The Big Picture: The Simpsons Is Still Funny - Pt. 1

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Okay Bob, here's a simple test to see if you're right that the Simpsons has stayed pretty consistently funny: watch a good chunk of whatever recent season you like (anywhere from 14-23, let's say). Then watch a good chunk of the episodes from season 8.

Do you notice a difference? That difference is that one season is from an amazing show, and one season is from a tolerably funny show. It's not bad right now, but you're not missing out on anything important if you've skipped it for about the last decade either.

South Park has followed more or less the same arc as this Simpsons has for me, from dismissal to grudging respect to honest enjoyment to fading laughs to a realization that, at some point, I'd stopped watching.

One problem the show has today compared to in the past, which the guys working on the Simpsons have themselves admitted, is the fact the airing time given to television shows has been cut down from year to year. This means less content per episode and can quite often there isn't enough room for a B story, which often had the funniest jokes.

I watched the Simpsons until I discovered family guy and jumped ship to the show promptly.

Oddly, I wasn't allowed to watch this show as a kid. When I did start watching it and paying attention it was because it was funny. Then I didn't watch it much and started watching again and didn't find the joke very funny so I stopped watching it. That's all I know, that's all I care about.


Still dosen't explain why "That 90's Show" is the biggest spit in the face for longtime viewers. I HATE that episode, same with "Kill the Gator and Run" and "Sattlesore Galactica".

I think we can all agree though, "Marge vs the Monorail" is one of, if not THE best episodes of the series.

I actually kinda like "That 90's Show", people take it way too seriously. I just thought it was a fun parody of the 90's, not the continuity destroying abomination the fanbase thinks it is. I do agree that Marge vs. the Monorail is the best episode.

As for the video, I don't think this really holds up. I watched The Simpsons for years before I quit and while the older ones definitely have a few downs (The first two seasons are really bad), the new ones only have a few gems and way too many missed opportunities. I don't think the whole, "you liked it better because you were a kid and it was edgy" defense holds up. I haven't seen Akira, but I find it hard to believe that that's a good reasoning for it's critical acclaim either. Although, I would apply that dichotomy to Ninja Scroll...

For fuck sakes Bob. Why is it every time I start to like you again you release another "Big Picture" that seems to exists for the sole purpose of stirring up a flame war in your thread?

You are already popular, do you really need do pull these antics to inflate your views and comment numbers?

review about simpsons still being good?
Simpsons did it!

While I can definitely follow your thread of logic, I think it only applies to your age group (grew up in the 80s not). No I don't think the first 10 seasons were the best, yes they always had clunkers, but in truth they still managed to maintain their series as possibly the greatest and funniest show on TV for until around the Simpsons Movie (which was still fairly good) then the writing changed. Now make no mistake, there are some new episodes that still hold up, but as things go the writing really isn't as good as it once was. While the writers used to make insightful jokes about things, they now seem to think mentioning the topic is the same as joking about it.

And also, it does come to the simple fact that no matter what the Simpsons do:
Simpsons did it!

Last 3 Seasons of the simpsons have been stellar. Just wanted to put that out there.

Agree completely with Moviebob on this one. The episode 'A Streetcar named Marge' I now see as one of the best single cartoon episodes of all time.
Also, the latest episode is excellent. I've grown up with Simpsons over the years, and just like LOTR, Star Wars and Halo it will remain with me forever.

Maybe it's because I've stopped regularly watching The Simpsons (Not for any particular reason), but I don't know how you guys can tell the seasons apart. It's all just a big yellow, simpsony blur to me.

Good episode Bob. See you friday.

Bob, that's all valid theorizing, and I get your point... but there's no mention of how the writing has clearly declined. I guess you could just say "The writing is as funny as ever!" but come on, we all know that's not true. Something happened around seasons 15 and 16, and the show has not gotten better.

You can invent a logical argument showing how people create fallacies because of their own skewed perspective, and it may be partially true, but that doesn't explain the obvious drop in quality. And no, it isn't me being nostalgic, the way I watched that show makes nostalgia basically impossible. It's clear that the writing has gotten worse, that's a fault of the writers not the fans. No amount of theorizing can change the shows almost objectively noticeable decline.

Though I'll admit, I gave up completely after season 20 and have hardly watched any new episodes since. If it's gotten better, cool, but I doubt it. Season 1 was not that great, season 7 or 8 was the apex, season 14 was the last genuinely good one. If we're still talking about the funny (and I assume we are, despite most of this episode being largely unaffiliated with The Simpson's humor), then you should focus on that. Guessing about why people no longer think it's funny and why it's not as popular as before are two different things. The original fanbase might've grown up, but how does that automatically mean they no longer appreciate humor? How does growing up excuse the decline of funny writing?

I see "The good writers left/got burnt out/realistically ran out of ideas after fifteen years" as a much more likely scenario than "A select group of fans became blindingly nostalgic at the same moment but let's ignore the other dissenting fans that don't fall into the original category. And by the way, the writers have been going strong for over twenty years." But I guess the obvious answer wouldn't have made an interesting Big Picture episode.

No bob the Simpsons is not still funny. I can go back and watch the first 14 seasons and laugh like hell and appreciate the humor and writing because it is brilliant. It just isn't good anymore. It really dropped off after season 10 or 11 and totally dropped off after 14.


The audience changed, obviously, but so did the formula. I think it was Groening that talked about how as his personal life changed, as well as that of the staff and writers, the formula changed from being about the comedic antics of Bart Simpson to the sill adventures of Homer Simpson. Watch early seasons and you will see exactly what he's talking about. There is a palpable but subtle transition from things being largely Bart-centric to lots of plots that made Homer essentially the star of the show.

As we grew up, so did the Simpsons, as Bob mentions in the perceptual sense, but in many ways the writing did this pretty literally as well. We all matured together, and I still love the show.

I allways saw it as Bart and Homer were co-stars in the begining but then its seemed they started to expand to other cast members a bit to much with Marge and Lisa getting at least two episodes each a season and then like 6 more minor cast featured episodes.

You're absolutely right. The focus on supporting characters is a part of how the show has played out over the years. I was mostly referring to an interview with Matt Groening, where he talked about how being a father changed how he approached The Simpsons. The comedic of life as a dad was a big influence on later years of the show, I believe somewhere between season 5 and season 10. Sorry I can't be more specific, but he mentions it in the interview as an area of time where they made a transition, and the show's comedic dynamic shifted with the dynamic of his personal life.

I can't say specifically how many episodes anyone got, but their rich and diverse cast of characters has always been one of their biggest strengths, and it's paid off on centric episodes designed to shift focus on others like Moe, Sideshow Bob, Apu, even Ralph Wiggum.

I still like "The Simpsons"... but I don't watch much of it anymore. I dunno, I guess I kinda lost interest. That didn't keep me from loving the movie, and the later seasons had some pretty good episodes (one of my personal favorites is "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind".)

But hey, to each their own...

Was it Futurama? It was Futurama wasn't it? I'm just going to say Futurama as I love Futurama so much. FUTURAMA, Futurama, futurama...

I agree that old Simpson's episodes are indeed still funny, I could watch Homer fall down the Springfield Gorge over and over again laughing the entire time.

Beyond that, let's just agree to disagree.

For me it was the repetition. Around Season 13 I noticed a trend of episodes that followed a pretty specific formula. 1) Homer does something. 2) Marge gets mad at him for it, leaving Homer both confused and scared for their marriage. 3) Homer does something crazy to win her back.

There were big, grasping handfuls of these episodes. Sometimes they weren't even very well thought out. Homer's antics that lead to Marge's anger only occasionally had anything to do with Marge, so how she decided to get 'storm out of the room' mad at him seems really confusing. On top of that, her reactions were often fly-off-the-handle rage moments, acting as if she'd been putting up with years of neglect with not effort on his part to prove how much he cared for her, even though we can clearly remember several cases where he often went to insane lengths to prove how much he loves her. Finally, Homer's attempts to win Marge over again were often so temporary and shallow that they didn't solve or even address her supposed reasons for being mad at him, and they just end the episode there.

When was the last time you saw Marge prepare a second wedding for Homer, or put herself at risk with mobsters to ensure Homer's business was successful? I know the show exists in a really flimsy, timeless kind of continuity where past actions may as well have never happened, but come on. Marge should be throwing these kinds of things in other women's faces. Oh, your husband got a promotion, my husband was the MAYOR. My husband went to SPACE. My husband bends over backwards for me, sometimes literally and painfully, just to see me smile. What do I reward him with? Irrational temper tantrums about how I'm somehow left out of his life, playing like I'm some kind of caged housewife so he has to work even harder to win me over next time. Have you even watched episodes that focus on Marge? She had a few interesting ones in the early seasons, like one of the earliest episodes where Homer actually does something insensitive and selfish on her birthday by giving her a bowling ball with his own name on it, and to spite him she goes bowling and meets a charming man and for a moment you're wondering if she's going to start some kind of affair with him buts he picks the moral high ground and goes back to Homer.

And before you say "well that should just tell you that Homer has to do more to deserve her," there have been several, SEVERAL more times where Homer has been in a similar position, and he always picked Marge over them. And they weren't just random people, they were up-and-coming music stars and gorgeous women who were his perfect match. And he let them go to keep Marge.

These days, you're hard pressed to see Marge go outside. The most recent "crazy" thing I can remember off the top of my head was when she tried to make Vincent Price Easter eggs with Lisa. Or when she bought a doorbell. The writers seem to be so afraid of giving her a personality of her own that she has become every bit the boring housewife she seems to hate when she gets mad at Homer. Like cooping herself up in her own home is somehow his fault. Remember when she got breast implants? She was barely involved; it was more about all the people around her reacting to them. And she just decides to flash the crowd at the end, 'cause somehow that saves the day by helping Krusty the Clown remember some elephant safe word.

This is writing at its laziest and you can bark about all the good jokes you want, and how "oh, it's just a comedy, don't worry about it," but if you do you're a bigger hypocrite than the people who tell us to lay off Michael Bay's Transformers movies, because you're sitting here talking about how relevant The Simpsons still is by ignoring its glaring flaws. Maybe it 'cause the show has been running for almost two decades, but it was showing its age at Season 10. You can argue some kind of quasi-sociological reason for it, how "we all just grew up" and now we have to hate the show just to avoid the stigma of being too old for it, but I say that's horsefeathers. The saying "Simpson's did it" isn't just said to poke fun at shows like Family Guy or South Park, it's a catchall, including The Simpsons itself. Name a single episode past Season 10, and I'll name you at least three that match its plot almost verbatim from previous seasons. Famous guest stars popping in with no rhyme or reason don't count, and are in fact the exception that proves the rule of a series that has long since passed its expiry date.

That being said, I really would rather watch it than Family Guy, which started out "Seth MacFarlane talks to himself" and turned into "Seth MacFarlane talks to himself with pop culture references," and its sister show, "Seth MacFarlane talks to himself in a conservative Christian right voice with pop culture references."

This applies to me more so with Spongebob. And you have the Complete UltraMan series? Do.Want.

I suspect much of what was said is true.

Personally, I've always loved it. I liked it when it was breaking new ground, I like how it got sillier, and I love how self-aware it is nowadays.

Best. Cartoon. Ever.

Right now I am close to turning 19 and haven't really watched the simpsons since I was 16. Maybe I wasn't around for its apparent "golden age" but there was a definite point where I stopped enjoying the series, which funnily enough was right after the horrible movie.

You can try to make as many explanations as you want but I dont think anyone can deny some of the later seasons are just plain awful. I don't mean just a few episodes, entire seasons. It's getting better now but that doesn't forgive some of the episodes that were just plain lazy.

It pulled a family guy and did a lot of jokes that were drawn out until it just got painfull to watch, not the snappy one-liner humor we all knew from before.

I'm gonna be honest here. I don't like the simpsons. I never did. I never even thought it was funny in a "too crude" kinda way, like a lot of people who don't like it. I just don't find it funny. Sure, its' good for a chuckle here and there, but it's just not funny enough to even get one good laugh out of me in most episodes.

What changed? 2 things for me:

1) The show lost it's timeless quality. Its now devolved into way too many pop-culture references and "celebrity-of-the-week" appearances that are going to meaningless 5 years after they air.

2) They repeat story lines over, and over, and over. I'm sick and tired of seeing the same "Marge gets angry at Homer for being stupid and threatens to leave but then doesn't" storyline, and yet they keep on doing it.

no matter who we are we can all agree.

the first couple of episodes were pretty awful

Oh man, they really are. Even the first season, maybe even after that. It was unfunny, and really oddly traditionalist, especially given how satirical in nature it became, it was just miles away from what it would become.

OT: I still maintain that by and large, most simpsons past 2000 sucks. I missed out on quite a few of the older ones back in the day, and watching them now they're still absolutely brilliant, whereas the newer stuff is just unfunny guff. I did check back in for the christmas special this year on a recommendation though, by god has it picked up a lot. It was a damn fine episode. If modern simpsons is at that level I have to start watching again.

I first started watching it when i was a kid and it was the best thing ever, i also watched ninja turtles and whatnot, now you would have to pay me to watch that stuff, but not simpsons, i still watch it, even if i dont enjoy it as much nowadays, but its still a decent show unlike many others.

I'm going to partially agree with the statement that there's no clear point at which the Simpsons started to decline and agree that it had its ups and downs, but as someone who didn't fall in love with the Simpsons in season one or so, I still think it's had a decline. The last episodes I watched were still funny, but not as enchantingly so.

Okay, so cards on the table. I live in a small town in Vermont. Actually, for Vermont it's not all that small, but for just about any state that matters, it's a teeny-tiny postage stamp of a town. I saw Dinosaurs before I saw the Simpsons because at the time, we didn't have a Fox affiliate. Seriously, this was a thing. For a few years, actually. I know people from metropolitan areas and those ten years behind me look at me as though I suggested we cure depression by drilling holes in the patient's head. Seriously, they look at me like this was some dark age. We still occasionally have this kind of problem, as the WB/CW merger left us without an affiliate that carried that programming for a couple years (and may not have been resolved).

So. No early Simpsons for me. I caught up with it later, when we did get a Fox affiliate. And I enjoyed it on a lot of levels, from satire to the antics of Bart. My brother and I were precocious fuckers who picked up on the satire in Dinosaurs faster than our parents did. And our ability to between us remember every line of the show didn't hurt. So when I started watching the Simpsons, I saw much of the same. Loved the lampooning of pop culture, loved the plots, loved a lot of the subtlety that reminded me of earlier Zucker/Abrahms/Zucker movies. Loved that there was stuff I missed and could find even years later. Yes, that was cool.

And I enjoyed the Simpsons well after the usual watermark of season 9/10/11. More than enjoyed it. Thought it was a great show. but at some point in the 2000s, the show had really visually declined. While I would honestly call it "better than most comedies/sitcoms on the air," it was no longer great, but just good. Yeah, it was still funny, but hardly what it once was.

Is some of that nostalgia? Perhaps, but I can pop in a DVD of a "classic" season and laugh harder. There are a lot of shows I've gone back to and realised they were crap, or just filtered through the eyes of a child. Those that were neither, I cherish all the more, and I think Simpsons is one of them.

But honestly, while I could probably find the new season watchable, I doubt I would laugh as much or as hard. I doubt I would enjoy it on a similar level.

The Simpsons can't still be anything.

The show died roughly 14 years ago, and even then it was long past its prime. The Fox network show masquerading as the Simpsons is a walking corpse, so faint a visage of its former self that all artistic pretense has been dropped in favor of taking the laziest path available to achieve merely a marginal amount of comparative success.

"I'd be mortified if someone ever made a lousy product with the 'Simpson' name on it."

Lisa Simpson should be rolling in her grave to hear that this quote from 'Lisa vs Malibu Stacy', then directed as a jab against the large amount of Simpsons merchandise (including several unplayable video games), can be applied to the current incarnation of the show.

I have no respect for your opinion, or anyone who holds said opinion. The show is objectively worse than it was, and being better than other things does not grant a legitimate reason for its continued existence.

No its just bad Bob.
It has nothing to do with nolstagia, its just horribly written nowadays.
The older Simpsons had subtle humour that I only realise now as a grown up and the newer one has Family Guy style humour, with wacky adventures and constant pop culture references.

I don't know what happened, it could have been running out of ideas, bad new writers, who knows.
But the fact is, its simply not as good anymore and no level of handwaving will make that fact go away

Actually I'm confused. Granted I know Bob will expand on it more next week but for now there's this.

He mentioned an example of changed views... based on episodes in the first season then latter referenced how we grew up and understood better episodes... examples shown including those from season 5+.

5+ is fine. The last 8 or so not so much... and I never liked season 1, or 2 for that matter.

Basically what I'm (awkwardly) getting at is the decline of quality has nothing to do with age, nostalgia etc, I literally just think the humor falls flat more often now IE less than stellar writing on average.


There was a point that the Simpson started to rely on celebrity cameos and "wackiness" and the elements of society that it tried to parody became far more of the moment; as opposed to the classics and cultural touchstones anybody could relate to that were turned over for laughs and relatable situations n the earlier seasons.

Whereas Season 3, 4 and 5 do not have a single bad episode.

If anybody can name an episode that competes with the genius of 'Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk', 'Homer's Triple Bypass', 'Whacking Day', 'The Last Temptation of Homer' or the all time greatest episode 'Last Exit to Springfield' then I'd like to know about it.

All of those episodes from those 3 seasons were of that standard whereas when I watch a new episode I don't know whether I'm going to maybe give it a light chuckle, or throw shit at the television in teeth nashing disgust.

And people wonder why young adults like MLP:FIM. Pretty stuff for the kids, plenty of references for the older crowd.

So your saying that humor is subjective however don't get why people don't find something funny. *GASP SOUNDS* THATS SHOCKING AND CONTROVERSIAL BOB!

Its a two part why though?

I can see what you're talking about Bob.

It's sort of like me with Calvin and Hobbes. As a child, I enjoyed the art style and Calvin's various antics. Now that I'm older though, I can appreciate some of the more subtle and grown up things the strip has to offer. Such as Calvin's talk with Hobbes about how animals love you unconditionally and never judge you. Or when Calvin tries to charge $15 for a glass of lemonade using supply and demand as an excuse. Those are just a few examples I can think of off the top of my head.

As for The Simpsons, I don't really watch it anymore in terms of new episodes, but if I do see some older ones on TV, I'd watch them.

havent watched it for years now. maybe because the TV station (back in australia) was showing the same stuff over and over again that i got bored and dint pay attention to it anymore.
still like the simpsons and always will, but yes, they have change in a good and bad way at the same time. it is still funny and has some nice parody moments, but sure not as the first few seasons.

now im more in to futurama and cant wait to hold the new dvd in my hands.

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