By the start of the 1990’s; seismic changes were occurring across the social, political and economic board: technology was booming, the economy was glooming and the new millennium was quickly approaching. The world was growing up and it was time for television to grow up with it. This meant going back to basics; “goodbye” to the fantastical Jeannies, Samanthas, Munsters and Addams that permeated the 60’s and 70’s and a “Hello Newman” to an onslaught of the more grounded shows of Seinfeld, Frasier and Mad about you; shows that poked fun at the mundane and allowed for self-reflection as we geared towards a new beginning.
However one show was to come along in 1989 and mark a perpetual midpoint between those two eras; combining the fantasy with the reality, the mundane with the insane and would quickly develop into an undisputed cultural, social phenomenon that continues to this very minute. It’s name: The Simpsons.
The premise is simple, a dysfunctional family in a middle-class town is nothing new but via the magical tools of animation, their simple troubles was put on an imagination hyper-speed that propelled the show into the forefront of global attention and audience wonderment. Just as the word has been digitalized, the same was the happen for TV through this show where animation could provide a “richer and more appealing…experience” for audiences just as technology could do so for learning according to the 2003 PITAC – Report to the President Information Technology: Transforming our Society.
Simpsons was a revelation for television and the way content could be presented; any global location could be visited without buying a ticket, the world’s biggest stars could appear without them even leaving their house, children could be strangled (don’t do it though) without lawsuits, elaborate locations could be filmed without hiring a single designer. Anything was possible with just the flick of a pencil and that was a game-changer.
Over 500 episodes it’s maintained a stratospheric quality of writing, visual quality and storyline concepts as well as providing valid social opinions and views in every episode, often several in one. No matter the target; every Simpsons plot has messages even if it only pertains to the current state of family life or human behaviour. Read a synopsis on any episode and you can see it all for yourself (be prepared to read between lines though). http://meblogwritegood.wordpress.com/
This blog offers an almost peerless episode-by-episode review and commentary of Simpsons episodes; that can not only aid a catch-up and provide laughs but really enable you to see for yourself all the cultural and social messages which this post is trying to get at and that the show is putting out there, assuming my post didn’t already thoroughly convince you
Some prime examples of Simpsons commentary to get you started is the environmental and slightly anti-consumerist “Trash of the Titans”, the anti-tabloid “Homer Badman”, the delightfully pro-gay “Homer’s phobia” and “Sideshow Bob Roberts” one of the many, many political episodes.
The show really spear-headed a new direction for 21st century life; taking risks. Here was a family and show that broke almost every taboo in TV: In the 90′s it was unheard of for a family on TV to ever be seen going to Church or even watching TV! Simpsons did it. TV kids never misbehaved and families never openly fought. Simpsons did it. No show ever overtly satirized current and sensitive issues. Simpsons did it. And since the Flinstons in the 70′s there was no animated series on primetime but Simpsons did, is and continues to be the ultimate. What’s more is The Simpsons was the flagship show of Fox, the first new network on American TV since the 1940’s which many believed wouldn’t survive. But here we stand in 2012, more TV networks and controversial shows than you can poke a remote at, all because of the bulletproof precedent that was set all those years ago: The Simpsons did it.
So there you go; the broad implications and messages that lies beneath a show that many perhaps doubted were there. May The Simpsons continue to make us laugh and reflect life through yellow-coloured glass and may you tune in again soon as I lift the lid on another great show.