The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Please Stop Making Me Hate The Simpsons

Elizabeth Grunewald | 8 Dec 2010 21:25
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I want to make this very clear: I love The Simpsons. Two Simpsons episodes, "You Only Move Twice" and "Cape Feare," rank in my top ten episodes of all television. The show could plumb the depths of human experience while splitting sides, and has been recognized for its brilliance by critics, academics, and just about everyone I consider a friend.

I say "could" because The Simpsons should have been canceled about twelve years ago.

There were a few bright points after season 10. If the show had been canceled after a decade, we wouldn't have seen the conspiracy of the Albuquerque Isotopes in Season 12's "Hungry Hungry Homer," or the villainy of Frank Grimes, Jr. in Season 14's "The Great Louse Detective." Hell, even Season 15 had a moment or two, particularly Homer's tenure as ambulance driver in "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife." After Season 8 or so, though, the show began to drop off sharply in terms of originality and humor. Including even Season 10 in "the good years" is frankly a generosity on my part.

Yet here we are, in the show's 22nd season, and the show has been recently renewed for a 23rd. Meanwhile, the Fox Broadcasting Corporation (the network airing The Simpsons) continues to purchase and cancel shows willy-nilly. The network's name has become nearly synonymous with mismanagement and cancellation. Yet Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and little Maggie grace our sets week after week with their increasingly unfunny antics.

Okay, Fox. Let's you and me make a deal. I will forgive you a certain number of unnecessary Simpsons seasons if you'll apologize for the following cancellations.

Arrested Development (2003-2006)

I'll give you a little bit of credit here for keeping Arrested Development on for three seasons. Only a little bit, though, because your treatment of this brilliant property was just disgraceful. First you moved its timeslot, then you truncated seasons. When you balled up enough to just cancel the thing, you aired its series finale against the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Really, Fox? That's just cruel.

I can sort of understand your point of view. "Critically acclaimed" does not mean "non-critics watch this, too," and Arrested Development was not a show that would easily catch the casual viewer. Arrested Development required a commitment. To say the show made use of running gags and in-jokes would be like saying Bruce Wayne was unhappy when his parents died, or cheese is a necessary ingredient in a grilled cheese sandwich. Individual AD can be decently funny when viewed alone, but it's impossible to absorb the program's genius use of nuance without having watched every preceding episode. It was difficult to recommend to others, because beyond, "it's so damn funny," there wasn't much one could say about it without giving a lecture and drawing a chart. I get it, Fox. Arrested Development wasn't worth the effort for you.

Perhaps it's for the best. The show is much more easily consumed on DVD, to better separate all the tender, flaky layers. That doesn't forgive that you denied me more antics with Lucille II and the dizzies and replaced them with Abe Simpson's senility, or that you trot out endorsements for other shows thinly disguised as guest stars (I'm looking at you, Glee) when I've already seen Charlize Theron as the enigmatic Mr. F. That was even a low point of the series for me, yet it far outstrips anything The Simpsons is currently spewing forth in terms of humor, originality, and courage. I'll forgive you Simpsons seasons 19-22 for an Arrested Development apology, and I'll throw in 18 for letting Tobias say "I just blue myself."

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