The History of the
The Simpson family first appeared in animated
form as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, with the first short "Good
Night" airing on April 19, 1987. Matt Groening admits the reason that they were
so crudely drawn in the beginning was because he could not draw well and the
animators did nothing more than just trace over his drawings. The shorts were
never aired by the BBC in the UK, though some of them, including "Good Night,"
were included in a Simpsons anniversary episode. The Simpsons was
converted, by a team of production companies that included what is now the
Klasky-Csupo animation house, into a series for the Fox Network in 1989 and has
run as a weekly show on that network ever since.
The Simpsons was the first true TV
series hit for Fox; it was the first Fox show to appear in the top twenty
highest-rated shows of the time. It also sparked controversy, as Bart Simpson
was portrayed as a rebellious troublemaker who caused trouble and got away with
it. Parents' groups and conservative spokespersons felt that a cartoon character
like Bart Simpson provided a poor role model for children. When a Simpsons
T-shirt was marketed featuring Bart and the logo "Underachiever ('And proud of
it, man!')", Simpsons T-shirts and other merchandise were banned from
public schools in several areas of the United States.
The outcry against Bart was reflected in the
second season opener, featuring an episode called Bart Gets an F where
Bart's school wants to make him repeat the fourth grade. In this episode, the
school counsellor quotes the controversial T-shirt by stating, "He is an
underachiever... and proud of it."
In September 1990, Barbara Bush said in an
interview for People magazine that The Simpsons was the dumbest
thing she had ever seen. Six years later, an episode had George and Barbara Bush
move to Springfield and leave after George gets involved in a feud with the
Simpson family (in a style reminiscent of Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson). Mr.
and Mrs. Bush were both portrayed by voice actors. One of the Simpsons
DVD sets includes a special feature that presents an exchange of letters between
the First Lady and show staff. In another address, Mr. Bush said that America
needed to be closer to The Waltons than to The Simpsons, causing Bart to say
they were a lot like the Waltons, since they were both praying for an end to the
The writers have shown a love for cameo
appearances by celebrities and extended pastiches of contemporary and classic
movies, as well as subtle visual jokes.
On February 9, 1997 The Simpsons
surpassed The Flintstones as the longest-running prime time animated
series in America, however it has not yet beaten several Japanese anime series
such as Sazae-san (which has been running since 1969) and Doraemon (running
since 1979). In January 2003, it was announced that the show had been renewed by
Fox through 2005 — meaning it has replaced The Adventures of Ozzie and
Harriet (1952 to 1966) as longest-running sitcom (animated or live-action)
ever in the United States. In 2004, the series was renewed through its 19th
season and if it survives until 2009, it will tie (or will have beaten if The
Tracey Ullman Show shorts are counted) Gunsmoke's record as the
longest-running prime time series (of any genre) in U.S. television history.
Some take the view that The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet should
continue to be counted as the longest-running sitcom as The Simpsons is
animated not live-action although this view is declining as more authorities
unambiguously credit The Simpsons as television's longest-running sitcom.
In its 1998 issue celebrating the greatest
achievements in arts and entertainment of the 20th Century, TIME magazine
named The Simpsons the century's best television series. In that same
issue, Bart Simpson was named to the Time 100, the publication's list of the
century's 100 most influential people. He was the only fictional character on
Since the series originated as part of The
Tracey Ullman Show, it is also considered the longest running and most
successful spin-off of all time.
Over the years, virtually every Simpsons
character has appeared on a magazine cover, ranging from TIME to
Christianity Today and even Airliners.
The Simpsons has won dozens of awards
since it debuted as a series, including 21 Emmy Awards, 22 Annie Awards, a
Peabody and numerous others. On January 14, 2000 the Simpsons were awarded a
star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The voice actors have been involved in
much-publicized pay disputes with Fox on more than one occasion. In 1998, the
voice actors stopped working, forcing 20th Century Fox TV to increase their
salary from $30,000 per episode to $125,000. The actors were supported in their
action by series creator Matt Groening.  As the revenue generated by the show
continued to increase through syndication and DVD sales, six actors (playing
over 50 characters) — Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley
Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer — stopped showing up for script readings
in April 2004 after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with Fox. They asked for
$360,000 per episode, or $8 million for a 22-episode season. On May 2, 2004, the
actors resolved their dispute with Fox after having their demands met. The
universally reported claim that this dispute was in fact a full-blown strike is
denied by Harry Shearer. 
From season 9, the show has drawn criticism
from some fans for straying too far from its comedic structure, for becoming too
"mainstream," and changing character personalities without explanation. Some
consider its parody of the prequel Star Wars trilogy in the episode
Co-Dependent's Day being very harsh considering the show's own "downfall". These
attacks have been countered by less hardcore fans stating that the show was
always more or less mainstream, and nonsensical personality changes and the
structural changes were done in a spirit of creative experimentation, and has
not damaged the show (see Criticism).