So Long Homer and Thanks for All the Laughs

Filed Under Animation

I’m done with the Simpsons.

A few years ago when I acquired TiVo, I went on my frenzy of picking shows to record. TiVo users end up watching more TV simply because all of those shows they missed before because they didn’t make them appointment viewing now become anytime shows. The Simpsons, for me, was one of those. I still had a residual attachment but I didn’t remember to tune in. In short order, I caught all the episodes again, just like I did in the show’s incredible first years.

Of course, the show isn’t the same as it was then. Many times it was brilliant. But the misses would grate on me. I was disappointed after South Park’s own fantastic homage to the Simpsons, that the Simpsons would attempt to return the favor and completely miss the mark, lazily dismissing South Park as just fart jokes and bizarre celebrity cameos. Pinpoint satire is still a Simpsons trademark, which made the times that jokes failed to land stand out even more. Even with jokes falling flat on occasion, the show is still good. It’s not the same show as it was before, but it still beats almost all other TV for intelligence and laughs.

Matt Groening points out the key the Simpsons’ longevity is surprise. He’s right. I’m sure there are surprises to be had still, even with 16 years on the air. But with the characters and world so defined, all the surprises will take place inside permutations of Homer’s stupidity, Bart’s brattiness and Lisa’s self-consciousness. How many times can you watch Homer’s marriage be threatened and have it raise the stakes enough to create comedic tension?

One of my theories of why you can’t have a national humor magazine with a hey-day (or lifespan, for that matter) longer than ten years is that eventually, even if quality is maintained, the surprise goes away. It’s a rule that applies to all comedy I think. An audience gets used to the rhythms of the humor, the style. The comedy get co-opted into everything else. The only exception to this rule is Mad Magazine, which has, if they’re not all playing video games or surfing for web porn, a renewable audience… tweens and young teens… getting their first whiff of sarcasm and skepticism about the consumer culture that surrounds them. The Simpson might aspire to a similar life, with young audiences continuing to embrace it as something that gives them the first sense that Thing Aren’t Quite Right.

But I’m done with it. Even with the shows still being enjoyable, watching them accumulate on my DVR has made viewing the Simpsons more of a chore. It’s a little strange to delete a season pass to something that I treasure and use to measure against almost anything funny. But 350 is enough of anything. I’ll be back to check out the episode scripted by Ricky Gervais or a Simpsons movie. I hope the Simpsons keeps on, but this is where I get off.

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Posted by drew on 05/05  at  01:58 PM

Oh don’t act like 10 hours a year is so much to ask of you. I agree, the Simpsons has gone way downhill in the last year or 5, but to pretend it’s not still one of the best 4 or 5 shows on television is being dishonest.

Todd Jackson
Posted by Todd Jackson on 05/05  at  03:03 PM

I never said it wasn’t a great show even now or that it’s not a show worth watching. I don’t think it’s one of the best 5 comedies on TV right now, though it’s certainly one of the best shows ever, if that makes any sense. I have incredible admiration and respect for it. I just don’t find myself surprised or involved enough to keep up with it week to week. I think that’s incredibly honest.

And by the way, it’s my ten hours and I’ll decide how I want to spend it.

Posted by danielle on 05/06  at  05:52 PM

yes, and that’s the point.  if you feel like you HAVE to watch the simpsons because it USED to be groundbreaking and brilliant, but now is starting to feel not-so-fresh or exciting anymore, why keep watching it?  it’s now on your chore list, the things you have to do while frankly you’d rather be doing or watching something else.  i think a lot of people still stick with the simpsons because of how great it once was, and it’s been on the air for so long—you’ve got to give mr. groening props for that.  but it’s not that good anymore.  sorry.

Posted by Jeff on 05/10  at  06:26 AM

Yeah, it’s not what it used to be, but it’s still (usually) good for a couple of jokes that other shows wouldn’t dare touch.

For example, here are two lines from the recent episode where Bart starts his T-Shirt business:

1. Krusty says at the T-Shirt convention, “Krusty Show T-Shirts are made for kids, by kids!!”

2. Marge declares, “I like T-Shirts with a funny joke, like ‘Support Our Troops’.”

-Those aren’t toothless on-liners and they probably confused the writers over at “According to Jim”.

So while it has slipped (christ, last weekend’s American Idol episode was horrible!), I still think it’s worth ‘monitoring’ for satire.

Posted by KLJ on 05/12  at  01:49 AM

The Simpsons is slipping for sure. The Simpsons was one of the few excuses I had for watching any TV at all (along with All In The Family re-runs.)
It’s sad to watch it’s decline. My hope is that they quit soon while the show is less brilliant but still pretty brilliant.

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