The Simpsons

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Template:Infobox television Template:Portal The Simpsons is the longest-running American animated television series in television history, and the longest-running sitcom in the history of American television, with 17 seasons and 365 episodes since it debuted on December 17, 1989 on FOX. The TV series, created by Matt Groening, is a spinoff of a skit originally aired on The Tracey Ullman Show. It is produced by Gracie Films for 20th Century Fox. The Simpsons is seen by many critics as one of the finest television shows ever; it was named the best television series of the 20th century by TIME magazine in 1998, and it made the top 10 on TV Guide's list of the greatest shows of all time in 2002.

Highly satirical, the show lampoons many aspects of the human condition, but primarily parodies the "Middle American" lifestyle its titular family exhibits, and more generally American culture, society, and even television itself. It has had a huge influence on post–Cold War popular culture. The Simpsons was also one of the key shows that changed the view of cartoons to a more adult standard. It is considered a sign of definite status as a celebrity or other important figure to be featured or asked to parody oneself in an episode of the show; this has become a phenomenon with many A-list celebrities willing to participate in even the most minute cameo.

Contents

Setting, characters, and plot of The Simpsons

Characters

Main article: List of characters from The Simpsons

The main characters were originally created by Matt Groening as part of a series of original animated segments for The Tracey Ullman Show. Over the course of the series Groening has used many of the themes present in his long-running comic strip series, Life in Hell. (For instance, the idea of creative school children constantly being persecuted and suppressed by totalitarian grown-ups stems from the strip.) Many of the characters in The Simpsons take their names from important people and places in Groening's life — for example Lisa, Maggie, Marge and Homer share names with Groening's sisters, mother and father respectively. Bart, however, is an anagram for brat, with Groening having stated that he thought naming the boy "Matt" would be too obvious.

File:Simpsons cast.jpg
The Simpsons sports a vast array of secondary characters.

Homer, a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, is a generally well-meaning buffoon whose short attention span often draws him into outrageous schemes and adventures. Marge (of French origin) was once intelligent and sophisticated, but has come to conform with the stereotype of housewife/mother. Bart, the oldest sibling, is a troublemaker and classroom terror ("the devil's cabana boy", as Lisa once described him) who thinks of himself as a rebel while Lisa is a brainy student, vegetarian, Buddhist and jazz music fan who dreams of a better future (she is referred to as "the future of the family"). Maggie is an eternal baby, and despite the fact that numerous years (and birthdays) clearly pass (for example, many Christmas episodes), the Simpsons do not appear to age. Some characters' ages have fluctuated throughout the years; this is most likely due to simple oversight on the part of the writers.

Homer describes his family as "upper lower middle class", and this appears to be about right. The Simpson family (which sometimes includes Homer's father, Abraham "Abe" Simpson) lives in a relatively large four-bedroom house bordering a friendly neighbor on one side, Ned Flanders, and many varying things, including a cemetery, on the other. The Simpson lifestyle yo-yos depending on whether or not Homer is employed at the time; Marge is largely a stay-at-home mom. The Simpsons go several years into the internet age before acquiring a computer, reflecting the fact that the Simpson family is perpetually several years out of date. There are other clues as well, such as the avocado-green kitchen equipment (this color was popular in the 1960s and '70s) and the family's two cars, both of which appear to have been manufactured in the early 1980s.

The show also has a vast array of quirky supporting characters, including co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, and local celebrities. Many of these characters have developed a vast cult following of their own. For a comprehensive list, see characters from The Simpsons. Some of these, like Itchy and Scratchy, ultraviolent versions of Tom and Jerry, are fictional even within the Simpsons universe.

Setting

Main article: Springfield (The Simpsons)

The Simpsons is set in the fictional United States town of Springfield. Throughout the show's history fans have tried to determine where Springfield is by taking the town's characteristics, surrounding geography and nearby landmarks as clues (as Lisa once said of the state, "It's a bit of a mystery, yes, but if you look at the clues, you'll figure it out"). However, both the town itself and its location are fictional. Nearly every state and region in the U.S. has been both suggested and ruled out by conflicting "evidence" of a location for Springfield, so that the town could not really be anywhere. It seems it is kept indeterminate on purpose so that the location can suit any plot, as Springfield and its surrounding areas have been shown to contain coastlines, deserts, vast farmland, and tall mountains, or whatever the story requires. (See Where Is The Simpsons' Springfield? for more information on this issue.) According to the video game The Simpsons Hit & Run, the town of Springfield is in Florida, but this could be ruled out in the episode Special Edna, in which a sign in Springfield shows the distance to Orlando too far for Springfield to be in the same state. There is also evidence to disprove this point in the episode Kill the Alligator and Run where the family vacations to Florida and is prohibited from returning. Homer would not insult his own state, and he says "Florida? That's America's wang!". Another factor to consider is the weather, as a town in Florida would not have the large amounts of snow we see in the show during the Christmas episodes. Also, in the episode Bart vs. Lisa vs. The Third Grade, the Springfield Goofball mascot and delegate says "It is time to address our state's flag. This Confederate symbol is an outrage, particularly because we are a northern state.", meaning that the state could not be part of the old Confederacy.

In an episode during season 13, Mr. Burns states they will smuggle sugar in from south of the border to which Homer replies, "Oh, you mean Tennessee?", implying they live in Kentucky. Also, in one of the behind-the-scene episodes, Behind the Laughter, the narrator says "...but that wasn't the end for this Northern Kentucky family." Looking closely at a map of Kentucky in the northern part of the state, the towns of Simpsonville and its neighbor city Shelbyville can be clearly seen.

Creator Matt Groening has stated that Springfield has much in common with Portland, Oregon, the city he grew up in (see Matt Groening's Portland), and the name "Springfield" was chosen because virtually every state has a town or city with that name.

According to David Silverman, writer for the series, Springfield is in North Tacoma. This has not been confirmed officially.

Animation scholars and fans have noted that the series uses the medium of animation to its advantage, allowing the show to take place in many settings and feature a far greater cast of characters than a live-action sitcom. The cost of having an episode of The Simpsons take place in the mountains, Europe, the city park, or a cruise ship on the ocean (all of which simply use drawn and painted backgrounds) is hardly more than placing the family in the more conventional sitcom settings of a living room, a kitchen, and perhaps one or two related settings. This allows for far more flexibility in plot development than in a typical live-action sitcom constrained by physical limitations and logistics.

Themes

Authority, especially in undeserving hands, is a constant target of the show's often sharp satire. This probably explains the often strong negative reaction to the show from social conservatives. This negative reaction was most pronounced during the early seasons of the show. Nearly every authority figure in the show is portrayed unflatteringly:

  • Homer is thoughtless and irresponsible, the antithesis of the ideal 1950s TV father, though he always comes through for his family in the end.
  • Marge Simpson is also of the 50's stereotype category, and attempts to exercise control to compensate for her husband's failings.
  • Springfield police chief Clancy Wiggum (voiced by Hank Azaria in an Edward G. Robinson-influenced tone) is obese, stupid, lazy, corrupt and not overly concerned with constitutional rights (not to mention that he somewhat resembles a pig).
  • Mayor Quimby — who sounds like John F. Kennedy — is a corrupt, spendthrift womanizer.
  • Seymour Skinner (who sounds like Charles Kuralt), the principal of Springfield Elementary School, is an uptight, humorless bachelor who lives with his domineering mother. He has frequent flashbacks to his capture and imprisonment by the Viet Cong, and in early seasons, Skinner was repeatedly likened to Norman Bates in Psycho though this ultimately was dropped later on in the series.
  • Ms. Edna Krabappel is Bart's depressed, sexually-promiscuous, chain-smoking elementary school teacher who is impatient and ignorant of her class, and demands darkness and silence when she is hung over.
  • Moe Szyslak, the owner of Moe's Tavern (where Homer spends most of his free time), is a borderline sociopath who threatens people with his loaded shotgun, and attempts suicide every Christmas. Based on comedian Rich Hall.
  • Reverend Lovejoy, the pastor of the local church, is judgmental and moralistic (but only regarding other people), with a monotonous voice that always puts Homer to sleep during Sunday sermons.
  • While most of these characters are more incompetent than truly evil there is one true sadist: C. Montgomery Burns, owner of the Springfield Nuclear Plant and Homer Simpson's boss. Evil and cruel, Burns is aided in his campaign of terror against the residents of Springfield by his trusted assistant Waylon Smithers, who secretly harbors an unrequited love for Burns.
File:Simpsons 350.jpg
Promotional artwork for The Simpsons' milestone 350th episode.

During the more recent years of Simpsons production, some social conservatives have come to embrace the show. One of the main explanations of this shift is that the Simpsons portrays a traditional nuclear family among a lineup of television sitcoms that now portray less traditional families. The show has toyed with the possibility of extramarital affairs, such as when Homer falls for a female nuclear technician who shares his love of donuts, or when Marge's ex-boyfriend Artie Ziff tries to rekindle their old romance. Nevertheless, these affairs never occur, and by the end of every episode, Homer and Marge's marriage is strongly affirmed. Social conservatives and some evangelical Christians have also pointed to the positive role model of devout Christian Ned Flanders, whose fretfulness is occasionally ridiculed but whose decency never wavers despite constant provocation from Homer (except that time that he had extra-marital sex, or married a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas). In several episodes, God actually intervenes to protect the Flanders family, invoking such Protestant concepts as Predestination. As compared with the Simpsons family, the Flanders family is relatively well-off and less dysfunctional, reflecting certain theories expressed by sociologist Max Weber in his seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Race relations are also the subject of satire in the show, as the handful of African American characters are almost always portrayed as being more intelligent and rational than their "Yellow" counterparts. Some people interpret this as a satire of Hollywood and liberal TV's portrayal of exaggerated 'reverse stereotypes' in which the computer genius is always a black actor. For instance, Dr. Hibbert, despite a tendency to laugh at the most inappropriate times, is arguably among the least dysfunctional characters in the series, and is certainly more professionally qualified for medical practice than Dr. Nick Riviera. Furthermore, Officer Lou is constantly lecturing Chief Wiggum on his inept law enforcement practices, and even Homer's co-worker Carl, in addition to possessing a Master's degree in Nuclear Engineering, occasionally lambasts Homer's stupidity.

The show also routinely mocks and satirizes show business conventions and personalities. Krusty the Klown has an enthusiastic following among Springfield's kids, but offstage he is a jaded, cynical hack, in poor health from a long history of overindulgence and substance abuse. He will endorse any product for a price. Kent Brockman is a self-important, spoiled TV news anchorman with little regard for journalistic ethics. Many wealthy characters are members of the Republican Party, which meets in a dark castle. Even Rupert Murdoch—whose corporate empire includes The Simpsons' broadcast network, Fox—has been gently spoofed in a couple of episodes. In fact, ridiculing Fox has become a running joke, of sorts. Fox News has been portrayed as extremely biased towards conservatives.

Plots

A standard "template" Springfield situation, in terms of characters and events, has emerged over the years. Each episode presents some sort of change in that situation, its consequences, and almost always how things get back to normal. Episode plots rarely follow any sort of linear course, often taking several digressions to move story lines in unexpected directions, often termed plot drift. For example, the description of the 2003 episode "Dude, Where's My Ranch?" offered to Shaw Cable subscribers reads: "After David Byrne turns Homer's anti-(Ned) Flanders song into a monster hit, the family vacations at a dude ranch, where Lisa falls in love."

The plots of many episodes focus on the adventures of one particular family member, frequently Homer. However the plots have never been particularly predictable or constant and tend to be very character-driven. Recurring themes in episodes include:

  • Homer gets a new job (Simpson writers had Homer count 30 of them in a recent episode but the actual list is far longer) or attempts to make money in a get-rich-quick scheme.
  • Marge attempts to escape the monotony of keeping house by finding employment or taking up a hobby.
  • Bart causes a large problem and attempts to fix it.
  • Lisa embraces or advocates the merits of a particular political cause or group.
  • The entire family goes on vacation. (Because of these vacations the entire family has been to every continent on Earth with the exception of Antarctica.)
  • Grandpa Simpson needs help sorting out issues from his past and calls upon the main Simpsons family.
  • Sideshow Bob attempts to kill Bart.

There are several types of scenes that recur often and have become conventions of the show's storytelling style. Examples of these stock scenes include:

  • A scene at the very beginning of the show in which the family goes somewhere together, like a cartoon festival or a cider mill. After a few minutes there, the main plot begins.
  • A scene in which Bart prank calls Moe.
  • A scene, often near the middle of the show, in which Homer and Marge are in bed together discussing the events of the story so far.
  • A scene in which the family is eating dinner together and talking about the events of the plot. Conceptually this is very similar to the "Homer and Marge in bed" scenes, but including Bart and Lisa.
  • A scene in the morning in which Marge is preparing breakfast, and the kids and Homer are eating before going to work or school as they talk about what they are going to do. This is often near the start of the episode.
  • A scene in which Homer is at Moe's Tavern escaping the hassles of work and family to be with his friends.
  • A scene in which one or more Simpsons are watching a TV program, which the viewer watches along with them, or watches them watch it, often to be interrupted.
  • A crowd scene, in which the entire town of Springfield convenes to witness some notable event, protest something, attend a civic meeting, or even start a riot. Many recurring minor characters appear and speak.
  • TV anchorman Kent Brockman reporting on the events of the plot.
  • Scenes that cut from the main action to show what a secondary character, like Krusty or Mr. Burns, is doing at the time.
  • A fantasy in which one of the Simpsons imagines how something might turn out.

Hallmarks

Opening sequence

The Simpsons opening sequence is one of the show's most memorable hallmarks. Almost every episode opens with a title shot coming through the cumulus clouds and into the school where Bart is writing sentences on the class chalkboard, presumably set as a punishment by one of his teachers for some mischievous deed or wayward comment; Homer is shown leaving the power plant, with Mr. Burns (seen putting his watch to his ear, then shaking it to get it to work) and Smithers in the background (second season onwards); Marge and Maggie are shown checking out at the supermarket with Maggie traveling across the scanner, ringing up at $847.63, the then-annual cost of raising a baby (although a 'trivia question' shown as a wraparound for commercials during the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" claims that the register says "NRA4EVER" ("National Rifle Association Forever"), ironically and comedically portraying the non-aligned writers of the show as gun-crazed right-wingers); the sequence then introduces Lisa (who leaves a band rehearsal, usually playing a different saxophone solo); the family is then shown on their way to their house at 742 Evergreen Terrace (the address varied in the beginning, but the writers now use 742 Evergreen Terrace exclusively). The members of the family weave dangerously through traffic and in between fellow (and, from the second season onward, familiar) Springfield denizens, all miraculously reaching home at the exact same time. Upon entering, they all speed towards the family room couch where, in comedic parallel with the audience, they settle to watch their "must-see" TV show.

For each episode, the sequence includes a number of variations:

  Bart writes something different on the chalkboard; 
  Lisa plays a different solo on her saxophone; 
  Bart weaves between pedestrians but in some episodes is seen
  passing a queue of people waiting for a bus; 
  Homer screams in a different way (only done in the first couple
  of seasons);
  The family attempts to sit on the couch as something goes awry in
  an often surreal manner.

In the syndicated version, part or all of the opening sequence is usually cut in order to include more commercials in the show's allotted timeslot.

The "couch gag" sequence is frequently used to help show staff make the show longer or shorter, depending on the length of the episode itself. Most couch gags last only about five seconds, but the longest one on record lasted 46 seconds. The chalkboard gag lasted several seasons before it was cut to save time; however, it was reintroduced for the premier episode of the 17th season with a self- and education-jeering "Does any kid still do this anymore?"

The first season opening sequence featured a number of differences from the later seasons, including a scene in which Bart snatched a bus stop sign, forcing several dazed Springfieldians to chase the bus (replaced from the second season by a sequence showing Bart weaving his skateboard between a group of characters), and a shot of Lisa riding her bike on the way home (changed to a camera whip pan across a crowd of characters towards the Simpsons' house).

The series' distinctive theme tune was composed by musician Danny Elfman. The current arrangement, which dates back to the third season, is orchestrated by Alf Clausen. Template:See also

Halloween episodes

Main article: Treehouse of Horror
File:Bart Night Gallery.jpg
Bart introducing a segment of "Treehouse of Horror IV" in the manner of Rod Serling's Night Gallery.

An annual tradition is a special Halloween episode consisting of three separate, self-contained pieces. These pieces usually involve the family in some horror, science fiction, or supernatural setting; they always take place outside the normal continuity of the show (and are therefore considered to be non-canon), and completely abandon any pretence of being realistic. Regular Simpsons characters play humorous special roles, occasionally being killed in gruesome ways by zombies, monsters, or even each other. These Halloween segments have parodied many classic horror and science fiction films; often one of the segments spoofs an episode of The Twilight Zone. Some include "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "To Serve Man", "Living Doll", "It's a Good Life", The Shining and "Little Girl Lost"

In later years the series dropped the framing device of characters telling stories, but kept the Treehouse title; for several years the characters broke the fourth wall and introduced their pieces directly to the audience. In Treehouse of Horror II the writers decided to give the cast and crew of the show scary names in the opening and closing credits (like "Mad Matt Groening" and "James Hell Brooks"). This also became a tradition, and has been done in every Halloween episode except I, XII, and XIII. The names have changed in subsequent seasons. Another mainstay of the Halloween shows is the appearance of the two space aliens Kang and Kodos, introduced in the second segment of the first "Treehouse of Horror."

In a section of "Treehouse of Horror VI" called "Homer³", Homer and Bart go into a three-dimensional world, which Homer likens to Tron, created by Pacific Data Images (Now owned by Dreamworks SKG), a computer animation company. This segment from the Halloween show was also used as a segment of a film shown in the IMAX 3D film Cyberworld. This was one of the few times The Simpsons have strayed from their traditional 2D animation, along with a live action cameo by Regis and Kathie Lee in "Treehouse of Horror IX", a couple of claymation scenes in "'Tis The Fifteenth Season" featuring The California Prunes and Jimmy Stewart, and a live action couch gag consisting of a sketchbook being flipped by a hand to make the characters run towards the couch and sit down. Another recent episode featured a CGI trailer for a comedy about humanoid playing cards. Other Treehouse segment name parodies include "Citizen Kang", "The nightmare on Evergreen Terrace", "The Thing and I", "House of Whacks", and "Reaper Madness".

Guest celebrities

Template:See Many episodes feature celebrity guests contributing their voices to the show, as either themselves (especially during the middle of the Simpson's years, i.e. seasons 7 to 13) or as fictional characters (mainly during the early and later seasons). In fact, the highest rated episode featuring celebrity guest voices was New Kids on the Blecch, shown during the 12th season, in which pop stars N*Sync supplied their voices to give helpful advice and dance moves to Barts boy band "The Party Posse".

Production and history of The Simpsons

The Simpson family first appeared in animated form as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, with the first short "Good Night" airing on April 19, 1987. Matt Groening admits the reason that they were so crudely drawn in the beginning was because he could not draw well and the animators did nothing more than just trace over his drawings. The shorts were aired by the BBC in the UK the first time the shows were broadcast, but not subsequently, though some of them, including "Good Night", were included in a Simpsons anniversary episode. The Simpsons was converted, by a team of production companies that included what is now the Klasky Csupo animation house, into a series for the FOX Network in 1989 and has run as a weekly show on that network ever since. The first full length episode shown was "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", however the intended first episode was "Some Enchanted Evening", but when "Some Enchanted Evening" was completed it was rejected due to poor animation, so Fox aired "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" first.

The Simpsons was the first true TV series hit for the FOX Network; it was the first Fox show to appear in the top twenty highest-rated shows of the time. It also sparked controversy, as Bart Simpson was portrayed as a rebellious troublemaker who caused trouble and got away with it. Parents' groups and conservative spokespersons felt that a cartoon character like Bart Simpson provided a poor role model for children. When a Simpsons T-shirt was marketed featuring Bart and the logo "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')", Simpsons T-shirts and other merchandise were banned from public schools in several areas of the United States.

File:TIME Best of 1990.jpg
Bart appears on the cover of a 1990 TIME issue.

The outcry against Bart was reflected in the second season opener, featuring an episode called Bart Gets an F where Bart's school wants to make him repeat the fourth grade. In this episode, the school counselor quotes the controversial T-shirt by stating, "He is an underachiever... and proud of it." The T-shirt is also quoted in the later episode Skinner's Sense of Snow in a student riot, where children find their permanent record books. Bart reads his, quoting "Underachiever and proud of it... How old is this thing?"

In September 1990, Barbara Bush said in an interview for People magazine that The Simpsons was the dumbest thing she had ever seen. Six years later, an episode had George and Barbara Bush move to Springfield and leave after George gets involved in a feud with the Simpson family (in a style reminiscent of Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson). Mr. and Mrs. Bush were both portrayed by voice actors. One of the Simpsons DVD sets includes a special feature that presents an exchange of letters between the First Lady and show staff. In another address, Mr. Bush said that America needed to be closer to The Waltons than to The Simpsons, causing Bart to say they were a lot like the Waltons, since they were both praying for an end to the Depression.

File:Simpsons plane.jpg
The "Simpsons Plane"

The writers have shown a love for cameo appearances by celebrities and extended pastiches of contemporary and classic movies, as well as subtle visual jokes.

In 1995, Western Pacific Airlines repainted a Boeing 737 jet with Simpsons characters to promote the series. The creator Matt Groening and some of writers didn't go for the plane's first trip as they feared it would crash, and they would die with the plane.

On February 9, 1997 The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones as the longest-running prime time animated series in America, however it has not yet beaten several Japanese anime series such as Sazae-san (which has been running since 1969) and Doraemon (running since 1979). In 2004 it surpassed Scooby Doo in number of episodes.

In January 2003, it was announced that the show had been renewed by Fox through 2005 — meaning it has replaced The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952 to 1966) as longest-running sitcom (animated or live action) ever in the United States. In 2004, the series was renewed through its 19th season. Some take the view that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet should continue to be counted as the longest-running sitcom as The Simpsons is animated, not live-action, although this view is declining as more authorities unambiguously credit The Simpsons as television's longest-running sitcom.

In its 1998 issue celebrating the greatest achievements in arts and entertainment of the 20th Century, TIME magazine named The Simpsons the century's best television series. In that same issue, Bart Simpson was named to the Time 100, the publication's list of the century's 100 most influential people. He was the only fictional character on the list.

Since the series originated as part of The Tracey Ullman Show, it is also considered the longest running and most successful spinoff of all time.

Over the years, virtually every Simpsons character has appeared on a magazine cover, ranging from TIME to Christianity Today and even Airliners.

The Simpsons has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 21 Emmy Awards, 22 Annie Awards, a Peabody and numerous others. On January 14, 2000 the Simpsons were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The voice actors have been involved in much-publicized pay disputes with Fox on more than one occasion. In 1998, the voice actors stopped working, forcing 20th Century Fox TV to increase their salary from $30,000 per episode to $125,000. The actors were supported in their action by series creator Matt Groening. [1] As the revenue generated by the show continued to increase through syndication and DVD sales, six actors (playing over 50 characters) — Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer — stopped showing up for script readings in April 2004 after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with Fox. They asked for $360,000 per episode, or $8 million for a 22-episode season. On May 2, 2004, the actors resolved their dispute with Fox after having their demands met. The universally reported claim that this dispute was in fact a full-blown strike is denied by Harry Shearer. [2]

Since as early as Season 4, the show has drawn criticism from some fans for straying too far from its comedic structure, for becoming too "mainstream," and changing character personalities without explanation. Some consider its parody of the prequel Star Wars trilogy in the episode Co-Dependent's Day being very harsh considering the show's own "downfall." These attacks have been countered by less hardcore fans stating that the show was always more or less mainstream, and nonsensical personality changes and the structural changes were done in a spirit of creative experimentation, and has not damaged the show (see Criticism).

Producers

The series has gone through numerous executive producers, also known as show runners, throughout its run. The showrunner serves as head writer and is in charge of every aspect of the show's production.

Voice actors and their characters

File:Dan Castellaneta.jpg
Dan Castellaneta provides the voice of Homer Simpson and many other characters.

All episodes (with the exception of one) list only the voice actors (not the characters they voice) in keeping with the mystique of having the audience not associate any one character with an actor — this is to discourage the audience from easily identifying exactly which voice actor did what. Yeardley Smith, voice actress of Lisa Simpson, and Marcia Wallace, voice actress of Edna Krabappel, are the only cast members who only do one voice, though both have on occasion voiced one-shot characters. Dan Castellaneta performs the voices of Homer Simpson and his dad, Abraham Simpson, while Julie Kavner performs the voices of Marge Simpson and her sisters, mother, and (in one episode) her aunt. Nancy Cartwright performs the voice of Bart Simpson and other children from the school that he attends. Hank Azaria voices Moe, Chief Wiggum, and Apu, as well as other miscellaneous characters. Harry Shearer performs perhaps the largest array of characters, including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Principal Seymour Skinner, Otto, Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, Reverend Lovejoy, Dr. Julius Hibbert, and many more. Guest stars had performed as well.

Template:See

Writing

John Swartzwelder is the most prolific writer on the Simpsons' staff, personally writing over 50 episodes (more than any other Simpsons writer). According to the DVD commentaries, he used to write episodes while sitting at a booth in his favorite restaurant "drinking copious amounts of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes" (Matt Groening). When the state of California passed an anti-smoking law, Swartzwelder bought a diner booth and installed it in his house, allowing him to smoke and write in peace.

George Meyer became a writer for the show in 1989, and in 2000 was called the "the funniest man behind the funniest show on TV" by The New Yorker.[3]

Current late-night talkshow host Conan O'Brien was a writer during the fourth and fifth season. He wrote "New Kid on the Block" (9F06), "Marge vs. the Monorail" (9F10), "Homer Goes to College" (1F02) and part of "Treehouse of Horror IV" (1F04).

Ian Maxtone-Graham has been a prominent writer for The Simpsons since the eighth season.

The character Professor John Frink was named for a friend of Al Jean's, John Frink, who later became a writer/producer of the show.

In 2005 English comedian Ricky Gervais was asked to write an episode which should be airing in 2006.

Animation

Overseas animation studios involved:

AKOM—192 episodes

  • Exclusively produced the first two seasons of the series.
  • Produced various episodes throughout the run of the series.

Anivision—55 episodes

  • Produced animation for episodes from seasons 3–10.

Rough Draft Studios—113 episodes

  • Produced animation for episodes from season four onwards.

U.S. Animation, Inc.—2 episodes

Toonzone Entertainment—2 episodes

The Simpsons has been animated by many different studios over the past 18 years, both domestic and overseas. Throughout the run of the animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, the animation was solely produced domestically at Klasky Csupo. Klasky Csupo was also the animation studio during the first three seasons of the half-hour length series, however, due to the increased workload, production was now being subcontracted to overseas studios, usually in Korea, where labor is cheaper. While character and background layout is done by the domestic studio, inbetweening, coloring and filming is done by the overseas studios. Throughout the years, different overseas studios have animated different episodes, even episodes within the same season.

During season four, Gracie Films made a decision to switch domestic production to Film Roman, which continues to animate the show to this day. The last episode to be animated by Klasky Csupo was "A Streetcar Named Marge".

After season 13, production was switched from traditional cel animation to digital ink and paint. Originally, the switch was intended to happen during season 12 with the episode "Tennis the Menace", but after seeing the results, Gracie Films decided to hold off for two more seasons. Tennis the Menace, however, being already completed, was broadcast this way. The Simpsons has been widely distributed internationally; for a list of distributors, see List of TV channels that air The Simpsons. "The Simpsons" is one of the longest running TV shows ever created. By the end of its 16th season, the show had accumulated 356 episodes (see list).

Cultural impact

A number of neologisms that started on The Simpsons have entered common usage. The most famous of which is Homer's saying: "D'oh!", which is referred to in scripts, as well as four episode names, as "annoyed grunt". D'oh is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, but without the apostrophe. "D'oh" is the accepted spelling, and is certainly the most common; the closed captions for the program (at least in the U.S.), however, spell it "D-OHH". Note: A much earlier use of the same expression, often similarly used to denote thwarted expectation, was established in the long-running BBC (UK) radio series 'The Archers', where it was used, almost as a catch-phrase, by the character 'Walter Gabriel' (voiced by actor Chris Gittings). Dan Castellaneta has explained that he borrowed the phrase from an actor in early Laurel and Hardy comedies, but that he originally pronounced it much more stretched-out and whiny. He was told by the show's director to shorten the noise, leading to the annoyed grunt we know today.

Groundskeeper Willie's description of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" was used by conservative National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, a fan of the show, in 2003, after France's opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq, and quickly spread to other journalists.

The expression "excellent" — drawn out as a sinister and breathy "eeeexcelllent…" in the style of Montgomery Burns — has also entered popular use, as have Homer's triumphant "Woohoo!" and Nelson Muntz's mocking "HA-ha!". "Woohoo" subsequently became the catch phrase of Melissa Joan Hart's portrayal of Sabrina in Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

In various internet communities, the popular meme "I, for one, welcome our new <Insert topic here> overlords!" stems from a quote of Kent Brockman from the episode "Deep Space Homer". It can also be heard on VCPR radio in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

The character Waylon Smithers. Since the debut of the show, the term "Smithers" has become a common eponym for a spineless underling.

The show's creators also take pride in having passed on schoolyard rhymes to a new generation of children who otherwise may not have heard them.

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Academia

Serious academic work has been done on the show. Simpsons-related publications include:

  • Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation by Chris Turner ISBN 0679313184
  • Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture (Contemporary Film and Television Series) by John Alberti ISBN 0814328490
  • The Simpsons And Society: An Analysis Of Our Favorite Family And Its Influence In Contemporary Society by Steven Keslowitz ISBN 1587362538
  • The Gospel According to the Simpsons: Leaders Guide for Group Study by Mark I. Pinsky, Samuel F. Parvin ISBN 066422590X
  • The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer by William Irwin (Editor), Mark T. Conard (Editor), Aeon Skoble (Editor) ISBN 0812694333
  • The Gospel According to The Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family by Mark I. Pinsky ISBN 0664224199
  • The Gospel According to Bart: Examining the Religious Elements of The Simpsons by Beth L. Keller

Simpsons publications

File:Simpsons comic books.jpg
Simpsons comic books

Numerous different Simpsons-related comic book series have been published by Bongo Comics since 1993. The Simpsons, Futurama, and Bart Simpson comics are also reprinted in the UK, under the same titles, with various stories from the other Bongo series reprinted in the main Simpsons comic. The comics have also been collected in book form; many other Simpsons books such as episode guides have also been published.

Music is prominently featured in The Simpsons, with virtually all members of the cast breaking into song at least once during the course of the series. Perhaps the best known song is "Do The Bartman", which was released as a single and became an international success. The Simpsons Sing the Blues and The Yellow Album contained cover versions of songs, as well as some originals (including "Do The Bartman"). Songs in the Key of Springfield and Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons are CD collections of original music featured in the TV series.

With the incredible popularity of The Simpsons, especially amongst children, it was only natural for the video game industry to turn to the characters and world of Springfield. While there have always been flops, the majority of Simpsons games did very well commercially and some (such as The Simpsons: The Arcade Game and Bart vs. the Space Mutants) are considered minor video game classics in their own right.

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DVDs

Many episodes of the show have been released on DVD and VHS over the years. When the first season DVD was released in 2001, it quickly became the best-selling television DVD in history (although it would later be overtaken by the first season of Chappelle's Show) [4]. The seven DVD volumes rank as the best-selling television DVD series of all time. In particular, these DVDs have been released in North America (Region 1), Europe (Region 2) and Australia/New Zealand/Latin America (Region 4).

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Video games

Video games have been made since 1990. The first game was The Simpsons (arcade game), published by Konami. It was, at the time, one of the most successful arcade games ever.

Various games have been made, including The Simpsons: Hit and Run, The Simpsons Road Rage, and Krusty's Super Fun House.

There are at least two Simpson's pinball games as well, one released after the first season, and the other still available.

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Movie

Main article: The Simpsons Movie

Talk about a possible feature-length Simpsons movie has been going on since the early days of the series. The episode "Kamp Krusty" was originally going to be a movie, but became a regular episode after difficulties were encountered in trying to expand the script to feature-length.

Rumors were circulated on the Internet about a movie already being in development, but it was not until 2004 that any were confirmed. In that year, producers announced a theatrical movie is in the very early stages of development, and that it will not be released until after the series ends. With the series being renewed for a twentieth season, an estimated premiere date for The Simpsons Movie was set for the summer of 2008. This was confirmed by 20th Century Fox June 6, 2005. Just like the series, the movie will be animated (Matt Groening recently turned down a proposal to make a live action film based on the characters, as this would likely ruin the franchise and anger fans) and will star the six main voice actors: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, and most likely Marcia Wallace, Maggie Roswell, Pamela Hayden, and Tress MacNeille. It is speculated that there will also be guest stars appearing in large roles or cameos. IMDb has also created a page for The Simpsons movie, and claims a release date of November 2008, while Yahoo! Movies reports that The Simpsons Movie will be released in 2007.

News website Corona posted a popular April Fool's Day hoax describing fictional plans for a live action movie.

Debut in Arab/Muslim Countries

The program finally made an official debut in Arabic-speaking markets in September of 2005, under a title that transliterates as "El Shempshoon" or "Al-Shamshoon." In addition to being dubbed in Arabic (with subtitles provided for shots including written English, such as the chalkboards), references to alcohol (Duff Beer & Moe's Tavern), pork (bacon & hot dogs), and numerous other themes have been deleted or significantly modified. For instance, Homer drinks soda (not beer) and eats beef sausages. The characters were also given typical Arabic names (such as Omar, Mona and Abar for Homer, Marge and Bart respectively) as part of the retooling, while voices were provided by leading actors including Egyptian film star Mohamed Heneidi as "Omar."

See also

The Simpsons lists

Simpsons Books

External links

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