Our first child, Matt Scullin was born December 10, 1989. A week later, on December 17, the most important show ever on TV was born– The Simpsons.
Our family (yes, even the babies) has always watched The Simpsons. We’ve had spirited debates on picking a favorite episode (mine is “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood” from season eight in which Bart joins the Junior Campers and hilarity ensues), we quote Simpsons lines chapter and verse (and recite favorites), discuss couch gags, and are torn when asked to pick our favorite characters (don’t ask, it hurts too much ).While other families were shielding their precious children’s innocent eyes from this irreverent show, we were glued to it. For 20 years, it has been an animated encyclopedia of pop culture. Yes, it’s an educational cartoon, so there all you parents who refused your kiddies the intellectual stimulation of Springfield. Hope you’re happy with your dimwitted goody two-shoes.
The early episodes, like most sitcoms, were not that funny. The show’s executive producers, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Sam Simon were working to establish the characters, both their look and the sound of their voices. But soon the show hit its stride.
Great writers like John Swartzwelder, (who amazingly has written 60 episodes), George Meyer, Jon Vitti, Conan O’Brien, Dan Garth, Al Jean, Mike Reiss and many more brought The Simpson family and Springfield to life. A population of hilarious characters became the perfect canvas for social commentary, satire, wacky hijinks and laughs galore.
Has the show jumped the shark? Sure, some seasons more than others. Everything grows stale after 20 years (which is why we gave our 20-year old son Matt to a band of traveling gypsies).
But still, it’s been a hell of a run for Homer & Co., and our family is eternally thankful and grateful to theirs for two decades of fun.
Since it’s good for any essay to have a nicely rounded wrap-up, I’ll leave you with this– a letter written by Matt Scullin to Matt Groening, Simpsons creator, a few years back when Matt S. felt the show was seeing a shark in the rear view mirror.
February 19, 2006
Mr. Matt Groening
FOX Broadcasting Network
P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
Dear Matt Groening:
I am a huge fan of your show, “The Simpsons” and I have seen every episode. I am sixteen years old and I have been on your train ever since the show started. I am one week older than your show, to be exact. I have laughed to the point of no return over the early years and you are truly a god for creating these characters. When I say “characters” I don’t just mean the Simpsons; I am talking about Moe, Krusty, Ned Flanders, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, and the many other citizens of Springfield.
Man do I love a lot of your episodes. Seasons four, five, six, and seven are gold. Last Exit To Springfield, Homer The Heretic, Mr. Plow, Rosebud, Deep Space Homer, Homer Loves Flanders, Secrets Of A Successful Marriage, Homer The Great, Homer Badman, And Maggie Makes Three, A Star Is Burns, The Springfield Connection, and 22 Short Films About Springfield are all classic episodes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the next five seasons too. But you began to slip along the way of oh, season thirteen or so. I realized that the show would probably never be as good as it was, and I was right. The episodes lost its spark and even lost the laughs. The stories became too much involved with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. You buried the secondary characters alive in a cold dusty coffin. They slowly died and went to “forgotten characters heaven.” The stories became uninteresting and filled with too many unfunny 1-liner gags. I put up with these episodes and told my friends how the show was slowly fading into nothingness. I still gave you a chance on January 29, 2006. But this was simply the last straw.
This episode was terribly awful and my teeth cringed at the episode’s every attempt to make me laugh. I didn’t even come close to laughing once. I was disgusted at the fact that the animation was completely different. Everything looked too well drawn and had too much detail. It lost its once vibrant, warm, fuzzy animation of the earlier years. The episode was filled with a large surplus of unfunny 1-liner gags. The episode was lame, hateful, unfunny, and visually displeasing. While I watched it, I just repeated to myself, “This is not happening.” That episode single handedly crushed my hope for “The Simpsons”.
I beg of you: Fire all your writers, bring back the “old school” animation, and bring back the secondary characters. If you refuse, simply stop making episodes of the “The Simpsons” because I died a little inside on January 29, 2006.
Please write back or I will keep mailing you this letter.
P.S. Take notes from “Family Guy”.
Cc: James L. Brooks, Mike Scully, Al Jean
In case you were wondering, Matt never heard from Mr. Groening, but the show has gotten better since then. Maybe he listened.