Welcome to my personal and unofficial salute to The Simpsons.
This blog is revisiting every Simpsons episode, 25 years to the day since they were broadcast for the first time.
I’m publishing a review of each show on the occasion of its silver anniversary.
I shall go on doing it until I run out of patience, or run out of constructive things to say, or quite possibly both. Because this project has an end point. The Simpsons used to be one of the best programmes on television. Then it became one of the worst. I’m writing this blog to find out when that happened and why. Was it a slow deterioration or a sudden slump? And who or what was responsible? When I think I’ve found the answers, I’ll stop.
I’m also writing this blog because even after a quarter of a century there is plenty yet to be said about The Simpsons, and the format I have chosen will – if nothing else – give me plenty of time and space to do so.
In particular, there are various things that tend to get overlooked in reviews and analyses of the show. The music, for instance. It’s a vital element of every episode, yet – signature tune aside – barely gets acknowledged. The animation often gets nudged aside by critics in favour of the voices and the gags. And then there’s possibly the most important ingredient of all: the tone. What does each show make us feel? How does it connect with us emotionally – and if it doesn’t, what’s gone wrong?
To give due weight to these kinds of factors, I’ve structured my reviews around 10 categories. For each, I’ll give a mark out of 10. I’ll then conclude my review with a “final score” out of 100, expressed as a percentage.
The categories are:
What kind of story does the episode try and tell, and how well does it succeed?
How much do we care about who we are seeing on screen, and why?
Locations and design
Where is the episode set and how does this contribute to the show’s impact and success?
Pardon My Zinger
Named after Waylon Smithers’ favourite show on Comedy Central, this category looks at each episode’s best jokes. Or lack of them.
What do they bring to the episode? Should they have even bothered turning up?
How well the score and any songs complement the rest of the action.
What sort of performances do we get from the cast?
The skill and craft that have carried each episode from the page to the screen.
Homages, spoofs, fantasies
These quickly become one of the show’s signature elements, but to what extent are they inspired or just plain irritating?
Emotion and tone
How successfully do all the different ingredients come together to make us believe in what we are watching, and make us invest our feelings in the show?
Over time I’ll be comparing scores for each episode within a season, and then across different seasons. Yes, it’s an arbitrary way of saying whether something is great or not, but there’ll be plenty of words and pictures among all the numbers as well.
The Simpsons was one of the few television programmes that had a reasonable claim to be called revolutionary. Revolutions usually change things as much for the worse as for the better, but things are always different once they have happened. A distance of 25 years feels like enough perspective to try and work out what happened with The Simpsons. It’s also a neat hook for a blog.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy what you see.