‘D-oh!!!’ ‘The Simpsons’ marks 30 years impacting American culture
“Well, good-night, son,” said the man who vaguely resembles the doughnut-eating international icon.
“Um, dad?” replied the kid who would be recognizable by voice alone. “What is the mind? Is it just a system of impulses or is it something tangible?”
“Relaaaax,” answered the dad, many episodes before his first “D-oh!” “What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind. Hehehehe.”
It was a roughly drawn minute-and-a-half of animation, crammed in before a commercial break on “The Tracey Ullman Show,” titled “Good Night” and debuting in April 1987. Yes, 30 years ago, and everybody sing along now: “The Simmmp-sonsss.”
Thirty years of buffoonish Homer and long-suffering Marge, bratty Bart, brilliant Lisa and pacifier-sucking Maggie. So culturally saturating is “The Simpsons” that even those who’ve never watched a single episode — the Matt Groening creation appeared as shorts on “The Tracey Ullman Show” for three years before debuting as a half-hour sitcom on Fox in December 1989 — know those names.
More than 600 episodes later, the show now in its 28th season has the distinction of being the longest-running sitcom and longest-running animated series in U.S. television history.
As accepted as it is now, when the “The Simpsons” premiered it was ground-breaking and fairly controversial, said Matt McAllister, a professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University who has researched and written about “The Simpsons.”
“People didn’t like Bart being so rebellious and they thought it kind of made fun of middle America and American values,” McAllister said. “The first President Bush kind of criticized it, and it’s hard now to remember that initial reaction because we are so used to things that push the envelope even farther, programs on Adult Swim, ‘South Park,’ even programs like ‘Bob’s Burgers’ and ‘Family Guy’ are a little bit more crass, so that ‘The Simpsons’ seems establishment in a way. It’s easy to forget how really ground-breaking it was.”
In “Blame Canada! South Park and Contemporary Culture,” author Toni Johnson-Woods acknowledged that shows such as “South Park” wouldn’t exist without a foundation of “The Simpsons”: “Suddenly, cartoons were cool again…
“Viewers who first tuned in to ‘South Park’ in 1997 most likely had always known a life with television (and cable) and had probably watched hundreds of hours. They had probably been watching ‘The Simpsons’ for nearly a decade. This savvy audience not only had the ability to decode complex cultural clues and the desire to decode them — they actively seem to need it.”
In fact, said Cassie Gobbo, a Grand Junction animator and illustrator and owner of DeadOn Studios (deadonstudios.weebly.com), it’s that adherence to cable that could prove problematic for “The Simpsons.” The current season is available on Hulu, but not on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Truly dedicated fans can pay to watch every episode on FXX’s Simpsons World (simpsonsworld.com).
“The generation I’m in, we’re all going to streaming, we’re not really so much on cable anymore,” Gobbo said. “I’m really feeling like they’re losing out on new viewers, because we’re streamers and we’re teaching our kids to be streamers, so they may be losing out on this whole generation of viewers that isn’t going to cable.”
Still, as a longtime fan — she wasn’t allowed to watch “The Simpsons” at home so she watched it at a neighbor’s house — and an animator, Gobbo said she wants “The Simpsons” to continue succeeding.
She hasn’t watched it as much in recent years, citing its move toward the currently popular style of random humor as not especially appealing, but said primetime animation benefits the medium as a whole.
“Maybe it doesn’t have the ratio of hits that it did, say, in the mid-‘90s, but it still has shows that are very witty and very clever,” McAllister said. “I think it has held up better than any show that has lasted nearly as long.”
And with 28 season of episodes on Fox, plus the Tracey Ullman years, there is a lot of lore and history with “The Simpsons.” How well do you know it? Take this quiz and find out.
1. Who shot Mr. Burns?
a) Sue Ellen Ewing
b) Chief Wiggum
d) Maggie Simpson
2. What’s Marge’s maiden name?
3. Who might you remember from such self-help videos as “Smoke Yourself Thin” and “Get Confident, Stupid!”?
a) Krusty the Clown
b) Sideshow Bob
c) Troy McClure
d) Lionel Hutz
4. What is the series of Simpsons Halloween episodes called?
a) Treehouse of Horror
b) Simpsons Spooktacular
c) Fright Night In America
d) Random Axe of Kindness
5. What is Bart Simpson’s middle name?
6. What is Grampa Simpson’s first name?
7. Which two actors have been the voice of Maggie Simpson’s character?
a) Michelle Pfeiffer, Sara Gilbert
b) Elizabeth Taylor, James Earl Jones
c) Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde-Pierce
d) Glenn Close, Meryl Streep
8. What is the name of Homer’s favorite drinking establishment?
a) Moe’s Bar & Grill
b) Famous Moe’s
c) Moe’s Tavern
d) Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag
9. Reverend _________ leads the congregation at the First Church of Springfield where the Simpsons attend.
10. Which NFL team is Homer disappointed to receive as a gift from his supervillain boss, Hank Scorpio?
a) Dallas Cowboys
b) Denver Broncos
c) Pittsburgh Steelers
d) Oakland Raiders
11. Which aspiring country star wrote the song “Stand By Your Manager” after developing a crush on Homer?
a) Mindy Simmons
b) Dolly Pride
c) Lurleen Lumpkin
d) Tammy Whynot
12. What is the name of Radioactive Man’s sidekick, portrayed by Milhouse?
a) Adam Smasher
c) Duke Nuclear
d) Fallout Boy
13. What’s the name of the store run by Ned Flanders?
c) Golly World
14. Which was NOT one of Professor Frink’s inventions?
a) Sarcasm Detector
b) Frog Exaggerator
c) Mood Pants
15. To stall Sideshow Bob and save his own life, Bart tricks Bob into performing the entire libretto from which Gilbert and Sullivan opera?
a) “The Mikado”
b) “H.M.S. Pinafore”
c) “The Pirates of Penzance”
d) “Princess Ida”
16. What is Homer J. Simpson’s middle name?
17. Who helped Barney promote the Plow King?
a) Linda Ronstadt
b) Jebediah Springfield
c) John Cougar Mellencamp
d) Waylan Smithers
18. Who is Dr. Nick sick of seeing?
a) Hans Moleman
b) Krusty the Clown
c) The Coroner
d) Ralph Wiggum
19. According to Homer, alcohol is:
a) OK in moderation
b) Very bad for you
c) Causing problems for Barney
d) The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems
20. Who framed Krusty the Clown?
a) Sideshow Mel
b) Atticus Finch
c) Sideshow Bob
d) Moe Szyslak
21. While back in college, Homer calls the Dean a
22. Which is NOT a Troy McClure film?
a) “The Greatest Story Ever Hulaed”
b) “Alice Doesn’t Live Anymore”
c) “Dial M For Murderousness”
d) “Have Gum Will Travel”
23. According to Moe, what caused some hillbillies to go blind?
a) Staring at the sun
b) Swamp gas
c) Drinking Fudd beer
d) Watching too much “Itchy & Scratchy”
24. What is Bart’s twin brother’s name?
25. According to Krusty, what’s the “happiest place on earth”?
b) Duff Gardens
c) Itchy and Scratchy Land
d) Kamp Krusty
‘The Simpsons’ Quiz Answers
1-d; 2-a; 3-c; 4-a; 5-b; 6-a; 7-b; 8-c; 9-d; 10-b; 11-c; 12-d; 13-b; 14-d; 15-b; 16-c; 17-a; 18-c; 19-d; 20-c; 21-b; 22-d; 23-c; 24-d; 25-a.
23-25 correct: You know your Simpsons! Collect your key to the town of Springfield.
20-22 correct: Not bad. Much better than Ralph, but you’ll have to work to catch up to Lisa.
17-19 correct: Write on the chalkboard 100 times, “I must pay closer attention to the television.”
16 or fewer: Spend less time with Otto and more time with Frink.