Dollars to Doh!-nuts, more people today would identify Homer as a bald yellow cartoon couch potato than a Greek poet. That says a lot about the power of TV and the genius of Matt Groening and company.
Fox's The Simpsons
celebrated its 300th episode over the weekend, although at least one online fan argues that the 300th was actually the Feb. 2 Strong Arms of the Ma
episode. We'll go with the show's producers on this one, though it is another testament to the series that fans are out there counting the episodes.
Of course, The Simpsons
has itself to blame for cultivating—make that demanding—such attention to detail. The show is more densely packed than a Tokyo subway car and requires true devotees to record and replay the episodes to keep from missing any good bits of business, of which there are many. An average sitcom could live on the lines Bart and company throw away or the set dressings (signs, products) that are packed with hilarious satire and in-jokes aplenty.
Why devote the editorial page to a cartoon show? Because it deserves to be saluted as one of the best-written and -performed series in TV history, period.
It is now the longest-running animated show and will soon overtake Ozzie & Harriet
as the longest-running sitcom (Gunsmoke
was the longest-running scripted show at something over 600 episodes). By beating NBC's vaunted Cosby Show
in some head-to-head matchups in the early 1990s, The Simpsons
helped put Fox, then a struggling netlet, on the network map. Today, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are a TV family to rival the Huxtables, Nelsons or Bunkers in our communal consciousness. Cultural literacy now demands at least a passing knowledge of them.
With public acceptance came merchandise (check eBay) and fan clubs, books and even academic theses (check www.snpp.com/misc.html). You know you've really made it when your cast is interviewed for Bravo's tony Inside the Actors Studio
series. When James Lipton sat down with The Simpsons'
voice actors, the program delivered more 25- to 54-year-old fans than ever before. The voices even beat out Oscar-winner Michael Douglas.
Meaning no disrespect to any past Emmy winners, but one of the major miscarriages of TV justice (where is Matt Dillon when you really
need him?) is that The Simpsons
has never even been nominated for an Emmy as Best Situation Comedy (although this page gave it our first ever Eddy award for best overlooked show back in 1992). First, it wasn't eligible in the sitcom category. Then, when it was, it wasn't nominated. It has since returned to the animated-series category, where it cleans up (18 creative-arts Emmys to date, including voice-over nods to its wonderful cast). We chalk up its snub in the sitcom category to animation prejudice, or maybe the judges quaffed a few too many Duffs at voting time.
Here's to another 300.