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The Simpsons
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The Simpsons

Warning: Plot details follow.

The Simpsons is an animated television series created by Matt Groening. It is the longest-running sitcom in U.S. television history, with 16 seasons and airing over 335 episodes since its debut in 1989.

Table of contents
1 Origins
2 Characters and plot
3 Origin of the Names
4 Opening sequence
5 Halloween Episodes
6 Voice Actors and their characters
7 Memes
8 Trivia
9 Academia
10 Related topics
11 External links


The Simpson Family first appeared in animated form as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, the first short Good Night airing on April 19, 1987. (The shorts were not aired by the BBC in the UK). 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.

Set in the fictional - and vaguely located - U.S town of Springfield, and highly satirical of many facets of the stereotypical American way of life (including beer, fast food, television, and religion), The Simpsons was a massive hit, generating a huge popular following as well as criticism from then-U.S. President George H. W. Bush. In September of 1990, Barbara Bush said in an interview for People magazine that The Simpsons was the dumbest thing she'd ever seen. The writers also showed a love for cameo appearances by celebrities and extended pastiches of contemporary and classic movies, as well as subtle visual jokes showing a high regard for the sophistication of the audience.

On February 9, 1997 The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones as the longest-running prime-time animated series; and 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.

The voice actors have gone on strike on more than one occasion. In 1998, the actors were making $30,000 per episode and stopped working, forcing 20th Century Fox TV to renegotiate the amount to $125,000. 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. They asked for $360,000 per episode, or $8 million for a 22-episode season. On May 2, 2004, the actors ended their strike after having their demands met.

Some fans believed that the show has killed off characters from failed negotiations, citing the example of Maude Flanders, who was killed in a freak accident. It was reported, however, that Maggie Roswell, the voice of Maude, asked to have the character removed because she was tired of playing the role - Roswell apparently had to commute great distances to record very short scenes.

Characters and plot

The show's basic premise centers around the antics of the Simpson family, which consists of Homer and Marge Simpson, and their three children, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, as well as their pets Santa's Little Helper the dog and Snowball II the cat. (Snowball I was run over and killed earlier in Simpsons history.)

Homer is a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and a generally well-meaning buffoon whose short attention span is often drawn to outrageous schemes and adventures. Marge once was intelligent and sophisticated, but has come to conform with the stereotype of housewife/mother. Bart is a troublemaker and classroom terror who thinks of himself as a rebel, while Lisa is a brainy student and jazz music fan who dreams of a better future. Maggie is an eternal baby. The Simpson children have had a number of birthdays, but remain the same age.

The show also has a vast array of quirky supporting characters, many of whom are even more popular among fans than the five main characters. For a comprehensive list, see characters from The Simpsons.

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. 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. 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. Mayor Quimby – who sounds like one of the Kennedys – is a corrupt, alcoholic womanizer. Seymour Skinner, 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 he is repeatedly likened to Norman Bates in Psycho. Reverend Lovejoy, the pastor of the local church, is jaded and moralistic. While most of these characters are more incompetent than truly evil, there is one true sadist: Montgomery Burns, owner of the Springfield Nuclear Plant and Homer Simpson's boss; he is often compared to Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane. It is probably not a coincidence that Harry Shearer's voice for Montgomery Burns closely resembles his voice for former US President Ronald Reagan.

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, possibly thanks to the fact that he won the lottery in one episode. Viewers also learn that Brockman had an ethnic name in the 1960s, which he anglicized by the time the Simpsons episodes of the 1990s take place.

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

Origin of the Names

Opening sequence

The Simpsons' opening sequence is one of the show's most memorable trademarks. 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; the sequence then introduces Lisa, Homer, Marge, and Maggie on their way to their house on Evergreen Terrace (the exact house number varies from season to season). The members of the family weave dangerously through traffic and in between fellow (and familiar) Springfield denizens, 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 four variations: Bart writes something different on the chalkboard; Lisa plays a different solo on her saxophone; Homer screams in a differing way, and the attempt of the family to sit on the couch goes awry in an often surreal manner. In syndication, sometimes all or part of the opening sequence is not broadcast, in order to include more commercials in the show's allotted timeslot.

The first season opening sequence featured a number of differences to the later seasons, including a shot of Lisa riding her bike on the way home and Bart's way home consisting of snatching a bus stop, forcing several dazed Springfieldiens to chase the bus, rather than just riding past a number of well-known characters.

The series' distinctive theme tune was composed by musician Danny Elfman. The current arrangement was orchestrated by Alf Clausen.

Halloween Episodes

An annual tradition is a special Halloween episode, entitled Treehouse of Horror, consisting of three separate, self-contained pieces. The tradition began in the second season with Bart and Lisa telling scary stories to each other in their treehouse while Homer secretly listened in. Neither Bart or Lisa was scared, but Homer was terrified. In later years the episode dropped the treehouse storytelling "frame," but kept the Treehouse title; for several years the characters broke the fourth wall and introduced their pieces directly to the audience. These pieces usually involve the family in some fantasy setting, and always takes place outside the normal continuity and rules of the show. Regular Simpsons characters play humorous special roles, and the two space aliens Kang and Kodos featured in the original Treehouse episode always make an appearance, albeit sometimes at the last minute and for no reason but simply to continue the tradition of their appearances. These Halloween segments have parodied many classic horror and science fiction films, and one segment is often a parody of a classic Twilight Zone television episode. The Halloween episodes are generally considered among the best Simpsons episodes.

Voice Actors and their characters

Guest celebrities

Many episodes feature celebrity guests contributing their voices to the show, as either themselves or fictional characters.

See: List of celebrities on the Simpsons


Several memes (often neologisms) that started on The Simpsons have now become mainstream words or sayings. The most famous of which is Homer's saying: "D'oh", which is referred to in scripts, as well as at least one episode name, as "annoyed grunt". D'oh is now listed in the OED, but without the apostrophe.

Groundkeeper Willie's phrase, "cheese eating surrender monkeys", used to describe the French, was picked up by US politicians and publications in 2003, after European and especially French opposition to the proposed war in Iraq.

Other memes are listed on the article Made-up words in The Simpsons


Series / movies within The Simpsons

TV channels that air The Simpsons

See: TV channels that air The Simpsons


Serious academic work has been done on the show. Among the publications that deal with it are:

Related topics

External links