Jonathan Chait is right when he says, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of The Simpsons :
“Of course, the show has been on the decline now far longer than it was good. But oh, how good it was in its heyday.”
I was a Simpsons watcher before The Simpsons show existed, back when the much-cruder versions of the characters we love today helped break up The Tracey Ullman Show. Is it weird that-as a middle schooler sneaking TV in my room-I associated the then-upstart Fox channel with the underground comics I was snapping up over at The Fantasy Five and Dime in depressing downtown Sterling, Virginia?
In addition to Ullman and her Simpsons, there were Married With Children, 21 Jump Street, and eventually In Living Color, all of which seemed to me to throb with genre-busting creative fervor and to confront the uptight morality of, you know, people older than me in the same way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the comic book, which, lest it need saying, was so different from the later show/movies).
They rerun Married With Children on one of the local channels here, and I find it pretty much unwatchable, and maybe I’d think the same of the other examples, although I do think I might enjoy a DVD boxed-set of 21 Jump Street, if only so that I can more precisely analyze how my sense of “cool” first began to form (the characters’ wardrobe choices influenced me throughout high school and might even still do so today).
But I can usually enjoy most of even a bad Simpsons episode.
In fact, one consolation I’ve taken in so often not having a television over the years (or, now, no longer being able to receive Fox via my digital-to-analog converter) is the fact that as a result so many Simpsons reruns will be new to me when I am once again in a position to watch them. (The Simpsons being the only Fox show I’d ever go out of my way to see, although I probably would have watched American Idol last night if I could have.)
Of course, for the reason Chait points out, both my desire to watch Fox and the extent to which the above consolation actually consoles me has declined over the years. So I was excited when he called out and linked to an episode from the 1992 season that is entirely unfamiliar to me. Glad to know that some gems still await me. Chait particularly recommends Barney’s “Plow King” commercial at minute 11:50.