The Simpsons – The End Of An Era? About Time!

The Simpsons

Is The Simpsons record-breaking run finally over?

According to The Daily Beast, The Simpsons’ record-breaking 23 season run may soon be coming to an end. The reasons seem kinda asshole-ish on Fox’s part:

For the first time in nearly a quarter century of haggling, the executives have insisted that if the cast doesn’t accept a draconian 45 percent pay cut,The Simpsons will die an abrupt death as a first-run series.

The show is a massive cash cow. With syndication worldwide, a massive variety of merchandise, comic books and even theme park attractions across America, Fox certainly aren’t strapped for cash. Despite falling ratings, the show is insanely popular, and it seems bizarre that Fox are even contemplating it’s cancellation.

But despite all this, it’s hard to have sympathy for it’s oncoming demise. Firstly, the voice actors are on millions every year, and even with this pay cut would annually receive over $4 million for roughly 22 week’s work. You can argue, maybe even rightly, that they’ve contributed enough to the show, and have certainly helped mould the characters into faces recognised worldwide. Therefore, they deserve a cut of the show’s worldwide revenue. But more importantly, I won’t shed a tear when it finally finishes because, quite frankly, The Simpsons has outlived it’s welcome. It’s just not funny any more, and hasn’t been for years.

It’s hard to overstate how important The Simpsons really is. It paved the way for other successful shows like Family Guy, King Of The Hill and South Park. And whilst most adult-oriented animation will stay outside of the mainstream, The Simpsons proved that cartoons can be aimed at grown ups too. But most importantly, The Simpsons was funny. Keyword: WAS. Since the eleventh season, the show has gone tremendously downill. Episodes are now filled with lame jokes, pointless celebrity cameos and terrible parodies that barely count as a parody at all.

What makes this so sad is just how brilliant The Simpsons used to be. Pick any episode from the show’s early years; more specifically, any episode between seasons 3 and 8.  There’s literally never a dull moment, and I don’t use that phrase lightly.  Every episode is a classic;  Hurricane Neddy, A Fish Called Selma,  Kamp Krusty, Cape Feare…the list can go on. They are the pinnacle of great comedy. They pushed the edge. They featured lovable, memorable characters. The lines were sharp and witty, the sight gags were hilarious, and it made a great use of guest stars such as Phil Hartman (who you may remember as Troy McClure, who you may remember from such films as The Revenge of Abraham Lincoln and The Seven Year Old Bitch).  In essence, it was the perfect show.

"Come to Duff Gardens, where roaming gangs aren't a big problem anymore!"

But the good times couldn’t last forever.  This change can be seen from as far back as season 9, when Mike Scully took charge. It’s in this season that one of the more controversial episodes, The Principal and the Pauper, was aired. The episode reveals that Principal Skinner is actually an imposter, by the name of Armin Tamzarian. This is kind of an odd turn of events in such a beloved show, where one of it’s most loved characters turns out to be a fraud for no real good reason. The episode wasn’t well recieved. Harry Shearer, who voices Skinner, said after reading the script:

“That’s so wrong. You’re taking something that an audience has built eight years or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason, for a story we’ve done before with other characters. It’s so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it’s disrespectful to the audience.”

The episode almost seems like the writers had started to run out of ideas. Season 9 and 10 were entertaining enough, but soon enough The Simpsons slumped into mediocrity.  Episodes which used to revolve around the characters gave way to plots which preferred to focus on absurd storylines and terrible cameo appearances from celebrities. Kill The Alligator And Run is one such episode, where the family accidently hit an alligator with an airboat and end up on the run from the law. It was filled with terrible jokes, a boring plot and a rubbish cameo from Kid Rock. The episode was slated, but unfortunately set a bad precedent from which the show has never recovered.

One of the bad habits that the show has picked up is the way it handles parody. Back in the golden age, parodies were an area that made The Simpsons stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s the Pulp Fiction sequences  from 22 Short Films About Springfield, or the numerous Twilight Zone-inspired segments from the first few Treehouse of Horror episodes, you could expect the references to be clever and the laughs to be many. But not any more. Should the show decide to ‘parody’ (and I use that term lightly) any film or TV show, it does it in an over the top and incredibly obvious manner. It’s subtlety is completely gone. It usually does this by changing the title of whatever it is spoofing by changing a few letters or just giving it a similar name, but the rest of it is virtually the same. Examples of this ‘hilarious wit’ include the MyPod, the Funtendo Zii, The Mulk, Lamborgotti and so on and so on. Just by looking at the names you know what is being referenced, and unfortunately that’s as far as any of these jokes really go. The MyPod ‘joke’ is that it’s made by ‘Mapple’, which is owned by ‘Steve Mobbs’. That’s it. There’s also a joke that the MyPod can play episodes of Itchy and Scratchy, but again, that’s more of a reference.

SATIRE!

I’ve never understood why they do this. Other animated shows frequently reference real-life things. South Park even had two whole episodes dedicated to Cartman wanting to buy a Nintendo Wii. Yet The Simpsons simply changes some of the letters. Do they have to pay to reference real-life products or something? If other shows can do it, certainly the biggest show on the planet can do it too.

Then there’s the celebrities bought in. They rarely serve any purpose. Gone are the days where they would actually play a good role, or even show up in a relevant way (Krusty Gets Kancelled is a good example of celebrities done right). Instead, half of them seem to appear as Bart’s classmates, and the others inexplicably become friends with Homer. Those that appear as themselves will usually say an unfunny line or two. Celebrities are always queuing up to appear, even if they add nothing to the plot.

What’s wose is that in recent years, the citizens of Springfield, whether it be the Simpson family themselves or the many cast of thousands, have quickly become unfunny and unlikable. They have their moments, sure, but there are some traits showing up that stop you from rooting for them. Take Homer, for example. He’s the original dumb dad, kinda like Fred Flintstone but modern. And dumber. He’s responsible for some of the show’s most memorable lines. But now, he’s turned into a jerk. He is regularly selfish, yet rarely shows any real remorse when he is caught out. And he’s like this so often that when he does learn his lesson, you don’t care because he’s just gonna be like this the next week. This has given him the nickname “Jerkass Homer” by fans of the series. Examples of this include Homer leaving Grampa for dead by running away from donating him a vital kidney in Kidney Trouble and pointlessly splitting the town in two in A Tale Of Two Springfields. Homer has also become a parody of his former self. His stupidity was once hilarious and lovable, but now it’s drawn out and cringeworthy. His mood will change irrationally, you’ll see him crying at bizarrely trivial topic and getting mad at things that really don’t matter. They seem to try and highlight his stupidity but they only serve to show how he’s stopped being so important.

It’s not just Homer that’s a jerk, it’s the entire town. Many of the characters, which originally showed promise, have since become one-note jokes and quite boring. They can even be rather horrible, such as in Boys Of Bummer. Bart accidently costs the town’s kids baseball team a tournament, so the town turn on him and make his life hell, to the point where Bart tries to commit suicide. Yes, that’s right: Bart Simpson tries to commit suicide. So what does the town do after this horrible event? While Bart’s recovering in hospital, they turn up outside and continue to shout abuse. It’s only when Marge finally decides to stand up for her son that the town decide to change their tune, but it’s such a horrible scene that it makes it hard to forgive the townsfolk for the way they act. Seriously, we’re used to them all overreacting about everything, but pushing a ten year old to the point of suicide is just not funny.

The reason why the citizens of Springfield hate Bart Simpson. Not all the shit he's done over the years. Just this.

The newest season hasn’t really shown any promise either. After hyping up a relationship between Ned Flanders and Edna Krabappel, the season started with an episode revolving around Homer becoming friends with a secret agent, played by Keifer Sutherland. This kind of story has been done numerous times before, which isn’t surprising considering we are on episode 480-odd. But it’s filled with the same problems that have plagued the show throughout the past decade

The show has seriously suffered since other adult-oriented animated shows appeared, more specifically the Seth Macfarlane shows; Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. None of these are particularly original (nor do they claim to be),  but at least they are funny. The Simpsons has, on numerous occasions, even slated Macfarlane’s shows (The Italian Bob has a scene where Peter Griffin and Stan Smith are accused of plagiarising The Simpsons) , and yet these programs have since excelled where The Simpsons has fallen flat. Maybe it’s because The Simpsons has lost it’s heart, you no longer care about The Simpson family wheras the Griffins and the Smiths have been fleshed out a lot more (with the shows perfectly aware that neither family is perfect).

Family Guy may not be original, but it's something that The Simpsons hasn't been in a long time: Funny.

The Simpsons has been on the air for over two decades. It’s certainly been an important show, and has been responsible for some of the finest hours of television ever produced. But it’s been showing it’s age for too long now. Family Guy, American Dad, Futurama, South Park – all these shows, and more, have since thrived whilst The Simpsons has been on a slippery slope, only staying around because of merit. It’s about time it’s put to sleep, for the sake of it’s legacy.

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