Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Simpsons - Television That Embiggens Us All

A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man

Where do you beginulate praise for such a cromulent moment in American television history?

I had barely begun my career as an entertainment writer when a new TV network called FOX hit the television airwaves of America. Today, I still have a collection of posters the fledgling network sent out to promo their line-up of programs in 1987, featuring such shows as "Married With Children", "21 Jump Street" and "The Tracey Ullman Show". Airing only a few night a week to begin, the network added and trashed shows faster than most viewers could follow.

One element of Ullman's underrated show were these little animated segments of an oddball family created by cartoonist Matt Groening. In 1989, "The Simpsons" got their own half-hour show and the show marks it's 20th anniversary tonight -- a special show, "The Simspson's 20th Anniversary Special In 3D on Ice" airs tonight, and you can take a sneak peek at what's ahead in this special right here and learn how the show has saved at least one life.

20 years of broadcast history, 20 years of success that began with a family that looks yellow and whose only son, Bart, told the world to "Eat my shorts".

Think about it - without Bart Simpson, we would not have Glenn Beck, as the ever-growing Fox Network soon begat FOX News. In truth, Beck surely seems a twisted creation from the weird world of Springfield as he writes his bizarre theories on a blackboard, just as young Bart found fame by writing on a blackboard in the opening sequences of every episode.

I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are. -- Homer Simpson

In the early days of the show, Conservative politicians and religious leaders degraded the show, howled of the abysmal influence of the rude Bart, the drunken Homer and the very idea that America could even be satirized. It was not only a battle such figures lost, it was a war they lost. Just last month, the Pope hailed "The Simpsons" for promoting religion in an article titled "Aristotle's Virtues and Homer's Doughnuts".

That title alone is something to celebrate, commingling Aristotle, the Catholic church and Homer Simpson's love for doughnuts.

Without Homer Simpson and the other yellow-skinned characters "many today wouldn't know how to laugh .....

"Religion, from the snore-evoking sermons of the Rev. Lovejoy to Homer's face-to-face talks with God, appears so frequently on the show that it could be possible to come up with a "Simpsonian theology," it said.

"Homer's religious confusion and ignorance are "a mirror of the indifference and the need that modern man feels toward faith," the paper said.

"It commented on several religion-themed episodes, including one in which Homer calls for divine intervention by crying: "I'm not normally a religious man, but if you're up there, save me, Superman!"

"Homer finds in God his last refuge, even though he sometimes gets His name sensationally wrong," L'Osservatore said. "But these are just minor mistakes, after all, the two know each other well."

Astonishing, really, that authority figures might see such a view ... but since authority figures cannot beat them, then ...

The Simpson family too has changed the way America talks --

According to Mark Liberman, of the University of Pennsylvania Linguistic Data Consortium: “ 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.”

How many among us, on those occasions when we have made a mistake, of judgment or communication or thinking, how many of us have learned to say the word "D'oh!" as Homer might, in order to earn some indulgence, some forgiveness.

Serious Simpson's fanatics debate which season is the best, which the worst, if the show has far-outlived it's genius, but, as Homer himself has said, there is really one thing we should all remember:

You can't depend on me all your life. You have to learn that there's a little Homer Simpson in all of us."

Bart's Blackboard
Make Your Own Blackboard
A Simpson's Dictionary
A Simpson's Database

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