The Immortal Simpsons

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Fox announced yesterday that the network had renewed The Simpsons for two more years. Breaking the record set by Gunsmoke, which ran for 20 years, the animated show will become the longest-running prime time TV series in history.

Bart Simpson was my age (nine years old) when the show made its network debut
in 1989. I’m 28 now, so in two years I’ll be 30, only six years younger than Marge
and Homer who will, of course, remain 36 years old. Like David Wooderson said in Dazed and Confused: “Man, I get older; they stay the same age.”

It’s kind of hilarious how the Simpsons have to cover up their “true” ages. Flashbacks to Marge and Homer’s Springfield childhoods used to have them in high school in the 1960s, then in the 1970s, then in the 1980s. Lately their young married lives apparently began in the 1990s. That aside, there’s something reassuring about the way the Simpsons never age.

The Simpsons first began as a 1987 animated short on the long-forgotten Tracy Ulman Show and quickly evolved into an American cultural icon. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky once said of the show that he enjoyed it simply because “the show is funny, brilliantly written for masterful vocal actors.” I know what he means. There was a time when I actually used to organize the week around The Simpsons. I would not make any plans for the half an hour when the show was on. I even had the Bart album, from Bart’s brief foray into rock stardom in the early nineties.

My Simpsons obsession has waned since the 1990s, but I still find it compelling. Not that it doesn’t have its flaws as well. Like any TV show that’s been broadcasting through two decades and four presidential administrations, there have been some wince-worthy moments. For example, Kennedy/Quimby jokes have all been told and there are only so many celebrity guests the show can have. And really, how many times can Selma get married, anyway? But, as recent episodes like “Mypods and Broomsticks” demonstrate, the show continues to be hysterical and culturally relevant.

Here’s to another 20 years.


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