The Simpsons has been renewed for two more seasons, which, provided that really is the end of the show, will mark 28 seasons for the cultural juggernaut.
When I originally heard this news, it kind of fell on deaf ears. In my best attempt to NOT sound like some pretentious hipster, I need to get something out of the way right off the bat.
I haven’t watched a new episode of The Simpsons in at least a decade, maybe more. I feel like a scorned lover at this point; all the reverence and time I’ve spent on this show, something that is such a huge part of me personally and my generation, and hearing this news is like finding out your long-suffering cancer-ridden family member will be kept on life support for another 730 days despite their pleas for release. And it hurts a little seeing this cash cow flogged over and over again. It’s seeing your childhood hero do commercials for a local car dealership. This show holds a lot of memories for me, but they’re becoming tainted with whatever the hell it’s become.
For most of my existence, Thursday nights, and eventually Sunday, were cherished. Regardless of what was going on in the world, at school, or at home, come 8 p.m. my father and I would get together on the couch to watch the new episode. Eventually, sometime around 1998, we noticed a dip in quality. The episodes were becoming too zany, the guest appearances too many. Despite this, my dad and I would still stick to our ritual, and after dinner on Sunday we’d gather on the couch in hopes that maybe, just maybe, this newest episode wouldn’t suck. But it did. And so did the one after that, and so on and so forth until I started skipping out on our Sunday bonding sessions. Futurama kind of picked upwhere The Simpsons left off, but my dad just didn’t dig Fry and the gang so I’d end up watching it on another TV. It’s an annoyingly obvious metaphor for growing up, becoming a teenager and drifting away from childhood father-son time. Hanging out with friends more, not being around the house as much, and getting into fight after fight with my dad. Every boy goes through this period, you begin to exhibit qualities that mirror those of your father, and this clash of personalities combined with the raging testosterone of a hormonal teenager and the slow loss of control a parent feels makes for a bad mix.
But if The Simpsons hadn’t started sucking so hard, if Bart didn’t journey to some fantasy land of elf-jockeys and Moe hadn’t starting hanging out with Maggie, I don’t think the gulf between my father and I would have grown so large, or so rapidly. We never really had much in common; we liked different music, I liked videogames, and snowboarding, and smoking pot, he didn’t. These are not hobbies I could share with my dad, but the one thing we always agreed on was our love for Homer and Mr. Burns. Once that sweet water well was tapped out and replaced with sewage, there wasn’t really a reason for us to hang out on Sunday nights anymore.
Having said, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve recently started introducing my girlfriend to “Classic Simpsons” -as she missed out on the era when it was the best show on television- and she’s loving it. It doesn’t matter that the show went on too long and became something radically different than what it was, those episodes are still the funniest thing on television. Hearing Phil Hartman con the town into building a monorail will never not be funny. Homer’s failed and flaming attempts to make Mr. Burns’ breakfast is making me giggle as I type this. Rather than lament the fact that I no longer spend Sunday evenings watching a fresh episode with my dad, I’m stoked to be sharing the love with a new generation of Simpsons fan, and it feels good.