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The Simpsons

By Wikipedia

The Simpsons is a long-running animated television series, with 17 seasons and 356 episodes since it debuted on December 17, 1989 on FOX, and is a spinoff of The Tracey Ullman Show.

This is our main article on The Simpsons.

Highly satirical, the show lampoons many aspects of the human condition, but primarily parodies the "Middle American" lifestyle its titular family exhibits, and more generally American culture, society, and even television itself. The Simpsons is seen by many critics as the greatest animated series ever, including Time, which named it the best TV show of the 20th century in 2000. Its influence on popular culture is unmatched to this day.

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Season One, Season Two, Season Three, Season Four, Season Five, Season Six

Characters

The main characters were originally created by Matt Groening as part of a series of original animated segments for The Tracey Ullman Show. Over the course of the series Groening has used many of the themes present in his long-running comic strip series, Life in Hell. (For instance, the idea of creative school children constantly being persecuted and suppressed by totalitarian grown-ups stems from the strip.) Many of the characters in The Simpsons take their names from important people and places in Groening's life—for example Lisa, Marge and Homer share names with Groening's sister, mother and father respectively.

Residents of Springfield!

The Simpsons sports a huge array of secondary characters.

Courtesy FOX

The show's basic premise centers on the antics of the family: Homer and Marge, their children Bart, Lisa and Maggie, the colorful citizens of Springfield, and occasional guest stars.

Homer, a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, is a generally well-meaning buffoon whose short attention span often draws him into outrageous schemes and adventures. Marge was once intelligent and sophisticated, but has come to conform with the stereotype of housewife/mother. Bart, the oldest sibling, is a troublemaker and classroom terror ("the devil's cabana boy" is how Lisa once described him) who thinks of himself as a rebel while Lisa is a brainy student, vegetarian, Buddhist and jazz music fan who dreams of a better future (she is referred to as "the future of the family"). Maggie is an eternal baby, and despite the fact that numerous years (and birthdays) clearly pass (for example, many Christmas episodes), the Simpsons do not appear to age. Some characters' ages have fluctuated throughout the years; this is most likely due to simple oversight on the part of the writers.

The show also has a vast array of quirky supporting characters, including co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, and local celebrities. Many of these characters have developed a vast cult following of their own. For a comprehensive list, see characters from The Simpsons. Some of these, like Itchy and Scratchy, super-violent versions of Tom and Jerry—are fictional even within the Simpsons universe—see Fictional characters within The Simpsons.

Setting

For more details on this topic, see Springfield (The Simpsons).

The Simpsons is set in the fictional United States town of Springfield. Throughout the show's history fans have tried to determine where Springfield is by taking the town's characteristics, surrounding geography and nearby landmarks as clues (in the episode "Blame it on Lisa" Lisa's Brazilian orphan pen pal "I tried to write, but I didn't know what state you lived in." to which Lisa replies "It's a bit of a mystery, yes, but if you look at the clues, you'll figure it out."). However, both the town itself and its location are fictional. Nearly every state and region in the U.S. has been both suggested and ruled out by conflicting "evidence" of a location for Springfield, so that the town could theoretically be anywhere. It seems it is kept vague on purpose so any plot device may be used. For example, it is sometimes an oceanside port town, whereas other times it is not. In the episode "Behind the Laughter" the Simpsons are described as "a Northern Kentucky family"; however, the real Kentucky town is not in that part of the state. In a later airing the location was changed to "southern Missouri" (the real Missouri city of that name is in southwest Missouri). Also, in the episode "Sweet & Sour Marge", it is mentioned that Tennessee is to the south of Springfield which would put them back in Kentucky or possibly, in Virginia. Some people claim, and with evidence from an episode suggesting they live near the West Coast of the United States, that they are from Oregon; this theory also makes some sense because Groening, grew up in Portland, and there is a real Springfield near Eugene. There also exists an episode in which it is possible to catch a split second glimpse of Homer Simpson's driver's license, which gives his address as "Springfield, NT 49007", the zip code 49007 belongs to Kalamazoo, but there is no state with the abbreviation NT (It has been said that "NT" stands for "Nice Try"--it has also been said that "NT" stands for "North Tacoma" or "New Tacoma" or possibly "Not Telling"). It is also mentioned that the territory known as "West Springfield" is much larger than the state of Texas, returning us to the notion that it is a fictitious place.

In one episode at a graveyard the characters throw dirt that blots out the grave of Adlai Stevenson (either the Vice President or Presidential candidate of the US) who was a well-known politician based in Illinois, implying Springfield, Illinois. Creator Matt Groening has stated that Springfield has much in common with Portland, Oregon, the city he grew up in (see Matt Groening's Portland), and the name "Springfield" was chosen because virtually every state has a town or city with that name. (See Where Is The Simpsons' Springfield? for more information on this issue.)

Animation scholars and fans have noted that the series uses the medium of animation to its advantage, allowing the show to take place in many settings and feature a far greater cast of characters than a live-action sitcom. The cost of having an episode of The Simpsons take place in the mountains, Europe, the city park, or a cruise ship on the ocean (all of which simply use drawn and painted backgrounds) is hardly more than placing the family in the more conventional sitcom settings of a living room, a kitchen, and perhaps one or two related settings. This allows for far more flexibility in plot development than a typical live-action sitcom constrained by physical limitations and logistics.


One famous landmark in the skyline of Springfield, seen every time in the opening sequence, are the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant. Cooling towers while not exclusive to nuclear plants have become synonymous with them.

350!

Promotional artwork for The Simpsons' milestone 350th episode.

Courtesy FOX

Themes

Authority, especially in undeserving hands, is a constant target of the show's often sharp satire. This probably explains the often strong negative reaction to the show from social conservatives. This negative reaction was most pronounced during the early seasons of the show. Nearly every authority figure in the show is portrayed unflatteringly: Homer is thoughtless and irresponsible, the antithesis of the ideal 1950s TV father, though he always comes through for his family in the end. Marge Simpson is also of the 50's stereotype category, and exercises tyrannical control over her family to ease her own loneliness. Springfield police chief Clancy Wiggum (voiced by Hank Azaria in an Edward G. Robinson-influenced tone) is obese, stupid, lazy, corrupt and not overly concerned with constitutional rights (not to mention that he somewhat resembles a pig). Mayor Quimby — who sounds like John F. Kennedy — is a corrupt, spendthrift womanizer. Seymour Skinner (who sounds like Charles Kuralt), the principal of Springfield Elementary School, is an uptight, humorless bachelor who lives with his domineering mother. He has frequent flashbacks to his capture and imprisonment by the Viet Cong, and in early seasons, Skinner was repeatedly likened to Norman Bates in Psycho though this ultimately was dropped later on in the series. Ms. Edna Krabappel is Bart's, and sometimes Lisa's, depressed elementary school teacher who is impatient and ignorant of her class, and demands darkness and silence when she is hung over. Reverend Lovejoy, the pastor of the local church, is judgmental and moralistic (but only regarding other people), with a monotonous voice that always puts Homer to sleep during Sunday sermons. While most of these characters are more incompetent than truly evil there is one true sadist: Montgomery Burns, owner of the Springfield Nuclear Plant and Homer Simpson's boss. Evil and cruel, Montgomery Burns is aided in his campaign of terror against the residents of Springfield by his trusted assistant Waylon Smithers, who secretly harbors an unrequited love for Burns.

During the more recent years of Simpsons production, some social conservatives have ironically come to embrace the show. One of the main explanations of this shift is that the Simpsons portrays a traditional nuclear family among a lineup of television sitcoms that now portray less traditional families. The show has toyed with the possibility of extramarital affairs, such as when Homer falls for a female nuclear technician who shares his love of donuts, or when Marge's ex-boyfriend Artie Ziff tries to rekindle their old romance. Nevertheless, these affairs never occur, and by the end of every episode, Homer and Marge's marriage is strongly affirmed. Social conservatives and some evangelical Christians have also pointed to the positive role model of devout Christian Ned Flanders, whose fretfulness is occasionally ridiculed but whose decency never wavers despite constant provocation from Homer. In several episodes, God actually intervenes to protect the Flanders family, invoking such Protestant concepts as Predestination. As compared with the Simpsons family, the Flanders family is relatively well-off and less dysfunctional, fulfilling certain theories expressed by sociologist Max Weber in his seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Race relations are also the subject of satire in the show, as the handful of African-American characters are almost always portrayed as being more intelligent and rational than their "Yellow" counterparts. Some people interpret this as a satire of Hollywood and liberal TV's portrayal of exaggerated 'reverse stereotypes' in which the computer genius is always a black actor. For instance, Dr. Hibbert, despite a tendency to laugh at the most inappropriate times, is arguably among the least dysfunctional characters in the series, and is certainly more professionally qualified for medical practice than Dr. Nick Riviera. Furthermore, Officer Lou is constantly lecturing Chief Wiggum on his inept law enforcement practices, and even Homer's co-worker Carl occasionally lambasts Homer's stupidity.

The show also routinely mocks and satirizes show business conventions and personalities. Krusty the Klown has an enthusiastic following among Springfield's kids, but offstage he is a jaded, cynical hack, in poor health from a long history of overindulgence and substance abuse. He will endorse any product for a price. Kent Brockman is a self-important, spoiled TV news anchorman with little regard for journalistic ethics. Many wealthy characters are members of the Republican Party, which meets in a dark castle. Even Rupert Murdoch -- whose corporate empire includes The Simpsons' broadcast network, Fox -- has been gently spoofed in a couple of episodes. In fact, Fox itself has been ridiculed many times, and Fox News has been portrayed as extremely biased in favor of extremist conservative views.

Plots

Episode plots rarely follow any sort of linear course, often taking several digressions to move storylines in unexpected directions. For example, the description of the 2003 episode "Dude, Where's My Ranch?" offered to Shaw Cable subscribers reads: "After David Byrne turns Homer's anti-(Ned) Flanders song into a monster hit, the family vacations at a dude ranch, where Lisa falls in love."

The plots of most episodes focus on the adventures of one particular family member, frequently Homer. However the plots have never been particularly predictable or constant and tend to be very character-driven. Recurring themes in episodes include:

  • Homer gets a new job (Simpson writers had Homer count 30 of them in a recent episode but the actual list is far longer) or attempts to make money in a get-rich-quick scheme.
  • Marge attempts to escape the monotony of keeping house by finding employment or taking up a hobby.
  • Bart causes a large problem and attempts to fix it.
  • Lisa embraces or advocates the merits of a particular political cause or group.
  • The entire family goes on vacation. (Because of these vacations the entire family has been to every continent on Earth with the exception of Antarctica.)
  • Grandpa Simpson or Grandma Simpson needs help sorting out issues from their past and calls upon the main Simpsons family.

There are several types of scenes that recur often and have become conventions of the show's storytelling style. Examples of these stock scenes include:

  • A scene at the very beginning of the show in which the family goes somewhere together, like a cartoon festival or a cider mill. After a few minutes there, the main plot begins.
  • A scene, often near the middle of the show, in which Homer and Marge are in bed together discussing the events of the story so far.
  • A scene in which the family is eating dinner together and talking about the events of the plot. Conceptually this is very similar to the "Homer and Marge in bed" scenes, but including Bart and Lisa.
  • A scene in the morning in which Marge is preparing breakfast, and the kids and Homer are eating before going to work or school as they talk about what they are going to do. This is often near the start of the episode.
  • A scene in which Homer is at Moe's Tavern escaping the hassles of work and family to be with his friends.
  • A scene in which one or more Simpsons are watching a TV program, which the viewer watches along with them.
  • A crowd scene, in which the entire town of Springfield convenes to witness some notable event, protest something, attend a civic meeting, or even start a riot. Many recurring minor characters appear and speak.
  • TV anchorman Kent Brockman reporting on the events of the plot.
  • Scenes that cut from the main action to show what a secondary character, like Krusty or Mr. Burns, is doing at the time.
  • A fantasy in which one of the Simpsons imagines how something might turn out.
  • A scene in which someone shows up in the Simpsons' living room for no reason.
I pledge...

A typical chalkboard gag in the opening sequence.

Courtesy FOX

Opening sequence

The Simpsons opening sequence is one of the show's most memorable trademarks. Almost every episode opens with a title shot coming through the cumulus clouds and into the school where Bart is writing sentences on the class chalkboard, presumably set as a punishment by one of his teachers for some mischievous deed or wayward comment; Homer is shown leaving the power plant, with Mr. Burns and Smithers in the background (second season onwards); Marge and Maggie are shown checking out at the supermarket with Maggie traveling across the scanner, ringing up at $847.63, the then-annual cost of raising a baby (although a 'trivia question' shown as a wraparound for commercials during the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" claims that the register says "NRA4EVER" — National Rifle Association For Ever, ironically and comedically portraying the liberal writers of the show as gun-crazed right-wingers); The sequence then introduces Lisa (who leaves a band rehearsal, usually playing a different saxophone solo); the family is then shown on their way to their house at 742 Evergreen Terrace (the address varied in the beginning, but the writers now use 742 Evergreen Terrace exclusively). The members of the family weave dangerously through traffic and in between fellow (and, from the second season onward, familiar) Springfield denizens, all miraculously reaching home at the exact same time. Upon entering, they all speed towards the family room couch where, in comedic parallel with the audience, they settle to watch their "must-see" TV show.

For each episode, the sequence includes four variations: Bart writes something different on the chalkboard, Lisa plays a different solo on her saxophone, Homer screams in a different way (only done in the first couple of seasons), and the family attempts to sit on the couch as something goes awry in an often surreal manner.

In the syndicated version, part or all of the opening sequence is usually cut in order to include more commercials in the show's allotted timeslot.

The "couch gag" sequence is frequently used to help show staff make the show longer or shorter, depending on the length of the episode itself. Most couch gags last only about five seconds, but the longest one on record lasted 46 seconds.

The first season opening sequence featured a number of differences from the later seasons, including a shot of Lisa riding her bike on the way home and Bart's way home consisting of snatching a bus stop sign, forcing several dazed Springfieldians to chase the bus, rather than just riding past a number of well-known characters.

The series' distinctive theme tune was composed by musician Danny Elfman. The current arrangement is orchestrated by Alf Clausen.

Boo!

The Simpsons's Halloween Specials are now some of the most anticipated episodes.

Courtesy FOX

Halloween episodes

An annual tradition is a special Halloween episode consisting of three separate, self-contained pieces. These pieces usually involve the family in some horror, science fiction, or supernatural setting; they always take place outside the normal continuity of the show (and are therefore considered to be non-canon), and completely abandon any pretense of being realistic. Regular Simpsons characters play humorous special roles, occasionally being killed in gruesome ways by zombies, monsters, or even each other. These Halloween segments have parodied many classic horror and science fiction films; often one of the segments spoofs an episode of The Twilight Zone. Some include "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "To Serve Man", "Living Doll", "It's a Good Life", and "Little Girl Lost"

The tradition began in the second season episode Treehouse of Horror, with Bart and Lisa telling scary stories to each other in their treehouse while Homer secretly listened in. Neither Bart nor Lisa was scared, but Homer was terrified.

In later years the series dropped the framing device of characters telling stories, but kept the Treehouse title; for several years the characters broke the fourth wall and introduced their pieces directly to the audience. In Treehouse of Horror II the writers decided to give the cast and crew of the show scary names in the opening and closing credits (like "Mad Matt Groening" and "James Hell Brooks"). This also became a tradition, and has been done in every Halloween episode except I, XII, and XIII. The names have changed in subsequent seasons. Another mainstay of the Halloween shows is the appearance of the two space aliens Kangand Kodos, introduced in the second segment of the first "Treehouse of Horror."

In a section of Treehouse of Horror VI called Homer³, Homer and Bart go into a three-dimensional world created by Pacific Data Images, a computer animation company. This segment from the Halloween show was also used as a segment of a film shown in the IMAX cinema in London and Sydney. This was one of the few times The Simpsons have strayed from their traditional 2D animation, along with a live action cameo by Regis and Kathie Lee in Treehouse of Horror IX, a couple of claymation scenes in 'Tis The Fifteenth Season featuring The California Prunes and Jimmy Stewart, and a live action couch gag consisting of a sketchbook being flipped by a hand to make the characters run towards the couch and sit down. Another recent episode featured a CGI trailer for a comedy about humanoid playing cards.

Guest celebrities

Many episodes feature celebrity guests contributing their voices to the show, as either themselves (especially during the middle of the Simpson's years, i.e. seasons 7 to 13) or as fictional characters (mainly during the early and later seasons).

Production History

The Simpson family first appeared in animated form as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, with the first short "Good Night" airing on April 19, 1987. Matt Groening admits the reason that they were so crudely drawn in the beginning was because he could not draw well and the animators did nothing more than just trace over his drawings. The shorts were never aired by the BBC in the UK, though some of them, including "Good Night", were included in a Simpsons anniversary episode. The Simpsons was converted, by a team of production companies that included what is now the Klasky-Csupo animation house, into a series for the Fox Network in 1989 and has run as a weekly show on that network ever since. The first full length episode shown was "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", however the intended first episode was "Some Enchanted Evening", but when "Some Enchanted Evening" was completed it was rejected due to poor animation, so Fox aired "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" first.

The Simpsons was the first true TV series hit for Fox; it was the first Fox show to appear in the top twenty highest-rated shows of the time. It also sparked controversy, as Bart Simpson was portrayed as a rebellious troublemaker who caused trouble and got away with it. Parents' groups and conservative spokespersons felt that a cartoon character like Bart Simpson provided a poor role model for children. (That some children needed to take on cartoon characters as role models may have said more about the their parents, however.) When a Simpsons T-shirt was marketed featuring Bart and the logo "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')", Simpsons T-shirts and other merchandise were banned from public schools in several areas of the United States.

Coverboy!

Bart appears on the cover of a 1990 TIME magazine.

Courtesy FOX

The outcry against Bart was reflected in the second season opener, featuring an episode called Bart Gets an F where Bart's school wants to make him repeat the fourth grade. In this episode, the school counselor quotes the controversial T-shirt by stating, "He is an underachiever... and proud of it."

In September 1990, Barbara Bush infamously said in an interview for People magazine that The Simpsons was the dumbest thing she had ever seen. Six years later, an episode had George and Barbara Bush move to Springfield and leave after George gets involved in a feud with the Simpson family (in a style reminiscent of Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson). Mr. and Mrs. Bush were both portrayed by voice actors. One of the Simpsons DVD sets includes a special feature that presents an exchange of letters between the First Lady and show staff. In another address, Mr. Bush said that America needed to be closer to The Waltons than to The Simpsons, causing Bart to say they were a lot like the Waltons, since they were both praying for an end to the Depression (never take on a fictional character, as Dan Quayle later learned).

The writers have shown a love for cameo appearances by celebrities and extended pastiches of contemporary and classic movies, as well as subtle visual jokes.

On February 9, 1997 The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones as the longest-running prime time animated series in America, however it has not yet beaten several Japanese anime series such as Sazae-san (which has been running since 1969) and Doraemon (running since 1979). In January 2003, it was announced that the show had been renewed by Fox through 2005 — meaning it has replaced The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952 to 1966) as longest-running sitcom (animated or live-action) ever in the United States. In 2004,the series was renewed through its 19th season. Some take the view that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet should continue to be counted as the longest-running sitcom as The Simpsons is animated, not live-action, although this view is declining as more authorities unambiguously credit The Simpsons as television's longest-running sitcom.

In its 1998 issue celebrating the greatest achievements in arts and entertainment of the 20th Century, TIME magazine named The Simpsons the century's best television series. In that same issue, Bart Simpson was named to the Time 100, the publication's list of the century's 100 most influential people. He was the only fictional character on the list.

Since the series originated as part of The Tracey Ullman Show, it is also considered the longest running and most successful spinoff of all time.

Over the years, virtually every Simpsons character has appeared on a magazine cover, ranging from TIME to Christianity Today and even Airliners.

The Simpsons has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 21 Emmy Awards, 22 Annie Awards, a Peabody and numerous others. On January 14, 2000 the Simpsons were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The voice actors have been involved in much-publicized pay disputes with Fox on more than one occasion. In 1998, the voice actors stopped working, forcing 20th Century Fox TV to increase their salary from $30,000 per episode to $125,000. The actors were supported in their action by series creator Matt Groening. As the revenue generated by the show continued to increase through syndication and DVD sales, six actors (playing over 50 characters) — Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer — stopped showing up for script readings in April 2004 after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with Fox. They asked for $360,000 per episode, or $8 million for a 22-episode season. On May 2, 2004, the actors resolved their dispute with Fox after having their demands met. The universally reported claim that this dispute was in fact a full-blown strike is denied by Harry Shearer.

From season 9, the show has drawn criticism from some fans for straying too far from its comedic structure, for becoming too "mainstream," and changing character personalities without explanation. Some consider its parody of the prequel Star Wars trilogy in the episode Co-Dependent's Day being very harsh considering the show's own "downfall." These attacks have been countered by less hardcore fans stating that the show was always more or less mainstream, and nonsensical personality changes and the structural changes were done in a spirit of creative experimentation, and has not damaged the show.

Producers

The series has gone through numerous executive producers, also known as show runners, throughout its run. The showrunner is in charge of every aspect of the show for a season.

  • Season 1–2: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon
  • Season 3–4: Al Jean and Mike Reiss
  • Season 5–6: David Mirkin
  • Season 7–8: Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
  • Season 9–12: Mike Scully
  • Season 13–present: Al Jean

Voice actors and their characters

All episodes (with the exception of one) list only the voice actors (not the characters they voice) in keeping with the mystique of having the audience not associate any one character with an actor — this is to discourage the audience from easily identifying exactly which voice actor did what. Yeardley Smith and Marcia Wallace are the only cast members who only do one voice, though both have on occasion voiced one-shot characters.

Here is a list of all the major voice actors and the characters they voice:

Doh!

Dan Castellaneta provides the voice of Homer Simpson and many other characters.

Courtesy FOX

Regular cast

  • Dan Castellaneta: Homer Jay Simpson, Abraham "Grampa" Simpson, Santa's Little Helper, Barney Gumble, Krusty The Clown, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby, Gil, Sideshow Mel, Itchy, Hans Moleman, Scott Christian, Kodos, Poochie, Louie, Bill, Leopold, Captain Lance Murdock, Big Rich Texan, Squeaky-voiced Teen, Blue-Haired Lawyer, Arnie Pie, Mr. Teeny, and others.
  • Julie Kavner: Marjorie "Marge" Bouvier Simpson, Patty Bouvier, Selma Bouvier, Mrs. Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier, Aunt Gladys Bouvier.
  • Nancy Cartwright: Bartholomew J "Bart" Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Todd Flanders, Ralph Wiggum, Kearney, Database, Margaret "Maggie" Simpson (occasional), and others.
  • Yeardley Smith: Lisa Marie Simpson.
  • Hank Azaria: Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Moe Szyslak, Chief Clancy Wiggum (sounds like Edward G. Robinson), Comic Book Guy (or Jeff Albertson), Officer Lou, Carl Carlson, Dr. Nick Riviera (sounds like Ricky Ricardo), Snake, Luigi, Bumblebee Man, Captain McCallister, Akira, Professor John Frink, Cletus Spuckler (or Delroy), Kirk van Houten, Duffman, Crazy Old Man, Superintendent Chalmers, Drederick Tatum, Legs, Disco Stu, Raphael (or Sarcastic Clerk), and others.
  • Harry Shearer: Waylon Smithers, Jr., Ned Flanders, Principal Seymour Skinner (sounds like Charles Kuralt), Otto Mann, Reverend Timothy Lovejoy, Dr. Julius Hibbert, Jasper, Lenny Leonard, Officer Eddie, Rainier Wolfcastle a.k.a. McBain, Scratchy, Marty, Dr. Marvin Monroe, Kang, Kent Brockman, Herman, Judge Snyder, Charles Montgomery Burns, and others.

Recurring guest stars

  • Marcia Wallace: Mrs. Edna Krabappel (1990–present).
  • Maggie Roswell: Maude Flanders, Helen Lovejoy, Miss Elizabeth Hoover, Luann van Houten, and others (1990–1999, 2002–present).
  • Marcia Mitzman Gaven: Maude Flanders, Helen Lovejoy, Miss Elizabeth Hoover, Luann van Houten, and others. (When Maggie Roswell quit the show from 1999–2002)
  • Pamela Hayden: Milhouse van Houten, Rod Flanders, Jimbo "Corky" Jones,Janey Powell, and others.
  • Russi Taylor: Sherri, Terri, Martin Prince, Uter, Lewis, Wendell, and others. (1990–present)
  • Karl Wiedergott: Various (1998–present)
  • Tress MacNeille: Lindsay Naegle, Mrs. Agnes Skinner, Cookie Kwan, Dolph, Brandine Del Roy, Mrs. Glick, and others.
  • Frank Welker: Santa's Little Helper and other animals (1991–present)
  • Phil Hartman: Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure; (both characters were "retired" after Hartman's death) as well as one-shot characters Lyle Lanley, Evan Conover, and others. (1991–1998)
  • Doris Grau: Lunchlady Doris; her character also retired after her death. (1989–1995)
  • Joe Mantegna: Anthony "Fat Tony" D'Amico (1991–present)
  • Kelsey Grammer: Sideshow Bob (1990–present)
  • Jon Lovitz: Artie Ziff, Aristotle Amandopolis, Jay Sherman, Llewellyn Sinclair, and others (1991–present)
  • Jan Hooks: Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon (1997–present)
  • Jane Kaczmarek: Judge Constance Harm (2001–present)

Writing

John Swartzwelder is the most famous of the writers on the Simpsons' staff. He has written the most episodes. According to the DVD commentaries, he used to write episodes while sitting at a booth in his favorite restaurant. When the restaurant closed down, he bought the booth and had it installed in his house.

Current late-night talkshow host Conan O'Brien was a writer during the fourth and fifth season. He wrote "New Kid on the Block" (9F06), "Marge vs. the Monorail" (9F10), "Homer Goes to College" (1F02) and "Treehouse of Horror IV" (1F04).

Ian Maxtone-Graham has been a prominent writer for The Simpsons since the eighth season.

The character Professor John Frink was named for writer/producer John Frink.

Animation

Overseas animation studios involved:

AKOM—189 episodes

  • Exclusively produced the first two seasons of the series.
  • Produced various episodes throughout the run of the series.

Anivision—55 episodes

  • Produced animation for episodes from seasons 3-10.

Rough Draft Studios—110 episodes

  • Produced animation for episodes from season four onwards.

U.S. Animation, Inc.—2 episodes

  • Jointly produced "Radioactive Man" with Anivision.
  • Produced "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular"

Toonzone Entertainment—2 episodes

  • Produced "The Fat and the Furriest" and "She Used to Be My Girl".

The Simpsons has been animated by many different studios over the past 18 years, both domestic and overseas. Throughout the run of the animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, the animation was solely produced domestically at Klasky Csupo. Klasky Csupo was also the animation studio during the first three seasons of the half-hour length series, however, due to the increased workload, production was now being subcontracted to overseas studios, usually in Korea, where labor is cheaper. While character and background layout is done by the domestic studio, inbetweening, coloring and filming is done by the overseas studios. Throughout the years, different overseas studios have animated different episodes, even episodes within the same season.

During season four, Gracie Films made a decision to switch domestic production to DPS Film Roman, which continues to animate the show to this day. The last episode to be animated by Klasky Csupo was "A Streetcar Named Marge".

After season 13, production was switched from traditional cel animation to digital ink and paint. Originally, the switch was intended to happen during season 12 with the episode "Tennis the Menace", but after seeing the results, Gracie Films decided to hold off for two more seasons. Tennis the Menace, however, being already completed, was broadcast this way.

Episodes

"The Simpsons" is one of the longest running prime time TV shows ever created. By the end of its 16th season, the show had accumulated 356 episodes.

Cultural impact

A number of neologisms that started on The Simpsons have entered common usage. The most famous of which is Homer's saying: "Doh!", which is referred to in scripts, as well as three episode names, as "annoyed grunt". Doh is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. "D'oh" is an another accepted spelling by online fans; the closed captions for the program (at least in the U.S.), however, spell it "D-OHH".

Groundskeeper Willy's phrase, "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", used to describe the French, was picked up by some extremist politicians and publications in 2003, after France's opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq.

The expression "excellent" — drawn out as a sinister and breathy "eeeexcelllent..." in the style of Montgomery Burns — has also entered popular use, as have Homer's triumphant "Woohoo!" and Nelson Muntz's mocking "HA-ha!". "Woohoo" subsequently became the catch phrase of Melissa Joan Hart's portrayal of Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

The character Waylon Smithers. Since the debut of the show, the term "Smithers" has become a common eponym for a spineless underling.

The show's creators also take pride in having passed on schoolyard rhymes to a new generation of children who otherwise may not have heard them.

Fans' criticism

In spite of the devotion the show has inspired among its fans (or perhaps because of it) there has been an extraordinary amount of analysis of the show's weakest periods, especially among its most ardent fans. This brand of criticism is distinct from the broader debate over the show's sociopolitical themes that have drawn fire from both ends of the political spectrum.

Fans hold a wide range of views on which period in the show's history was the best. Some prefer the earliest seasons, particularly 2 and 3, when the show focused more on realistic, character-driven humor instead of what they perceive as cheap, throwaway gags. Others prefer seasons 4-7, when Al Jean/Mike Reiss, David Mirkin and Bill Oakley/Josh Weinstein were the showrunners. Under Mirkin, the show began to focus more and more on social satire, as well as shifting focus away from young Bart to Homer.

In contrast, seasons 9-12 and the appointment of Mike Scully as showrunner are often considered to be the show's lowest point creatively. While Scully's tenure featured a great deal of development of the show's supporting cast of characters (most notably Edna Krabappel, Principal Skinner, Ralph Wiggum, and Mr. Burns), it was highly criticized for shifting attention away from the Simpsons, with the exception of Homer. The show also became heavily reliant on celebrity guest stars (who almost always were cast to play themselves) and often episodes bent the rules of realism in order to justify these types of episodes.

But the biggest criticism of Scully's tenure as showrunner was his reinvention of Homer. Many fans believe that under Scully, the character of Homer became unrealistically stupid and uncaring in most episodes, while inexplicably contradicting his own political and moral beliefs in others. This reinvention, referred to as "Jerkass Homer" by online fans, caused a large backlash from many longtime fans of the series, who felt the show had began its decline. Many such fans welcomed the return of Al Jean as showrunner, calling it a return to the show's roots. However, many Simpson fans believe that the show should end. They feel that the show has been in a decline for several years. It's doubtful this will occur in the foreseeable future as the franchise is considered as profitable as ever for Fox.

In the meantime, the fierce debate among fans over the best and worst episodes, seasons, characters, etc. is a target for satire on the show itself. The recurring character known as Comic Book Guy is an obsessive and snobbish pop culture junkie who offers unsolicited opinions on a range of media, including cartoons. In season 8's "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," he snarkily condemns an episode of Itchy & Scratchy as the "Worst. Episode. Ever." This three-word injunction has not only become a favorite piece of dialogue among fans, it has ironically been adopted by those fans as a catchphrase in their ever-harsh criticism of their most-despised Simpsons episodes.

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of The Simpsons? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"Probably the best adult show ever made. Sure, it's for kids also. That's one of it's merits. That it is so multi-layered. But first and foremost it's America's consciounce. Or should be. It's sarcasm and irony are so well brought that it is digestive even for the ones/subjects being tackled. I'm from Belgium, and when I watch the Simpsons I realize that not all is lost for America. As long as there are Americans who can make such shows and others enjoying it,. . . for its bold criticism on a society that supports a president who has won his election in a way only expected in South-American banana republics,. . . there is hope. It has an "In Your Face" attitude but brought in a way where you even would turn your other cheek. The show has everything. In-depth storylines. Well build characters. And all types of humour, well brought together. Sarcasm, irony, absurdism, practical jokes etc. well blended together by a moral lesson ,nearly every end, that dares to questions itselve,and all the other sitcoms and sweet "family-shows" with it. Yes,it is even able to criticize itself. It also gives the dedicated viewer some extra's. I always enjoy Mr. Burns'reaction when he sees Homer. He never seems to know him. ("Smithers, who is that man!" - "It's Homer Simpson Sir") Hopefully a mirror for the employer, in our capitalistic system,whom often sees his employee merely as a number. It's story building is also somewhat awkward. Did you ever noticed that the first 5 minutes of the show put you on the wrong leg. They take you some direction just to turn off into a total other direction.
It tricks you everytime again. And it's those things that keep it fresh and enjoyable. Hopefully for a long time to come."

--Rutger

"The Simpsons such a fantastic show, and probably the only show I know of that everyone in the family enjoys. It's just like an exaggerated form of real life and we all can relate to a Simpsons character which really makes the show a bit ore personal. The celebrity guests are fantastic I mean they've been people like Britney Spears (one of my favorites). There have been some lines that have had me in fits of laughter remember the one with the bear and homer gets a bill for $5 and says 'why should I pay the bear tax? The bears should pay the bear tax, I pay the Homer tax. ' the Lisa says ' no dad you pay the home owner tax. But one of my favorite Homer quotes has to be 'liberry' and 'tomorry' in the episode 'HOMR' (backwards 'r'). That episode needs to be shown more often."

--smechen

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: December 17, 1989 -

Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer

Network: FOX

Genre: Cartoon

Theme songSoundtrack

Spinoff of: The Tracy Ullman Show

Image courtesy of FOX


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