Simpsons of jumping the shark now, imagine how bad it would be if there were this entire new era added at the end of the show where the characters are all older. Oh my god I can just imagine the bitching now.

Maybe because it's a repeatedly tried formula to try and wring out the towel of the remnants of a dying show extra hard as if through one of these?

I mean lets talk about rugrats for a second. It isn't famous and world renown like the Simpsons, nor does it have a big cult following like Daria. But it was part of the absolute golden age of nick cartoons in the 90s right when the simpsons was running, and had a lot of truly subtle brilliant humor in it just like the early simpsons. It was an apex predator of 90s animation, for sure.

And you know what? they actually tried this with rugrats, and it was fucking crap.. It followed the same timeline, there was a special flash-forward double episode and this concept had been visited previously in the show a couple times(a lot like the tear-jerking "what a great ride" in the simpsons with bart).

It might have its moments, and some good writers might even give it their all and pop a gem episode or two out of it. But i wholeheartedly believe that any show trying this sort of formula is worth pointing and laughing at because i honestly believe it's fundamentally flawed. It's a sort of harlequin baby of show spinoff ideas, which in and of themselves are often crap and to which success and quality is practically a miracle of exceptions and not a rule. Off the top of my head it's like "uhhh... Daria.... Deep space nine if you wanna get super technical?". I feel very comfortable saying that spinoff/flash forward/etc shows can only work if they don't follow the same characters the old shows did. They have to follow background or completely separate characters, and have the old shows characters maybe make an amusing cameo here and there.

Seriously, name a show that did this and pulled it off. It's really desperate grasping, gasps of death shit.

And as a bonus, it ties right in to the premise and hypothesis of that zombie simpsons ebook. It's the exact kind of rote ass tired 70s family show crap that the simpsons existed to break away from. The snake would be eating it's freaking tail if it happened. Irony would become meaningless and the universe would implode.

I almost feel like this is bordering on not even being an opinion thing either. Like you could go look at every instance of how this went in the past and show it's demonstrably about as smart and likely successful without any ill consequences of an idea as taking a slurpee straw and snorting a handle of potters vodka.

It's like, some people survive falls from planes without parachutes. That doesn't mean you can expect to jump out of a plane without one and live. It's just a freaking bad idea.
posted by emptythought at 4:25 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just can't stand to watch Homer Simpson, Invincible Idiot, actively trying to make the world around him a worse place. He's not always like that (after 500 episodes, none of the characters are always like anything), but he was being more and more aggressively ignorant and stupid and destructive, and I really started to dislike him rather than enjoy his antics. If I wanted to watch Peter Griffin, I'd go watch Family Guy.

There were other factors in why I stopped watching, but that was a key one.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:17 AM on October 24, 2013


the jokes come faster

I'd be surprised if that was possible. That's one of the things I remember as characteristic of the 90s Simpsons - you had to record it and re-watch it because the jokes came so thick and fast that you missed many of them while you were laughing at others. They just piled up jokes upon jokes, and stuffed jokes within jokes.

Then again, no doubt I was just more easily amused and shocked when I was younger. Now I'm older and busted by life, it takes the likes of Louis CK or Bill Burr to shock me into laughter.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:34 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


he was being more and more aggressively ignorant and stupid and destructive, and I really started to dislike him rather than enjoy his antics. If I wanted to watch Peter Griffin, I'd go watch Family Guy.

And there's a funny point to be made here that Seth MacFarlane probably pretty much came of age with the simpsons in college, sucked the whole thing down... and then barfed up the same crappy conclusion the new simpsons writing team did. Basically that the whole thing could be narrowed down to a formula of jerkass homer. Seriously, read this, pretend it never says homer or lisa or anything or sub in peter griffin and shit, and tell me whether you can tell if they're talking about the simpsons or family guy.
By Season 10, this new Homer was in almost every episode. Fans dubbed him “Jerkass Homer” after a phrase he used repeatedly while yelling at random people in the Season 9 episode “The Joy of Sect”. Jerkass Homer is the one who, in “Maximum Homerdrive”, is so boastful of his stomach capacity that he gets into an eating contest with a perfect stranger, accidentally kills him, takes over his trucking route, and acts like such an asshole that the other truckers try to kill him before the end of the episode.

Jerkass Homer is invincible and totally self confident, the evil doppelganger of the Homer that had originally been on the show. Jerkass Homer does ugly things like use the sleeper hold he learned in bodyguard training on Marge and Lisa. Jerkass Homer screams and cries and runs away from home, beats up the Emperor of Japan, feels entitled to hang out with A-list celebrities, and goes on wild benders in Las Vegas to show Ned Flanders how to be exciting.
Basically, i've been of the opinion for the past two years that family guy is a mediocre quality knockoff of the later, zombie, jerkass homer simpsons that brings nothing new to the table except being even more edgy and zany and O MY GOD DID THEY JUST DO THAT? while simultaneously not really bringing any real satire to the table or asking any questions that are all that serious like the old simpsons used to. Like zombie simpsons it's all the, when taken on their own, bad parts that were used as a balance and pressure relief valve to the scathing satire and "hahaha aww fuck" moments without any of the actual meat. It's a bread and mayonaise sandwich.

And yet it was funny when i was fucking 16, but that's because i didn't know any better.

I'd be surprised if that was possible. That's one of the things I remember as characteristic of the 90s Simpsons - you had to record it and re-watch it because the jokes came so thick and fast that you missed many of them while you were laughing at others. They just piled up jokes upon jokes, and stuffed jokes within jokes.

I think what they mean is, and i'm trying my hardest not to be an asshole here malapropist, this isn't a dig on you... The old show had lots of "blink and you miss them" type of jokes where if you weren't paying close attention you could miss them or miss the setup/punchline. It was a constant assault, but a lot of the humor was fairly subtle.

The new show it's all like THIS IS JOKE, PREPARE FOR JOKE, INHALE SO YOU CAN LAUGH A LOT, OK HERE IT COMES.... JOEK! it just beats you over the head with "this is a fucking joke, LAUGH, JOKE, JOKE, JOOOOOKE".....which is a lot like family guy. 100% of the jokes became 2x4 to the face stuff like this trending down to "humor a 9 year old would laugh at".

I think that dismissing these sorts of criticisms as lkc hinted at above as a "gripe fest" is kinda dismissive and missing the point. It's absolutely changed, and there's no way to qualify that change as positive. Even if it was a new show with different characters and a different name it would still be crap in the same way all the seth macfarlane spinoff shows are.
posted by emptythought at 2:09 PM on October 25, 2013


Marcia Wallace (voice of Edna Krabappel) passed away. They're going to retire her character.
posted by FJT at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2013


.

(She did more than just Mrs. Krabappel though, didn't she?)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:27 PM on October 26, 2013


I'm always amazed when voice actors are nothing like their characters. She didn't sound 70.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:16 PM on October 26, 2013


. for Mrs. K.
posted by lkc at 6:29 PM on October 26, 2013


emptythought: I wasn't trying to be dismissive, I think "Zombie Simpsons" sets a good baseline for discussions on the change in quality of the simpsons. It shows background reasons and major changes in the staff over time. I see a _lot_ of simpsons threads (here and elsewhere), end up just being "everything after season X sucks", "but season X+1 had this episode". X is always less than 10, and often less than 8 (Hank Scorpio for the win!).

There were people almost from the very beginning, saying that the simpsons was going downhill, and to lifelong watchers, its very clear that something is wrong. Some of the great ones I saw when I was 11, but I still think they are funny. Hell, Swartzwelder was there until season 15 and he wrote that damn Kid Rock episode, too!

I agree with your point on MacFarlane, I never liked family guy, he really did just kinda freeze one short-lived style of early simpsons (random pop-culture cutaway gag ala "The Gentle Ben Show"), and then made it obvious, pandering and often mean. I've really hated to see the lazy "do it until its funny" repetition make its way back into the simpsons (committee writing staff cross-polination).

I still sorta follow the show, but its been even harder after that god-awful Lady Gaga crap a few years back.
posted by lkc at 6:30 PM on October 26, 2013


.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:25 AM on October 27, 2013


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