“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 roughly 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 its current audience thoroughly refuses to accept that any remnant of topical humor, emotional depth, or cultural relevance has long since disappeared from the show.
The show is set in the fictional middle-class American town of Springfield, North Tacoma, where all residents (save for the Asians, blacks, and animals) suffer from an illness called yellodramatis causing them to have yellow skin and four fingers. The cast of characters is vast, but the show mainly focuses on the Simpsons family, a quintet of mutated humans with little empathy or traces of mankind inside them, but everyone loves them anyway. They are: Homer, the buffoonish donutmania-suffering father; Marge, his stereotypical nagging housewife with an elongated blue tumor on her head; Bart, their ten-year-old hellrasier son; Lisa, their precocious eight-year-old liberal hippie daughter; and Maggie, their one-year-old secret-genius sniper baby. Although the family is dysfunctional and often at each other's throats, many episodes show that they really care about each other deep down, in that sappy family sitcom way. The Simpson family are surrounded by numerous supporting characters, most of whom are just as crazy as the family and occasionally get star billing in episodes when Homer isn't being a moron for our entertainment.
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 and failed to become an aerospace cadet, he wound up working as safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, under the watchful eye of former SS officer Mr. Burns. At his job, he absorbed just enough radiation for all his hair to fall off; somehow, the radiation also affected his age, and he's permanently stuck 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 beer and donut consumption, laziness, lack of intellect, crayon lodged in his brain, symbiotic fusion to his couch, and constant rage, it's a mystery as to how he's still alive and leads a successful life with a wife, three kids, a house, a high-paying job, and lllobsters for dinner!.
- Marge Simpson – Homer's psychotic homemaker wife. Marge, formerly Marge Bouvier, once had normal hair and a normal voice until she gained a large blue tumor on her head and a raspy voice from constant smoking. Her grouchy voice drives most people crazy, and one day Marge found the postman's self-removed head inside the mailbox after she talked to him for two seconds. But Marge is still attractive, sometimes... to Moe Syzlak. The moralistic busybody of the family, Marge is often ignored and has to attack her family with either her voice or the vacuum cleaner. Whilst she loves Homer, she has repeatedly tried to kill him to up the ratings in the show. 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.
- Bart Simpson – The family's ten-year old troublemaking son, Bart is known for his spiky hairdo and badass Dennis the Menace-type attitude to go along with it. Pretty much the scum of the universe, he causes crazy trouble which has had serious consequences on the lives of his family and friends. His running troubles include: vandalizing a chalkboard at the start of each episode, using the phrase "Eat my shorts" to slag off people (at one point, a tramp ate the shorts right off him), and prank-calling Moe Syzlak (one such incident involved Bart being partially responsible for the death of Jimbo Jones). Besides starring in the show, Bart currently leads a criminal life, often being sentenced to community services such as megaphone tester and building demolition.
- Lisa Simpson – The family's eight-year-old know-it-all bookworm daughter, with a hairline that makes her look like a half-sunflower. Lisa is a brainy and over-achieving girl who plays a saxophone, hates meat, and is an eco-terrorist. Aside from Marge and Maggie, she is the only smart person in the Simpson family (or in the whole show), not that anyone cares seeing as she's also the show's least funny character. Lisa loves her little sister Maggie, yet also seeks her destruction, out of jealousy that Maggie is smarter than her.
- Maggie Simpson – The youngest child in the family, Maggie is not actually Homer and Marge's child but actually the daughter of alien Kang. Maggie's first possession was a pacifier coated in rum, and she has been hooked on it ever since. While young and seemingly helpless, Maggie has the mind of a serial killer and wishes to destroy her arch-nemesis, Baby Gerald, who sports the unibrow of evil. She once shot Mr. Burns but couldn't be sent to prison because she's a baby.
- Santa's Little Helper (formerly Santoz Lil' Hopper) – The family dog introduced in the first episode, Santa's Little Helper is Bart's best (and only real) friend. He had numerous pups with a racing greyhound, which were skinned and turned into furcoats by Mr. Burns.
- Snowball I, II, III,
IVColtrane, and V – A series of unsuccessful cat clones, which were all "accidentally" killed and then resurrected by an obsessive Lisa.
- Ned Flanders – The Simpsons' friendly neighborhood neighbor. A devout Christian, Flanders speaks in his own strange language which consists of variations on the word "diddly". He is ironically the bane of Homer's existence despite being his so-called "friend", because Homer is jealous of Flanders having a better life than him. His wife Maude was killed by a t-shirt cannon due to Homer's stupidity, 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 religious 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. Apu has a symbiotic relationship with the Kwik-E-Mart and often unleashes his fantasies on the store's squishy dispenser. Some of Apu's notable appearances include freezing Jasper to turn the Kwik-E-Mart into the Freak-E-Mart, discovering he was an illegal immigrant, and giving Manjula the romantic weekend of her life — he had an obnoxious parrot sing to her, suffocated himself in a chocolate self-sculpture, had Homer nearly kill himself in an attempt to blow up a bi-plane while fighting the pilot, and got Elton John to sing to him and Manjula. In 2018, Apu was retired from the series after SJWs complained he was offensive.
- Abe "Grampa" Simpson – Homer's elderly father who spends his senior life trapped in a retirement home. A veteran of too many wars to name, Grampa acts like a rambling senile old fool but is actually very cunning and devious, planning to some day lead a revolution against all young people with his fellow old people. As a war veteran and member of the Secret Fish Society, Abe's yearly income is much more than that of all other Simpsons combined, hence why they kicked him out of the family long ago.
- Mr. Burns – The town's resident rich ancient supervillain who runs the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. He is a grumpy old jerk with the face of a nightmarish radish, has an unhealthy obsession with his teddy bear, and 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 secret admirer. The only gay guy in town, Smithers is disturbingly in love with the prehistoric Mr. Burns, and wishes to be buried alive alongside his boss as Mr. Burns promised him. His hobbies include collecting Barbie doll ripoffs and going to speedo resorts.
- 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 Beardley – 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 Grampa Simpson; the strength of this relationship was amply demonstrated when Grampa bravely fought to free Jasper's beard from the clutches of a troublesome pencil-sharpening device. Jasper's career remains shrouded in mystery, though it is common knowledge that he and Grampa successfully dodged the World War II draft by disguising themselves as women and competing in the ladies' softball league. Jasper also once auditioned for Homer's popular 1980s barbershop quartet group, the Bee Sharps, but his heartfelt rendition of "Theme from a Summer Place" was unanimously rejected by the band.
- 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 earmuffs, Frink suffers from a gibberish illness that causes him to scream out random "nerdy" words.
- 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. 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.
- Mona "Grandma" Simpson – Homer's mother who ditched him and Grampa to become a hippie and wage war on Mr. Burns's nuclear power. She returned to Homer occasionally under the alias of "Glenn Close", but ultimately 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 looks older than he is due to heavy drinking.
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 comedienne/New Wave singer 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 Groening 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 Groening 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 Florida (season 11), Tanzania (season 12), Brazil (season 13), Canada (season 13), Dude Ranch (season 14), Britain (season 15), China (season 16), Italy (season 17), India (season 17), and Vermont (season 18). 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, cheesy 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, and many of its once-hilarious and memorable characters were subject to storylines and dialogue that was not in the least bit funny, 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 the bean-counting writers of other toothless shows such as Full House and Friends, or maybe spies working for Family Guy. 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, and soon it was even embarrassing to be seen watching The Simpsons.
In 2007, Groening and the old writers returned to the series and teamed up with the new writers in a last-ditch attempt to rejuvenate its popularity, by releasing a two-hour-long
extended episode feature film creatively titled The Simpsons Movie. It was promised as a return to form by critics, but was ultimately filled with the same stale post-season 10 cringe humor viewers had grown accustomed to, i.e. Bart's wang being shown uncensored. 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 confused and pissed off a lot of the show's nerd fans; in other words, the past is The Flintstones, the future is The Jetsons, and the present is The Simpsons.
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 "lolsoedgy" boredom of 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... until 2018 that is, sorta. After years of doing nothing, Groening finally created another animated series, Netflix's Disenchantment, this time satirizing the trends of Medieval society, but with lukewarm results.
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.