Did you watch the 500th episode of The Simpsons last night? (If you could, that is. It didn’t air in the U.K. last night, of course, and Fox holds back episodes for eight days before they’re available to watch online.) Was it any good? I long ago gave up watching the show on a regular basis — it was once appointment viewing for me, many years ago — because it was no longer consistently as smart and as satirical as it once was. But I will check out this episode as soon as I can, to see if the gang at least gave it a good shot for such a milestone. (The story? The Simpsons are exiled to a community of outsiders, where they mean Julian Assange, who had to record his dialogue from a secret location. D’oh!)
As Robert Lloyd in The Los Angeles Times notes, The Simpsons is now, in its 23rd season and having hit 500 episodes:
the longest-running cartoon, the longest-running situation comedy and the longest-running scripted prime-time series in the history of American television.
Also in the Times, Matt Groening talks about the success of his show:
I think we were in the right place at the right time. Audiences were ready again for a prime-time animated TV show. We were the first out of the gate and, using a very conservative template of a family sitcom, found a way to tell jokes in many different styles, from slapstick to references I don’t even get. There are really obvious pratfalls and stuff taken from traditional cartoons, but there’s also a guest appearance by Thomas Pynchon. It’s really crazy that something so quirky is so popular, but whatever that mix is, it works.
And Lloyd again:
“The Simpsons” of today is certainly a different show than in its first season, when it was rendered in a handmade squiggly line and more narrowly played with the elements of classic family sitcoms. The ratio of domestic humor to pop-cultural or political satire to conceptual weirdness that makes up the mature series varies from episode to episode, to the delight or dismay of its followers, but the show has been remarkably consistent over the decades.
I’m not sure we can say it’s been “remarkably consistent,” but perhaps it has maintained a certain level of quality over a very long period.
What do you think? Is 500 episodes of The Simpsons too many? Are you still watching, either regularly or occasionally?
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