Friday, January 10, 2014

Sunday Funnies: The Simpsons (1989)

Cartoonist Matt Groening first entered the public consciousness in the mid-80's with the syndicated comic strip, Life Is Hell, which established Groening's unique, signature artistic style. The strip spawned a series of trade paperbacks and other merchandise, much like other strips, but it also got Groening the attention of executives at the then-fledgling Fox network.

Groening then was commissioned to produce a series of animated sketches for The Tracey Ullman Show, little knowing that his creations would soon become much more popular than the British entertainer herself.

The Simpsons evolved, literally, from the early skits, leading to being spun off into their own series, which marks its 25th anniversary this year. Like so many TV families past and present, we've gotten to know the Simpson family of Springfield, USA, pretty well:

Homer is employed at a nuclear power plant owned by C. Montgomery Burns, perhaps the most miserly boss to come along since, well, who knows? Like George Jetson & Fred Flintstone before him, Homer's been fired and rehired several times over the years, which is amazing when you consider that Homer's IQ is somewhere in the vicinity of a rusty nail. Voiced by Dan Castelanetta.

Wife Marge has held a few short-term jobs, usually in correlation with Homer's temporary unemployment. Like, hey, someone has to be the breadwinner in the family. Owner of the world's biggest beehive hairdo, Marge spends most of her days tending to her youngest child, Maggie. After all these years, you'd think she'd have asked Homer to actually take a refresher course of some kind. Like common sense. Marge is voiced by Julie Kavner (ex-Rhoda).

Daughter Lisa has a future as a jazz musician if she applies herself. As her mother tries to pull her father in line, Lisa often has to do the same with her brother, Bart, but sometimes gets involved in Bart's misadventures. The writers tried to think outside the box in one episode and had her interested, however, briefly, in school bully Nelson. Must've been a done-in-one. Sooner or later, she'll find the one. Voiced by Yeardley Smith (ex-Herman's Head).

And, then, there's Bart, the most famous juvenile delinquent this side of Dennis the Menace. Bart's prank calls to Moe's tavern have probably stopped by now, unless, by some chance, Moe is just as dense as Homer. Then again, Bart also started the trend where kids refer to their fathers by name, not "Dad". Bart's also been at the center of ad campaigns for Butterfinger candy for years. Actress Nancy Cartwright had worked on a few Saturday morning cartoons, including Flintstone Kids, before landing the role of Bart, which has defined her career. In character as Bart, she recorded a pair of novelty singles for the 1990 album, "The Simpsons Sing The Blues".

Maggie has only had one line in the entire run, spoken by movie legend Elizabeth Taylor. Otherwise, the sound effects department handles the sound of her pacifier.

Then, there are the rest of the denizens of Springfield, some of whom you'll see in this season 5 clip, courtesy of Hulu's YouTube channel:

The reruns are headed to cable for the first time this year, airing on FXX, one of Fox's cable networks, after years of airing in syndication. Well, the only drawback would be if FXX copied what FX did a few years back with King of the Hill, and played The Simpsons into the ground.

Rating: B+.

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