Animated sitcom featuring the dysfunctional Simpson family.
Ongoing since 1989. US Fox TV.
Bright, bitingly satirical, subtly subversive, yet warm, welcoming and at times genuinely touching in its anarchic humanity, The Simpsons is the arrestingly primary coloured heir to the animated television sitcom dynasty founded by that modern stone age family, The Flintstones.
Originally beginning life as a regular short segment of the Tracy Ullman Show, cartoonist Matt Groening's creations quickly gained their own series on US TV's Fox network, and almost immediately transformed the pen and ink inhabitants of the mythical town of Springfield into a genuinely worldwide phenomenon.
Although almost wilfully American in its humorous terms of reference, the core of the series conquest of the rest of the television watching world lies in its treatment of its central characters. In the Simpson family we see a warped, hysterically insightful reflection of our own family eccentricities, feuds, prejudices and shortcomings writ almost operatically large. Thanks to a potent combination of simple character design, shape, brilliantly observed, multi-level scripting and perfectly judged vocal performances from a superb group of acting talent, the show has bridged the notorious 'generation gap' to secure an almost universal appeal which the majority of its rivals can only dream of. The Simpsons clan consists of bonehead nuclear power plant worker Homer, his wife Marge (possessor of an enormous blue beehive hairstyle), spiky haired son Bart (an anagram of brat), saxophone-playing daughter Lisa, and pacifier sucking baby Maggie (who's first words were spoken by no less than Elizabeth Taylor).
The Simpsons became a hit in Britain after the series was bought by one of the new satellite stations, the BBC having already cut the segments from the Tracey Ullman Show because they didn't think they were funny. Heavily criticised in some quarters (most memorably perhaps by ex US President George Bush), for the seemingly dysfunctional nature of its lead family, ultimately, the show rises above such detractions by the underlying warmth and love which forms the real bedrock of the Simpson family relationship. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, despite the arguments, trials, tribulations and heartaches, which confront them on a daily basis, quite simply ARE a family.
More than the myriad sight gags, more than the plethora of major name star guest voices, more than the almost constant barrage of finely honed verbal humour, 'family' is the true secret of The Simpsons success.
Oh, that and Donuts, of course.
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