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“A show with yellow Americans and white Asians truly transcends the times.”
The Simpsons is an American animated monochromatic sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox network. The series is a satirical depiction of America's sorry state as epitomized by the dysfunctional yellow-skinned Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, who live in the enigmatic town of Springfield with a zany cast of characters. In addition to everyday American life, the show parodies aspects of the human condition, including beer, donuts, television, and nuclear waste dumping. In its first decade, the show won critical acclaim and several awards, notably three D'oh!scars, the award for having great material from which other sub-par television shows such as Family Guy can steal from, and four Grammies, which Groening uses today as paperweight for his memoirs.
The show ran with remarkable agility for approximately 8–10 precise seasons until hitting the late 1990s, when all the good writers migrated to Futurama and viewers began losing interest in the show, causing it to become old, fat, and ugly as it died a slow, tragic death, which it is still currently in the process of doing. While the show's more recent episodes can elicit an occasional chuckle, fans generally prefer the glory days of those classic seasons, aka "The Phil Hartman Saga". The Simpsons is like a nuclear reaction; it's difficult to shut down once it's begun, as it continues to pull in big ratings, even when the latest generation thoroughly refuses to accept that any remnant of topical humor, emotional depth, or cultural relevance has long since disappeared from the show.
The Simpsons are a family who live in a fictional "Middle American" town of Springfield, North Tacoma. Homer, the beer and donut-loving father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, despite being a boorish idiot and constantly putting others at risk. He is married to Marge, a stereotypical nagging housewife with an elongated blue tumor on her head. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old hellraiser; Lisa, a precocious eight-year-old liberal diehard; and Maggie, the baby of the family who is secretly a government spy with dwarfism sent by the CIA to spy on Homer's homicidal actions. Although the family is dysfunctional and generally appears to be at each other's throats, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds and shows that they really care about each other deep down, in that sappy family sitcom way. The family owns a Persian dog, Santa's Little Helper, and a cat, Snowball
V II, who was "accidentally" killed by Lisa only to be revived.
Despite the depiction of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays passing, the characters never age, possibly due to constantly taking anti-growth hormones, and thus leading to a certain stagnation in the show which bores longtime viewers; some would prefer seeing Bart and Lisa move up to middle school, or even high school or college, but instead we get the usual elementary antics. For example, one episode featured Homer and Marge marrying in the '90s, which spat in the face of oldschool true fans, who grew up knowing that Homer and Marge married in the '80s.
- Homer Simpson – The father/husband figure of the Simpson family. Having studied to become an aerospace cadet, he wound up working at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and absorbed just enough radiation for all his hair to fall off. Somehow, the radiation also affected his age and he's stuck being in his mid-late 30s. He's your average village idiot, but if you anger him he'll strangle you with his bare hands. With all his alcohol and donut consumption, lack of intellect, and constant rage, it's a mystery as to how he's still alive.
- Marge Simpson – Homer's wife. Although she may not look as old as she really is, you might notice an elongated blue tumor on the top of her head. In fact, as a result of constant smoking, Marge has severe lung cancer which reflects on her raspy voice and unsexiness, yet for some reason it doesn't seem harmful to her otherwise. The last years of her life were spent on YWCA reassignment, as her profile does not bond in any possible way with the life of today's housewives. But Marge is still hot, sometimes... to Moe Syzlak.
- Bart Simpson – The family's son, once a normal human boy. Unfortunately, after contracting a mysterious disorder known only as "The Bartman", he developed a spiky head and permanently changed into a badass Dennis the Menace-type kid. Milhouse wasn't with Bart at the time and therefore stayed his normal self. Besides starring in the show, Bart currently leads a criminal life, often being sentenced to community services such as building demolition and Spanish translator with obvious lack in music skills.
- Lisa Simpson – Lisa was a dire result of unfinished abortion that Marge tried to have after drinking too much spiked punch. Aside from her mother and Maggie, She is the only smart person in the Simpson family (or in the whole show), not that anyone cares.
- Maggie Simpson – A living substitute robot bought by Groening from the Japanese company MAJIETECH, which was reprogrammed by the CIA as a killing machine, but later disused due to its ineffectiveness of not being "cute enough", as compared with the new prototype "Stewienator 1000", used by Seth MacFarlane. Maggie was then reintroduced to the Simpson's family after their memory was wiped clean.
- Santa's Little Helper (formerly Santoz Lil' Hopper) – The Simpson family dog with the brain of an immigrant worker from Peru whose body was used to feed the Peruvian starving children after he suffered from a Mafia gundown. He now lives as the Simpson's dog and vows his revenge on Brian Griffin, who was a cop back then and shot him down. Besides that, Santa's Little Helper enjoys eating turkey!
- Snowball 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 were all (except 5) a series of unsuccessful devices to spy on the Simpson's while they're not aired, which were all "accidentally" killed by Lisa.
- Ned Flanders – The Simpsons friendly neighbourhood neighbour. A friendly Christian, Flanders speaks in his own language which has since been adopted by the people of New Jersey. A firm religious man but always friendly, Flanders is strangely the bane of Homer's existence despite being one of his closest friends. His wife Maude is killed by t-shirt cannon, and Flanders took on a depressive personality until he was knocked out by Homer and went back to his old self. He has two sons Rod and Todd, a pair of strange twins who speaks like a drugged-up Mickey Mouse. Flanders owns a shop called the Leftorium, despite being a devout Christian conservative.
- Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – The stock Indian character. Apu is shopkeeper of the Kwik-E-Mart which appears to be the only supermarket in Springfield. Apu got married to beautiful Manjula and has since had eight kids who he burns alive every time they defy the rules of Ganesha and Vishnu. A close friend to Homer, Apu often gets involved in Homer's affairs. Apu has a symbiotic relationship with the Kwik-E-Mart and often unleashes his sexual fantasies on the store's squishy dispenser. Several of Apu's notable appearances included freezing Jasper to turn the Kwik-E-Mart into the Freak-E-Mart, discovering he was an illegal immigrant, and decided to give Manjula the romantic weekend of her life - he molested her via a parrot, suffocated in a chocolate sculpture of himself, and nearly killed Homer and Elton John in an attempt to blow up a bi-plane.
- Abe "Grampa" Simpson – Due to an unknown illness and possible mess with time travel, the grampa Simpson might not be as old as he actually looks (kind of like Benjamin Button). As all members of some stupid fish cult and old Vietnam veterans (that's right, I know whom you just thought of), Abe's yearly income is much more than that of all of the Simpson's combined, hence they kicked him out of the family long ago. He is also the only surviving member of the black Nazi Taliban gay sober communist clan, besides his own grandfather, Mr. Burns.
- Mr. Burns – The resident rich ancient white man who runs the town's Nuclear Power Plant. He is usually a grumpy old jerk with the face of a nightmarish radish, and has an unhealthy obsession with his teddy bear. He cannot remember Homer's name despite their countless times together. Burns has died numerous times in the series, including when he was shot by Maggie, but remains alive due to a deal with the TV producers at Fox.
- Mr. Smithers – Mr. Burns's aid, best friend and butt monkey. The only gay guy in town, Smithers is disturbingly in love with the prehistoric Mr. Burns. He collects Barbie doll ripoffs as a hobby. Ultimately molests Mr. Burns in the final season but is buried alive alongside his boss as Mr. Burns promised him.
- Comic Book Guy – Resident nerd. Big, fat guy who runs a comic book store. Nuff said.
- Barney Gumble – Homer's best friend. An on-and-off alcoholic, Barney is often seen in Moe's Tavern getting wasted or licking the toilets in the men's room. He gave up drinking and became a helicopter pilot, one of the few plot points to remain permanent in the series beyond one episode.
- Jasper Beardly – An elderly man known for being the world's first man to be frozen in a Kwik-E-Mart fridge, for his brief stint as a substitute teacher in Springfield Elementary, and for his distinctive long white beard. Jasper is a known acquaintance of the elderly, foolish Abe 'Grandpa' Simpson. The strength of this relationship was amply demonstrated when Grandpa bravely fought to free Jasper's beard from the clutches of a troublesome pencil sharpening device. Jasper's career remains shrouded in mystery; however, it is common knowledge that he and Grandpa successfully dodged the World War 2 draft by disguising themselves as women and competing in the Ladies' softball league. Jasper also once attempted to join the popular 1980s barbershop quartet group, the Bee Sharps. His audition was a heartfelt rendition of Theme From A Summer Place, unfortunately, it was unanimously rejected by the band for being 'shit' and that was the end of that.
- Professor Frink – The schizophrenic mad scientist of Springfield, Professor Frink is the son of Mr. Freeze and a turkey. A genius with many inventions including the highly successful hamburger earphones, Professor Frink suffered from a gibberish illness that caused him to scream out random words. In the final season, he went mad and died when his head exploded.
- Patty and Selma Bouvier - Marge's elder slag sisters, Patty and Selma are identical in appearance. They smoke cigarettes every hour of the day to see if they can beat cancer, and their grouchy voices stem from the fact they actually eat some of their cigarettes. Originally fused at the hip, the two split when Patty got fed up of Selma trying to make out with her and brought out a chainsaw. To make the characters more interesting, the writers made Patty gay and gave Selma a Chinese adoptive daughter named Ling. Selma has married numerous other characters in the show including Troy McClure, Sideshow Bob and Homer in order to adopt Ling.
- Grandma Mona Simpson - Homer's mother who ditched him and Grampa to become a hippy. Returned to Homer's occasionally under the alias of "Glenn Close". Passed away from little screentime.
- Hans Moleman – An indestructible immortal man, King of the Mole People, and uncle to Kenny from South Park. He leads a devastatingly miserable existence, dies on a regular basis, and is younger than he looks.
Other quirky secondary characters in the series include Lenny Leonard, Carl Carlson, Krusty the Clown, Reverend Lovejoy, Milhouse Van Houten, Nelson Muntz, Uter, Lionel Hutz, Rich Texan, Ralph Wiggum, Martin Prince, Moe Syzlak, Itchy and Scratchy, Principal SKINNER!, Super Nintendo Chalmers, Mrs. Krabapple, Otto Mann, Cletus Spuckler, Groundskeeper Willie, Sideshow Mel, Sideshow Bob, Kang & Kodos, Disco Stu, Dr. Hibbert, Dewey Largo, Dr. Nick, Jimbo Jones, Duff Man, Chief Wiggum, Spider-Pig/Harry Plopper, Akira, Fat Tony, Mayor Quimby, and so much more. Did I forget anyone? Oh well, The Simpsons must have a million different characters, far too much to list here.
The Simpsons started off as a joke when obscure cartoonist Matt Groening, known for his comic strip Life in Hell, met with Tracey Ullman in 1985 after her car broke down by his trailer. For such a nice car fix, Tracey was in debt to Matt and eventually invited him over to the Kwik-E-Mart for dinner. Matt drank too much and later that evening confessed to Tracey that his lifelong dream was to create a robot from scrapped trash cans that would gamble and drink booze — actually, that was his second dream, the first one being to create a yellow-skinned moron.
Later the same year, Tracey dumped Matt for Jay Leno, so Matt had to keep writing comics for peanuts. As some point, however, something happened, and this the history does not disclose, that made Tracey realize all of the talent Matt Groening had in him, and eventually she decided to give it a shot and invite him and his crude yellow cartoons to her show. Groening has taken interest in drawing his main character off of Dan Castellaneta when he was visiting Matt and chilling out in his basement. Hence, Homer Simpson was born as a fatal error of cartoon creation. When Tracey saw this abomination, she said Matt had better come up with an excuse to show such a cartoon on television. And Dan kicked his ass right after.
1987–91: Shorts and early seasons
In 1987, the Simpson family was finalized and debuted to television screens worldwide, appearing in shorts during The Tracey Ullman Show. The original set included Homer Simpson, a happy Greek-turned-Turkish-turned-Muslim with his two wives Patty and Selma, their parents Abe and the Midge the Bountiful, and their kids: Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Poochie, and Hans Moleman. Once again, Matt overdid it, especially insisting on his vision of having one-year-old baby Maggie talk with a British accent, as well as having the family own pets. Unlike Seth MacFarlane, however, Groening's childhood passion was not Huckleberry Hound, so he did not make the same mistake of having the pets talk.
Evidence suggests that Groening might have been color-sensitive, with an enhanced perception of yellow from a mutation before slowly regaining his normal sight during the Clinton era. Although this statement was never proved to be true, the Simpson family was given their own half-hour show in 1989, after they were heavily revised to represent a politically correct image of middle Americans, not the freaks Matt had in mind (to his bitter disappointment). Matt had to hire his schoolmates Nancy Cartwright and Yardley Smith to voice respectively Patty and Selma, later on moved to Bart and Lisa, but not limited to (also trying out) Maggie, Santa's Little Helper, and Snowball. Castellaneta and Hank Azaria covered all the other roles, and Frank Welker was hired to voice Maggie's pacifier.
What followed was a pretty boring first two seasons, during which some strange characters, such as Dr. Marvin Monroe, Lester, and Eliza, this long-nosed mascot whose name I don't remember, Black Smithers, etc., etc. developed their character traits, only to be cut from the general storyline a couple of years later. You have to take it from me, this Groening guy was a very deranged lunatic, and the early Simpsons seasons best exemplified his depressing weirdness in its most undistilled form.
1991–97: Fame years and appogee
The show was famous from the start, but it didn't hit a quality stride until losing its somewhat dark early tone and receiving a lot of pop culture reference injections around the third or fourth season. While it sometimes takes as much as five years for a show to get into the groove, The Simpsons managed to find it rather quickly in only two years. Though the cast changed drastically, with Homer's voice becoming lighter, the show's focus shifting from Bart to Homer, Snowball II replacing Snowball I, Chief Wiggum dying his hair blue from black, and Krusty the Clown somehow getting his makeup to become his face, the show lived off the same jokes. And suddenly, they sharpened and started to become funny, maybe because no other sitcom was airing at the time, beside the schmaltzy Full House, or perhaps a certain Fresh Prince. Whatever it was, the show received a certain boost, and for the next six years it was considered the number one sitcom of yellow-freaked reality.
Due to this big increase in fame, Groening felt that he finally accomplished something important and that he was truly good for something after all. During this time Matt made a 138th episode special, for which he hired actor Troy McClure, whom you might remember from some movie somewhere in the something. The special revealed things you didn't know about the Simpsons, notably that Bart's real name is Bartolomiej Czej Szymcki; that Nelson's famous "Ha-haw" was digitally compiled from Edna Krabappel's "Hah!", Krusty's "Hey-Hey!", Scratchy's scream when Itchy chops his head off, Ned Flanders saying "Neighbourin-o" sped to 0.025 seconds, the Yes guy saying "Yeeeees!" without the Y and the S, and, of course, Cartwright saying "Ha-haw!"; and that every member of the Simpson family had a catchphrase, except Lisa, until "Dad!" was introduced in season 2.
1997–2007: From Japan to Brazil, or The Great Yellow Decline
Basic fact, The Simpsons started to decline around seasons 9–10, when Matt Greoning suffered multiple anger attacks after watching the episode "The Principal and the Pauper", where Principal Skinner is revealed to be a fraud. In this condition, it became difficult for Greoning to run The Simpsons at all without instantly becoming depressed, so he let the main project go and instead concentrated on his side-sitcom Futurama, designed to readapt the Simpsons style to late 1990s reality as more refined, more complex, very arguably more humorous, and less yellow. He took most of the old Simpsons writers with him to Futurama, leaving the few remaining Simpsons staff in a pickle.
The show was then rehabilitated by new showrunner Mike Scully and he replaced the old guard with newbie writers, who had to pass the Stonecutters test to be accepted into the staff. It was under Scully's watch that the show entered its ongoing death spiral and became The Homer and Friends Wacky Half-Hour, as he shifted all focus to Homer going on wacky adventures and get-rich-quick schemes, with more frat-boyish humor and frequent celebrity guest star cameos. Another staple of this decline era was the Simpson family traveling to at least one foreign country per season, starting with Japan in season 10 and continuing with Brazil (season 11), Canada (season 12), South Africa (season 13), Britain (season 14), Italy (season 15), and Unamerica (season 16). In season 13, Al Jean took over the reins as showrunner; Homer's wacky antics were somewhat put out of focus and the seeds of blandness were planted in his place. The show then became Homer and Marge Marriage Crises, and began to rely on Homer and Marge breaking up then getting back together constantly, childish puns, stilted storytelling, godawful pop music montages, and ham-fisted political commentary.
Under Scully's and Jean's watch, the show slowly degenerated into all kinds of stupid/random humor, such as Marge farting, Maude getting killed by t-shirt cannons, Homer meeting magical jockey elves, the Simpsons meeting Kid Rock at a Florida spring break, Homer getting raped by a panda, a mummy getting publicly exposed when his boner tears through his bandages, Marge suddenly starting to dance for no reason, Homer trying to act more stupid than he actually is which makes him look smart, Lisa gaining interest in spelling bees and crosswords all of a sudden, and Bart suddenly acting wimpy and psychotic. Viewers were in denial over what was happening at the studios at the time, and instead believed that whoever (or whatever) wrote those episodes must've been a spy working for Fuzzy Door, or probably a communist. The less funny The Simpsons got at the time, the more funny the other cheap shows on Fox got; desperately, Fox bought local affiliates just to run a huge subliminal campaign saying "Watch The Simpsons!" every time The Simpsons was on. This was not a very smart move either, as viewers mostly packed up their stuff and moved to another channel.
In 2007, Groening and the old writers returned to the series and teamed up with the new writers in a last-ditch attempt to regain its popularity, by releasing a two-hour-long adventure filled with the same stale post-season 10 humor called The Simpsons Movie. Of the whole movie, only the "Spider-Pig sequence" gained at least some popularity and the other scenes were quickly forgotten; even Spider-Pig lost popularity when Homer renamed the pig "Harry Plopper". This was the final punch in the series' metaphorical stomach, and if there was still some hope for the show to survive before, the movie destroyed it all.
2007–present: The Simpsons Today
Following the movie, The Simpsons only got worse. They turned their back on their classic seasons by trying to revive the past in order to save the future by reinventing the storyline; the episode "That '90s Show" depicted Homer and Marge as being a young childless couple in the mid-'90s (which makes even less sense than the show's characters never aging), and Homer invented grunge, a sharp contrast to earlier episodes where they got married in the early '80s, and Homer loved Grand Funk Railroad. Needless to say, this pissed off a lot of '80s and '90s nerds; in other words, the past is The Flintstones, the future is The Jetsons, and the present is The Simpsons. In all of sitcom history, this is the first time when an episode refers to another episode from about two decades earlier by retelling the whole storyline and completely confusing the viewer.
Today, The Simpsons is one of those shows that you watch "when nothing better's on, because there's not many good shows to watch on a Wednesday night and honestly you don't feel like getting up for the remote even though it's just underneath your sofa" along with other one-note shows like The Orville, slowly but inevitably making your way to the total boredom of post-season 3 Family Guy. You know the show sucks now, but you watch it anyway because it's an American tradition, like hotdogs or Mom's apple pie sitting on a windowsill. Apple pie, windowsill, and American tradition are trademarks of MomCorp.
Some claim Groening has been known to pay blind people to sit and watch the show, kidnap stars for guest appearances, and even try to raise the dead in an attempt to recoup his decreasing viewers. Whatever he's done, there rests only one single question we want to ask Matt: Why? Why drag out The Simpsons like a dead horse? Why just not start another show up to today's social trends which would fit in just fine with weird sitcoms as The Simpsons did with The Flintstones back in the '90s? The world may never know.
Criticism and controversy
Despite their general success, Simpsons episodes are also bountiful of controversy. A major criticism of the show is that many episodes have gone unwatched, particularly the post-season 10 ones, but also some "classics" as well. For instance, the season 9 clipshow "All Singing, All Dancing" is yet to receive a single viewer on account of the sheer awfulness of watching the Simpsons endlessly singing and dancing. Currently, the only viewers of the show who are not old, attractive, or sociable are nerds, who shell out big bucks for Simpsons merchandise collections on eBay.
Many have found that the show to be lacking in cultural substance, especially in its later years when it showed a more overtly-liberal nature and secular-leaning values. Episodes with Homer performing Partial Birth Abortions, Marge coming to grips with Patty being a lesbian, Lisa becoming a member of PETA, and Maggie starting a Jesus website turned away viewers, who felt that these unfair and unbalanced political leanings were purely meant for shocking and preaching to the audience. While the show occasionally leans back at times towards its humbler and less preachy beginnings, the writers seem to think the hollow and opinionated episodes have more weight.