True Fact: I grew up in the United States of America. I’m not trying to brag or anything, it’s just simple stating of fact. Why this is important to The Simpsons has to do with what The Simpsons is to me: An American Institution. This in no way means that I believe The Simpsons is only for Americans. Oh heavens no, The Simpsons is a show for the entire world. It’s been aired all over, only managing to tick off Australia, Brazil, and a few other countries of the world that I can’t be bothered to remember. The real special aspect of the show is how unimaginable it is to think of a Sunday night at 8 without The Simpsons. It’s into its 21st season now, with the 20th season just released on DVD (and which I just finished watching). The show has been around for 20 years and here’s how I remember it.
It Can’t Just Be My Childhood I’m Remembering
It interests me that for the 20th anniversary of the longest running primetime cartoon in history, a 20th season DVD comes out with pretty much nothing special about it. Granted, I loved every episode more than I figured I would, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the only special feature included in the “Extras” portion of the DVD: A sneak preview of the 20th anniversary special that isn’t included on the special 20th anniversary 20th season DVD. That’s the sort of thing I’d expect to be parodied on The Simpsons. Otherwise seasons 1-12 are available with each having a bevy of special features and the like. I’m just sort of sad that there is an 8-year gap of seasons we have to slowly close.
My original concept for a Simpsons retrospective was going to be a top ten list of my favorite episodes, but I couldn’t easily identify those from the over 450 choices open to me. If I had to pick, the “Who Shot Mr. Burns” plotline may be my favorite, and any time Sideshow Bob appears I’m quite happy, but I couldn’t choose a conclusive top ten without turning it into a top 20, 30, or just a number one show listing.
Instead we have my ramblings about the series. As a kid my parents were skeptical about The Simpsons. They sat down with me a few times and watched some new episodes with me, laughing the whole time. After that they seemed completely fine with letting me watch, so I made sure to watch the series in syndication religiously. I tried to watch it at my grandparent’s house once, only to have my grandpa tell me he didn’t think it was a good show. “I don’t like how the son backtalks the father,” he says. “That’s disrespectful.” Then we watched an episode anyway and he laughed the whole time, making it welcome in his house as well.
I never saw Bart Simpson as a model for myself to follow. Rather, I understood he was exemplifying everything I really shouldn’t be, despite how much I’d have enjoyed it. I’m a lot older now and thankfully I never became a Bart Simpson. Now I’m a Homer Simpson and too gleefully S-M-R-T to know that I’m nowhere near my potential as an American.
When Burger King had a Simpsons promotion way, way back in the day, I managed to acquire all five family members in “plush” cuteness. And by “plush,” I mean that their bodies were soft but their plastic heads could crack a child’s skull with enough blunt force applied gradually over time (no I didn’t try this on anyway you know of). What was always weird was how Bart’s shirt was never red on any merchandise I could find. He’s always worn the same red shirt/blue shorts combo on the show for 20 years, but merchandise with his likeness frequently had him wearing a blue shirt. I had no clue why they did this but it always bugged me as a kid.
By the time the collectable figures were coming out I was too busy playing with Ninja Turtles to spend any money collecting figures from a comedy program. I was still watching the show every single night, but I had no desire to collect the collectables. Regardless of my lack of participation, The Simpsons figurines are a collector’s dream with each new year getting a handful of wonderful additions. By now you’d have to plunk down some hearty cash to be caught up to the current series.
Instead of the figures, I was busy messing with the video games. The saddest part of all this is that in the 20 years the show has been on, only one Simspons video game has come out that’s been any good: The Simpsons Arcade Game. I played Bart vs The Space Mutants and Bart vs The World on the NES and hated them due to the extremely poor controls, but if you love the Angry Video Game Nerd you already knew that. Something about the arcade game was just magical. I played it into the ground, even managing to beat it, and let me tell you, that’s quite a feat. I still can’t figure out for the life of me why it hasn’t been ported over to Xbox Live by now.
I keep hearing from people that The Simpsons should end already. I disagree on the basis that we need a Simpsons to exist, even if you don’t find it funny anymore. It’s like the evening news at this point. There’s just something comforting about knowing that every Sunday I’ll see the same family from my childhood waiting for me whenever I feel like visiting. Why would you really want to take that away?