So you want to watch The Simpsons: here’s where to start


Jackson Collins, Director of Visuals

With the stay at home order underway, everyone is faced with too much free time. While many have chosen to spend that time watching new TV series like Netflix’s Tiger King, it’s also a fun idea to revisit classics like The Simpsons.

The iconic animated sitcom is incredibly entertaining to watch, however, with a whopping 31 seasons under its belt, it can be quite intimidating to find out where to start. And more importantly, where to stop.

Die-hard and casual fans alike have come to the consensus that earlier seasons are superior. In fact, modern-day Simpsons is referred to as “Zombie Simpsons” due to how the show has become a shell of what it once was. The new episodes seem to embody the very things the earlier seasons once poked fun at.

The decline in quality is so well known by people involved in the film and television world, that a trope called “flanderization” was coined because of it. That term refers to when a simple character trait consumes the character and becomes their whole personality, which is exactly what happened to The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders.

A show with such cultural significance fell from grace the way that most do. Since it’s the longest-running show of all time, naturally the writers feel drained and are struggling to come up with new and exciting ideas.

Another thing that irked serious viewers were inconsistencies in the timeline. In the season two episode, “The Way We Was,” the writers depicted Marge and Homer in high school during the 1970s, but more recent episodes show them being teenagers during the 1990s. Details like that can be irritating for long-time fans.

Plus, as the show got bigger and bigger, they had to incorporate more celebrity cameos that grew jarring and out of place. The episode, “Lisa Goes Gaga” is hated by fans due to how shoe-horned and obnoxious the Lady Gaga cameo was.

Even as early as seasons eight and nine, there was a shift in quality when it came to storytelling because of new writers and showrunners. Part of what made the show so special was the talented writers behind it. With the loss of writers like Conan O’Brien, and with James L. Brooks and Matt Groening no longer credited as showrunners, the program was on a steady decline.

While the show was still as punchy and topical, it had begun to lose elements of realism and heart that made the show what it was. Over the years, the show has gone from a somewhat grounded sitcom that just so happened to be animated to, well, a cartoon.

All that being said, that is not to talk down upon the major accomplishments the show has made. The boom in popularity began around the second season, which is when the show truly got its footing and realized what it wanted to be. The early 1990s was dubbed “Simpson’s Mania” because of how widespread the phenomenon had reached. People were getting Simpsons-inspired tattoos, making bootleg merch, and everyone knew how to do the Bart Man (a song and dance that the show created).

Although the show peaked in seasons two through eight, that’s not to say there is nothing good about the newer episodes. With the show being the longest-running series of all time, there has to be a reason why this show has lasted as long as it did.

While the quality is not the same (and it feels weird seeing the characters in HD), there are still modern episodes that avid viewers hold near and dear to their hearts.

The 2007 film, The Simpsons Movie, was critically acclaimed as it saw the return of some of the original writing staff.

As for typical episodes, many cite season 27’s “Barthood” (parodying the award-winning film, Boyhood) as being one of the best of this recent era. It was not only current and humorous, but it had the heart that many people were longing for.

Despite its decline, The Simpsons deserves every bit of praise it gets. While the 681 episodes are incredibly daunting, seasons two through eight are a good place to start.