Why Classic Simpsons Episodes Still Hold Up

The Simpsons Title

“Just think how much smarter I’d be if I didn’t know all this Simpsons trivia,” a friend said to me at a local trivia night. To be fair, I felt the same way. To our nerdy credit, however, our team, “Stupid Sexy Flanders,” came in third place.

The new Los Angeles chapter of WOO HOO!: Classic Simpsons Trivia specializes in testing fans on the first 10 seasons of what has become the longest running American animated program. Most would argue that these seasons represent the “Golden Age” of The Simpsons television tenure, citing in particular episodes written by famed talk show host Conan O’Brien.

So why has the series lasted this long? And what makes its first decade on the air so special? There are myriad reasons behind the longevity and endurance of this show, of which the most outstanding is its clever humor. That’s not to say that The Simpsons isn’t rife with slapstick and pratfalls because it certainly is. Digging deeper, though, the thoughtfulness and creativity of the writing, paired with eye-catching animation, and incredible voice over talent, is in its entirety what makes up the heart and soul of The Simpsons.

Homer Simpson makes his “Patented Space Age Out-Of-This-World Moon Waffles”

I’ve long wondered what it would have been like to be a fly on the wall of the writers’ room back in the early 90’s. I can only imagine those sidesplitting brainstorming sessions. For example, what stroke of mad genius led to the inception of the “dental plan/Lisa needs braces” gag from “Last Exit to Springfield”? I could easily dedicate an article solely to praising that episode, which is critically acclaimed as the best of the series. Or, who came up with the recipe for Homer Simpson’s Patented Space Age Out of This World Moon Waffle in “Homer the Heretic”? (For the record, the recipe involves wrapping said waffle around a whole stick of butter!). These moments have become so deeply ingrained into American pop culture’s collective conscious that nary a day goes by when I don’t hear someone, somewhere, referring to a classic episode, which just so happens to have relevance to the situation at hand. Further, the perfectly cromulent words that The Simpsons has introduced into popular lexicon over the years exemplifies the show’s everlasting cultural impact. From such noble terms as “embiggen,” to the dismissive “meh,” and even the crass “jerkasses,” whether we like it or not The Simpsons is in our minds for good.

Homer Simpson, thrust into the “real world,” is comforted by a familiar sight: cake.

Taking into consideration some of the great strides made by Simpsons animators over the years, it is admirable to see that the visual appeal of the show has only intensified. One example of this is the CGI technology (provided by Pacific Data Images) employed in the 1995 episode Treehouse of Horror VI. In addition to paying hilarious tribute to the classic Nightmare on Elm Street films, and making a bold statement about advertising, this episode sees Homer Simpson slip into the third dimension in its final segment. I recall being astounded by the transition made between the 2D and 3D animation as Homer crosses into a never-before-seen environment, inspired by The Twilight Zone. Likely the best joke at the end of the episode is when Rev. Lovejoy comforts Marge, telling her that her husband has gone, “[t]o a better place.” Of course, we then see our hero Homer land in a dumpster, having transitioned once more into the “real world.” The incomparable combination of novelty and comedy featured in that segment alone says a lot about how The Simpsons has always been ahead of the curve.

Another particularly remarkable phenomenon about The Simpsons is the fact that its primary voice actors have been with the show since the beginning and are still going strong. Though contractual negotiations have, at times, been tumultuous, the longevity of the tenure of the principal cast speaks volumes about their loyalty to their careers on such a well-loved show. The fact that this handful of actors are responsible for making up more than just the Simpson family, but a major bulk of the countless characters – both major and minor – goes to show the caliber of talent and effort that has gone into the show since its inception.

It’s easy to go on about a series that has literally jumped off the screen and into the minds and hearts of millions of viewers over nearly 30 years of existence. Though many pass judgment on the series for the direction it has taken in recent years, there is no doubt about the lasting impact of the notable, quotable classics that continue to bring enjoyment to loyal fans.