|Posted: 08/16/10 11:48 PM|
[Forward to a Friend]
|The Decline of The Simpsons|
There??s no doubt that the simpsons belongs in the elite class of TV shows. When it first came on the air it pulled no punches with offending viewers, pushed the envelope with satire and wit, and produced literally dozens of fleshed-out and hilarious characters.
Beyond the simpsons family, who were funny in their own right, supporting characters in The Simpsons were hilarious too, a first for comedies. Viewers slapped their knees at Ned Flanders, the overly-religious and na?ve next-door neighbour, Hans Moleman, the wrinkled, ever-unlucky old man, Moe the Bartender, always committing some random crime and ??ter, the German exchange student who once pleaded: ??Don??t make me run! I??m full of chocolate!?? the simpsons dvd 1-21
??ter??s quip wasn??t the only one-liner to capture the hearts and memories of viewers, such as: ??Me fail English? That??s unpossible?? and ??In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!?? Simpsons quotes were more popular than Hamlet.
The Simpsons is the longest-running comedy in TV history. Of course, the term ??comedy?? has to be used loosely, as it hasn??t been funny for about half of its 20-year run. Every Simpsons season since season 9 has gotten worse and worse. After a while, The Simpsons began to insult its own legacy, but it has gone way beyond that point, going from unfunny to boring to painfully unwatchable.the simpsons dvd 1-21
How Homer Simpson Fell and Took the Show With Him
The show??s rise and fall can be measured by its main character, Homer Simpson. Early seasons featured Bart Simpson as the main character, but when they switched to Homer, the humor became deeper. Homer was a lovable overeating fool whose stupidity brought out the greater absurdity in the world. Every season Homer got dumber, until the writers could make him no stupider.
So Homer Simpson became mean. He framed Marge for drunk driving. He caused the death of Ned Flanders?? wife Maude. He would rage and rant when things didn??t go his way, then fall asleep in ten seconds. In short, Homer lost the viewers?? sympathy, and never got it back.
Even so, fans cringed when Homer was subjected to unheard-of levels of abuse. Earlier Simpsons episodes would have Homer crash his car into a chestnut tree, or get caught in a trap set by Bart. Now Homer is beaten up every episode, and even got raped by a panda. the simpsons dvd 1-21
Recognizing their nadir, the executives cut loose show-runner Mike Scully and set to improving the product. What resulted was a show that was watchable, at best. Homer was still mean-spirited, but less so, and somehow prone to moments of brilliance.
It was in this watchable era that The Simpsons Movie came out. A hit at the box office, the movie still showed none of the brilliance from the golden years, and relied on slapstick for its humor, with plenty of Homer-Gets-Injured scenes. Marketing aside, it was indistinguishable from any other animated movie.
Are the Writers Out of Ideas?
After 20 years of writing, the logical conclusion is that there is no further ground to trek, and anything that can be done with these characters has been done, especially since the characters never age.
But the show has gone farther than just lacking material. They seemed to stop trying, inserting plot-irrelevant celebrity appearances, obscure cultural references and ??The Simpsons go to (blank)?? episodes. What happened to Simpsons episodes where the characters drove the humor and the plot?
Instead, they use characters as vehicles to tell jokes. The attempts at characterization just make things worse and inconsistent. Lisa Simpson appears in one episode as an eight-year-old girl who just wants to watch cartoons, and in the next episode she is an anti-globalization protester who talks like a grad student. Homer alternates between stupid and insightful. Bart has mellowed out and no longer causes trouble unless the plot requires him to.
Characterization is the problem, and also the solution. Writers need to remember that comedic characters aren??t funny because they tell jokes. They??re funny because they??re great comedic characters. The writers already have that. All they need is to put the characters in situations and let them be themselves, and see what happens. the simpsons dvd 1-21
How Did it Happen
The Simpsons?? problems lie deeper than characterization. It??s the attitude the writers have adopted: that they must stay current; and that they??re The Simpsons, so whatever they do is okay.
The latter is likely due to critics staying in love with the show for so long.
Critics loved earlier seasons, and are now reluctant to call it junk. So they have become charitable to the show, and few of them call out the show for its decline. If critics were more honest with themselves and their public, the writers would have to face up to that criticism. Moreover, fans might catch on and ratings might fall hard enough for the higher-ups at Fox to shape up.
Another reason for the mediocrity is that the simpsons has plagiarized every comedy around it, to leech off the success of others. But the reason for those other comedies?? success is The Simpsons itself. The Simpsons was so ground-breaking and hilarious in its earlier seasons, everyone else borrowed from it.
South Park realized offending viewers could be funny and drive up ratings, so it set out to offend as many groups as possible. Arrested Development, Everybody Loves Raymond, Malcolm in the Middle and King of Queens saw how funny dysfunctional families were are took that idea.
Most blatant of all was Family Guy, which turned the characters?? zany asides or dream sequences into an entire series. the simpsons just copied back what had been copied. So what viewers have is a photocopy of a photocopy.
Can the simpsons be Saved
It is too late to euthanize The Simpsons. The damage has already been done and it can't be repaired. Its glory days are a distant memory and the mediocre seasons outnumber the great ones. But there is a way back.
The writers have to just remember what made the show great in the first place: great comedic characters and subtle satire. If the writers can keep things simple; stick to character-driven plots, then viewers may get a reasonable facsimile of what used to be the funniest show on TV.
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