Oh, this is happening, people. This shit is happening.
A few months ago (I always forget that DTSFT is only about four months old, we’re still just a big baby) Hannah wrote a post on here about her love for cartoons which I thoroughly enjoyed. But anyone who knows me personally will know that I am addicted and devoted to The Simpsons, to the extent that I sometimes get annoyed if I go more than a day without seeing an episode (you might think I’m kidding, and that’s sweet, but you’re being naive – I’m 100% serious). So I figure that now is the time to write my ‘Why I Love’ post about The Simpsons – beware, it’s video-heavy!
First off, if you’ve never watched The Simpsons then you haven’t lived. There are many tragedies in life, but I would say a life without The Simpsons is up there in the Top 3. Please go and watch at least one episode – if I had to recommend a good place to start, I’d say bypass the first 2 seasons; they’re not terrible, but the show gets increasingly better over the next 10 or 11 seasons. And there’s no excuse – this website streams all the episodes, so get to it now!
The Simpsons revolves around the titular family: Homer and Marge Simpson, parents to Bart (10), Lisa (8) and Maggie (1), and follows their lives in Springfield. The town features an array of characters so diverse and hilarious in their own way that it puts other cartoons to shame, particularly certain ones that can’t think outside of the family unit and have to resort to talking animals or aliens *cough* Family Guy *cough* American Dad *cough* Cleveland Show *cough* ANYTHING SETH MACFARLANE HAS EVER DONE *COUGH*. Sorry, chest infection. Nasty stuff.
The first episode I ever saw was ‘Bart the Daredevil’ which features arguably one of the most famous scenes in Simpsons history (apologies for the poor quality, this isn’t my video):
Given that this was seen on Sky in the UK, we were lucky to have the second fall down the cliff shown, including the bit where the stretcher hits Homer on the head and oh my god I’m laughing as I type this even though I’ve seen that episode about 30 times, maybe more. In some countries, when the ambulance hits the wall we just see Homer go over the cliff and then the scene cuts to the kids looking over the cliff as we hear Homer scream.
Anyway, back to the point. I saw it at my cousins’ house and when I realised that it was also on the BBC, that was the end of my post-6pm life for the rest of time. Seriously. Every evening during the week, I was there, ready and waiting for The Simpsons – I even started watching Neighbours so that I wouldn’t miss it.
The Simpsons is my drug, seriously. I get tetchy if I think I’m going to miss my fix, and then while I’m watching it it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist; afterwards, I feel happy and relieved… but eventually that buzz wears off, and post-Simpsons-fix Helen is not someone you want to be around. Even if I’ve seen an episode at least ten times (which is true of anything up to season 14, give or take an episode) it still brings me great comfort to indulge in 23 minutes of Matt Groening’s multi-award winning animation.
The man, the legend, the original American hero. Oh Homer, how you’ve changed my life. Type “Homer Simpson’s best moments” into Youtube and you’ll find that lots of people have their own opinion of what his best moments are, which just proves how good of a character he is – there are so many brilliant scenes that there’s actually too much choice. He’s an idiot, there’s no denying that, but he’s a loveable idiot who cares deeply for his family despite occasionally making some selfish decisions such as buying a gun or spending the family Christmas money on a weird present for himself. He tries, dammit, he tries.
He loves his children, that much is clear.
And he can hold a tune (warning: this clip makes me laugh so much that I come very close to having an actual heart attack)
In the documentary ‘The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice!’, Morgan Spurlock speaks to various people who have been involved with The Simpsons throughout its history as a means of exploring the ‘cultural phenomenon’ of the show. He speaks to Conan O’Brien, host of TBS’s Conan and former writer for The Simpsons, and asks him how he would write the ending of The Simpsons. Here’s his brilliant response:
Marge is gonna take a good hard look at Homer, and say “He’s so stupid, and he’s screwed us over so many times.” It would be humourless, it won’t be funny, it will just be her looking at Homer, saying “You are such a stupid son of a bitch. You’re endangering my children, you’ve destroyed the town 600,000 times over, you’re a threat to mankind. I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you forever.”
And he’s right, Homer is a stupid son of a bitch. But he’s our stupid son of a bitch.
Speaking of Marge, let’s take a look at one of my favourite moments by the Simpsons matriarch:
As Homer’s long-suffering wife, you’d think that she’d have left him a long time ago, considering how stupid he is. But without her stability, Homer couldn’t be himself, and that’s why Marge is one of the best characters in the show – because she facilitates Homer’s nonsense.
We love you Marge!
Also, you can’t deny this chick has some sweet moves:
Bart, Lisa and Maggie
Until South Park came along and introduced us to Eric Cartman, Bart Simpson was America’s original bad-boy – South Park even reference this fact in an episode (confusingly, the episode itself is actually about Family Guy…). With his slingshot and skateboard, Bart was the naughty kid at school, pulling pranks on his classmates and neighbours and always ending up in the principal’s office, but winning over the hearts of his classmates and becoming mildly popular.
Lisa is the complete opposite – bookish, intelligent and well-behaved, she doesn’t have many friends her own age but finds comfort in jazz music. A skilled saxophonist, Lisa’s talent has been at the centre of several episodes and it’s sometimes hard to believe that she is supposed to be only 8 years old. Like most siblings so close in age, Bart and Lisa fight a lot but there are moments between them that show the true bond a brother and sister have – like the time when Bart uses the remainder of his compensation money to buy Bleeding Gums Murphy’s only vinyl release for Lisa after Bleeding Gums dies, or when Lisa “buys” Bart’s soul back from Comic Book Guy in the brilliant episode “Bart Sells His Soul”.
And then there’s Maggie, unbelievably cute little Maggie. Any time I see her I just want to smoosh her little cartoon face. One of my favourite moments is when the kids are taken away from Homer and Marge by social workers and sent to live next door with the Maude and Ned Flanders. When Ned takes the Simpsons children to be baptised, Homer and Marge find them just in time, and the only person who can coax Maggie away from Maude and Ned is Marge – the bit where Maggie and Marge rush to one another and hug is the best thing ever.
I had to include Milhouse in this because he’s just so brilliant. I could just tell you that Milhouse is allergic to his own tears and that would be enough to give you a good idea of how pathetic he is. There’s a great moment where Homer and Milhouse are left alone in the kitchen and Homer asks Milhouse if he knows “how to cook dinner”. Milhouse replies excitedly, “Do I?!” and gets to work taking pots and pans out of the cupboard. I can’t explain why it’s so funny but it is. Milhouse is a complicated child – raised by parents who hate one another, get divorced, and then get back together, he constantly plays second fiddle to Bart and always strikes out when it comes to Lisa, whom he loves. I scoured Youtube to compile some of my favourite videos of Milhouse and then found this:
Which didn’t include these:
Another way I could sum up the tragic nature of Milhouse’s character is by telling you that his middle name is Mussolini. Outstanding.
Troy McClure/Lionel Hutz
I include these two together as they were voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman, and in a way I would say the show has genuinely not been the same without him. First up, the washed-up actor Troy McClure. You may remember him from such episodes as ‘A Fish Called Selma’ and ‘Bart’s Inner Child’. McClure’s appearances in the show tended to be as the presenter of an instructional or educational video, although he had some more substantial moments in the show, one of my favourite moments in particular being an outstanding bit from ‘A Fish Called Selma’, in which Troy embarks on a relationship with Selma Bouvier (Marge’s sister), initially with good intentions but it later becomes more of a career move than anything else. There are unfortunately no decent clips online of the part I’m talking about, but if I just say “Planet of The Apes musical” then I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about…
Then there’s Lionel Hutz, the useless lawyer that The Simpsons inexplicably return to time and time again. The typical ambulance chasing lawyer, Hutz is never too busy to take on a case – that is, between rummaging through bins and changing his name to Miguel Sanchez. He’s the go-to guy for The Simpsons in any legal situation, at one point being invited to dinner at their house, where he comes out with this classic line:
Sadly, the actor behind these two voices, Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live fame, was murder in 1998, and out of respect for him the producers of The Simpsons decided to simply retire the characters, which I believe was the right move. No-one would be able to do the roles justice, but their absence from the show since season 9 is definitely noticeable.
Another character that I have to include – my brother would never forgive me if I didn’t. Just the other day we were talking about The Simpsons and both just started laughing at the mere thought of this hapless, unfortunate little man. Hans Moleman doesn’t have any substantial story lines in the show, his function is purely for slapstick comedy. Take this classic example:
The poor guy can’t catch a break. As I write this, the episode on Channel 4 right now has a scene where Homer distracts Moleman by hugging him while Bart steals the steaks from his barbecue. It’s brilliant. Poor Moleman – here’s a collection of some of his best moments.
The Treehouse of Horror episodes are also brilliant additions to every series, with fantastic parodies of famous films both recent and classic, and just scary stories to keep the Halloween theme.
The Simpsons also employs some great recurring gags – the chalkboard and couch gags from the start of every episode, Bart’s prank calls to Moe, the inappropriate hold music for various companies, the funny signs on the church noticeboard – the writers of The Simpsons never slack, and pay close attention to the little details which make all the difference.
And then there’s just the random jokes that they manage to fit in for no other reason than they’re simply funny:
So do you get it now? I freaking LOVE The Simpsons. It does its best to keep up to date with current events by successfully employing a floating timeline which allows the characters to remain the same age throughout so that it can include trends and celebrities that are relevant today. The main element that I think makes The Simpsons better than the other cartoons out at the moment is that unlike American Dad and Family Guy, it is clear that the writers of The Simpsons care deeply for all of their characters and are dedicated to making people laugh – as opposed to, you know, forcing political and anti-religion messages upon the viewer and forgetting to include any comedy at all I’M CALLING YOU OUT SETH MACFARLANE GODAMMIT SORT YOUR SHIT OUT.
I don’t like to think about when The Simpsons might end, but I came across this suggestion on Reddit for how the final episode could go. I think it’s brilliant and would LOVE to see something like this happen. Until then though, I’ll continue my love affair with the funniest family in America. God bless The Simpsons!