The Simpsons

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Simpsons

#576 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:21 pm

https://vimeo.com/154727398" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: The Simpsons

#577 Post by domino harvey » Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:50 pm

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Wow, according to today's Best Show newsletter, Jon Wurster and Tom Scharpling will be guest starring on the show this Sunday!

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Re: The Simpsons

#578 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Mar 14, 2016 10:15 am

The Simpsons sits in this very strange place where the people making it obviously are well meaning, appreciative of hipster* pop culture, and so on - but very little to none of that reflects in the actual quality of the writing or performances of the actual show. If the last, say, 10 years of The Simpsons (the widescreen, polished, computer animated era) existed without what came before it, you couldn't talk me out of simply viewing it as a hail mary webseries of some kind made by comedy obsessives who had no other way to break into the industry because of a dearth of marketable writing/performing skills. With guest stars appearing out of sympathy and "these guys are trying their best" recognition rather than actual recognition of tangible quality.

Maybe I'm not explaining myself very articulately on this one though, maybe someone else can run with the point I'm trying to make because I'm having some difficulty tying a bow on it.

*yes, using this word because it's an easy one-word summation, do not want to start another forum firestorm over it though

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Re: The Simpsons

#579 Post by bearcuborg » Mon Mar 14, 2016 5:51 pm

I'm not sure I follow what you're saying, however I'm one of many who loved it in the early-mid (later?) 90s. Heck, I would sit through dumb Tracy Ullman bits to watch it in the late 80s.

For me, like many others, the show dipped when Homer became the central focus. The Frank Grimes episode, in restrospect, seems to have taken the character the limit. Though that episode is of course, brilliant.

I remember my first cringe, it's when Bart stabs a fish in Japan. The fish tries to grant him a wish, but is then gutted. It seemed like there on afterward, every episode was a Halloween episode in which anything could happen. It just didn't fit... It also lost of a lot of the heart. It seemed to want to compete with Family Guy, instead of accepting that character relationships is what made the show so endearing. However, in a recent/random viewing, they seem to have brought some of the tenderness back. It just feels like it's too little too late at this point. I would also agree that the computer animation is a turn off too.

I'm not knocking Family Guy, which has some very funny moments. But I do not care about any of the characters in a significant way. There's a Simpsons episode when Springfield is gonna be hit by a bomb, and the only safe shelter is Ned's place...he's then kicked out to make room for others-and then the town, led by Homer, decide to meet their fate together, with Ned, rather than sending him to die alone. I have to admit, I choked up there. It's a remarkable achievement, that as great as other cartoon shows have been, have neve equalled in my eyes.

I think this is why I loved King of the Hill so much. It was so character driven, that their idiosyncratic behaviors became funny. This also worked on shows like The Wire/Sopranos. Both shows were so well written, and had such strong characters-that they were as funny as anything on TV.
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Re: The Simpsons

#580 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:08 pm

The last great season was 1996-1997. By that point, the Simpsons had strayed pretty far from the boundaries they set for themselves during first season, but it didn't matter because they were still brilliantly funny. But early on the following season, there was an immediate and substantial drop in quality, and I can't recall another show that went so bad so quickly. They'd rebound with the occasional latter day classic - "tomacco," Mark Hamill with Homer as a bodyguard - but that was it.

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Re: The Simpsons

#581 Post by domino harvey » Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:10 pm

The Simpsons was more heartwarming early on thanks to the stronger hand of James L Brooks, who seemed to vanish from the process all together after a while. Family Guy directly affected the Simpsons in that, in an effort to distance themselves from that show, the writers said they stopped doing cutaway gags, which is a real shame. The show was sooooo good in its prime that it's both easy to take for granted as a cultural presence in its wake, and forgivable to keep around for the institutional status. I strongly suspect the show may indeed never end.

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Re: The Simpsons

#582 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:24 pm

They've been good about retiring characters when actors die, so I can't see the show continuing after the leads pass away.

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Re: The Simpsons

#583 Post by tarpilot » Tue Mar 15, 2016 5:57 pm

Pranksters troll TV stations with fake news tips from The Simpsons. More here.

Gets old quick but there are some winners

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Re: The Simpsons

#584 Post by MongooseCmr » Tue Mar 15, 2016 10:05 pm

hearthesilence wrote:The last great season was 1996-1997. By that point, the Simpsons had strayed pretty far from the boundaries they set for themselves during first season, but it didn't matter because they were still brilliantly funny. But early on the following season, there was an immediate and substantial drop in quality, and I can't recall another show that went so bad so quickly.
I watched the show's 90s run for the first time to completion over the course of 2015, and in my opinion season 8 is the first wonky one, and I'd disagree with grouping it with the previous 6 seasons. Everything bad to come has its roots there. On the other hand, I found 9 and 10 to be largely enjoyable, and would have been very happy to have several more seasons of that quality.

Its sort of stunning how bad it gets right from the start of season 11. Most long running sitcoms settle into a rut of mediocre episodes as they slowly decline, but The Simpsons just fell off instantly. The first comparison that comes to mind is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show that has been stale for years but always has one or two episodes a season that remind me why I still watch. Simpsons season 11 has barely any episodes on par with the previous season's mediocre one. Its became a different show overnight. I know its all been said before but the decline is sort of mind boggling

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Re: The Simpsons

#585 Post by ALLCAPSAREBASTARDS » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:39 am

Spotted in a fish restaurant in Lima, Perú.

I wonder if they really thought about their choice of mascot for the restaurant.

The name of the restaurant is also a riff on Homer's name in Spanish, in case there was any doubt the owners really like The Simpsons.

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Re: The Simpsons

#586 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Mar 16, 2016 3:33 pm

I showed the HomR (Crayon in the Brain) episode from S12 to a small group of Chinese brain surgeons. I'm helping them do case presentations in English, and thought it would be a nice break. I've always thought that was an exceptional, classic episode. One thing nice about watching it twice in two days, and explaining parts of it to others, was that I picked up on some themes I otherwise would have missed. Which made me realize how well written it was.

The episode starts off at an animation convention.
The Flanders clan watch a Davy & Goliath knockoff claymation show (Gravy & Jobriath).
Gravy intends to blow up a Planned Parenthood clinic for performing abortions (medical operation reference #1). Jobriath is the voice of reason and rational thinking, so Gravy directs violence against him (pipebomb in dog's mouth). This foreshadows when brain-improved Homer will be the voice of reason and gets beaten up for it numerous times later on (as Moe says: "power off, Einstein").

Then Homer dons the motion-capture dog suit, and ends his stage bit by saying "Don't spay or neuter your pets." (operation ref #2). Homer proceeds to lose the Simpsons life savings buying Animatronic stock. His first desperate scheme to make the money back is having Marge rent out her womb to a rich couple ("signify your assent by getting indignant") (artificial insemination = med. op. #3).

So that's three medical operation references in the first part of the show, before they switch to the medical testing and brain surgery in the main story. That's some terrific writing, hinting at the main theme to come.
Then Barney discloses that he makes extra money as a human guinea pig, though there are some side effects ("are those ears?"). Homer goes to the medical research center, undergoes two brain operations, bonds with Lisa in between, etc.

There are some great lines throughout -- I've quoted some above. Also I love the experiment with the mouse out-thinking Homer every time, and then we learn that the mouse isn't part of the experiment and the researchers surmise Homer brought it in with him somehow. And Dr. Hibbert's cameo explaining how he always holds the x-rays. Finally we even have a sweet ending* with Lisa finding smart Homer's note to her (plus I love when she goes to hug him and at first he thinks she reaching for his sandwich).

A classic episode from Season 12.

* endings become a real problem for many post-golden-age Simpsons. There's even a period where they make fun of their lame random endings, which is at least self-aware, but also kind of sad.
Last edited by Lemmy Caution on Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Simpsons

#587 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 3:45 pm

Post of the day. Thanks for sharing, that was a lot of fun to read.

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Re: The Simpsons

#588 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm

That episode has one of the saddest Lisa lines too: "As intelligence goes up, happiness often goes down. In fact, I made a graph showing this...I make a lot of graphs"

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Re: The Simpsons

#589 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 17, 2016 2:06 am

That episode, as I recall, has a lot of the Diet Coke vibe that characterizes the transitional seasons from around 10 to when the show went digital- it still looks and feels like the Simpsons, and has absolutely killer gags (and a Jobriath reference!) once in a while, but doesn't have the joke density or underlying sincerity that had characterized the Golden Age episodes. This is certainly one of the better ones of its season, since it has a relatively coherent plot (compare to the pile of thrown together nothing that is A Tale of Two Springfields) but it has a lot of the shortcuts and self-cannibalization the show was hitting at this point; the letter ending strives for the sweetness of Lisa's Substitute and doesn't hit it, the overall arc strongly recalls the (already teetering on the edge of mediocrity) Lisa the Simpson, and the reversion to the norm feels borne more of the show not really being able to think of anything to do with a smart Homer than of organic plotting.

Hibbert's thumb on the x-rays is exactly the kind of lampshading the show started to do a LOT of around this point, too- instead of just ignoring continuity or coherence, which would be fine, or respecting it, which would be fine, it aggressively mocks the viewer for paying attention- which, the first few times, was great (the 'and eventually they were rescued by... oh, let's say, Moe' ending of Das Bus still kills me) but it's a well that dried up quickly.
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Re: The Simpsons

#590 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:38 am

I watched this last night so I could sort of get in this conversation and remind myself what I liked and didn't like about this era of the show. You're right re: the Hibbert joke, and I think by this time, if anything, the writers got way too far into their own heads because of the popularity and discussion around the show by people who were far too obsessive about it themselves. For me, the sort of SNPP level of minutiae was never the appeal of the show to begin with, so centering entire bits around that sort of fourth wall stuff was and is unfortunate.

Constant appearances of characters like Comic Book Guy with "worst _______ ever" t-shirts or "The Simpsons are going to _________!" replaced jokes that once existed within the context of the episode's plot, and coupling that with the quality of the voice acting's decline (largely because it must be difficult to retain a voice for so long, but the actors not being in the same room as one another could not have helped matters). Castellaneta's performance as Homer began to suffer the earliest in my view, the voice got much higher pitched and whinier, and seemed to have a level of piggish prissiness baked into it, a sort of comment on his own perception of the character, that wasn't there before.

I've always contested when thinking and writing about TV that the moment any show turns on its viewers is when it becomes "self-aware" - buying into its own hype and betraying its own established reality with fan service. It's particularly destructive with comedy, because something being funny and something not being funny is a tight wire to walk to begin with, that often can't withstand formula alteration - the same philosophy behind certain shows retooling when they're not working as well as they should comes into play when that scenario is reversed. Some shows have it happen suddenly and very bluntly, like Season 4 of The Office, when favorite characters were paired up simply because internet fans of the show practically demanded it, or It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (it's rebounded extraordinarily well, by the way), which overindulged in some of the wackier gags that fans had enjoyed the first time around at the same time that it was itself becoming overexposed. Community couldn't leave well enough alone after the first time they did a paintball episode, going back to that concept every year despite immediate staleness.

I don't know how showrunners and writing staffs are supposed to shut out the noise and remain in their bubble, and the longevity of The Simpsons at the time is something laudable and one of the better examples of keeping a show going without doing these things. But as soon as you dip your toe into the water by making an episode like "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," see that it goes [very] well, then keep pushing harder and harder toward self-referential hell, the state the show was in by Season 12 should come as no surprise.

One last thing - I had forgotten how pervasive Tress MacNeille's incredibly grating de facto Lionel Hutz replacement had already become by this point, and eventually was shoehorned into being a regular character as Lindsey Naegle. The voice-acting is obviously strong but the character and her portrayal lack any humor despite writers seeming incredibly enamored with her. She first appeared in "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," so I think I might be onto something here naming that as the unwitting beginning of the end for the golden era.

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Re: The Simpsons

#591 Post by Ribs » Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:12 pm

I think the desire to pinpoint the thing that signalled the end of it as a consistently great show to one thing is fascinating; certainly Al Jean's refusal to hand over the reins is the first thing, but I think James L. Brooks' slow waning off active involvement similarly hurt the show's core. They do still try to do those gut-punch, heartfelt episodes (though nowhere near as frequently or effectively), but given James. L Brooks is who he is they just can't be matched to something like Lisa's Substitute because very few people understand TV comedy as well as him.

Really I think - and maybe Phil Hartman's death played a part in this, or maybe it didn't - the show stopped building it's world. The aforementioned Naegle is one of the last recurring characters to be established - Cookie Kwan came around at some point, and Crazy Cat Lady was a one-off character for five years until she resurfaced as one of the stable of regulars. What really makes old Simpsons remarkable is it built this whole town up from nothing - these characters weren't the characters we know when we see them in the background of Season 1 because they've slowly all gained these great personalities, one by one, joke by joke. Now the only new characters we get are celebrity guest stars (which the show did back then, but there's not any incentive for them to develop the actual residents of the town any further.)

And I think Marcia Wallace's death is fascinating with regards to how the show responded because they've just straight-up refused to give Bart a new teacher (Willem Defoe was a guest-star-of-the-week as a substitute for Mrs. Krabapple a year ago) - they don't want the show to do this new thing because they want it to maintain the illusion that she's still there and the show hasn't been forced to change.

I really, honestly believe there's no reason to end this show but I wish they'd start trying things again. Anything.

(And whilst we're naming good Season 12 episodes, I was baffled when going through the DVD at how good "Skinner's Sense of Snow" was - it's easy to forget the show could and can still produce a gem in the rough every once in a while as well)

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Re: The Simpsons

#592 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:47 pm

Two small things I didn't like in the Crayon the the Brain episode:
1) at the school assembly, Homer concludes that one should enjoy life by singing a song, dancing a dance, and then amusingly Principal Skinner immediately contradicts that by announcing that music and art have been terminated due to budget cuts. But then Skinner announces that they have to clear the auditorium which is going to be leveled to make a mini-mall, and bulldozers crash through the walls as children run to get out of the way. The joke is too zany and illogical for my taste.

2) when Homer returns home after Moe replaces the crayon, he enters by crashing through the window. Huh?
Again too frantic and illogical. At least it's extremely brief. But I'd rather Homer come home, something happen -- maybe trip over the dog or bump his head, etc -- and then Homer says Doh! to indicate that he's back to his old boob self.
________________________________________________________________________________________
Skinner's Sense of Snow has a lot going for it -- snowed in at school, Homer & Ned to the rescue --but I didn't like at all the way Bart abuses Skinner. And the section of Ned's roof on the car is rather wacky/illogical. And the end somewhat weak. The dvd catching fire is hilarious.

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Re: The Simpsons

#593 Post by dustybooks » Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:48 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:I watched this last night so I could sort of get in this conversation and remind myself what I liked and didn't like about this era of the show. You're right re: the Hibbert joke, and I think by this time, if anything, the writers got way too far into their own heads because of the popularity and discussion around the show by people who were far too obsessive about it themselves. For me, the sort of SNPP level of minutiae was never the appeal of the show to begin with, so centering entire bits around that sort of fourth wall stuff was and is unfortunate.
This started all the way back as early as "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie"; I really like that episode, but speaking of SNPP, Matthew Kurth -- a really strong partisan for the emotional James L. Brooks era -- spoke to your basic point on that site with these remarks after that episode aired:
Upon second glance, the episode looks like a $1.5M troll and/or "up yours" to critical fans -- specifically, those who post regularly to [alt.tv.simpsons] -- and/or the commercial TV industry in general. This is particularly interesting because all of a sudden the target audience has been narrowed to just a few hundred viewers. Your average slack-jawed yokel watching the show was more than likely left mystified and wondering what the hell (s)he'd just seen. This means that either the writers have a collective chip on their shoulder, or else no one blew the whistle to say, "Wait, what are we doing here?" I'm reminded of the MGM cartoon studio of the late 40s. Bill Hannah and Joe Barbara were in friendly competition with Tex Avery's cartoon unit, and the two camps tried for months to outdo each other with gags and wild takes and general outrageousness, until finally, they showed a work print to Fred Quimby, then-Producer. He watched placidly, then turned and said, "I don't understand what's going on." The inside gags had gotten so layered that the product was incomprehensible to someone not "in the know".
(And this rings true especially because, in 1997, how many people in the general viewing audience even had internet access yet? I was using public computers at the library then but even that had only just started being a possibility in my region.) To me, the preponderance of overly defensive jokes from the eighth season onward about the show's obsessive fandom suggests more than anything that the comments from newsgroups and such about the show's radical change in direction really hit a strong nerve with at least certain people who worked on the show. This would hold for weird concoctions like "Saddlesore Galactica" and "Worst Episode Ever" and even "Behind the Laughter," if memory serves. It speaks to a suspicion that the writers were doing bad work and essentially knew it, even if they were in denial.

Many years ago when I was fixated on this stuff, I remember a rumor circulating that Brooks had called a meeting sometime in 1996 about trying to "dumb down" the show to supposedly maximize its long-term commercial potential. This sounds like a bullshit fan theory but I vaguely recall that it came from a fairly reliable source. I can't find anything on Google now. Does anyone else remember anything about this?

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Re: The Simpsons

#594 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:28 pm

It's funny, because there was a point when the writers were so talented that controversial episodes like "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," "Homer's Enemy," and "A Star is Burns" were so excellent that they must have built a resistance to limiting themselves from going overboard, because it hadn't been a problem for them yet. And then at some point, when Scully began to run the show and sort of opened the floodgates for anyone's ideas being fair game, and shruggingly accepted a smug self-destruction of the show as the right of some newer writers (Ian Maxtone-Graham stands out as a chief offender, someone who had said he didn't even like it before he began writing for it), everything fell apart very rapidly.

It's always been an easy fallback for the writing staff, particularly Al Jean, to just say "Hey, everyone's always said the show was going downhill" and rest on that, but I think from the beginning the people working on this show have had a difficult time distinguishing unreasonable, hardcore, Comic Book Guy/SNPP types from people who had genuine concerns about what the show had become. I think it's a very telling sign that FOX stopped releasing DVDs, and yet again in that scenario, there's an easy "well, no one buys DVDs anymore" excuse built-in, but there's more to it than that: The majority of the audience of the show has no reason for them. I'd love to see the actual statistics on which episodes get viewed on FXNOW, because I'd be willing to put money on the fact that the 'golden era' ones are exponentially more viewed than, say... uh, Season 19. Not that I know anything about Season 19. I'm sure not many people do.

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Re: The Simpsons

#595 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:46 pm

We need to do a Simpsons list project.

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Re: The Simpsons

#596 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:59 pm

That would be incredible.

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Re: The Simpsons

#597 Post by dustybooks » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:28 pm

I remember Maxtone-Graham being quite a pill in interviews, and his work was lackluster from the beginning; the Rodney Dangerfield episode is one of the first instances of the "we can't write an ending to this story so here's everyone dancing for no reason!" phenomenon. He did write one of the few later episodes I did like, "Lisa Gets an A", which gave Lisa more dimension than she seemed to typically have by that point.

(As a weird and probably irrelevant sidebar, Maxtone-Graham's brother Guy was a writer for Beavis and Butt-Head and dated an acquaintance of mine briefly. I utterly failed to exploit this for inside information aside from the fact that Ian is apparently very tall.)

A Simpsons list project would be really fun, though I have to wonder if there would be a lubitsch-style requirement that we watch all 27 seasons in order to properly assess the comparative horror of the latter two thirds.

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Re: The Simpsons

#598 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:34 pm

Of course not. Though I'd be willing to give the most championed episodes from the later seasons a fair shot.

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Re: The Simpsons

#599 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:46 pm

Each participant could be permitted three spotlights - one from Seasons 1-3, one from Seasons 4-10, and one from 11+

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Re: The Simpsons

#600 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:49 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:It's funny, because there was a point when the writers were so talented that controversial episodes like "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," "Homer's Enemy," and "A Star is Burns" were so excellent that they must have built a resistance to limiting themselves from going overboard, because it hadn't been a problem for them yet. And then at some point, when Scully began to run the show and sort of opened the floodgates for anyone's ideas being fair game, and shruggingly accepted a smug self-destruction of the show as the right of some newer writers (Ian Maxtone-Graham stands out as a chief offender, someone who had said he didn't even like it before he began writing for it), everything fell apart very rapidly.
Yeah, it's telling that the germ of a dead classic like Homer Badman, per the commentary, was based on a both dated and really stupid idea about sexual harassment accusations having gone too far to where perfectly innocent people were getting nailed for simply, I guess, grabbing someone's ass. It's something that popped up all over in the 90s- I think there's an entire Michael Crichton movie about it- but in a modern context it feels very much like being on the wrong side of history.

Golden Age Simpsons being what it was, though, that germ was transformed into something spectacular both by the room sensing where a much funnier vein was (mocking the media, which while something the show did a lot was something it also did spectacularly well) and also cramming it so full of jokes that it's hard to worry too much about anything. It helps that the show actually shows a fair amount of respect to Ashley Grant, too, making her someone whose accusation and viewpoint are legitimate, just misinformed.

At any rate, my point was that the reason the show had such a near perfect hit rate at that point was that even if they went into something with a half-formed or outright bad idea, they had thirty or so people who were going to bump it up at every possible step. That fell apart around season nine- and I mean, it's a miracle that it lasted through as many staff and showrunner changes as it did- where the number of bad-idea episodes starts getting higher and higher, and you as the viewer start noticing it more and more. I mean, it's not like the Simpsons wasn't always crammed with self-referentiality and screw the audience gags, they just didn't leave a sour taste when they were part of this massive behemoth of jokes that the show had been for six or seven years.

Regarding a list project- I'd be lured back on to the board to participate in that, I think! Though the Simpsons, much more than any of the movies we've discussed, is something I know so well I almost can't think about it critically- it's part of the background noise of my mind.

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