• Opinion-simpsons-top

    Opinion: The SImpsons

Opinion

Opinion: What's the secret of The Simpsons' long-running success?

Posted by Rob Alderson,

This week Rob Alderson ponders The Simpsons’ place as the world’s longest-running TV series and why animations seem to have such staying power. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

Last week it was announced that The Simpsons had been recommissioned for its 26th –26th!! – series, a new record. Even if it is cancelled at the end of this run (which it won’t be) it will have racked up 574 episodes, comfortably the longest-running scripted show ever.

Books, theses and seminars have been dedicated to analysing why the show has been so consistently popular. Its international, intergenerational appeal can be explained by the combination of razor-sharp writing, broad-base observational comedy, slapstick and excellent animation; I feel like I know Springfield better than some towns in which I have lived, so rich is the imagination of the show’s creators.

It’s interesting to look at the top 10 long-running scripted shows currently on TV behind The Simpsons though. Animations feature in third and sixth place (South Park and Family Guy) with American Dad just outside the top 10. Elsewhere crime features heavily ( Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds) while How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy and Supernatural make up the rest.

The parallels between cartoons and cop shows is that both provide an accessible, reassuringly unchanging context from which the writers can build, and in the case of animation the narrative possibilities are limitless, defined only by the creators‘ imaginations.

This combination of fantasy and familiarity is perhaps best exemplified in a show like The Simpsons. We know that Homer will be lovably dumb, Bart will be naughty, Lisa will be brainy and responsible etc. but more than that we know what to expect from a whole cavalcade of amazingly drawn (in both senses) characters from Mr Smithers to Ned Flanders, Comic Book Guy to that weird Hispanic sitcom-star who dresses like a bee.

These touch-points mean the writers have the freedom both to push storylines into weird and wonderful realms – knowing that our prior knowledge will provide an anchor – or they can subvert what we think we know and we can all enjoy being in on the joke.

Interestingly the show’s producers have revealed that a major character will be killed off in the next series, a big step in the context of the familiarity I am championing. It will be interesting to see how this affects the world’s love affair with The Simpsons.

comments powered by Disqus
Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. Robertbye-opinion-list

    The intern debate is still one of the most talked-about issues whenever we meet young designers. This week Robert Bye wrote an interesting article about why, after three months interning in a design consultancy, he believes doing crappy jobs did sometimes make sense.

  2. List

    Assistant editor Maisie Skidmore chimes in on the debate about the presence of full-frontal male nudity in Rick Owens’ AW15 collection which showed in Paris a few days ago. Do you think penises on the catwalk are a step too far? Leave your comments below!

  3. List

    Following this week’s news that plain cigarette packaging could be introduced in England as soon as next year, Studio Minerva co-founder and creative strategy lead Silas Amos tells us about the designs that made his relationship with smoking “always equally one with the branding.”

  4. Artsemergency-list

    Earlier this week James Blunt’s open letter to shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant went viral, in which the musician hit back at the MP’s assertion that the arts was dominated by those from privileged backgrounds. But Jonathan Wakeham of Arts Emergency and The London Comedy Film Festival believes James’ (admittedly amusing) letter missed the point. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comments thread below.

  5. List

    Branding agency Morillas’ chief executive officer Marc Morillas considers the way advertising agencies commandeer symbols of protest for use in advertising campaigns and commercial branding. What do you think about the reappropriation of these symbols? As ever, you can add your comments in the discussion thread below.

  6. List

    It is now one week since the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed, including some of France’s best-known and best-loved cartoonists. We have already covered the immediate responses of the illustration community but in the past seven days so much has been said and written about satire, cartoons, free speech and the subversive magazine that it’s been tricky to try and make sense of it all.

  7. Unnamed-2

    Back to school, back to work – it’s not surprising everyone’s got anxious, upside down smiles at this time of the year. Most fresh starts are usually followed by fresh resolutions – and we’re no stranger to looking ahead and trying to predict what’s going to happen in our own lives, as well as that of the creative world. With that in mind, we’ve put our slightly mushy heads together and concocted a list of ten animators, designers, illustrators, magazines and artists who are about to spring from the perfectly acceptable “small time” to the much-lauded “big time.” Ready? Here they are in no particular order…

  8. List

    Last week features editor Liv Siddall put out a call to arms to the illustration community, inviting practitioners young and old to push their discipline further and keep their work exciting and fresh. She cited in particular the regurgitation of the same established names at illustration fairs and events as a cynical way to flog tickets and boost sales instead of creating a platform for new, innovative work.

  9. Main

    This week, Features Editor Liv Siddall wonders whether the world of illustration, and the events that champion them, have perhaps become a bit stale. And maybe we should take steps to champion as many new and exciting artists as possible, as opposed to falling back on the same names time and time again.

  10. List

    This week Rob Alderson welcomes the excellent Dazed 100 list of defining creative pioneers but wonders why readers are being asked to help rank the entries. As ever you can join the debate using the comment thread below….

  11. Opinion-list-new

    This week It’s Nice That director Will Hudson talks about why he reckons the new Randall Wright-directed documentary Hockney is so brilliant. You can let us know your thoughts in the comment thread below.

  12. Opinion-list

    This week assistant editor Maisie Skidmore asks what it is about weekly podcast Serial that has got the whole world talking. As ever, we want to hear what you think! Add your two pennies in the comment thread below.

  13. List

    This week Rob Alderson examines Paper Magazine’s attempts to “break the internet” with their nude Kim Kardashian photoshoot. He asks if it’s actually a good cover, and what (if anything) it tells us about the magazine industry. As ever you can add your thoughts below…