I know I’m not the first person to offer this viewpoint, but it has been on my mind as the release of The Simpsons Movie is nearly upon us. On the one hand, even most diehard Simpsons fans admit that the show is not nearly as funny as it was in the Golden Age (then again, you couldn’t get five Simpsons fans to even agree on when the Golden Age began or ended anyway). But then there are the Matt Groening apologists who insist that it’s still better than 99% of the other shows on TV.
But is that good enough? How can The Simpsons look anything other than really good compared to most of the crap on network TV? If merely being better than shows like According to Jim or The Singing Bee is good enough, it will be on forever. So in essence the people who make this argument have already conceded that the show falls on its face when judged against prior accomplishments. It lacks the heart, subtlety, and relevance it once had, while once-beloved characters like Homer have been reduced to tired caricatures.
Character traits and jokes have gone from fresh to familiar to plain boring. Whereas The Simpsons once inspired shows like Family Guy and South Park, it now seems to be vainly following in their footsteps by relying less on sarcasm and more on instantly dated pop culture/political commentary and racy humor. I’m certainly no prude, but I can’t help but feel that sex jokes ‘belong’ more on Family Guy than on The Simpsons.
As the show’s writers continue to run on fumes, we are subjected to more uninspired guest appearances and whole episodes devoted to supporting characters best left on the sidelines. I love Groundskeeper Willie and Comic Book Guy as much as the next fan, but I really don’t need to have entire episodes focusing on them. Some one-note characters are meant to stay just that. Likewise, episodes built on premises created solely to showcase this week’s big guest star are lame.
Yes, The Simpsons still has its funny moments now and then, but I sure have to wade through a lot of mediocrity to get to them. When you have to lower your expectations before watching something, that’s a bad sign. I have little interest in doing that with the show anymore, and I sure as hell won’t be paying money to repeat the experience with the movie.
Oh yeah, the Treehouse of Horror episodes can stay. They’re still pretty good.