The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of working-class life, epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture and society, television, and the human condition.
The family was conceived by Groening shortly before a solicitation for a series of animated shorts with producer James L. Brooks. Groening created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after his own family members, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After three seasons, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show and became Fox’s first series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–90).
Since its debut on December 17, 1989, 647 episodes of The Simpsons have been broadcast. It is the longest-running American sitcom, and the longest-running American scripted primetime television series in terms of seasons and number of episodes. The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 27, 2007, and grossed over $527 million. Then on October 30, 2007, a video game was released. Currently, The Simpsons is on its thirtieth season, which aired September 30, 2018. The Simpsons will be renewed for a thirty-first season, with Al Jean completing a Treehouse of Horror XXIX script, though the date has yet to be announced.
The Simpsons received acclaim throughout its first nine or ten[ seasons, which are generally considered its “Golden Age”. Time named it the 20th century’s best television series, and Erik Adams of The A.V. Club named it “television’s crowning achievement regardless of format”. On January 14, 2000, the Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 31 Primetime Emmy Awards, 30 Annie Awards, and a Peabody Award. Homer’s exclamatory catchphrase “D’oh!” has been adopted into the English language, while The Simpsons has influenced many other later adult-oriented animated sitcoms. However, it has also been criticized for a perceived decline in quality over the years.
The main characters are the Simpson family, who live in a fictional “Middle America” town of Springfield. Homer, the father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, a position at odds with his careless, buffoonish personality. He is married to Marge Bouvier, a stereotypical American housewife and mother. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old troublemaker and prankster; Lisa, a precocious eight-year-old activist; and Maggie, the baby of the family who rarely speaks, but communicates by sucking on a pacifier. Although the family is dysfunctional, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds with each other and they are often shown to care about one another. Homer’s dad Grampa Simpson lives in the Springfield Retirement Home after Homer forced his dad to sell his house so that his family could buy theirs. Grampa Simpson has had starring roles in several episodes.
The family also owns a dog, Santa’s Little Helper, and a cat, Snowball V, renamed Snowball II in “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot”. Both pets have had starring roles in several episodes.
The creators originally intended many of these characters as one-time jokes or for fulfilling needed functions in the town. A number of them have gained expanded roles and subsequently starred in their own episodes. According to Matt Groening, the show adopted the concept of a large supporting cast from the comedy show SCTV.
Despite the depiction of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays passing, the characters do not age between episodes (either physically or in stated age), and generally appear just as they did when the series began. The series uses a floating timeline in which episodes generally take place in the year the episode is produced even though the characters do not age. Flashbacks and flashforwards do occasionally depict the characters at other points in their lives, with the timeline of these depictions also generally floating relative to the year the episode is produced. For example, in the 1991 episode “I Married Marge”, Bart (who is always 10 years old) appears to be born in 1980 or 1981. But in the 1995 episode “And Maggie Makes Three”, Maggie (who always appears to be around 1 year old) appears to be born in 1993 or 1994.
A canon of the show does exist, as Treehouse of Horror episodes and any fictional story told within the series are typically non-canon. However, continuity is inconsistent and limited in The Simpsons, as with most other comedy-focused television shows. For example, Krusty the Clown may be able to read in one episode, but may not be able to read in another. Lessons learned by the family in one episode may be forgotten in the next. Some examples of limited continuity include Sideshow Bob’s appearances where Bart and Lisa flashback at all the crimes he committed in Springfield or when the characters try to remember things that happened in previous episodes.
The Simpsons takes place in the fictional American town of Springfield in an unknown and impossible-to-determine U.S. state. The show is intentionally evasive in regard to Springfield’s location. Springfield’s geography, and that of its surroundings, contains coastlines, deserts, vast farmland, tall mountains, or whatever the story or joke requires. Groening has said that Springfield has much in common with Portland, Oregon, the city where he grew up. The name “Springfield” is a common one in America and appears in 22 states. Groening has said that he named it after Springfield, Oregon, and the fictitious Springfield which was the setting of the series Father Knows Best. He “figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, ‘This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.’ And they do.”
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