‘The Simpsons’ was at one point a must-see show. Somewhere along the way though, the animated family’s adventures lost their magic. Anticipation for new episodes is not nearly the same as it was during the golden age in the 1990s. Why did America’s favorite animated family go from the mainstream to an after-thought?
The Guest Voices:
Guest stars can convince someone who is not a frequent watcher of the show to tune in. During the earlier years, The Simpsons used the guest star technique sparingly and this was perfect. When the Springfield Power Plant softball ball team recruited some of Major League Baseball’s best players, we were treated to a great episode where the guest stars were making fun of themselves more than anything else. Rodney Dangerfield had an appearance as the illegitimate son of Mr. Burns, basically playing himself. Other early instances of celebrity guest voices were done right. In the new era, The Simpsons have overdone the celebrity voice of the week gimmick. They went from treating it like a special thing to making the guest star a weekly occurrence. This became bland quickly and something fans never embraced. The guest star of the week should never be the highlight of an episodic show.
Getting Too Serious:
Episodes like the one where Maude Flanders was killed did not fit the show’s motif. The show always had important points about family and friendship. Where the show’s direction went wrong is when the seriousness outweighed the show’s humor. For instance, the episode where Bart sells his soul deals with some heavy subject matter for a ten-year-old boy to go through. The episode was deep, but never made us feel like we were watching a drama over a comedy. At some point the more serious episodes kept the humor to a minimum. At each act’s end, the familiar gloomy musical tune would play and we would watch as a character hangs their head low right before cutting to a commercial for a cable company that has a monopoly in the area.
Inconsistent Story Structure:
The best episodes of ‘The Simpsons’ followed a very basic and perfect format. The first act introduced a small story and from this story we get to the A-plot and possibly the B-plot. The second act guides us through the plots and the third act resolves the conflict. What went wrong is this structure died out. Stories began taking way too long to develop and by the time we knew what the episode was about things were halfway over.
Overtaken By Influenced Shows:
When ‘The Simpsons’ first began it was the only show of its kind. An animated edgy-humored cartoon that adults could enjoy was a brand new idea. Then came shows like ‘South Park’, ‘Family Guy’, everything on the Cartoon Network, and so on. ‘The Simpsons’ was no longer the only choice in its genre. With so many more options, the show lost its popularity. Worst of all was how much longer it would take to create an episode for the show than it would for ‘South Park’. By the time an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ hits the airwaves, months have passed and any topical humor is now often outdated. The show has simply become almost irrelevant in the pop-culture scheme of things due to how long it takes to make point about society.
There is very little left for ‘The Simpsons’ to do. They have traveled to every continent other than Antarctica, met celebrities of all types, and every background character has at some point had a plot revolve around them. The worst part of it all is the show has gotten away from the ideas that did work. When was the last time ‘The Simpsons’ had a catchy song? New recurring characters are never introduced and because of that the show never surprises us. It feels like in many ways the writers got lazy. Instead of continuing with what worked they began giving us boring plots.
Any show airing for more than two decades would decline as ‘The Simpsons’ has. It’s now only a matter of time before the show comes to an end. The show still has its moments and not every episode is a complete waste of time. It will unquestionably be a missed irreplaceable fixture of the Fox Sunday Night Lineup once it does finally depart the television airwaves.