Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Decline and Fall of the Simpsons’ Empire

One of the most interesting discussions taking place in the blogosphere these days is over the decline in quality of the Simpsons. People are debating when it jumped the shark and why. A couple of thoughts on the matter:

1) Because it’s a cartoon, there’s still hope. It’s not as if there are real character changes that are internalized by the people doing the voices. If it has jumped the shark, it can jump back over with better writers and fresh ideas.

2) I think we ask too much of the show. It’s given us more entertainment than probably any show in the history of television. There are dozens of episodes that are classic. The fact that most of them are 10 years old doesn’t really take away from that fact. Look at Dylan. Just because he insulted the world with Slow Train Coming, Infidels, and Shot of Love, not to mention the trash he did on those Traveling Wilburys albums, doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks. It’s hard to keep things fresh. And that includes for writers of cartoons.

3) All that said, the quality has severely declined to the point that I rarely watch the show anymore. It’s not that it’s not funny at all. It’s that it could be so much funnier. My moment of jumping the shark came during the episode when they did the Odyssey-based sketch. Generally funny stuff. But when Homer has to cross the River Styx, and the band Styx is playing, Homer says, “This truly is Hell!” Wouldn’t Homer really like Styx? I realized then that the show had become more about the writers than the characters. Of course the writers don’t like Styx, because, you know, they suck. But how funny is it to make fun of Styx? It’s an easy joke. It would have been far funnier had Homer sang along to Mr. Roboto or whatever song they were playing. It had started going downhill several years before that, but I realized at that moment that the show was in serious trouble.