With FXX being that “Oh that channel with Always Sunny” of the cable world they finally stepped up their game with their 12 day marathon of every Simpsons episode. Already breaking records the Hollywood reporter has announced a 461% increase in the 18-34 demographic as well as killing it when it comes to DVR recordings. But more importantly rewatching old Simpsons episodes really made me come to a lot of realizations. Given it wasn’t anything world shattering but I figured I’d document it here. If for no other reason than this marathon has, thankfully, helped me stall watching Jersey Shore Massacre.
Old Simpsons Was Just Weird
For a comedy show it could be pretty unfunny at times. The show was still very much like the old shorts where it was meant to be humorous but really wasn’t all that funny. The best example I can think of is Life on the Fast Lane from the first season. The whole thing deals with Marge being seduced by Jacques her bowling instructor and how their marriage is kind of awful. Given the whole point is that their love is stronger than any outsider but it’s still just a weird, weird episode. It just felt like the show hadn’t found it’s voice yet. There was also a non-idiotic version of Ralph Wiggum. It’s just… odd.
Phil Hartman Was a Godsend
In the late 90’s I was really got into Saturday Night Live but not the cast at the time. At the time Comedy Central would show older SNL episodes. Like Saved by the Bell and California dreams it would quickly become a staple of afternoon TV. While I’m hardly the only one to think this Phil Hartman stood head and shoulders above everyone else. He had a mix of comedic timing, voice work, and class that is unmatched to this day. The glue of SNL in the late 80’s and early 90’s the same can be said of his time on The Simpsons. Whether he was a recurring character like Lionel Hutz or a one timer like Lyle Lanley, monorail salesman. He had a gift of taking any joke, no how minor, and turning it into pure gold. As the show’s go-to voice he was the closest thing the series had to a seventh regular cast member. When he passed away in 1998 I was bummed out but as an adult it really is devastating. Seeing how integral he was to classic Simpsons really shows what a talent was lost.
Even Minor Episodes Ruled
When talking Simpsons the general rule has been that from season 2 to season 9 were the golden years. An alleged apex when every episode was a classic that consisted of nothing but quotable lines. As it turns out, yeah, everybody was right. No matter high simple the description of the episode was I could remember 90% of the episodes. The rest I would record anyway and it would work out. The best example of this is the episode Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood. Recording it on the description alone I not only remembered the episode as soon as it was on but could quote the show. That kind of recognition only comes from TV classics.
Apu Episodes Kind of Suck
Now this isn’t to say episodes with Apu are bad. For example as member of a group like the Be Sharps or the Pin Pals he’s great. But when it comes to episodes where he’s the focus I can’t think of any that really stand out. The closest I can think of is “Homer and Apu” and that’s mainly for the Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart song. An episode I think is pretty week in comparison to other episodes that season. After that it’s a lot of stuff about him getting married and having 40 kids which I just found terribly dull.
While I’m on the subject Moe episodes tend to suck too.
The Downfall in Quality Was Fast
So what I’ve been doing is picking and choosing which episodes to DVR and watch later. I’m sure plenty people are using the same method of watching the show. What’s I find interesting is how quickly I lost interest in the series. By season 10 I’ve only been recording the Treehouse of Horrors and the occasional episode. This is a sharp contrast compared to Saturday when I would record hours of the show and still miss some I wanted to see. Given I knew that by season 11 I had lost interest in the show; I’m hardly the only person to feel this way. I thought it was because I was heading into high school but no, it’s just kind of boring. Somehow “Homer climbs/goes/eats (fill in the blank)” just isn’t that enticing to me.
The Simpsons Developed My Sense of Humor
Again I really doubt this is something unique to me. Every kid of the 90’s watched The Simpsons and was no doubt influenced by the show. What shocked me was how much it influenced my sense of humor. Any self-deprecating joke I make is delivered with is pure Milhouse. Any non-sequitur I’ve ever done poorly was Ralph Wiggum. My love for alternative and darker comedy can be seen yearly in the Treehouse of Horror episodes. Heck a few of the TV writers I really dig (Greg Daniels comes to mind) worked on The Simpsons before going onto their own thing. From the jokes I make to the jokes I love it can all be traced back to The Simpsons.
Going into FXX’s marathon I figured I would have some laughs and maybe get a list consisting of Milhouse quotes. Instead the whole thing was not only a fun nostalgia trip but actually got a bit introspective. I came to realize how much it meant to not only me but to people my age. How something as minor as “Tastes like burning” is one giant inside joke that people from all over the world can connect over. But more than anything it was the TV version of comfort food. A show that will make you laugh no matter how you feel. So cheers FXX for helping me remember why I love The Simpsons and providing enough awesome wordplay to last a lifetime.