At first glance, The Simpsons are not much of an old show, but it is the longest-running one in the history of television in terms of the number of episodes. This animated sitcom is regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time has won numerous awards during these years, including more than 30 Emmy Awards. Time magazine has included The Simpson in the list of the 20th century’s best series.
The sole creator of the show, Matt Groening, attributes the continued success of the show to its “velocity”. In his interview with a radio channel in 1998, he stated that every group of animators of writers tried to top the previous season, and they tried to include “as many jokes and observations possible in every episode”.
Besides tackling with family relationship issues, The Simpsons cover a variety of issues related to culture and society. In the opinion of Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly, The Simpson has “turned hyper-referentiality into an art form, regularly packing in throwaway references to high and low culture right from the start.” American critic, Paul A. Cantor, regards The Simpsons as “the most sophisticated comedy and satire ever to appear on American television.” Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly once described The Simpsons as “the American family at its most complicated, drawn as simple cartoons.”
The Simpsons was first aired as a part of The Tracey Ullman Show for two years, from April 1987 to May 1989 as short features. The first season was composed of only 7 episodes, but the second and third seasons were 22 and 19 episodes each, respectively.
The Simpson shorts turned out to be very successful and eventually, in 1989, it was adapted into a half-hour series for the Fox Broadcasting Company which premiered on December 17, 1989. It was co-developed by Groening, James L. Brooks, and writer-producer Sam Simon. Brooks was the producer who had initially invited Groening for making animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show.
The Simpsons family and characters were designed and developed by Matt Groening. What he had in mind was a chaotic family atmosphere and “the anxiety of living with people who drive you out of your mind”. As Groening has stated, he was inspired by memories of his family and his favorite show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Although he has emphasized that the characters themselves are not similar to any of his family members, he has named them after his family members and substituted Bart for his name.
An early sketch of The Simpsons family. Groening had initially designed the characters in black & white. They were colored by one of the animators in the team. The yellow body color is said to be processed and approved during the same session. Photo Credit: Matt Groening
Since the beginning, hundreds of celebrities have appeared on the show with their voice, sometimes as themselves and sometimes as new and one-time characters. Larry King and Michael Jackson were among the early guests who appeared as themselves. Some sources state that “Do the Bartman” single in the third season of the show in 1991, was co-written and co-produced by Michael Jackson, but he was uncredited. The producers had stated that the singer was someone who sounded like him, not Michael Jackson himself.
Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Woody Harrelson, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Anne Hathaway, Jason Bateman, Sting, and Stephen Hawking are among the most renowned celebs to appear on The Simpsons episodes. Conan O’Brien who worked in The Simpsons as a writer and producer from 1991 to 1993, also appeared as himself in the show. Moreover, bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Ramones, Cypress Hills, and Sonic Youth were among the bands that performed on the show in their animated form.
After more than 30 years, The Simpsons is still going strong. In addition to a full-feature film in 2007 which was very well received by the audience and critics, a number of video games have been produced based on it since 1991. And the 31st season of The Simpsons has already begun. The last episode of the season in 2019 was aired on December 15 and the rest of the season will be continued as of January 15, 2020.