In January 1990, The Simpsons left their slot on the Tracy Ullman show and began the first series of what was to become a global phenomenon. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and friends have starred in 450 episodes of the show, making it the longest running American sitcom ever AND the longest running American entertainment show, going over 21 series and spawning a movie that made $527 million at the box office, not to mention the merchandise which was reckoned to be worth $750 million in 2008 alone.
The show helped change the perception of animation being only for kids, and paved the way for South Park, Family Guy, King of The Hill and Futurama and all of your other favourite animation shows. Seth McFarlane, creative genius behind Family Guy has said “The Simpsons created an audience for Prime Time animation.”
Fascinating Fact: On September 11 2001, Seth McFarlane was supposed to be aboard the plane that flew in to the World Trade Center and killed everyone on board. It was only due to a mix up with his travel agent that Seth missed his flight and was able to give the world Family Guy.
From the very beginning, the show has been multi-generational; enjoyed as much by children who can giggle at Bart’s ‘eat my shorts’ attitude as by adults who can relate to the lazy but good hearted Homer or the long suffering Marge. These are real people, with real issues and real feelings (infact they’re creator Matt Groening’s real family apparently, he named all of his most famous characters after his own family except Bart!). The Simpsons all have their faults, but they’re also a strong family unit who look out for one another and always end up making the right decisions. This is a show that adults can enjoy alongside their young ones, laughing often in completely different places as one set of jokes goes over the first generation’s head and tickles the funny bone of the next. This is something we’re seeing more and more of in animated films at the moment as Producers try to widen the appeal (and therefore the profitability) of their films – Shrek is a wonderful example of this (the first one is anyway – the only thing that the latter two are wonderful examples of is corporate greed and style over substance in my humble opinion).
BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex (formerly BBC Radio Southern Counties) rang us up on Thursday to ask us our opinion on why The Simpsons has gone the distance and to help them celebrate 20 years of yellow mania. The interview is below.
(It should probably be mentioned that I was quite nervous and somehow managed to say South Park instead of the Simpsons in answer to the very first question! Not a great first answer on National Radio, but the interviewer Danny Pike managed to maintain a very professional attitude and not mention it. Unfortunately my friends and colleagues all did!)