I’ve done it. I’ve officially watched every episode of The Simpsons in chronological order. That’s 552 episodes spread across 25 seasons; with Season 26 set to start in September. That’s 276 hours (11 days, 12 hours); not including the movie released in the summer of 2007 which I included in air-date order (after Season 18). Why did I do this to myself? Well if you read Part 1 of this article you would know that it was for two solid reasons. The first being my love the yellow four-fingered family, and the second being that I was trying to pin-point the downfall of The Simpsons that everyone claims is their reason for hating the series 25 years since it was released.
I did notice some obvious trends while taking my true form as a couch potato. During Seasons 13 & 14 (2001-2002) there was an increase in sexual and drug related references. Although this was new for The Simpsons, when you really consider the era of television this was in; it’s not as odd as it seemed. 2001 was when Family Guy was in the middle of Season 3, testing the censors anyway they could. Once Family Guy was introduced (after The Simpsons on Fox’s Sundays) people expected more adult oriented humor. Of course, Family Guy was briefly cancelled but that didn’t stop The Simpsons from attempting to grow up. These references slowed down astonishingly in Season 15, which shows that the writers were probably holding on to these ‘can’t show on television’ ideas for quite sometime and let it all out at once. After it was out of their system we were right back to the twisted family values that we come to expect from our favorite animated family. Although I could see some people stating that this was the popular downfall everyone claims to cling too but I wouldn’t call it anything of the sort. Even though a new type of humor was adopted, it didn’t change the show at all. Minus a few more mature / modern references, nothing had change.
Season 17 (2005) had the most episodes I couldn’t remember from it’s original run with what I’m counting as a total of 4 unseen episodes for me. I also noticed an increase of ‘flashback episodes’, most of which followed the “Treehouse Of Horror” formula with 3-4 mini-stories per episode. There were just a handful, and they actually fit into the season pretty well. At first it did seem like a cop out of the writers to include these instead of the family’s usual weekly antics but it honestly wasn’t so. These episodes were great in many ways and could actually be considered prime material considering it let the writers step out of their norm and still make us laugh.
Season 20 (2008) was a year after the movie release, and was when The Simpsons officially went High Def. They even announced the change by introducing a new flat-screen television in the opening couch gags. Although the animation barely changed, there are hints here and there that CGI was introduced into the mix. Certain driving scenes, and Hollywood style action are obviously computer animation but the overall show is still obviously a cartoon. This did nothing to change the format of the show or stop Homer from causing the usual ruckus with new jobs, or randomly sprung vacations.
The only thing that really changed over the first 20 years was the later improvement to the couch gags. They stopped reusing gags (as much), and made them longer and more interesting. Usually giving a homage to an older show and eventually more current shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, and more. Season 25 let directors on the world recreate the classic couch gag in their own way which was just amazing. I found myself looking up the animators because I appreciated their work only to find out the only other thing they did was a French movie.
The show still amuses the exact same format that was featured in the original episode, “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire”. It opens with the family (usually Homer) getting a bright idea that takes a completely different approach when the consequences are discovered; usually half way through this episode. Just like when Homer decided to save Christmas by playing Santa at the mall, which only grants him $13 that he uses to gamble away on Santa’s Little Helper and the rest of the episode is spent showing them falling in love with the dog. This format is kept true for 25 seasons, which in my book is down right incredible.
If I was to pick my favorite season, I could only claim that this show only gets better over time. Season 25 is more amazing than the previous 24, and 24 was funnier than the previous 23, ect. I’ve been saying this for years, but re-watching the whole series only helped me understand how true it was. Even though the formula is the same, the jokes are faster, better timed, and more interesting. Of course it’s obviously trying to keep up with the times, but it’s doing it so well.
In my opinion, The Simpsons has no declining downfall in family values or comedic relief. Sure, there are some episodes less great than others, but with 552 episodes; what do you expect? These episodes are mixed in throughout the series, and don’t really sit in one season which makes it all in all an amazing television show. I strongly believe that anyone who claims “this show sucks” hasn’t watched a season in years and is jumping on another internet fad. Quit jumping on fads, internet. You’re making us look bad.
Interested in reading my highlights of the marathon? Well, I tweeted as much as I could! I was hoping to embed all of my #TheSimpsons tweets into this post but apparently Twitter is having a hard time displaying them all. You can test your luck and view them here.