“The Simpsons” The Longest Running Animated Series

HOLLYWOOD —Before there were shows such as “South Park” and “Family Guy” there was one animated series that started it all —“The Simpsons.” Back in 1989, audiences were first introduced to the dysfunctional family that consisted of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie thanks to creator Matt Groening and movie producer James L. Brooks. Since then, they’ve become a staple in pop culture and have remained on air for more than 20 years. Yes, 20 years! So what is it about this fictional town of Springfield and its inhabitants that have captivated audiences for the past two decades? It’s simple, “The Simpsons,” as corky as they may be, remind us of our own family and neighbors, even though we’d never admit it.

Homer can best be described as a moron who has very little focus, unless it’s something he wants such as donuts or beer. He always finds a way to injure himself or to do something really stupid, but in the end we still love him. Then we have Marge, the overprotective mother who brings attention to even the most mundane of things. She cleans her home religiously and loves her husband, despite his many faults.

The child who gets in the most trouble is Bart. He’s a mischievous fiend who torments Principal Skinner with every given opportunity; he also prank calls Moe, Homer’s best bud in my eyes. Lisa, what can’t be said about Springfield’s smartest little girl. Her intelligence is beyond levels of many adults surrounding her and did I mention her musical talent with a saxophone? She’s the voice of reason in the family. Last but not least, we have Maggie who rarely speaks, but her actions do wonders for laughs. Remember that fight with a monkey? This is one baby not to be messed with.

Taking the journey with the citizens of Springfield is a hoot. From Bart’s crazy antics, to Homer’s many “D’oh(s),” children and adults of all ages can watch. Many would think that after 20 years the show would run out of steam and ideas, but that’s not the case. Even celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Ludacris, Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammer and countless others have contributed their voices as characters on the hit series. Most recently Oscar-nominee Anne Hathaway appeared as Krusty’s sidekick on last Sunday’s episode, which marked the historic 450th episode of the show. Of course everyone remembers Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer) and his torment of Bart Simpson, just when you think he might get his way, Bart always finds a way to outsmart the devious mastermind.

The series has won 24 Emmy awards and many other countless awards since first airing back on December 17, 1989. The fictional town of Springfield consists of many characters including Marge’s sisters (Patty and Selma), Carl, Lenny, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Milehouse, Comic Book Guy, Dr. Hibbert, Ned Flanders, Barney, Mrs. Krabappel, Otto, Nelson, Martin, Apu, Grandpa, Chief Wiggum, Ralph and countless others. The opening credits for the show is classic and unlike any other television series. Each week we see the family gather on that infamous couch in variety of ways that are hilarious. The show even dedicates a special episode each year to Halloween with the “Treehouse of Horror,” which chronicles three stories in one episode while poking fun at famous films in the horror or sci-fi genre. The series finally made its way to the multiplexes in 2007 with “The Simpsons Movie,” which generated huge box-office numbers.

Some of the widely successful and memorable episodes of the series included the death of Lisa’s musician friend Bleeding Gums Murphy, a saxophone player who developed a strong bond with her. It really showed Bart’s sensitive side and how much he truly cared about his sister because he used his money to purchase an album she really wanted. Another fan-favorite was the two-part episode involving the supposed demise of Mr. Burns who after being obsessively greedy is shot by one of the citizens of Springfield. With so many suspects anyone could have shot Mr. Burns, but what a surprise viewers got when they discovered he was shot by Maggie after trying to steal her lollipop. Guess he’ll think twice before stealing from a baby.

What works best for the show is that the characters never age to a specific degree, I’ve heard so many people ask why haven’t Bart and Lisa surpassed elementary school. The answer: If they do the show will begin to lose its promise. In a weird way, what works for “The Simpsons” is that time passes, but in a way that keeps the audience interested; we like the characters as they are. So making any drastic change would affect the overall promise of the series. Here’s a toast to one of the most fascinating animated series on television, “The Simpsons” has hit 20 years and I’m sure they’ll keep viewers laughing in the future!