Considered to be one of the greatest television shows of all time, The Simpsons celebrated its 30th anniversary in April 2017 with an episode remembering its roots and contemplating the future.
The Simpsons have always had a distinct look, from their love of garish color pallets to their yellow skin and spikey hair. But when the family first appeared in a series of animated shorts on the Fox variety series, The Tracey Ullman Show, they looked a little less lovable.
The Ullman Show had enlisted cartoonist Matt Groening with the hope of adapting his popular comic series Life in Hell. But Groening had an idea for a new cartoon, and the Simpsons were born. The classic American family was introduced on April 19th, 1987, appearing in 47 shorts before being commissioned by Fox for their own show. The Simpsons premiered in 1989 with a Christmas special titled “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”
The beloved animated show holds the record for the longest-running primetime entertainment series and boats over 32 Emmys. There are over 600 episodes, which at 22 minutes each would take well over a week to watch! Earlier this year, FXX aired a 13-day marathon featuring “every episode ever”—the longest marathon in TV history.
Over the course of its three decades, there is little The Simpsons hasn’t covered. Another prime time animated series even made fun of this fact: a classic South Park episode, “The Simpsons Did It,” lamented that there could be no new plots, schemes, or shenanigans in television. The Simpsons had already done them all!
There are also many (often bizarre) cases of The Simpsons predicting major real-life events before they actually occurred. Some instances of this phenomenon include Siegfried and Roy’s tiger attack (predicted in 1993, 10 years before it happened), the mathematical existence of the Higgs boson “God Particle” (calculated by Homer of all people back in 1998), and even Donald Trump’s presidency (in 2000). Is sitcom television driving reality??? Stay tuned to find out!
Perhaps to mock the many examples of its own cultural forecasting, The Simpsons celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a somewhat dated parody of Pokémon GO (cleverly renamed Peekimon Get). The popular mobile app was released in July 2016 amid historic hype; however, it has been steadily losing its initial steam, making its (many) parodies often feel just as stale. Even Maroon 5’s music video for “Don’t Wanna Know,” released back in October, seemed slightly too late to capture the trend. In a time where trends seem to flash and fade quicker than ever, a lasting series like The Simpsons is really something special.
Still, for The Simpsons, this parody becomes an opportunity to examine the trends of pop culture and contemplate the show’s status among them. The show that has famously already done everything seems to ask, “What can we do now?” Beyond the Pokémon parody, the episode seems to further contemplate its own aging, with its primary plot following Bart as he befriends an elderly woman named Phoebe and reaches a new level of maturity.
The episode also nods to another long-running sitcom, The Big Bang Theory (currently in its 10th season). In a special couch gag, the family watches the show’s opening credits, which feature a parody of the Barenaked Ladies’ theme that describes their own history: “The whole Fox network was in a hot, dense state. Then nearly 14 billion years ago, they began a TV show…”
The Simpsons, now in its 28th season, has been renewed through season 30. We don’t know about you, but we’re excited to keep watching to find out what creative and hilarious ideas are out there in the Twilight Zone beyond the “done it all.”
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