It’s one of the longest running, most popular, and influential television shows in history. It means a lot of things to a lot of different people. And for most of my life, I was one of them. While it premiered on the Tracy Ullman show in 1987, the show we’ve all come to know love, and for some, hate, started with “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” on December 17, 1989, just a couple months after I was born. July 28, 1989 was the day I was born, and so really, the Simpsons have been around as long as I have been.
The Simpsons almost immediately permeated the cultural zeitgeist and was practically omnipresent when I was a kid. Growing up I had an amazing choice of cartoons to watch. It was a golden age for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network that had some great shows that honestly sometimes could have more questionable content than the Simpson. I had been aware of the Simpsons for most of my childhood, even somehow having obtained a weird Bart piggy bank early on, which still sits on my desk.
But it had a bit of a reputation as not something for kids. If it wasn’t on Nickelodeon or Disney channel, it was something I would have to watch with my parents, and the Simpsons was definitely not something they had any interest in. But finally, when I was in third grade, enough kids in my class had told me to watch the Simpsons that I asked my parents if I could watch the sixth Treehouse of Horror episode in 1995. My folks relented with the only caveat being that “that Bart kid is a brat. Don’t be like him.”
And from there, I was hooked.
I became obsessed with the show, and for a long time, it was one of the most important things in my life. My local Fox affiliate played it every week day from 5 pm to 6 pm, and for years, I watched every episode, often resorting to my asking my Grandma, who babysat my brother and I after school, what certain jokes mean. I bought the season as soon as I could, and re-watched them constantly. I tore through the commentaries too, trying to learn everything I could about the show. I had the comics from Bongo, even getting a letter published in an issue. I had the weird ancillary books like Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life or Simpsons’ Guide to Springfield. And of course I had the episode guides. I even played the terrible Playstation games like Simpsons Wrestling or Simpsons Road Rage. There were years where my wardrobe basically consisted of Simpson’s shirts. I learned so much from the Simpsons, everything from obscure movie references to actual American history. No joke, in high school I was able to answer a question on the AP American History test correctly not because it was anything we talked about in class or read in the book, but because the Simpsons taught me. It was about the Three Mile Island incident.
Near the beginning after my brother and I started repeating some particularly “inappropriate” lines (such as the Troy McClure classic “And now what we all came here for. Hard. Core. NUDITY!) my parents temporarily banned us from watching the show. And in my first ever act of parental defiance, I still sneaked into the basement when I could to watch the syndicated episodes. They soon came to their senses and let me watch it again without the charade of hiding, and all was right in the world.
Ever since I was in fourth grade I’ve wanted to be a story teller of some sort, and aside from a brief time in high school when I was obsessed with coming up with terrible James Bond knockoff stories, it’s always been satire and humor that’s been my calling. And nothing (except possibly Mystery Science Theater 3000) has had the same kind of impact on me from a creative stand point. The Simpsons shaped my sense of humor, my pool of references, hell it shaped my personality. For years the show served as a sort of litmus test for friendship. If I met someone who was into the Simpsons, I knew there was a good chance they were good people. I was not a popular kid, and the show was definitely a comfort at lonely times.
But then, like so many other fans, I dropped off.
A combination of the show dipping in quality, and me expanding my horizons to new shows and movies led me to gradually stop watching the show. Where I used to watch the show religiously and tape the episodes each Sunday night, now I would go weeks without catching and episode, then when I would, I’d feel disappointed. I briefly came back when the movie came out in 2007, but by then the spark was gone. In college I met some friends who had similar stories, and we bonded watching the classic seasons together, but once again, the Simpsons faded out of my life.
Now, on the eve of my 26th birthday, I have a plan. I want to reconnect with the show that meant so much to me. So, for the foreseeable future, I’m going to watch every episode of the show. The good, the bad, and the painful. Every week day I’ll be posting my thoughts on the episodes. An episode a day. For 574 days and counting. It’ll be a hell of a journey, but I feel like I owe it to the show that meant so much to me, and honestly shaped me into the man I am today. So please join me as I travel through a Life Time of the Simpsons.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons