For many years, The Simpsons has been in going through a sharp, ravaging decline, and many viewers don’t seem to notice or care. Of course, the biggest reason for the decline is that the writing had gotten dumber, and the show kept relying on trendy guest stars. It’s now the year 2014, and I think plenty of us can agree that the show has hit rock bottom.
In the early 90’s, The Simpsons was a particularly clever show, with numerous carefully-placed adult jokes that sail over the kids’ heads, and an abundance of episodes centred around certain characters, leaving room for real character development. However, as the 90’s wore on, something began to change for the worse.
Many people agree that the Simpsons started to go bad as soon as Mike Scully became the showrunner, and that the show’s glory days ended after Season 9. While I agree that Season 9 was the last great season, I actually do like some of the Scully-era episodes. Ten years ago, I enjoyed the Scully-era episodes, but for an over-analytical 20-year-old, things are different.
Nowadays, whenever I watch an episode from between seasons 10 and 12, I notice that the show’s writing has gotten dumber, and the characters have suffered. For instance, Marge now likes everything bland and boring and can’t seem to live without chores. Bart’s destruction and pranks now have no real meaning, and the ADHD theory espoused by “Brother’s Little Helper” doesn’t seem to apply.
Homer had devolved into a completely self-centered, stupidly incompetent father whose brain lives in the world of Hollywood stereotypes, and Lisa had realized her destiny as the preachy queen of the soapbox, and she’s always proven right.
The villains had become completely hackneyed. The last great villain in the show’s history was Hank Scorpio (a.k.a. one of the best one-time characters ever). Every villain since season 10 is now a cartoonish supervillain, whether it’s Mr. Burns, the Rich Texan, Larry Kidkill (real creative), or the dreadfully hollow Garth Motherloving.
In season 13, Al Jean took over as showrunner. By then, The Simpsons had aged badly, while it’s competitors, South Park, Family Guy and King of the Hill, were doing well, with South Park causing controversy left and right, all while the Simpsons had basically become the very notion of middle America that they were fighting.
For me, the dumbing down of the show reached a tipping point with the travesty known as The Simpsons Movie, an over-hyped, over-funded, and painfully mainstream film. In it, religion and politics aren’t so much mocked, as they are blatantly insulted (if calling all the church-goers “pious morons” isn’t pretentious and insulting, then what is?). By the time the movie came out, The Simpsons had already become a mouthpiece for liberal horse crap and mainstream popular culture, but the film took it to a new low, by having Green Day sing the title and attempting to preach about the environment. The entire film was basically An Inconvenient Truth if it were an episode of The Simpsons being processed into an edgier Disney movie.
After the Simpsons movie, everything was screwed. How did it get this far? Well, Matt Groening has very little control over the show, but he seems very complicit in all this because of his inaction. However, the real blame goes to the producers, for trying to make it appeal to everyone. Now, we have episodes that are completely ridiculous, and some of them attempt to do modern rehashes of premises that have already been explored.
Nowadays, only about 250 of the show’s 548 episodes are really good, and the writers are either unaware of the show’s decline, or too proud to admit that there’s a problem. The Simpsons is now so dumb, that it’s part of the lowest common denominator, which it had struggled for years to fight against.