Toward the end of summer 2014, I remember feeling a certain level of frustration as I was dealing with a strange ailment that as allegedly a kidney stone and I had been reading the news that a Netflix type app for every episode of The Simpsons was about to launch, but not in Canada. The app was called Simpsons World and was something I would have been insanely excited about. The thought of watching every episode of this long-running series was a challenge as I was up for so I went about collecting the seasons though somewhat pirate-esque means, though I owned a few others, including the movie on DVD. Less than three years, 618 episodes and a full-length feature film later, I have completed the pop culture journey I set out on. Now what?
The Simpsons started in 1989 and will become the longest-running scripted prime-time series during its twenty-ninth season which begins airing on October 1st. It’s been twenty-eight years and over two hundred hours of television, and there is a lot of debate, or perhaps more of a consensus if you read people’s opinions on the Internet, that the quality of the show has dwindled throughout its run. While I would say that there is indeed something missing in these new episodes I still thoroughly enjoy it and there are episodes that are great and can stack up to the greats from previous seasons. (Check out the sixth episode of Season 23 entitled “The Book Job” which is a clever parody of The Italian Job and the YA industry as well as the ninth episode of Season 27 entitled “Barthood” where “The story of Bart’s life from 6 years old to his time as a young man reveals that Lisa’s achievements and his relationship with Homer have shaped him more than he realized.” *Spoiler: Grandpa dies and it is heartbreaking to see a teenage Bart ride his bike to the cemetery to talk to Abe’s grave.) One reason I feel I don’t feel as attached to these episodes as much as ones from earlier seasons is that I have only seen them once. For years and years, my family and I would watch The Simpsons from 5:00-6:00 on weekdays on CBC.
Some of the earliest memories of The Simpsons stem from playing the old Nintendo game. Apparently, it was called The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants but all I really remember is controlling Bart as he walked, or skateboarded down the street throwing cherry bombs and saying “Eat my shorts,” or as my toddler brother would say “eat mine shorts”.
I often say that everything I’ve ever learned in life comes from The Simpsons and I’m only half joking about that. Lord of the Flies? Never read it; but when my ex had to teach the book in a high school English class, I knew the plot because of the episode “Das Bus” when the kids at Springfield Elementary get stranded on an island following a bus crash caused by grapefruit juice to the eye of the bus driver. Hamlet? Sorry Billy S, never cared for it; but when I had to study it in English 1080 I knew the plot from “Tales From The Public Domain” (though oddly Hamlet doesn’t end with an impromptu dance party to the tune of “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.)
I’ve also used The Simpsons to teach a religion class about Christian rituals (this one called Christmas) as well as Buddhism and accepting others by showing the episode “She of Little Faith”. I also used Lisa and an academic journal article about using The Simpsons to teach politics when I had to present my paper for a course on women and politics, specifically the episode “Bart to the Future” in which a grown-up Lisa becomes President of the United States and inherits a huge mess left from “President Trump”. (#Lisa4Prez2020 anyone?)
I’ve often always said, “I’m the Lisa Simpson” of my family. In a lot of ways growing up, I have felt like a bit of an outcast in my family, one reason being that my brother played hockey and my parents were really invested in it, while I was not. I always was thinking “big picture” and like Lisa, I’ve always been a critical thinker. I never said that bit about feeling like an outcast to get sympathy because like Lisa, I’m also very close to my family. It’s interesting when you think of it, but that is exactly what a family is. A collection of individuals who are bound together and form a unit unlike any other despite those differences. I also think that might be one of the reasons why The Simpsons has so much staying power; the family loves each other despite the fact that they are very different and don’t always get along. Despite Homer’s frequent bumbling idiocy, he loves his wife and kids dearly and that is why I cry every time I watch the part where Marge leaves Homer in The Simpsons Movie (which I saw in theatres twice as well as countless times on DVD since).
If you have ever had a conversation with me, you most likely have heard me say “There is an episode of The Simpsons where…” because there is basically an episode for every single conversation topic. The show has so many lasting quotes that have become part of my vernacular like “D’oh!” (duh), “Everything’s coming up Millhouse!”, and “You don’t win friends with salad! “And my personal favorite: ““You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: Never try.”
As you might be able to tell, The Simpsons has been a big part of my life. It has been around for almost as long as I have and I’m in awe that this show continues to trek forward and despite a drop in ratings compared to the early years, (the show still manages to average nearly five million viewers per week) but they still manage to be relevant and providing social commentary in today’s society for not only an animated television show but any TV show period. It will be interesting to see where the show will go in the next and upcoming thirtieth season and perhaps onward. Maybe we’ll get another movie? During the mid-credits scene of the first film, Maggie did take out her pacifier and say “sequel?” after al. One thing I know for sure is that I’ve got a ton of free time on my hands since I have no more Simpsons to binge watch.
Season 29 of The Simpsons airs at 9:30 PM, October 1st on NTV for anyone who is an avid viewer of Canada’s Superstation…and Fox for everyone else.