Thursday, February 23, 2012

Might Be Time for a Simpsons Rewatch

Almost a month ago, MC mentioned that Fox was going to have a marathon of The Simpsons, every episode of the series, in preparation for the (then upcoming) 500th episode. He asked the question: "do you think that if someone watched The Simpsons that way, that they would notice the exact moment where the show started to go downhill?" I thought about that for a long time, wondering when exactly the moment was that I started to feel the show was less than essential. I know the moment I gave up on the thing (the episode where Homer was a grunge rocker), but when did the cracks start for me?

I thought about that for a while. I was thinking of writing a post about it--not that bitching about how The Simpsons isn't good anymore is in any way original, but I talk about TV a lot--but now I'm wondering, if I could get the DVDs from the library, if I might just do a rewatch of the show and blog it here, similar to my other TV posts. I think that would be fun; the local reruns here tend to be stuck in more recent seasons, and there are a lot of classics I haven't seen in far too long.

(On a related note, I am actually still watching Enterprise, but there have been a lot of breaks because of exasperation with some real dumbass episodes...)


abc said...

For me, the cracks started showing in season 7; the disappointing (at the time) resolution to Who Shot Mr. Burns, and later in the season, Homerpalooza just stuck out as just a contrived excuse for celebrity guest stars. But the real problem was Homer's degradation from a stupid, funny person to a stupid asshole with no redeeming qualities. A couple of episodes in particular:
Season 7's King Size Homer, where he purposely tries to get fat; then Homer's Enemy (Frank Grimes) sank him to a low that I don't think he's ever recovered from. After that, I realized he wasn't just stupid, he was actually unlikeable and it became hard to understand why anyone in-show tolerated the guy (like Marge).
Season 8 still had some exceptionally brilliant episodes, but "The Cartridge Family" (the gun episode) was kinda the final straw for me.
So after that, any good episode was ruined by my impression of Homer as just an unlikeable selfish stupid asshole. When he more-or-less killed Maude Flanders in Season 11...ugh. Awful.
And "Bart to the Future" was pretty lame.
Inertia kept me watching after that, but by Season 12 I was consciously hoping the show would be funny, but was usually disappointed.

Of course, it became a victim of expectations too, and now I find catching any episode in re-runs enjoyable in a comfort-food kind of way (even ones I haven't watched before or ones mentioned above)

Nathan said...

I don't know that I can pinpoint any one moment, because I think every season has had its good and bad episodes. The one with Homer as a grunge musician would definitely be on my list of worst episodes if I had one, though. I realize the timeline is going to be a bit skewed in a show where nobody ages, but that one went way too far in rewriting history. Also, the five hundredth episode was really bad. Perhaps not one of the worst ever, but a terrible episode nonetheless.

SamuraiFrog said...

abc: I think the cracks started just a bit later for me; I remember being especially fond of season 9, but I think obvious cracks showed up in it. "The Principal and the Pauper" (the Armand Tamzarian episode) was the first time I consciously felt that the writers were willing to sacrifice character integrity simply for laughs.

I liked "Homer's Enemy" in large part because I felt like they were using Grimey to make a point that anywhere outside of his safety net of family and friends, Homer would seem like a monstrous jerk. Unfortunately, the writers used that as his major character trait forever after.

I was in the inertia crowd for some time, but season 10 is really the season where I started to look forward to the show less and less. Too many misses. Season 11's "Saddlesore Galactica" felt like the writers simply telling fans of the show to shut up and accept the lesser quality, and that's pretty much the episode where I stopped expecting it to be good. Land of the Jockeys, indeed.

Nathan: That's why I was thinking of a rewatch; it's a process rather than any single moment. It has peaks and valleys everywhere, but I think season 10 was the first season (for me) where the number of bad episodes outnumbered the good ones. I saw the 500th and it was terrible; one of those episodes I walked away from wondering what the hell the point was supposed to be.

Roger Owen Green said...

Well, I stopped watching circa season 10 or 11. My wife didn't like the show, and, unlike other shows I watch anyway, even if she doesn't like them (on VCR or later, DVR), I realized that *I* didn't care that much. I've seen maybe a half dozen eps since, and they are OK. But stuff from the first half dozen seasons, I STILL remember fondly, even without seeing again.

YES, you should review every season available on DVD. You may want to treat Treehouse of Horror differently, if only because I've seen some packaged together, several seasons at a time. And they are outliers, thematically.

SamuraiFrog said...

The decline in quality of the Treehouse of Horror episodes is in line with the decline in quality of the show; it was the same general time period when I think they started weakening. Then it led to the nightmare of every season's extra episode where they tell three stories about something, which was funny once ("Simpsons Bible Stories") and then never again as I can remember.

abc said...

SamuraiFrog: Spot on with the "Homer's Enemy" analysis. I remember it being funny as I watched it, but kept waiting for Homer's character to be redeemed, even in some small way. Nope. "Monstrous jerk" from then on.

BTW, would very much enjoy reading your Simpsons reviews.

Also looking forward to your next Enterprise review. Season Two is when the inertia gave out for me. So much crap.

SamuraiFrog said...

The crap is why it's taking me so long to get through it. It's unfortunate the way the show will go through four or five truly terrible episodes, and then suddenly a good one come shining out of nowhere, and then it's back to the crap... It's frustrating, because when it's good, I like it better than Voyager. But it's not good often enough.

Nathan said...

I'm all for absurd humor, but the Land of the Jockeys was absurd without the humor. It was weird, but not funny. I felt much the same way about "Simpsons Safari," which was pretty much just an attempt to purposely get everything wrong. That could work in some contexts, but in the episode it was just uncomfortable.