Before Family Guy and South Park, The Simpsons started it all. A cartoon that an adult could watch without appearing socially stunted, it was a great, big, yellowy pioneer that changed animation and TV comedy for the better.
It had it all: iconic (and, more importantly, relatable) characters, hilarious storylines, quoteable one-liners and a theme tune that you could whistle better than the national anthem. But then it got massive. Vast amounts of money started to roll in, celebrity product placement invaded every single episode and they released a cash-in movie. It sold out to the very man that it originally mocked and it all went to shit. And yet, like You’ve Been Framed, it goes on. And on. And on.
Sure, we can sit in denial about its decline and pretend that it’s stil a glorious piece of televisual satire, though really, we’re just clinging to some long-lost nostalgia and hanging on to punchlines past to justify why we loved it in the first place. Lying to ourself, clinging on to old dreams and loves like a dad at a rock show. And we’re not the only ones that have noticed it.
Matt Groening, the show’s bearded creator, the man that turned Homer Simpson – a character based on his dad – into a portly pop culture icon, has also reached breaking point. “I think we should have ended it years ago. I watch Breaking Bad,’ he told KBBL-TV.
"I don't know why Fox keeps renewing it. The jokes aren't good, the storylines are a mess and episodes are forgettable. I think the staff and co-creators agree. But the money keeps rolling in and Fox says we're better than ever, so what do you do?"
In Groening’s case, you distance yourself from the whole project and publicly slate the very son you gave birth to. It’s like being told by your favourite teacher that they’re not angry, they’re just disappointed. Only the disappointment extends much further and doesn’t just cause a momentary disruption, it destroys an entire legacy.
The Simpsons was brilliant and should always be remembered at its peak, but it’s slowly but surely becoming a cynical and embarrassing cash cow. Maybe it’s time, like Breaking Bad, Dexter, Cheers and Friends, for it to take a final bow and go out while it’s still got a flicker of glory left in it.
Then again, maybe it just needs to take heed of Groening’s words, splash some water on its face and remember the original, uncompromising Simpsons values. Perhaps it could still be salvaged by shaking things up in the way that only the residents of Springfield know how. Indeed the show’s recent announcement that they’re killing off a major character could be a reflection of this. A slate being wiped clean and daubed with Bart-like detention lines of ‘We will be better, we will better, we will be better…’
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Words by Jordan Waller. Follow his bearded mug on Twitter here.
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