Sunday, April 26, 2015

At Flashbak: The Simpsons’ Top Five Movie Parodies of the 21st Century

The second article I wrote for Flashbak this week involves a piece of conventional wisdom that I truly dislike.  I know you've heard it, or read it.  It goes like this: The Simpsons used to be great; but now it sucks.

After watching the last seven or so seasons with my son, Joel, I can assert differently, I feel.  This article takes on that particular conventional wisdom.

"If you want to, you can read all the conventional wisdom that is available all over the Net.

The Simpsons (1989 to present) has -- for at least the last several years -- been a mere shadow of its former (great) self.

The truth is somewhat more complicated than that criticism, of course.

The Simpsons began its TV life during the First Bush presidency over a quarter century ago as a caustic cartoon satirizing American middle class families and their values. In that era, family comedies were everywhere (Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, etc.) and The Simpsons was an alternative to the idealized programming.

After about a dozen years or so in that format -- not to mention over two-hundred episodes – the central premise, a cartoon family as real American family, was pretty adequately played out, and The Simpsons by necessity had to evolve.

And what it became is something truly wonderful and unexpected.

The Matt Groening-conceived series transformed from sitcom parody/corrective into an absurdist, gag-a-minute, post-modern, meta-commentary on all-things pop culture, from YA novels to iPhones, from politics to Internet etiquette.

Furthermore, the series took pride in focusing on its remarkable supporting cast -- Ned Flanders, Moe, Chief Wiggum, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Nelson, Skinner, Otto, Apu, Grampa, Krusty, Milhouse, Patty and Selma -- to such a degree that it thrives to this day, in many senses, as the best developed such ensemble on modern American television.

We hear all the time from the audience who started with the show back in the late 1980s.  They observe that the series is a shell of its former self, when the truth is that The Simpsons is a different animal than it once was. And in some ways, it’s a far more entertaining, far more inventive program.

Perhaps then, the series deserves to be judged based on what the program continues to be, not how it began twenty-seven years ago.  

One way to judge the conventional of declining quality is to look back over the last fifteen years -- the years of the twenty-first century -- and remember some of The Simpsons’ greatest movie parodies. These shorts (often featured on the Treehouse of Horror specials) remind us that the stories hasn’t missed a step, and remains the funniest series airing on network TV..."

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