Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

We at Omnicomic understand the kind of power pop culture can wield. In fact pop culture is so, ahem, popular these days in America that it’s essentially a lot less anti-establishment and a lot more a distinguishing feature of our culture in and of itself.

I mean, if you were going to describe adolescents and young adults in America and what distinguished them from other cultures wouldn’t it BE pop culture? I think for the last generation? It was rock and roll. It was the Beatles.

But this generation? I actually think it’s the Simpsons.

Seriously, do you ever take a step back and consider the magnitude of the impact this animated television show has had on our culture?

It’s more than just the catch phrases like ‘D’oh!’ (which is in the Oxford Dictionary). It’s like the show’s STYLE of humor has just become infused. In the way we talk, in the way we think. Even in the kind of humor you see in live-action movies and television shows.

The Simpsons set the new standard for funny. To be absurdly honest about your own incompetence and neediness was the new cool. To say aloud what you were thinking, no matter how idiosyncratic and childlike it was. And oh yes: this was especially funny if you were a full-grown adult.

Not that the show was some brutally dark comedy. Satire, yes, but at its core The Simpsons is probably a show about loving yourself. Loving your human-ness, loving your life even though it isn’t perfect. All of that.

Now all that being said? The Simpsons has been on the air for a LONG frickin’ TIME. And like any show it's gone through its own sort of ‘evolution’. So as our own tribute to The Simpsons here’s a little trip back through memory lane of how the show developed over the years.

Season 0: The Tracy Ullman Show.

It’s barely recognizable these days but The Simpsons started off as 30 second to 2 minute spots for Tracy Ullman’s sketch comedy routine.

These cartoons feature very little of the ‘spirit’ of the show that these cartoons would eventually grow into. Instead, they felt more like a Saturday morning cartoon strip, with a build up and then a one panel punch-line.

Still, we'd be remiss if we didn’t give these tiny forays into primetime TV a shout-out. If it wasn’t for these fillers? The show we’ve come to love wouldn’t exist.

Seasons 1 and 2: Do the Bart-man

It’s kind of funny that Homer has become the most lauded figure in Simpsons lore, because originally Bart was really highlighted as Matt Groening’s leading man. Crude and rude, Bart seemed to make talking back to your teachers and not doing your homework cute and fun. Parents all over the world freaked out, of course, and if you recall The Simpsons was at one point a controversial show (in a manner that it did not intend to be on its own, is what I mean)! Conservatives gathered around to discuss the dangers of selling Bart Simpson T-shirts.

Otherwise, the show was cute. It felt more like an animated sitcom than anything else. It was funny but the family values and life lessons were the biggest part of what was going on here. To this point, The Simpsons just felt like an experiment in making an animated show that could maintain the same experience as many other television shows at that time. But it had still yet to hit its stride.

Point of interest: the fan loved "Treehouse of Horror" began during the second season. While this early episode didn’t capture the heights of absurdity that it would one day rise to it was a nice distinguishing feature that started The Simpsons towards setting itself apart.

Season 3 and 4: D’oh! and the art of parody

Slowly, it started to sink in. Homer became an icon to millions. Why? He was so…honest, I guess. About who he was. His limitations and his needs. You couldn’t help but love him. What I think really started to make the show come alive was satire and parody.

In between heartfelt segments about family matters and life issues, the backdrop of The Simpsons universe was filled with absurdity. But the true art of parody is to perform the thing you are parodying as WELL as it itself. And The Simpsons MASTERED this.

Whether it was Chief Wiggum and Mayor Quimby’s tough-as-nails political threats or the musical score the show’s writing staff created for a hypothetical Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire you just never knew what was going to sort of pop out at you in The Simpsons. The show kept all of its sweetness, but it was those perfectly performed sidenotes that really started to stick with people and make them laugh.

Season 5 and Season 6: Who shot Mr. Burns?

The Simpsons popularity was at its peak. And of course, episode scripts began to reach an even greater height of absurdity here. Homer took trips to outerspace and the family visited Australia.

But around this time it was also the characters that lived in The Simpsons universe who started to come alive. An entire town full of people started to become more fleshed out, all with their own eccentricities and important lessons to learn. The show moved beyond just the core five family members and began to focus on run-ins with Springfield’s locals. This all culminated in a special, two-part season finale in which Mr. Burns was supposedly ‘murdered’, leaving the audience with a mystery to solve and the entire cast of the show as potential suspects.

Season 7 and 8: Breaking the fourth wall

Right around here…I think The Simpsons knew what it was doing and how to do it so well? That it started, well, sort of ‘winking’ at you from the camera.

The show was so comfortable in what it was doing that it had a little leeway to play around. "22 Short Films About Springfield" featured a non-linear Pulp Fiction format. The Simpsons had license to just be different, if it wanted to be. And people still loved it.

In short: it kind of started making fun of ITSELF. It was only a matter of time. The Simpsons made fun of everything else, right?

It’s like the episode where they include ‘Poochie’ into Itchy and Scratchy. The whole episode is about an animated show that had run its course, that was looking for new ideas to revitalize it. Going into a seventh year, The Simpsons writers must have been feeling this tension.

More and more ‘outside the box’ concepts started to seep into The Simpsons. Self-aware absurdity about the show itself sort of became the new joke. Characters made jokes about characters' behaviors in the television show itself. This almost meta-quality started to take root, as if The Simpsons were parodying themselves.

Special note: Phil Hartman

The late 90’s was a tragic time for Saturday Night Live fans. Among those lost was Phil Hartman, long time voice actor for The Simpsons. I don’t know if people really appreciated just how funny this guy WAS until he was gone. Suddenly, gaping holes in The Simpsons cast and SNL sketch’s appeared and News Radio went off the air. Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz would not return after Hartman’s untimely death.

A quick dedication to this man, his family, and his friends is in order. R.I.P. Mr Hartman- 1948-1998

Season 8 and beyond: Plot and a spinoff

Up until now, The Simpsons had been realitvely homeo-static. So I think everyone was kind of shocked when Maude Flanders, a relatively minor character on the show, well, died.

Suddenly, the Simpson’s opened up a new door and started to build more PLOT into the show. Apu got married. Principal Skinner and Ms. Edna started dating. Things could change on The Simpsons. And that wasn’t the norm.

It’s noteworthy that around this time, Groening launched Futurama. A Cinderella story in more ways than one, Groening’s new project featured long-term romantic plot threads interspersed with ridiculous comedy and was basically recalled by the fans after it went off the air. Futurama’s character design and humor remains linked to The Simpsons. But Futurama’s success at balancing the funny with the dramatic certainly started to spill over into The Simpsons as well.

The Big screen: Maybe a few years past its prime, but the Simpsons finally hit the movie theater in a big way in 2007. Featuring almost the entire cast of the show and a plot reminiscent of the most wildly circuitous episodes that the fans had come to love and expect, the movie was a box office success. 7-Elevens actually converted their stores to say Kwik-E-Mart to promote the show.

The future: Not just the longest running animated show--but the longest running TELEVISION show--is an intimidating title for anyone to attain. While any show that’s run for twenty years is likely to have creative renaissances and plateaus all its own, The Simpsons remains loved by millions across the world. The characters and the humor are part of our books, part of our video games, part of our style of interacting with one another. It may BE the most significant, influential piece of pop culture created over the last two decades.

So like I said with the Beatles. Maybe your parents told you about Ringo Starr. But I have a feeling you may be telling your own children about Homer Simpson.

Other thoughts from Omnicomic Editors:


500 episodes.

The Simpsons has made it that far and look to go even further. They've done episodes covering any and all topics that have gone on in the world. Watching the show is kinda like a time capsule for the years as you can watch the show evolve from a cartoon short on The Tracy Ullman Show to become the dominant show it is now.

It's a feat for any show to make it to this many episodes and after the movie came out a couple of years back I didn’t think it would go on. Sure enough it has and is still; even after Fox threatened to end the series.

The Simpsons has done so many episodes on so many topics even other shows like South Park and Family Guy make fun of the fact that they've done it all. Those writers have had their work cut out for them with the amount of adventures the Simpsons have been through.

Throw in all the cameos and celebrities spots over the years and you have no clue on where they're going to take the show next. For me the show has tapered off a bit the last season or two. It feels like it lost a bit of that luster the show once had that made every episode a must-watch one. With episode 500 aired and done, I see many more years to come for those crazy people in the town of Springfield.


Knifey spooney. Monorail. Ant overlords. Eye on Springfield.

Those are some of the most memorable facets of The Simpsons, a show that's been nearly as long as I am old. There's one scene though that, honestly, sums up the entire show.

A football to the groin.

That brief scene from the aforementioned "22 Short Films About Springfield" is everything The Simpsons was and is. Crass and simple yet amazingly poignant on this strange level. It's a show that shed its label as evil and bad for kids and transcended culture. It's a show my parents used to refuse to let me watch, until they realized it was harmless and started watching it with me.

It's a show that set the stage for just about all animation since then. Family Guy, South Park and Futurama all count The Simpsons as their primary influence. You'd be hard-pressed to say that even shows like Archer, Home Movies and The Critic wouldn't have been possible were it not for The Simpsons.

As Brandon mentioned earlier, The Simpsons is a little past its prime. That's not to say it's not funny anymore, but it's not something I have to watch every week like I used to. Maybe that's because it's become an institution now, or maybe its just my priorities have changed. I will still gladly watch The Simpsons if it's on in front of me and revel in it.

And that's the beauty of The Simpsons. It's a show you could watch from just about any perspective. Mindless entertainment or political commentary. The writers laced the show with so many levels its like playing a stage of Donkey Kong. And every level was just as good as the level before and after it.

I don't know that we'll ever see a show whose cultural impact is as massive as The Simpsons. It's a show that has endured through just about everything and has given viewers a new family to be a part of. As Tedd said, chances are you'll be telling your kids about The Simpsons as a cultural touchpoint. Probably as they watch a rerun at around 6 or 6:30.