Tuesday, 9 September 2014

TV Tuesday - Are The Simpsons Dead?

As a matter of fact ...

Last week I talked about Fawlty Towers; a show that lasted just two seasons. In contrast to this, I want to talk this week about a show that's been running for a whopping 25 seasons over as many years - The Simpsons. Yes that's right, your favourite yellow friends have been on the air now for a quarter of a century. Other shows have come and gone as The Simpsons marches on. 

I was watching one of the early seasons the other night and thought; what's their secret? How have Homer's family and the people of Springfield kept our attention for so long where others have failed? When did we fall in love with them and are we falling out of it?

It hasn't all been plain sailing from the start. Despite its huge fan base, The Simpsons has had fluctuating approval ratings to say the least. The graph to the right is taken from IMDB's rating database. As you can see, it's been wavering at 7/10 for the past 10 seasons now since its mid 90's 'golden' years. That's not bad. Not too shabby. However when you consider that this rating is lower than when it first came out, it makes you wonder: what happened? 

Some blame the writers, claiming that a show with so many collaborators over the years (including Conan O'Brien and Louis C.K) loses a part of its soul once they inevitability move onto other things. Others point at the voice acting for the same reasons. Although necessary for such a long running show, new voices mean a change that some fans just simply aren't comfortable with.

But I think both of these are just symptoms of a bigger problem, one that lies with the fans and not the show - nostalgia. Just like your momma used to make. When The Simpsons first aired it was undeniably groundbreaking. The format was new and the writers exploited this to its full potential; getting the public and the media buzzing every week. As the show moved on, this groundbreaking and innovate show became a staple of a TV viewer's diet. It was no longer shocking or new by any means. 

The Simpsons original strengths of being edgy, new and counterculture worked against them as the show became acceptable, older and part of the very culture it mocked each week. That's not to say The Simpsons doesn't still hit gold every once in a while but it is clearly not as biting or satirical as it used to be. 

Yet I still find it doesn't matter how long it's been since I last saw an episode. Those faces you remember as a kid have never changed. Those buildings, streets, characters and their personality have remained largely the same since its heyday and always bring back memories of childhood for me. Nostalgia is a two way street. It make you despise change but keep you helplessly glued to it anyway.

Whether you're a die hard follower or a distant fan like me, most people will always be drawn back to the familiarity of The Simpsons. Realistically, nobody watches The Simpsons to see the same cutting edge satire we grew to love in the beginning. We go back and watch it because it's a living part of our childhood right there on our screens.

We know this. The Simpsons knows this. They are sticking to their formula that got them to the 25 year mark. The world has changed around them including their viewers and they are still, undeniably, huge. With all this in mind, whose to say they don't make 50?

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