The Simpsons – The Best Television Show of All Time – Do You Agree?

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Let’s start with the assumption that almost nobody playing this game, is anything less than a huge Simpsons fan.  Yes. I know you are out there, those of the “I really don’t watch the show…I just like the game,” variety…or even those of you would argue that “The Simpsons is good, but it doesn’t stack up to Deep Space Nine!” But, I suspect you are in the minority.

However, once again, a pair of well-known media critics have written a book about the top 100 television shows of all time, and “The Simpsons” comes out on top!

The numbers speak for themselve. But surprisingly, the notion that “The Simpsons” is the “longest running television series” isn’t even close to being true.  While our favorite show is in fact, the longest-running animated American series,the  longest running American sitcom and the longest running scripted prime-time series, it’s 27-year run doesn’t even come close to the 68-year run of “Meet the Press.”

But, “The Simpsons” is a heck of a lot funnier…unless you count the times that Sarah Palin was on “Meet the Press.”

So, what makes “The Simpsons” so enduring? What keeps a show fresh well beyond the “expiration date” that most viewers would expect?

There are a lot of reasons… Let’s Take a Look!

Warning: What follows is an “opinion piece,” designed to offer my opinion, and solicit yours. Just like the show itself, it may be deemed controversial in nature in some topics, and in no way should be construed to represent the opinions of “the management.” It is also a LOT of words for some of you who don’t really like to read. So, if allowing someone their opinion, while you offer yours is not your cup of tea…then go back to tapping robots. OK?

In my opinion, the reason “The Simpsons” continues to remain fresh, topical, and consistently good, starts at the top. And I mean the top of the top (since the show’s inception as part of a short subject feature on the “Tracey Ullman Show”) namely, co-creator and producer, James L. Brooks.

Brooks has the kind of short, but amazing pedigree that includes some of my very favorite movies and television shows of all time, both as a writer and producer. It is short by some Hollywood standards with a little over 35 credits as producer, and an equal number as writer, but laden with some of the most beloved, “game-changer” productions from their time.

If you want to hear an amazing interview with Brooks (and aren’t afraid of the language used in the WTF podcast with Marc Maron), you can listen to a great recap of the origination and insider info on some of the best of the best (The Simpsons, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, The Tracey Ullman Show, Terms of Endearment, As Good as It Gets, Jerry McGuire) as well as his favorite show that didn’t make it past one season (The Critic). Be warned…it is two hours long. But, would be great way to pass the time while you are making room for your SciFi stuff in your Springfield. But through it all, you sense Brooke’s intelligence, courage to do something different, and absolute joy in the creative process.

In my opinion, it is that last bit that keeps the Simpsons amazing, funny and bitingly current after almost three decades. He still loves doing it. 

What is most amazing to me, is that since its inception, The Simpsons has remained controversial while being almost completely innocuous. It remains political, without fully stating a partisan view. It remains an “equal opportunity insulter,” in a way that makes us laugh at the system, while pointing out the shortcomings of leadership.

If you take politics seriously, you are likely to get your dander up at some point, no matter which side of the spectrum you fall, because for the most part, the show remains neutral in taking a specific side to an issue. It just points out the ludicrous nature of the “controversy.”

There have been countless classic examples of this throughout the history of the show, going back as far as President Bush the elder’s re-election campaign in 1992, stating that  “The next value I speak of must be forever cast in stone. I speak of decency, the moral courage to say what is right and condemn what’s wrong, and we need a nation closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons. An America that rejects the incivility, the tide of incivility and the tide of intolerance”

Ironic, right? Given to the de-evolution of politics, into a generalized, inarticulate shouting match, this seems old fashioned, and sweet. As does “The Simpsons” reply in a couch gag when Bart replies to the speech they are watching on TV, “Hey, we’re just like the Waltons. We’re praying for an end to The Depression too!”

There are simply too many instances of political and social humor in the show to mention in any one article. One could write an entire book on the subject. But, some of the hottest issues of our time have been featured, along with some of the best-known pop and cultural icons of the era. It’s almost a badge of honor to be skewered. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the huge list of celebrities who have braved running the gauntlet of being “Simpsonized.”

Gun control? Gay rights? The inability for Congress to be anything but ridiculous and broken? It’s all in there…but with a simple bluntness that makes us laugh, rather than wince.

This WIKI article lays out some of the most controversial and topical episodes.

In an article from the “AV Club” a longstanding TV/Media site, their article, “How The Simpsons mastered the art of neutral political satire really hits the topic squarely between the eyes.  It’s a good read, but also has a ton of clips from the show as examples.

If you think that the “hold your nose and pull the lever” is a new concept to this Presidential election, take a look at this short…and then grimace along with the reality of where we are today. That’s right…the show was lampooning the limitations of the two-party system, clear back in the Dole/Clinton/Perot days.

The Simpsons is edgy, silly, and painfully honest. And some would say, has been a “predictor of the future” in ways that would have conspiracy theorists burbling with excitement and flow charts! (this video is kinda over the top…)

The most amazing thing that continues to keep the show fresh, is the ability to laugh at itself, poke fun of popular culture and communications, while having a consistent running battle with the very network that has been its home for almost three decades.

The show lampoons Fox tirelessly and unmercifully.  I can only imagine what Brooks and company have in store with the recent Roger Ayers debacle. Biting the hand that feeds them (Rupert Murdoch) has been a standard since the first season. But, even more “accepted as the norm” is the fact that the show makes fun of television, news broadcasters, kids shows, and yes…even MOBILE GAMING…with the same sort of pointed irreverence.

On a personal aside; there is an irony to being a TSTO blogger, and being called out for “not loving the game enough,” or “being too hard on EA,” when the very game we play, is based upon a show who continually “keeps it real,” by not being afraid to call out those who stand to prosper the most for lazy or poor leadership and programming. But, I digress… 

In my opinion (and this is so far…just that), this show, is part of the bedrock that makes democracy great. It is the ability to entertain, while holding those in power accountable, with an almost constant push to force us to look at ourselves and our own sense of prejudice and hypocrisy.  In short…taking from one of my favorite Brooks movie, “As Good As It Gets,” the Simpsons makes me want to be a better person. 

We are able to laugh at our own shortcomings, while learning to be tolerant and forgiving of those that are different than we are. Do I want to be Smithers? No. But, who doesn’t appreciate his unbridled devotion? Homer? Same thing…while making an ass of himself, his devotion to Marge is almost never in question (even when being tempted by Lurleen or Mandy).  We would all like the scruples of Lisa (until there is a boy involved) and ultimately, even Bart has a heart of gold (plate) that keeps you loving the little scamp.

While the Simpsons characters are broadly painted in personality, it is the subtleness and humanity that keeps us watching.

For me, one of the constants for almost half of my lifetime (and I suspect the whole of some of your lives) has been knowing that the Simpsons will be here to keep us honest, self-reflecting, and laughing. What greater gift can we ask of a television show?

Meet the Press?  Pfffffftttttttttttttt…. I haven’t watched it more than a handful of times in my entire life (which is shorter than the 67-year run). But, I wouldn’t miss an episode of The Simpsons. Ever.

So…NOW IT’S YOUR TURN?  One of the Best? or Best Show EVER?
Too political? Not political enough? Do you watch, or did you stop watching after the “Golden Era” before Season 9?

Let us know…you know we LOVE to hear your thoughts and opinions!

110 thoughts on “The Simpsons – The Best Television Show of All Time – Do You Agree?

  1. My favorite TV shows are (alphabetically): Breaking Bad, Firefly, M*A*S*H, Orphan Black, The Simpsons & Sports Night. I’ll try to be brief as I list the different reasons I like each show.

    Firefly (my SciFi pick) didn’t last a full season (Fox cancelled it before the last two episodes were broadcast), but the universe created by Josh Whedon had the possibility to rival the richness of Tolkein’s Middle Earth if it had lasted. It’s been said if you want to understand another culture first eat their food and learn their language. Firefly’s ‘verse had a language (a mash-up of English, Chinese and invented cursing) that was simultaneously familiar, exotic and gave us viewers insight to the characters.

    Sports Night was Aaron Sorkin’s show before The West Wing, and had a lot of the same features that made TWW great (like tightly written “walking & talking” dialogue). It only lasted two seasons so Sorkin was able to maintain high caliber production values that he couldn’t sustain over 7 years of TWW. Sports Night easily tops Friday Night Lights for best scripted Sports Show because it engaged human drama, both on & off the field, without having to resort to story arcs involving hot young cheerleaders.

    Orphan Black not only has Science Fiction themes, but multi-national corporate conspiracies worthy of the X-Files, murder/police drama and several interesting love/relationship arcs. Plus Tatiana Maslany (she finally won her Emmy!) plays five major characters (and several minor ones) thru the entire 5 years (so far) – she is such a pleasure to watch.

    Breaking Bad is a home-town favorite – I lived in Albuquerque. But I also really enjoyed watching how Vince Gilligan morphed Walt White from a nice-but-loser teacher to this totally amoral drug kingpin … and every step along the way he had us rooting for him: “Just one more job and he will have enough money to solve all his problems!” Brilliant!

    M*A*S*H was a series that lasted five times as long as its Korean War setting. But it was really about Viet Nam, wasn’t it? It was an anti-war protest that would not have been possible had it not been for Star Trek and The Twilight Zone leading the way. However M*A*S*H has aged more gracefully than the other two, and managed to include some comedy as well as some touching stories about people living in spite of the destruction around them.

    You all know why you like The Simpsons. For my part I appreciate the way The Simpsons also has aged well (I watched about 75% of the 552 episode marathon on FXX back in 2014). In addition, Homer and Marge consistantly make the Best TV Couples lists, which continues to give me hope, in spite of what happens in my real life.

    Yeah, too long I know …

  2. Definitely my favorite show of all time(with the original Star Trek a close second). I watched the first episode when it aired(way back when I was 13) and haven’t missed one yet. The cool thing is with FX now airing the episodes nearly every night, I’ve got my kids hooked on watching. Infa act, they want us all to go as The Simpsons for Halloween this year but we’ve got one too many boys so one of them will have to be Milhouse. Poor kid

  3. In terms of endurance and lasting effect, The Simpsons is by far the best television show ever. In terms of medium-spanning media, The Simpsons is by far the best anything ever. The one thing that always confused me is, the TV writers spent a decade and a half building up the Rainier Wolfcastle character and his McBain role. If you haven’t, go watch the McBain movie that was compiled using Simpsns scenes spread out over many, many different episodes. It’s so cool. Wolfcastle has even been included in our game. So when they made a “The Simpsons: The Movie”, why did they create a new character, President Schwarzenegger? So unnecessary.

  4. Nah, ‘Heil Honey I’m Home’ is way better!

    On a serious note, it isn’t, to me, the best show ever (that would have to be Doctor Who) but it is a strong contender for one of the greatest pieces of televised fiction! It is always so funny, and I laugh out loud at most episodes, which is what you’d want from a comedy!

    I do like the political discourse within the show- the humour is biting but without being needlessly offensive. In fact, very little could be said to be offensive at all, simply sharp and biting, and that is always the best kind of satire. I think the show is usually more left wing than right, which does fit my own sensibilities, but in my more right wing younger years it was still brilliantly funny!

    The jabs at Fox are my favourites, because Fox deserve as much derision as possible! It isn’t like Fox could threaten to cancel them because the show is too big for them to lose- and a competitor would snap it right up, so the creators are in a unique position. I’m not sure they’d do anything Ailes-themed though- such a thing is all too horrible to joke about.

    It is definitely one of my favourite animation series, just behind Phineas and Ferb (which just beats it in the sheer joy of the writing and performances), and Fairly Odd Parents as well as Spongebob (of course!) I think shows like Family Guy just show us how brilliant the Simpsons is- while lesser adult-oriented shows make satire by making really offensive, often downright disgusting jokes, the Simpsons writers have a respect for everyone, not just the privileged upbringing of most of its creatives, and this seeps through in the biting yet inoffensive jokes and humour. They satirise while also being knowledgeable of the fact that the people they are satirising are still people with actual emotions. That’s why the show is one of the best- it is downright hilarious all the time but also very loving of life, touching while also humorous.

    It is also one of the few comedy shows in which poignancy is mixed perfectly with humour. The emotional scenes are brilliant, and don’t jar with this humour- they instead complement. If anyone hasn’t seen the wonderful Only Fools and Horses, please do, because the Simpsons and OFaH are two of the only really funny comedies that also are able to have genuinely moving moments too. That’s a major part of what I love about Simpsons.

    In short, it is one of the greatest shows of all time, and still is no matter what the internet bandwagon is carrying. Not THE best, but one of them!!!

  5. This is a great blog COG hits a lot of my buttons and a lot of the contributions are sparking memories of other great shows given my test I have to say I am now tieing Simpsons with MASH (as best US TV show)

    However also thinking of High Chappel episode involving Buffalo soldiers which I think was ground breaking in many ways.

  6. Very interesting reading everybody’s stories here. I myself am fairly young, turning 29 this year and The Simpsons came out when I was about 2. I am part of that last generation that recalls life both before and after the Internet, and The Simpsons has been with me throughout it all, from the days where I used to watvh it with my grandfather on our relatively small pictotube to now when I stream it strzight to my own flatscreen, so its great for me to be able to cling on to this show because it reminds me of my own childhood and I love the fact that within the show the universe for the most part still retains that 90s aesthetic without going too digital.

    I’m really glad the app is here because not only is it connecting generatiins of fans and preserving The Simpsons legacy, but also because with this game Round, Fox/EA/Simpsons creators are making more money off sales and merchandise than ever before, which means that now the series has the power to go on forever, regardless of ratings! I think that was the real purpose of creating the game and I support it.

    Its not the greatest show ever IMO (that title goes to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone) but with everything its achieved (including that it was the best show ever during its first 10 seasons) it doesnt need to be that anymore, its still a very important part of modern culture and our daily lives, and that’s way more important.

  7. I love the Simpsons and have watched it since episode one, but my heart belongs to Farscape as best show. MASH, Futurama, and X-files also make my top shows list. I never get tired of rewatching them all.

  8. I don’t know how Alan Sepinwell and Matt Zolla are considered well known critics? Also a Best TV Show list should be comprised with a woman too since sometimes men and woman have different tastes and it would be nice to get a female perspective.

    It is one of the best of all time and would be in my top 10 but not top 5. Inbetweeners, Friends, Futurama, South Park, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones are superior in my opinion. Controversy doesn’t make a good show, Family Guy is proof of that. I didn’t read past that part because Tl;dr

    Sadly I think these last 10 years have damaged the show because judging a great TV show is judging it as a whole and not just the best stuff. The show has been bland since 2006 except for the few exceptions like the Futurama crossover and Lego one.

    Talking about The Best Animated Show would bring up South Park but I think Futurama is really the best and is easily Matt Groening’a best work. If the Simpsons had ended after the Simpsons Movie and had not overstayed it’s welcome it would be easily in my top 5.

      1. Whenever I turn on the TV and the Simpsons is on, if it’s a HD episode I don’t watch it, that’s how I can tell when the quality dipped. If it’s a classic episode I’ll watch it no matter what.

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