The Simpsons

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The Simpsons

Clockwise from top left: Marge, Homer, Bart, Santa's Little Helper (dog), Snowball II (cat), Lisa, and Maggie in the center.
Genre Animation
Created by Matt Groening
Developed by James L. Brooks
Matt Groening
Sam Simon
Voices of Dan Castellaneta
Julie Kavner
Nancy Cartwright
Yeardley Smith
Hank Azaria
Harry Shearer
(Complete list)
Theme music composer Danny Elfman
Opening theme "The Simpsons Theme"
Composer(s) Alf Clausen
Country of origin  United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 20
No. of episodes 436 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Al Jean
James L. Brooks
Matt Groening
Sam Simon
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Gracie Films
20th Century Fox Television
Original channel FOX
Picture format SDTV 480i (1989–2009)
HDTV 720p (2009–present)
Audio format Dolby Surround (NTSC), Dolby Digital 2.0 (ATSC) (1989–2009)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (2009–present)
Original run December 17, 1989 – present
Related shows The Tracey Ullman Show
External links
Official website

The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its eponymous family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield, and lampoons American culture, society and television, and many aspects of the human condition.

The family was conceived by Groening shortly before a pitch for a series of animated shorts with the producer James L. Brooks. Groening created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after members of his own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show and was an early hit for Fox, becoming the first Fox series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–1990).

Since its debut on December 17, 1989 the show has broadcast 436 episodes and the twentieth season began airing on September 28, 2008.[1] The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 26 and July 27, 2007, and grossed US$526.2 million worldwide.

The Simpsons has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 24 Emmy Awards, 26 Annie Awards and a Peabody Award. Time magazine's December 31, 1999 issue named it the 20th century's best television series, and on January 14, 2000 the Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program and as of 2008 is tied with Gunsmoke as the longest running American primetime entertainment series. Homer's annoyed grunt "D'oh!" has been adopted into the English lexicon, while The Simpsons has influenced many adult-oriented animated sitcoms.



Groening conceived of the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. Brooks had asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series. However, when Groening realized that animating Life in Hell would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life's work, he chose another approach and formulated his version of a dysfunctional family.[2] He named the characters after his own family members, substituting "Bart" for his own name.[3]

The Simpson family as they first appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show.

The Simpson family first appeared as shorts in The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987.[4] Groening submitted only basic sketches to the animators and assumed that the figures would be cleaned-up in production. However, the animators merely re-traced his drawings, which led to the crude appearance of the characters in the initial short episodes.[3]

In 1989, a team of production companies adapted The Simpsons into a half-hour series for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The team included what is now the Klasky Csupo animation house. Jim Brooks negotiated a provision in the contract with the Fox network that prevented Fox from interfering with the show's content.[5] Groening said his goal in creating the show was to offer the audience an alternative to what he called "the mainstream trash" that they were watching.[6] The half-hour series premiered on December 17, 1989 with "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", a Christmas special.[7] "Some Enchanted Evening" was the first full-length episode produced, but it did not broadcast until May 1990 because of animation problems.[8]

The Simpsons was the Fox network's first TV series to rank among a season's top 30 highest-rated shows.[9] The show's success prompted Fox to expand its schedule to a new night (Thursday) and put it head-to-head against the number one ranked The Cosby Show which ultimately hurt the ratings of The Simpsons.[10] In 1992, Tracey Ullman filed a lawsuit against Fox, claiming that her show was the source of the series' success. The suit said she should receive a share of the profits of The Simpsons—a claim rejected by the courts.[11]

The show was controversial from its beginning. The rebellious lead character at the time, Bart, frequently received no punishment for his misbehavior, which led some parents and conservatives to characterize him as a poor role model for children.[12][13] At the time, then-President George H. W. Bush said, "We're going to strengthen the American family to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons."[14] Several U.S. public schools even banned The Simpsons merchandise and t-shirts, such as one featuring Bart and the caption "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')".[14] Despite the ban, The Simpsons merchandise sold well and generated US$2 billion in revenue during the first 14 months of sales.[14]


Executive producers

List of show runners throughout the series' run:

Matt Groening and James L. Brooks have served as executive producers during the show's entire history, and also function as creative consultants. Sam Simon, who served as creative supervisor for the first four seasons, also still receives an executive producer credit despite not having worked on the show since 1993.[15] A more involved position on the show is the show runner, who acts as head writer and manages the show's production for an entire season.[16]


Al Jean (left) is the current executive producer of the show and David Mirkin (right) is a former executive producer and has been a part of the writing staff since 1994.

The Simpsons' writing team consists of sixteen writers who propose episode ideas at the beginning of each December.[17] The main writer of each episode writes the first draft. Group rewriting sessions develop final scripts by adding or removing jokes, inserting scenes, and calling for re-readings of lines by the show’s vocal performers.[18] The leader of these sessions is George Meyer, who has developed the show since Season One. According to long-time writer Jon Vitti, Meyer usually invents the best lines in a given episode, even though other writers may receive script credits.[18] Each episode takes six months to produce so the show rarely comments on current events.[19] However, episodes occasionally mention planned events, such as the Olympics or the Super Bowl.

Part of the writing staff of The Simpsons in 1992. Back row, left to right: Mike Mendel, Colin ABV Lewis (partial), Jeff Goldstein, Al Jean (partial), Conan O'Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Mike Reiss, Ken Tsumara, George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti (partial), CJ Gibson and David M. Stern. Front row, left to right: Dee Capelli, Lona Williams and unknown.

Credited with sixty episodes, John Swartzwelder is the most prolific writer on The Simpsons' staff.[20] One of the best-known former writers is Conan O'Brien, who contributed to several episodes in the early 1990s before replacing David Letterman as host of the talk show Late Night.[21] English comedian Ricky Gervais wrote the episode "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", becoming the first celebrity to both write and guest star in an episode.[22] Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, writers of the film Superbad will write an episode and Rogen will voice a character in it.[23][24]

At the end of 2007 the writers of The Simpsons went on strike together with the rest of the Writers Guild of America, East. The show's writers had joined the guild in 1998.[25]

Voice actors

The Simpsons has six main cast members. Dan Castellaneta performs Homer Simpson, Abraham Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble and other adult, male characters.[26] Julie Kavner speaks the voices of Marge Simpson and Patty and Selma, as well as several minor characters.[26] Castellaneta and Kavner had been a part of The Tracey Ullman Show cast and were given the parts so that new actors would not be needed.[27] Nancy Cartwright performs the voices of Bart Simpson, Ralph Wiggum and other children.[26] Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, is the only cast member who regularly voices only one character, although she occasionally plays other episodic characters.[26] The producers decided to hold casting for the roles of Bart and Lisa. Smith had initially been asked to audition for the role of Bart, but casting director Bonita Pietila believed her voice was too high.[28] Smith was given the role of Lisa instead.[29] Nancy Cartwright originally inteded to audition for Lisa, but upon arriving at the audition, she found that Lisa was simply described as the "middle child" and at the time did not have much personality. Cartwright became more interested in the role of Bart, who was described as "devious, underachieving, school-hating, irreverent, [and] clever".[30] Matt Groening let her try out for the part instead, and upon hearing her read, gave her the job on the spot.[31] Cartwright is the only one of the six main Simpsons cast members who had been professionally trained in voice acting prior to working on the show.[32] There are two male actors who do not voice members of the title family but play a majority of the male townspeople; Hank Azaria, who has been a part of the Simpsons regular voice cast since the second season,[33] voices recurring characters such as Moe, Chief Wiggum and Apu, and Harry Shearer provides voices for Mr. Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, and Dr. Hibbert.[26] With the exception of Harry Shearer, every main cast member has won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.[34]

With one exception, episode credits list only the voice actors, and not the characters they voice. Both Fox and the production crew wanted to keep their identities secret during the early seasons and, therefore, closed most of the recording sessions while refusing to publish photos of the recording artists.[35] However, the network eventually revealed which roles each actor performed in the episode "Old Money", because the producers said the voice actors should receive credit for their work.[36] In 2003, the cast appeared in an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, doing live performances of their characters' voices.

Up until 1998, the six main actors were paid $30,000 per episode. In 1998 they were involved in a pay dispute with Fox. The company threatened to replace them with new actors, even going as far as preparing for casting of new voices. The series creator Groening supported the actors in their action.[37] However, the issue was soon resolved and, from 1998 to 2004, they were paid $125,000 per episode. The show's revenue continued to rise through syndication and DVD sales, and in April 2004 the main cast stopped appearing for script readings, demanding they be paid $360,000 per episode.[38][39] The strike was resolved a month later[40] and their salaries were increased to something between $250,000[41] and $360,000 per episode.[42] In 2008, production for the twentieth season was put on hold due to new contract negotiations with the voice actors, who wanted a "healthy bump" in salary to an amount close to $500,000 per episode.[42] The dispute was soon resolved, and the actors' salary was raised to $400,000 per episode.[43]

In addition to the main cast, Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille, Marcia Wallace, Maggie Roswell, and Russi Taylor voice supporting characters.[26] From 1999 to 2002, Maggie Roswell's characters were voiced by Marcia Mitzman Gaven. Karl Wiedergott has appeared in minor roles, but does not voice any recurring characters.[44] Repeat "special guest" cast members include Albert Brooks, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Joe Mantegna, and Kelsey Grammer.[45]

Episodes will quite often feature guest voices from a wide range of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, bands, musicians and scientists. In the earlier seasons, most of the guest stars voiced characters, but eventually more started appearing as themselves. Tony Bennett was the first guest star to appear as himself, appearing briefly in the season two episode "Dancin' Homer".[46] The Simpsons holds the world record for "Most Guest Stars Featured in a Television Series".[47]

The show has been dubbed into several other languages, including Japanese, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. It is also one of the few programs dubbed in both French and Quebec French.[48] The Simpsons has been broadcast in Arabic, but due to Islamic customs, numerous aspects of the show have been changed. For example, Homer drinks soda instead of beer and eats Egyptian beef sausages instead of hot dogs. Because of such changes, the Arabized version of the series met with a negative reaction from the life-long Simpsons fans in the area.[49]


Several different U.S. and international studios animate The Simpsons. Throughout the run of the animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, the animation was produced domestically at Klasky Csupo.[50] With the debut of the series, because of an increased workload, Fox subcontracted production to several international studios, located in South Korea.[50] These are AKOM,[51] Anivision,[52] Rough Draft Studios,[53] U.S. Animation, Inc.,[54] and Toonzone Entertainment.[55] Artists at the U.S. animation studio, Film Roman, draw storyboards, design new characters, backgrounds, props and draw character and background layouts, which in turn become animatics to be screened for the writers at Gracie Films for any changes to be made before the work is shipped overseas. The overseas studios then draw the inbetweens, ink and paint, and render the animation to tape before it is shipped back to the United States to be delivered to Fox three to four months later.[56]

For the first three seasons, Klasky Csupo animated The Simpsons in the United States. In 1992, the show's production company, Gracie Films, switched domestic production to Film Roman,[57] who continue to animate the show as of 2008.

In Season 14, production switched from traditional cel animation to digital ink and paint.[58] The first episode to experiment with digital coloring was "Radioactive Man" in 1995. Animators used digital ink and paint during production of the Season 12 episode "Tennis the Menace," but Gracie Films delayed the regular use of digital ink and paint until two seasons later. The already completed "Tennis the Menace" was broadcast as made.[59]

The series began high-definition production in Season 20; the first episode, "Take My Life, Please", aired February 15, 2009. The move to HDTV included a new opening sequence.[60]


The Simpsons sports a vast array of secondary and tertiary characters.

The Simpsons are a typical family who live in a fictional "Middle American" town of Springfield.[61] Homer, the father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant—a position at odds with his careless, buffoonish personality. He is married to the conscientious Marge Simpson, a stereotypical American housewife and mother. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old troublemaker; Lisa, a precocious eight-year-old activist; and Maggie, a baby who rarely speaks, but communicates by sucking on a pacifier. The family owns a dog, Santa's Little Helper, and a cat, Snowball II. Both pets have had starring roles in several episodes. Despite the passing of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays, the Simpsons do not physically age and still appear just as they did at the end of the 1980s (slight differences in animation style notwithstanding).

The show includes an array of quirky characters: co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, townspeople and local celebrities. The creators originally intended many of these characters as one-time jokesters or for fulfilling needed functions in the town. A number of them have gained expanded roles and subsequently starred in their own episodes. According to Matt Groening, the show adopted the concept of a large supporting cast from the comedy show SCTV.[10]


The Simpsons takes place in the fictional American town of Springfield, without any geographical coordinates or references to U.S. states that might identify which part of the country it represents. Nevertheless, fans have tried to determine the town's location by taking the town's characteristics, surrounding geography, and nearby landmarks as clues. As a response, the show has become intentionally evasive in regard to Springfield's location.[62] The name "Springfield" is a common one in America and appears in over half of the states.[63] Springfield's geography, and that of its surroundings, contain coastlines, deserts, vast farmland, tall mountains, or whatever the story or joke requires.[64] Despite this, Groening has said that Springfield has much in common with Portland, Oregon, the city where he grew up.[65]


The Simpsons uses the standard setup of a situational comedy or "sitcom" as its premise. The series centers on a family and their life in a typical American town.[61] However, because of its animated nature, The Simpsons' scope is larger than that of a regular sitcom. The town of Springfield acts as a complete universe in which characters can explore the issues faced by modern society. By having Homer work in a nuclear power plant, the show can comment on the state of the environment.[66] Through Bart and Lisa's days at Springfield Elementary School, the show's writers illustrate pressing or controversial issues in the field of education. The town features a vast array of media channels—from kids' television programming to local news, which enables the producers to make jokes about themselves and the entertainment industry.[67]

Some commentators say the show is political in nature and susceptible to a left-wing bias.[68] Al Jean admitted in an interview that "We [the show] are of liberal bent."[69] The writers often evince an appreciation for liberal ideals, but the show makes jokes across the political spectrum.[70] The show portrays government and large corporations as callous entities that take advantage of the common worker.[69] Thus, the writers often portray authority figures in an unflattering or negative light. In The Simpsons, politicians are corrupt, ministers such as Reverend Lovejoy are indifferent to churchgoers, and the local police force is incompetent.[71] Religion also figures as a recurring theme. In times of crisis, the family often turns to God, and the show has dealt with most of the major religions.[72]


Opening sequence

Example of a chalkboard gag, as shown on February 15, 2009 and airing in High Definition.

The Simpsons' opening sequence is one of the show's most memorable hallmarks. Most episodes open with the camera zooming through the show's title towards the town of Springfield. The camera then follows the members of the family on their way home. Upon entering their house, the Simpsons settle down on their couch to watch television. The opening was created by David Silverman, the first task he did when production began on the show.[73] The series' distinctive theme song was composed by musician Danny Elfman in 1989, after Groening approached him requesting a retro style piece. This piece, which took two days to create, has been noted by Elfman as the most popular of his career.[74]

One of the most distinctive aspects of the opening is that three of the segments change from episode to episode: Bart writes different things on the school chalkboard,[73] Lisa plays different solos on her saxophone, and different gags accompany the family as they enter their living room to sit on the couch.[75] On February 15, 2009, a new opening credit sequence was introduced to accompany the switch to HDTV. The sequence had all of the features of the original opening, but added numerous details and characters.[76]

Halloween episodes

Bart introducing a segment of "Treehouse of Horror IV" in the manner of Rod Serling's Night Gallery.

The special Halloween episode has become an annual tradition. "Treehouse of Horror" first broadcast in 1990 as part of season two and established the pattern of three separate, self-contained stories in each Halloween episode.[77] These pieces usually involve the family in some horror, science fiction, or supernatural setting and often parody or pay homage to a famous piece of work in those genres.[78] They always take place outside the normal continuity of the show. Although the Treehouse series is meant to be seen on Halloween, in recent years, new installments have premiered after Halloween due to Fox's current contract with Major League Baseball's World Series.[79]


The show's humor turns on cultural references that cover a wide spectrum of society so that viewers from all generations can enjoy the show.[80] Such references, for example, come from movies, television, music, literature, science, and history.[80] The animators also regularly add jokes or sight gags into the show's background via humorous or incongruous bits of text in signs, newspapers, and elsewhere.[81] The audience may often not notice the visual jokes in a single viewing. Some are so fleeting that they become apparent only by pausing a video recording of the show.[81] Kristin Thompson argues that The Simpsons uses a "...flurry of cultural references, intentionally inconsistent characterization, and considerable self-reflexivity about television conventions and the status of the programme as a television show."[82]

The show uses catchphrases, and most of the primary and secondary characters have at least one each.[83] Notable expressions include Homer's annoyed grunt "D'oh!", Mr. Burns' "Excellent..." and Nelson Muntz's "Ha-ha!". Some of Bart's catchphrases, such as "¡Ay, caramba!", "Don't have a cow, man!" and "Eat my shorts!" appeared on t-shirts in the show's early days.[84] However, Bart rarely used the latter two phrases until after they became popular through the merchandising. The use of many of these catchphrases has declined in recent seasons. The episode "Bart Gets Famous" mocks catchphrase-based humor, as Bart achieves fame on the Krusty the Clown Show solely for saying "I didn't do it."[85]

Influences on culture


The Simpsons creator Matt Groening.

A number of neologisms that originated on The Simpsons have entered popular vernacular.[86] Mark Liberman, director of the Linguistic Data Consortium, remarked, "The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture's greatest source of idioms, catchphrases and sundry other textual allusions."[87] The most famous catchphrase is Homer's annoyed grunt: "D'oh!" So ubiquitous is the expression that it is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, but without the apostrophe.[88] Dan Castellaneta says he borrowed the phrase from James Finlayson, an actor in early Laurel and Hardy comedies, who pronounced it in a more elongated and whining tone. The director of The Simpsons told Castellaneta to shorten the noise, and it went on to become the well-known exclamation in the TV series.[89]

Groundskeeper Willie's description of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" was used by conservative National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg in 2003, after France's opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq. The phrase quickly spread to other journalists.[90] "Cromulent", a word used in "Lisa the Iconoclast" has since appeared in the Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English.[91] "Kwyjibo", a fake Scrabble word invented by Bart in "Bart the Genius", was used as one of the aliases of the creator of the Melissa worm.[92] "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords", was used by Kent Brockman in "Deep Space Homer" and has become a common variety of phrase.[93] Variants of Brockman's utterance are used to express mock submission, usually for the purpose of humor.[94] It has been used in media, such as New Scientist magazine.[95] The dismissive term "Meh", which was popularized by the show,[96] entered the Collins English Dictionary in 2008.[97]


The Simpsons was the first successful animated program in prime time since Wait Till Your Father Gets Home in the 1970s.[98] During most of the 1980s, pundits considered animated shows as appropriate only for children, and animating a show was too expensive to achieve a quality suitable for prime-time television. The Simpsons changed this perception.[50] The use of Korean animation studios doing in-betweening, coloring, and filming made the episodes cheaper. The success of The Simpsons and the lower production cost prompted television networks to take chances on other animated series.[50] This development led to a 1990s boom in new, animated prime-time shows, such as South Park, Family Guy, King of the Hill, Futurama, and The Critic.[50] "The Simpsons created an audience for prime-time animation that had not been there for many, many years." said Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. "As far as I'm concerned, they basically re-invented the wheel. They created what is in many ways—you could classify it as—a wholly new medium."[99] South Park later paid homage to The Simpsons with the episode "Simpsons Already Did It".[100]

The Simpsons has also influenced live-action shows like Malcolm in the Middle, which debuted January 9, 2000 in the time slot after The Simpsons.[101][102] Malcolm in the Middle featured the use of sight gags and did not use a laugh track like most sitcoms. Ricky Gervais has called The Simpsons a major influence on his British comedy The Office, which also dispenses with a laugh track.[103]

Reception and achievements

The Simpsons has been praised by many critics, being described as "the most irreverent and unapologetic show on the air."[104] In a 1990 review of the show, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly described it as "the American family at its most complicated, drawn as simple cartoons. It's this neat paradox that makes millions of people turn away from the three big networks on Sunday nights to concentrate on The Simpsons."[105] Tucker would also describe the show as a "pop-cultural phenomenon, a prime-time cartoon show that appeals to the entire family."[106]


The Simpsons have been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Simpsons has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 24 Emmy Awards,[47] 26 Annie Awards[107] and a Peabody Award.[108] In a 1998 issue celebrating the 20th century's greatest achievements in arts and entertainment, Time magazine named The Simpsons the century's best television series.[109] In that same issue, Time included Bart Simpson in the Time 100, the publication's list of the century's 100 most influential people.[110] Bart was the only fictional character on the list. On January 14, 2000, the Simpsons were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[111] Also in 2000, Entertainment Weekly magazine TV critic Ken Tucker named The Simpsons the greatest television show of the 1990s. Furthermore, viewers of the UK television channel Channel 4 have voted "The Simpsons" at the top of two polls: 2001's 100 Greatest Kids' TV shows,[112] and 2005's 100 Greatest Cartoons,[113] with Homer Simpson voted into first place in 2001's 100 Greatest TV Characters.[114] Homer would also place ninth on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "50 Greatest TV icons".[115] In 2002, The Simpsons ranked #8 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time;[116] in 2007 it was included in TIME's list of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time";[117] in 2008 the show was placed in first on Entertainment Weekly's "Top 100 Shows of the Past 25 Years";[118] and Empire named it the greatest TV show of all time.[119]

Run length achievements

On February 9, 1997, The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones with the episode "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" as the longest-running prime-time animated series in the United States. In 2004, The Simpsons replaced The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952 to 1966) as the longest-running sitcom (animated or live action) in the United States.[120] In October 2004, Scooby-Doo briefly overtook The Simpsons as the American animated show with the highest number of episodes.[121] However, network executives in April 2005 again cancelled Scooby-Doo, which finished with 371 episodes, and The Simpsons reclaimed the title with 378 episodes at the end of their seventeenth season.[122] In May 2007, The Simpsons reached their 400th episode at the end of the eighteenth season. While The Simpsons has the record for the number of episodes by an American animated show, other animated series have surpassed The Simpsons.[123] For example, the Japanese anime series Sazae-san has close to 2,000 episodes to its credit.[123]

The year 2007 marked the twentieth anniversary of The Simpsons franchise. With its twentieth season (2008–2009) currently airing, the series is equal with Gunsmoke as the longest-running American primetime, scripted television series. However, Gunsmoke's episode count of 635 episodes far surpasses The Simpsons, which would not reach that mark until its approximate 29th season, under normal programming schedules.[120][124]

In 2009, Fox will hold a year-long celebration of the show titled "Best. 20 Years. Ever." to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Simpsons. It will end January 14, 2010, twenty years after "Bart the Genius" aired. One of the first parts of the celebration is the "Unleash Your Yellow" contest in which entrants must design a poster for the show.[125] On February 26, 2009, Fox announced that it had renewed the show and ordered two additional seasons, which would take the series through its twenty-second season.[126]

Criticism of declining quality

In 2004, cast member Harry Shearer said "I rate the last three seasons as among the worst."

Critics' reviews of new Simpsons episodes praised the show for its wit, realism, and intelligence.[6][127] In the late 1990s, the tone and emphasis of the show began to change. Some critics started calling the show "tired".[128] By 2000, some long-term fans had become disillusioned with the show and pointed to its shift from character-driven plots to what they perceived as an overemphasis on zany antics.[129][130] Author Douglas Coupland described claims of declining quality in the series as "hogwash", saying "The Simpsons hasn't fumbled the ball in fourteen years, it's hardly likely to fumble it now."[131] Mike Scully, who was show runner during seasons nine through twelve, has been the subject of criticism.[132][133] Chris Suellentrop of Slate wrote "under Scully's tenure, The Simpsons became, well, a cartoon. [...] Episodes that once would have ended with Homer and Marge bicycling into the sunset now end with Homer blowing a tranquilizer dart into Marge's neck. The show's still funny, but it hasn't been touching in years."[132]

In 2003, to celebrate the show's 300th episode "Barting Over", USA Today published a pair of Simpsons related articles: a top-ten episodes list chosen by the webmaster of The Simpsons Archive fansite,[134] and a top-15 list by The Simpsons' own writers.[135] The most recent episode listed on the fan list was 1997's "Homer's Phobia"; the Simpsons' writers most recent choice was 2000's "Behind the Laughter". In 2004, Harry Shearer criticized what he perceived as the show's declining quality: "I rate the last three seasons as among the worst, so Season Four looks very good to me now."[136]

The Simpsons managed to maintain a large viewership and attract new fans. While the first season enjoyed an average of 13.4 million viewers per episode in the U.S.,[9] the nineteenth season had an average of 7.7 million viewers.[137] In an April 2006 interview, Matt Groening said, "I honestly don't see any end in sight. I think it's possible that the show will become too financially cumbersome... but right now, the show is creatively, I think, as good or better than it's ever been. The animation is incredibly detailed and imaginative, and the stories do things that we haven't done before. So creatively there's no reason to quit."[138]


Monopoly: The Simpsons Edition

The popularity of The Simpsons has made it a billion-dollar merchandizing industry.[14] The title family and supporting characters appear on everything from t-shirts to posters. The Simpsons has inspired special editions of well-known board games, including Clue, Scrabble, Monopoly, Operation, and The Game of Life, as well as the trivia games What Would Homer Do? and Simpsons Jeopardy!. Several card games such as trump cards and The Simpsons Trading Card Game have also been released. Many official or unofficial Simpsons books such as episode guides have been published.

In 2003, about 500 companies around the world were licensed to use Simpsons characters in their advertising.[139] As a promotion for the The Simpsons Movie, twelve 7-Eleven stores were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts and sold The Simpsons related products. These included "Buzz Cola", "Krusty-O" cereal, Pink doughnuts with sprinkles, and "Squishees".[140]

On April 1, 2009, the United States Postal Service announced that Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie will all be featured on a set of five 44 cent stamps. The stamps will be available for preview on April 9, making The Simpsons the first television series to receive this recognition while the show is still in production.[141][142]

Comic books

Numerous Simpson-related comic books have been released over the years. So far, nine comic book series have been published by Bongo Comics since 1993.[143] The first comic strips based on The Simpsons appeared in 1991 in the magazine Simpsons Illustrated, which was a companion magazine to the show.[144] The comic strips were popular and a one-shot comic book entitled Simpsons Comics and Stories, containing four different stories, was released in 1993 for the fans.[145] The book was a success and due to this, the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, and his companions Bill Morrison, Mike Rote, Steve Vance and Cindy Vance created the publishing company Bongo Comics.[145] Issues of Simpsons Comics, Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror and Bart Simpson have been collected and reprinted in trade paperbacks in the United States by HarperCollins.[146][147][148]


A Seattle 7-Eleven store transformed into a Kwik-E-Mart as part of a promotion for The Simpsons Movie.

Collections of original music featured in the series have been released on the albums Songs in the Key of Springfield, Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons and The Simpsons: Testify.[149] Several songs have been recorded with the purpose of a single or album release and have not been featured on the show. The album The Simpsons Sing the Blues was released in September 1990 and was a success, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200[150] and becoming certified 2x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[151] The first single from the album was the pop rap song "Do the Bartman", performed by Nancy Cartwright and released on November 20, 1990. The song was written by Michael Jackson, although he did not receive any credit.[152] While the song was never officially released as a single in the United States, it was successful in the United Kingdom. In 1991 it was the number one song in the UK for three weeks from February 16 to March 9 and was the seventh best-selling song of the year.[153] It sold half a million copies and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry on February 1, 1991.[154]

Video games

The video game industry was very quick to adapt the characters and world of Springfield into games. Some of the early games include Konami's arcade game The Simpsons (1991) and Acclaim Entertainment's The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants (1991). More modern games include The Simpsons Road Rage (2001), The Simpsons Hit & Run (2003) and The Simpsons Game (2007). Two Simpsons pinball machines have been produced; one that was available briefly after the first season, and another that is still available for purchase.[155]


Many episodes of the show have been released on DVD and VHS over the years. When the first season DVD was released in 2001, it quickly became the best-selling television DVD in history, although it was later overtaken by the first season of Chappelle's Show.[156] In particular, seasons one through eleven have been released on DVD in the U.S. (Region 1), Europe (Region 2) and Australia/New Zealand/Latin America (Region 4) with more seasons expected to be released in the future.[157]

The Simpsons Ride

The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida which officially opened May 15, 2008

In 2007, it was officially announced that The Simpsons Ride, a simulator ride, would be implemented into the Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.[158] It officially opened May 15, 2008 in Florida[159] and May 19, 2008 in Hollywood.[160] In the ride, patrons are introduced to a cartoon theme park called Krustyland built by Krusty the Clown. However, Sideshow Bob is loose from prison to get revenge on Krusty and the Simpson family.[161] It features more than 24 regular characters from The Simpsons and features the voices of the regular cast members, as well as Pamela Hayden, Russi Taylor and Kelsey Grammer.[162] Harry Shearer decided not to participate in the ride, so none of his characters have vocal parts.[163] James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Al Jean, collaborated with the Universal Studios creative team, Universal Creative, to help develop the ride.[164] The six minute ride uses 80-foot IMAX screens and Sony Projectors.[165] There are 24 ride cars, each seating eight people,[162] and approximately 2000 people can ride it per hour.[161] The animation in the ride uses computer generated 3D animation rendered by Blur Studio and Reel FX,[166] rather than the traditional 2-D animation seen on The Simpsons.[167] The Universal Studios Florida version of the ride hosted its one millionth rider on July 14, 2008, reaching the milestone faster than any other attraction in the resort.[168]


The Marquee from The Simpsons Movie's premiere, which took place in Springfield, Vermont.

20th Century Fox, Gracie Films, and Film Roman produced an animated The Simpsons film that was released on July 27, 2007.[169] The film was directed by long-time Simpsons producer David Silverman and written by a team of Simpsons writers comprising Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, George Meyer, Mike Reiss, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti, David Mirkin, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, and Ian Maxtone-Graham.[169] Production of the film occurred alongside continued writing of the series despite long-time claims by those involved in the show that a film would enter production only after the series had concluded.[169] There had been talk of a possible feature-length Simpsons film ever since the early seasons of the series. James L. Brooks originally thought that the story of the episode "Kamp Krusty" was suitable for a film, but he encountered difficulties in trying to expand the script to feature-length.[170] For a long time, difficulties such as lack of a suitable story and an already fully engaged crew of writers delayed the project.[138]

After winning a Fox and USA Today competition, Springfield, Vermont hosted the film's world premiere.[171] The Simpsons Movie grossed a combined total of $74 million in its opening weekend in the United States, taking it to the top of the box office,[172] and set the record for highest grossing opening weekend for a film based on a television series, surpassing Mission: Impossible II.[173] It opened at the top of the international box office, taking $96 million from seventy-one overseas territories — including $27.8 million in the United Kingdom, making it Fox's second highest opening ever in that country.[174] In Australia, it grossed AU$13.2 million, the biggest opening for an animated film and third largest opening weekend in the country.[175] To date, the film has a worldwide gross of $526,622,545.[176]


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