Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I’ve been holding off on ranting about the downfall of The Simpsons for quite some time now. But after watching this Sunday’s episode (and some prodding by my friend Gabe), I can’t bite my tongue anymore. What the hell has happened to my favorite show? It’s brutal! Having an entire episode parody Evita is so out-of-touch with its audience, I don’t even know where to begin. The writers spent so much time incorporating the Simpson universe into the story of Eva Peron that they forgot to write any jokes. In the 3 episodes so far this season, I have laughed ONE TIME… during the final “Treehouse of Horror” segment, when Homer is trying to eat the donuts that keep disappearing. That’s one laugh over three episodes. A Minute with Stan Hooper has a better track record than that!
Over the past few seasons, I have noticed many things wrong with The Simpsons. Here are some suggestions on how to fix them. (Note - for more info on episodes that I reference, please check the best and most comprehensive website ever, The Simpsons Archive)
1) Eliminate shows in which each segment is its own storyline. This includes the annual Halloween episodes and inserting the Simpsons into old stories (see “Tales from the Public Domain” and “Simpsons Tall Tales”). Parodies should fit naturally into original storylines; if the writers do this too often, it means they are out of ideas.
2) As an offshoot of this, keep the Simpsons in Springfield. Except for the New York episode, it is murder when they leave their environment.(see “Simpson Safari” and “Blame It On Lisa”).
3) Yet another offshoot of this is to keep the Simpsons grounded in reality. Yes, it’s a cartoon, and this allows the show to do things that other sitcoms cannot. But recently the show has taken storylines to ridiculous levels (see “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes” and “The Frying Game”).
4) There is no need for celebrity voices in every episode. Also, celebrity voices usually work better when they do not play themselves (exceptions do occur, particularly when celebrities present awards, and often musicians can override this, but not always). Danny DeVito as Herb… great. David Byrne as himself (“Dude, Where’s My Ranch?”)… not great. Donald Sutherland as Hollis Hurlbut (“Lisa the Iconoclast”)… great. Butch Patrick as himself (“Eight Misbehavin’”)… not great. And Michael Moore on this week’s episode was so completely pointless as to not even merit a comment.
5) Stop solidifying scenarios that have been hinted at for year. For example, the relationship between Lenny and Karl. It was somewhat funny and bizarre that they spent so much time together. Now they seem to me making it a full-blown homosexual relationship. Mind you, I have no problem with homosexual relationships. But it was better left unsaid. Oh, and naming them Karl Karlson and Lenny Leonard is just plain dumb.
6) Ease up on the jokes about genitals.
7) Ease up on injuring Homer.
8) Basically, simplify! Get back to basics!
Regardless of my problems with the show, I will continue to watch The Simpsons every week. Their years of incredible episodes have earned my loyalty. To commemorate the 300th episode, this website gave 300 reasons to love The Simpsons (note that almost every one is from the first 10 seasons). I could easily make it 3,000. I recently watched Season 3 on DVD, and every episode is terrific, even though the show had not yet reached its pinnacle. But I no longer consider it the best show on tv… that would be The Office. Nor is it the best animated show on tv… that would be South Park (for comparison’s sake, watch South Park’s parody of The Simpsons in “The Simpsons Already Did It” vs. The Simpson’s parody of South Park in “The Bart of War” – that alone should convince you).
I fear that the image of The Simpsons has been permanently damaged. I hope they can turn it around before the end.

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