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Thread: What made the Simpsons go downhill?



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    What made the Simpsons go downhill?

    Hi everyone, so as most of you would probably agree, the Simpsons have expired past their "fresh 'till" date. It is widely accepted that the Simpsons had a golden age, and that ever since that time of "classic" episodes, the show has pretty much nose-dived. My question is: why? It's hard to put a finger on, what exactly about the show is so different than before? Please do not respond to this thread with things like "the writers ran out of ideas" or other general crap like that. I'm talking specifics; I'm talking character deviations, I'm talking plot changes, I'm talking humor-swings. What is different now than it used to be? Here's a couple of my own ideas, please expand upon them:
    1. The Simpsons used to be more innocent. Sure, they made self-referential jokes, or were sarcastic, or parodied the average American family, but for the most part their adventures stuck to their own lives and were adventures that we viewers could actually relate to. A few that come to mind right away: Bart ruining thanksgiving and having to discover remorse, Bart trying to get a passing grade, Bart's dog being a screw-up and the anxiety associated with a parent who doesn't like a pet, Homer and Marge falling in love, the kids attending a summer camp (albeit an abusive one), Lisa being moved by an influential teacher, three friends fighting to the practically-death over a jealous comic book-feud, Homer trying to kick drinking for 30 days, Bart and Lisa competing in hockey, Bart selling his soul and dealing with the consequences, Bart trying to break up his best friend and his new girlfriend whom he's jealous of, Bart breaking his leg over a summer and becoming paranoid in his room, the school suffering from a teacher strike and the resulting kid's reactions, etc. I don't know, nowadays the episodes' plots seem to be more over the top... Lisa invents facebook. Homer has to work with only Robots (who then try to kill him). Bart hooks up continuously with a teenager and sees boobs. The family is kicked out of the United States and sent to Guantanamo bay. The family is kicked out of Springfield and start a new town. A rag recounts his experiences over the last millennia. Homer becomes a famous talk show host after a viral video. Some new Star Cameo's storyline is wedged into an episode. It almost seems as if the show feels the need to be even more wacky and random than ever before, but to set themselves up for the grandiose plots, they rush rush rush.
    2. The characters have changed. Remember when Lisa was a sweet little goody goody who tried hard in school, teased her brother, and enjoyed making adults happy? Now she's a pessimistic, unhappy genius who usually speaks in a flat tone and works to reveal the incompetence of all those around her; you won't see her baking muffins for her teacher anymore, and she's usually depicted as enemies with Bart.
    Bart: Speaking of Bart, remember when he was a troublesome little hellion who paraded around with his group of rascals and did things like steal lemon trees, spend time with his sister (either teasing her or else having an actually good time with her), drop radios down wells to trick a town, try to woo his older babysitter, think he sold his soul, write phony love letters to his teacher, and after all of his pranks (i.e. painting inappropriate phrases on candy hearts, throwing tomatoes at Skinner's butt, and convincing his sister that there was a boy kept in the basement of their neighbor's home), explode with that obnoxious yet adorable laugh? When's the last episode that HAD that laugh, by the way? Nowadays, he's depicted as almost cold, calculated, and merciless. Instead of giving Lisa a wet willy, he will humiliate her in front of the entire school. Instead of dropping ketchup in Martin's seat before he takes a spot, he tries to demolish the school with a subway. He no longer worships Krusty, he treats him with contempt; and he's been depicted as beating up other kids (like a young Homer) and being ringed with the bullies while he himself used to be the little kid who the teenagers would scare lunch money out of. No longer does he fantasize about dancing with his neighbor, now he greets a 17 year old by leaning forward, closing his eyes, and waggling his tongue around in the air while reaching with his hands. His voice is also different, and there is something else... different that I cannot quite figure out. I noticed it in the recent episode "beware my cheating Bart," when Jimbo takes off his hat and Bart goes "haha! That's not fair, you know that this is hilarious!" Maybe it was his lack of fear. In previous episodes, he would have talked his way out of that situation with his silver tongue, but in this episode, he stupidly kept taunting an already pissed bully. It was just... uncharacteristic. I wouldn't say Bart has ever been a coward, but he's never been dumb in sticky situations... In fact, he's usually quite manipulative. I don't know, I've noticed the same thing several times. He's almost TOO cheeky now, exaggeratedly so. It's almost like he's trying to be funny in these incidents and it's just not... working... Plus, what's up with all the gay references? This kid is being overly sexualized.
    Homer: Homer used to be lovably stupid. Now he's an obnoxious buffoon. He used to have conversations between himself and his brain that were just pure gold.
    Lisa: "Remember, t'is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
    Homer: "What does that mean? Better say something or they'll think you're stupid. Takes one to know one! Swish."
    Now his "funniness" is found in his constant yelling about stupid things. His relationship with Bart is much less fatherly now and much more hostile, although they do seem to bond over being violent together, like when they temporarily ran the mob. He's an altogether abrasive character whose once classic adventures have been reduced to random garbage. No longer does he unintentionally feign political genius as a union leader through his own slow thinking and misunderstandings. Now, he's doing things like... threatening Marge about their marriage because she spoiled a TV show for him... He's become insensitive. I miss the days when his stupidity was funny and subtle, well, not subtle, but not shoved down your throat with a rusty hook either.
    Marge: Once a kind and caring mother. "You're not allowed to have hurt feelings Homer! Right now there is a little girl upstairs who needs you, and no little girl can be happy when she doesn't have faith in her daddy!" "What's wrong, Bart? uhp uhp uhp, a mother can always tell... it feels like you're missing something, something important..." Now: supreme nag and sex object to Homer. Seriously. When's the last time that you saw Marge and she wasn't either trying to snuggle with Homer or nag him about something.
    Maggie: Maggie? Maggie who?
    4. Too many famous guest cameos. Period. Ya don't need 'em.
    5. Too much parody and not enough originality.
    6. Treating both kids as if they were adults.
    7. B stories have been severely underdeveloped lately.
    8. Too much focus on Homer, where's a Lisa episode? I think she's had a full 20 lines during season 23.
    9. I'm getting tired, tell me what you guys think! Why are the Simpsons so different now?

  2. #2


    you're going to have to put some sugar on that celery or get out, ma'am

  3. #3
    Card Wars super Amadeus zartok-35's Avatar
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    *When Mike Scully was showrunner, he changed the system, so not as much effort was put into the writing process as before.
    *John Frink was allowed to write episodes without Don Payne.


    Seasons 1-9 - Classic era
    10-12 - Scully era
    13-16 - Silver age
    16.5-17 - The shit abyss
    18-24 - Zombie Simpsons

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    ooooooooooooooooooh leprechaun_dan's Avatar
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    tl;dr
    [SIZE=1] Check out my South Park episode ideas in my user notes (Note: It's the fifth and last note): http://www.nohomers.net/usernote.php...ewuser&u=41294

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    I'm baaaack! Patches O'houlihan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerkass Homer View Post
    you're going to have to put some sugar on that celery or get out, ma'am
    Go drink some pop-rocks and coke.

    Anyway, the 3 biggest reasons the Simpsons started going downhill in this order:

    1. Appealing to a younger fanbase.
    --Blame Mike Scully for wanting to make the jokes easier to understand for his kids and making Homer the jackass buffoon who took center stage.

    2. The show becomes "uncancelable".
    --Around the end of the Scully era, the Simpsons became grandfathered in at Fox, because cancelling the show would be like cancelling Christmas, unless it cost too much. And if you're working for a show that'd you have to threaten someone before you lost your job, why try to go the extra mile when half-assing it will do?

    3. Stagnation, stagnation, stagnation...
    --Al Jean made the show better (unless you are Jerkass Homer or like Jerkass Homer) for a few seasons, but after S15, the show fell into a rut of super-blandness that it'll never come out of, minus a few good episodes here and there.

  6. #6
    houston oilers number one parklife's Avatar
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    hbo has some quality programming you can fill the void with
    Quote Originally Posted by zach
    he's not as talented as his grandmother, i can tell you that much

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    I'm baaaack! Patches O'houlihan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by melody nelson View Post
    hbo has some quality programming you can fill the void with
    That would cost extra.

  8. #8
    Reality, eh? Company Picnic's Avatar
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    These threads are like a red flag to a bull.
    Last edited by Company Picnic; 04-17-2012 at 12:03 PM.

  9. #9
    Bake 'em away toys! The Wiggs's Avatar
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    Original post looks like the health care bill

  10. #10
    impeach churchill Handsome B. Wonderful's Avatar
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    Classy thread.
    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsAPaddlin View Post
    Fuck Ted Nugent.


    Season 26 Ratings:
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  11. #11
    formerly shutupa yo face moneychair2003's Avatar
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    Once we all started to know who "Jerkass Homer" was...
    Check out my NFL blog. I write articles about every upcoming match, my predictions for those matches, what games are worth watching, and about everything else happening in the NFL. http://backbayfuturesportsmanagers.com/








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  12. #12
    Junior Camper db105's Avatar
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    Basically this:
    Quote Originally Posted by yeahmkay View Post
    for the most part their adventures stuck to their own lives and were adventures that we viewers could actually relate to.
    Nowadays the plots are wacky and over-the-top, and the characters are too unrelatable. The writers don't seem to realize that when it truly becomes funny is when you think to yourself: "yes, we are a bit like that too". It doesn't even need to be laugh-out funny, just by having relatable characters the humor becomes something especial. That, and the intelligent social parody, is what made the Simpsons so great. For random humor and one-liners we already have Family Guy: you can laugh one or twice, but you feel nothing for the show.

    Writers should be required to watch some classic episodes before they start working for the Simpsons. Of course, to be fair, it's not easy to go on after so many chapters and still appear fresh. I mean, there are only so many Homer-Lisa bonding episodes you can make before repeating yourself. Still, I would not mind if they revisit some already explored situations, as long as the show has heart. Latter seasons just have no heart. Homer seems never to go to work and no one seems to care and that becomes a self-referential joke? Come on, that's just a sign of decadence and sloppiness...

    I'm currently rewatching season 1, and I couldn't care less that the animation is rough: those episodes really have heart, and they are true classics, almost all of them. So please, bring back those characters, make us feel they are people, even if they have their flaws.

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    I'm baaaack! Patches O'houlihan's Avatar
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    I agree with you 100%, but the show has featured the warped, unrelatable characters for so long the fans have forgotten what the original incarnations were--relateable characters that happened to be animated.


    Well, ya'know if you stay positive and forget about trivial things like "proper characterization," "Satire," and "emotional depth" watching new Simpsons episodes can be a seemingly enjoyable lie.

    "One of the keys to life is having a sense of proportion, knowing how long to sit at a restaurant after you've eaten, or how long you should go on vacation — if you go to Hawaii for a month on vacation, I guarantee you that by the end you'll hate it. So it's the same with a TV show, you want to do a certain amount of it, so that when people look back on it and they love it. I could have easily done the show for one or two or three more years, but it would have changed the way people look back at it. I think I made the right decision. Because people like the show now even more than they did in the 1990s, because it didn't get worn out." -- Jerry Seinfeld

  14. #14
    Stonecutter Bartesque's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moneychair2003 View Post
    Once we all started to know who "Jerkass Homer" was...
    Yes, he's clearly Disco Stones.

  15. #15
    Junior Camper kidpresentable's Avatar
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    there is very little emotion left in the show touching moments between homer and marge and homer and lisa and so on have been in serious decline since around season 11 bonding moments are replaced with jokes sure its a comedy but part of making relateable chracters is turning off the humor switch

  16. #16
    R.I.P. Marcia "Edna" Wallace! Edgar Allan Moz's Avatar
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    Haters.

  17. #17
    I'm baaaack! Patches O'houlihan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kidpresentable View Post
    there is very little emotion left in the show touching moments between homer and marge and homer and lisa and so on have been in serious decline since around season 11 bonding moments are replaced with jokes sure its a comedy but part of making relateable chracters is turning off the humor switch
    But Season 7 had heart and it was still quite funny.

    On the otherhand, Scully tried being super-funny and he created a Homer that wants to taste curb.

  18. #18
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    Mike Scully's shitty plots and Al Jean coming back just to ruin everything further, including the jokes and emotion. Even the Mike Scully era had more emotion than the current era.

  19. #19
    .gif Shaunbadia's Avatar
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    Age and changing writers are what made the show go downhill...A show is obviously going to struggle to be good all the time and is bound to have rough patches here and there...so imagine what 23 years is going to result in. Certain writers that came aboard in later years just couldn't come up with gags and plots that were as strong as the the ones that made people love the show in the classic era, and with the rise in popularity of Family Guy over the years, the writers probably felt the need to compete to some degree...which meant being more risqué here and there and it didn't feel true to certain characters...it's OK to do a slightly sleazy gag with a character like Krusty or Moe, but Having Homer make comments about masturbating (Homer the Whopper) or having inanimate objects ACTUALLY come to life (Moe goes from rags to riches) just seem out of place in the Simpsons universe when compared to the classic era. When the guest stars became overused as a ploy to reel in fans of (Insert flavour of the month here) to grab some extra viewers, it sometimes turned off regular viewers of the show if the guest star had no real reason to be in the episode other than to say "LOOK! WE'VE GOT (X) TO BE A PART OF THIS SUNDAY'S SHOW! ISN'T THAT COOL!?!".

    Honestly, the degree of loyalty the true die-hard fans show The Simpsons is admirable, as they're overly thankful for having the show in the first place despite how shit it can be sometimes...but maybe...just maybe...if the die-hard fans and everyone else just started following the "Just don't look" method from "Treehouse of horror VI"...the show might have been allowed to rest in peace back when it was still reasonably strong.
    Such majestic movement.

  20. #20
    Junior Camper kidpresentable's Avatar
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    i agree with le jake completly about centering it towards a younger audiance. when i watched seasons 11 and 12 as a kid(about 8 or 9) i really liked those episodes because there were based around homer being dumb as hell and getting hurt a lot something that is funny to a kid that age. although scully probably couldnt have made the show smarter if he tried

  21. #21


    Obviously it was Mike Scully

  22. #22


    focus on the family

    the older episodes focused on the family as a whole. the episodes seem to focus on a single member. the comedy was the huge clash of the recklessness of bart and homer against marge and lisa. that comedy is gone.

  23. #23
    might do something not nice Jims's Avatar
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    I kind of blame Oakley and Weinstein. Well, not them specifically, but the reaction to Oakley and Weinstein.

    In John Ortved's book, they didn't talk about the O&W era that much, but they do describe the long hours that the writers faced, with the showrunners occasionally staying at the office all night. There was a specific example where they spent hours into the evening pitching the name of Colonel Hap Hapablap from Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming... And they ended up going with that name because they were so tired and slap-happy that it seemed funny to them. According to one interview, O&W treated it like they were back in college or grad school, excited about late nights studying and cramming for jokes, and some of the writers' weren't bullish on the late hours.

    Now, if that workaholic portrayal is accurate (and it might not be), it might explain why they turned the show over to Scully. To be fair to Scully, if writer morale was an issue at the time, they might have encouraged him to keep more regular hours and not pitch jokes for hours and hours and hours.

    This is all conjecture, though.

  24. #24
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    It all started when the characters went from realistic human beings to goofy, unlikeable idiots. Add to that a half-arsed writing staff, showrunners that have transformed the Simpsons into the current state it is in (Scully, why?!) and rubbish cultural references and puns and you get your desired answer.

  25. #25
    pineapple shoes Dark Homer's Avatar
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    I think it was this weird unholy combination of just about everything already mentioned in this thread

    I don't think it was One Big Thing, just a million little things

  26. #26


    I personally think that Bart being over sexualized is a positive point, opening up new paths for the narrative of episodes to follow. Maybe a more open approach to the new episodes should be considered?

  27. #27
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    Time will destroy all!

    This show too.

    Even Lenny.
    "I shouldn't have eaten that packet of powdered gravy I found in the parking lot..."

  28. #28
    I'm baaaack! Patches O'houlihan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaunbadia View Post
    Honestly, the degree of loyalty the true die-hard fans show The Simpsons is admirable, as they're overly thankful for having the show in the first place despite how shit it can be sometimes...but maybe...just maybe...if the die-hard fans and everyone else just started following the "Just don't look" method from "Treehouse of horror VI"...the show might have been allowed to rest in peace back when it was still reasonably strong.
    Well, back then...walking away from the show would be like walking away from a successful relationship. Really...would YOU do that? However, like a lot of bad relationships, people sometimes hang around (or return) when there's no chance of reconcilaiton because not being in said relationship feels more 'wrong.'

    But beyond us liking the show, the staff DOES owe the fanabase something, unlike what was foisted in "I&S& Poochie." I remember the more civil discussions regarding the Simpsons decline on alt.tv.simpsons and this was one of the best:

    "The Simpsons is not a painting, a musical composition or some other piece art that can exist independently of market forces, and which the artist can create for no other reason than to create, and can do so unhindered by a need to appeal to popularity. A TV show is, by nature, a commercial entity. TV shows that don't appease their market segments get CANCELLED. TV is ALL ABOUT "owing" their audience something worth watching. The exchange is that we watch something worth watching, and when the trust is broken, we look elswhere for entertainment. These writers don't exist in a vacuum: their JOB is to write something that will make fans of the Simpsons want to watch...I often try to ask some of my friends what they think about it. Surprisingly (or not so, depending on perspective) none of my friends who I used to enjoy the Simpsons with pay any attention the show any more. Nobody watches it. This is what the shitty crop of writers has done: alientate their audience. Keep it up. Maybe someday I won't be bothered to watch anymore, either. "

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerkass Homer View Post
    i completely disagree with that entire statement. they have given you an amazing 11 years (or whenever you say the show starting sucks) of hilariousness, what more do you want? they owe you something? sorry but that is just complete bullshit.
    ^
    I think this is what Jake was getting at with his reference to "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochy."

    The staff involved could at least make a concerted effort to correct the show's staleness and make the show more interesting again. I think this is what the audience expects from any good TV show, good characterization, solid plots and compelling drama and/or sharp sattire and witty humour on a consistent basis. In the end that's all any TV show really "owes" us.
    I'm just like Bart!
    I'm Bart, who are you? by The No Homers Club

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    I'm like the dexter of masturbation.

  30. #30
    Release the hounds... Sinister Burns's Avatar
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    Mirkin and O&W set the bar so high, any EP after them would have impossibly large shoes to fill. Scully held his own for most of his tenure and Jean put out some really great episodes in his first four or five years, but since then, it hasn't quite been the same. Add to that, most of the best writers are gone (Selman is the only one I can think of who's still there). So, I suppose a combination of Jean staying too long and the disappearance of the good writers.

    With that being said, you have to appreciate the series for what it is. You can't realistically expect them to maintain the quality of the classic era after 23 years. If you hold every episode to the standard of your favourite, you will be disappointed.

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