Unconventional Simpsons make for successful show

By Sean Leary

Could you imagine Ward Cleaver using a blow dryer to brush away the Beaver’s tears? How about Bobby Brady using a secret spy camera to take pictures of Dad with an exotic dancer at a bachelor party? Or Mr. French walking around the apartment in his underwear on Family Affair?

These situations, although amusing, would be difficult to find on most “traditional” family shows, but not “The Simpsons.”

The preceeding situations, and many more, have appeared on “The Simpsons,” a Fox Broadcasting show which airs on Sunday evenings at 7:30.

In addition to the peculiar situations and storylines, another unique quality is the show’s animation. Animation has usually been typecast as a “kiddie” medium, and has been very rarely used to appeal to a more mature audience.

“The Simpsons” has redefined and expanded those former boundaries. The show has become the first hit prime time animated show since “The Flintstones,” even though the two are light years apart in context, tone and style.

The mastermind behind “The Simpsons” is Matt Groening, a cartoonist formerly best known for his “Life In Hell” comic strips.

Groening took the inspiration for his characters from real life situations. Even without dialogue, Groening’s gross caricatures and exaggerated homeliness in his drawing makes his show hilarious.

Taking full advantage of the animated format, Groening warps expressions in ways no live actor could even try to duplicate.

The show’s strongest point, however, lies in its writing which presents us with a cast of lovable losers placed in honest, everyday situations.

It’s this blunt candor, the unpretentiousness of the characters and the wicked satire that strikes such a chord with most fans.

The show’s patriarch, Homer (named after Groening’s own father) Simpson, doesn’t claim to know all the answers, and really isn’t sure of all the questions. He is basically a dopey beer-bellied guy who works a menial job in a nuclear power plant.

Homer’s wife Marge is a simple, beehived housewife who passively looks out for her children and husband as best as she can.

Their son Bart is probably the show’s most popular and identifiable character; a rambunctious troublemaker who can be easily compared to any current or former TV smart-alec.

Lisa, their eldest daughter, is the only semblance of raw intelligence and couth in the family but is refreshingly non-precocious. She’s most likely the first smart kid on a TV sitcom that the average viewer wouldn’t love to slap around for awhile.

And then there’s Maggie, a bug-eyed, pacifier-sucking toddler who, (during one episode) when asked whether she loved Bart or Lisa more, walked over and hugged the TV.

It is this quick-witted satire of the mundanity of American life that is captured so well on “The Simpsons.” The show hits upon contemporary issues and morals in such a matter-of-fact way that the viewer doesn’t feel bludgeoned by it.

In a recent episode, Homer recited “The Code Of The Schoolyard” to Bart which included; 1) Don’t tattle, 2) Always make fun of those different from you, and 3) Never say anything unless you’re sure everyone agrees with you. They’re funny when first heard and poignant when thought upon.

It’s only upon revealing truths or exaggerating them that comedy is built, and anyone who has read “Life In Hell” or Groening’s book series, “Love is Hell,” “Work is Hell,” “School is Hell,” etc., knows all too well that his finger rests (albeit slightly off center) upon the pulse of life’s absurd truths.

“The Simpsons” offers us a show that’s hip without trying to be, which places it about 500 leagues above anything else on TV. In this yuppie saturated age of “wink-wink, nudge-nudge,” aren’t-I-in-touch-with-the-youth writers, this approach is well received.

Another possible reason for this show’s popularity is that the humor is base and accessible enough for children, but the adults will catch the sophistication of its satire and commentary.

As the funniest new show, and the funniest show on TV right now, “The Simpsons” is growing rapidly in popularity and hopefully will be around for a long run.

If you haven’t yet caught it, watch it this Sunday—one episode and you’ll be hooked, dude.