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Opinion – “Thank you, come again.” “No thanks.”

The Simpsons: Easily one of, if not the most critically acclaimed animated TV shows to ever grace our screens. A pioneer of animated comedy, perhaps. Everyone has seen at least a full episode of The Simpsons, and the majority of the people you know will be very familiar with America’s favourite family. The Simpsons, like for many, is a huge childhood memory for me; I remember the days where I would eagerly anticipate my evening meal, mainly in part so that I could have my daily, 6 o’clock viewing of The Simpsons on Channel 4. It was the best.

As the years went on, so did The Simpsons. A few more years on, I’d still find myself watching the latest episodes, almost religiously. I began to notice bigger names appearing in some episodes. With the likes of Stephen Hawking, 50 Cent and Ludacris, to name a few, The Simpsons appeared to be successfully continuing in the battle against one of the biggest foes – that is, time. And to this day, it still is. But it appears to me, that this battle is coming to an end. Or at least it needs to.

Up until 3-4 years ago, I was still routinely keeping up with the latest episodes. But gradually, as time went on, I found myself becoming somewhat less excited when watching The Simpsons. Watching it had always been a family activity in my house, with myself, my sister and my father (and sometimes my mum, when she wasn’t busy yelling at me) all sitting down in anticipation, for our next fix of the yellow family. But for me, something was missing. I wasn’t laughing as much as I used to. The spark wasn’t there.

Another famous, animated, American show, Family Guy, receives much criticism (a lot of which I agree with) for its often unrelated, hit-and-miss comedy. Part of this criticism is that it appears to have borrowed, or stolen, if you will (choose whichever you wish), many concepts and ideas from The Simpsons. The ironic thing now is that whenever I watch the more recent episodes of The Simpsons, I can’t help but see aspects of Family Guy: the underdeveloped, aimless and disassociated jokes, completely straying away from the storyline, whilst being dragged out pointlessly, almost as if the creators of the show are trying their best to fill up airing-time because they’ve run out of ideas. The other day I watched an episode where Milhouse’s parents get back together again (I’m sure a similar thing has happened before?), and besides the boring, repetitive storyline, there was little humour. The remaining moments of the episode appeared to be Homer bursting out into an unfunny, almost serious song, as if the writers and Dan were more concerned with the quality of the singing rather than the humour; and I’m pretty sure this episode isn’t even one of the most recent ones.

I’ve noticed a very similar problem in the later episodes of South Park. Whilst some agree it’s as funny as ever, to me, it seems as if Parker & Stone are more concerned about being controversial rather than funny. I loved the controversial and funny combination they provided, but as of late, they seemed to have dumbed down on the funny side. And something I also notice in new South Park, that I see also in new episodes of The Simpsons, other than the dragged out “jokes”, is the huge improvement in the animation. Sure, the better the animations, the better the program, right? Wrong. Whilst more improved animation and more realistically produced 3D visuals might look great, it means nothing if the quality of the comedy is sacrificed.

Perhaps Matt Groening and co. are tailoring the storylines for The Simpsons, to allow audiences to be able to identify with them more suitably. Maybe they’re running out of ideas. Or maybe they’ve just forgotten what The Simpsons is. Either way, this isn’t The Simpsons I once knew and loved; and it hurts me to criticise a show I once used to love so much.

Maybe it’s the same with everything, though. Maybe it’s the fact that to remain fresh, the writers had to drastically change the pace and style of the show; but unfortunately, at a very costly price. I’ll still occasionally find myself watching newer episodes, maybe for the occasional laugh they provide, but perhaps more so for that nostalgic feeling it provides of sitting down and enjoying my favourite animated TV show, which is no longer the case.

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