The Cost of Zombie Simpsons


Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge.

“I think it’s full, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“That’s ridiculous!  The last tree held nine drums.” – C.M. Burns

One of the main reasons we started this blog was to help draw a bright, shining distinction between the pristine beauty of The Simpsons and the brackish effluent of Zombie Simpsons.  Fundamentally, The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons are two different shows whose only real similarities are cosmetic, and the longer Zombie Simpsons is on the air the more damage it does to The Simpsons in terms of reputation, pop culture standing, and even simple popularity. 

Witness this comment from “PulpAffliction” at that Top 13 Simpsons guests post we talked about last week:

Great list, I’m more of a Futurama fan, myself.

I’ll have to check out "Marge vs. Monorail," though.

He’s a Futurama fan who has never seen “Marge vs. The Monorail”!  Let that sink in for a moment.  He likes animated comedy, he likes the more successful of the two Simpsons spin offs, but he has never seen one of the most famous episodes of The Simpsons

This is not the first time I’ve seen something like this.  About a year ago Mad Jon and I were hanging out with a friend of ours who’s a lot younger than we are.  He was born in 1988 so he was just a baby when the show came out and wasn’t yet ten years old before it started to implode.  He knows a fair share of Simpsons quotes and certainly likes the show.  But as we were shooting the shit it came up that he had never seen “Last Exit to Springfield”.  (It goes almost without saying that we watched it immediately and he laughed his ass off.) 

Sad cases like these aren’t at all surprising when you consider that there are now far more episodes of Zombie Simpsons than there are of the real thing.  Syndicated broadcasters are under no obligation to run episodes in order and it’s my impression (though I can’t back it up with data) that the syndication runs tend to favor the more recent years as well.  Most people surely get their first Simpsons exposure from these scattershot reruns, but the sheer number of Zombie Simpsons now means that a person has to go out of their way to guarantee that they’ve caught most or all of the best (read: old) episodes. 

Certainly at least some people deliberately look them all up but, inevitably, lots of casual fans do not.  As a result they often don’t understand what’s so special about The Simpsons (other than that it’s been on the air a very long time).  This is true even for fans of shows (e.g. South Park, Family Guy, Futurama) that were spawned because of The Simpsons, and can you blame them? 

All of those other shows I mentioned have produced stellar, hilarious episodes, some of which contain things so memorable that they became pop culture touchstones.  But none of them has ever had a years long run that rivals what The Simpsons did at its beginning.  Week after week, year after year, The Simpsons pumped out one exceptional classic after another; but the magic of that gets lost in reruns that are polluted hither and thither with Zombie Simpsons.  The unequaled density and consistency of the great years can no longer shine though the sludge and that reduces The Simpsons to the status of “just another teevee show”, one that’s only funny some of the time.   

That is why Zombie Simpsons needs to be attacked and criticized.  Not because it’s a boring, mediocre television program (there are lots of those), but because each new episode eats away at the foundations of one of the most important and influential shows ever made.  Every year a new batch of Zombie Simpsons gets dumped into the rerun pool and steals precious airtime away from the good ones, and so each new batch of potential fans has to work a little bit harder to see the good stuff.  Bit by bit Zombie Simpsons is poisoning The Simpsons for future generations. 

Won’t somebody think of the children?

34 Responses to “The Cost of Zombie Simpsons”

  1. 1 D.N.
    4 March 2010 at 9:28 pm

    “Syndicated broadcasters are under no obligation to run episodes in order and it’s my impression (though I can’t back it up with data) that the syndication runs tend to favor the more recent years as well.”

    That’s certainly the case in Australia – “The Simpsons” airs on the free-to-air Channel 10 and the cable station Fox 8, neither of which has shown any season 1-4 episodes for years (with one exception: some months ago, Fox 8 ran a Top 8 most requested episodes, and “Lisa’s Substitute” and “Bart Gets Hit By a Car” made the list – so did “Homer the Vigilante” and “The Springfield Files”, but I don’t know what the other four episodes were). Recently, though, Fox 8 has been advertising that it’s going to start re-screening “Old School Simpsons,” being seasons 1-5. Hopefully this will acquaint people only familiar with Zombie Simpsons with the real show…

    • 2 P. Piggly Hogswine
      5 March 2010 at 7:04 am

      I was out for dinner when that top 8 was on, one of them I’m told was a season 18 episode (just pause and think about that) where Bart had to help stop Jimbo, Dolph & Kearney from releasing a reeking yoghurt upon the bake sale. My first reaction when seeing the episode was of amazement given that the old Bart would have been the one helping the aforementioned characters. Anyway, how that episode got in a top 8 countdown, I have no idea.

      I’m staggered that guy hasn’t seen the Monorail episode.

  2. 4 March 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I think “The Simpsons” episodes are in a huge danger of being overshadowed by the “Zombies Simpsons” in terms of broadcast time. As long as they extend the show, the percentage of “The Simpsons” being shown on syndication goes down. Right now in L.A., I think FOX realize that these old school episodes are more popular which is why they are being shown at 730 and 1130. Hopefully FOX L.A. keeps this up and mix the years together so people can really make an comparison between good Simpsons and bad Simpsons. I tried explaining the difference between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons to my coworker but she didn’t see the difference. She’s too young so she wasn’t exposed long enough to The Simpsons. And yes, I spent time talking to a hot chick about the difference between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.

  3. 4 March 2010 at 10:33 pm

    My biggest gripe about Zombie Simpsons is it’s raised a generation of idiot fans who believe horseshit Simpsons is better than no Simpsons at all. Just look at the No Homer’s Club–there’s a slew of 13yr olds who would rather see the show continue for 20 more years than have it end anytime soon.

    • 5 Lovejoy fan
      8 March 2010 at 6:07 pm

      It’s not just at No Homers. At one point, I remember meeting someone in high school (I was 15 at the time; he was two years younger) who said his favourite episode was “the one where Homer becomes Pieman” (I think it was from season 15).

      Personally, I don’t think I’d cry if the show ended now. I don’t know about anyone else, but I just wouldn’t care. I can’t even be bothered to remember when new episodes are on anymore; heck, I’m not even excited for this one involving a church trip to Jerusalem or something. I just don’t give a shit.

      Just for the record, I was born in 1990, but thanks to a lack of cable TV, I saw seasons 1-10 before the Zombie era and I actually saw the drop in quality when they finally aired season 11. I have a nasty suspicion that most of these newer members are actually used to Zombie Simpsons, and they might actually think that’s what the show is meant to be like (I know, it’s horrible). Therefore, they probably don’t see what the rest of us are talking about.

  4. 6 D.N.
    5 March 2010 at 1:58 am

    I miss the good old days when I could just say I like The Simpsons and that was all there was to it. Nowadays, when someone asks me if I’m a fan, I have to say, “Yeah, but only of the first 10 years,” and this usually leads to me having to explain my gripe with the show in its current-day form.

  5. 7 Jo
    6 March 2010 at 8:26 am

    I thought that when I read that Top 13 Simpsons Guests page. How on earth could someone who likes Futurama not seen one of the most classic episodes ever?

    Another point I would like to add is that being born in 1988 is no excuse to nor have seen all of the classic Simpsons episodes. I was born in 1988 and I remember when some of the classic episodes were new, and I would look forward to every week when a new episode would be aired. Now I rarely care about a new episode of Zombie Simpsons.

  6. 8 Derp
    8 March 2010 at 7:34 am

    What’s the other spin-off?

    • 9 Charlie Sweatpants
      8 March 2010 at 10:02 am

      “The Critic”, with Jon Lovitz as Jay Sherman. It was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, produced by James Brooks, and involved a lot of other once and future Simpsons people (most prominently Nancy Cartwright and Doris Grau). It was originally on ABC, got canned after thirteen episodes, then it moved to FOX for ten more before getting canned again. The first episode on FOX went on right after “A Star Is Burns”.

      It took the Simpsons style of humor and relocated it to New York City but with a cranky, Jewish film critic as the lead instead of an all-American everyman like Homer and that’s pretty much why it never caught on. It’s really too bad too because it was an excellent show, ahead of its time in a lot of ways. You can get it on DVD, though a lot of the humor is topical and I don’t know how funny it’d be coming at it fresh fifteen years after the fact. It’s probably most famous for the movie parodies, many of which you can see on YouTube.

      Here’s Arnold Schwarzenegger as Rabbi P.I.:

      Here’s a great take on cop movie cliches:

      • 10 Derp
        14 March 2010 at 6:31 pm

        Wow, thanks. I knew of The Critic, but had no idea it was a Simpsons spin-off.

        • 11 Adam
          8 April 2010 at 10:50 am

          It’s not a Simpsons spin-off. Jay Sherman crossed-over in one episode, but that was a cross-promotional thing. The Critic was an original show (sort of) before Jay appeared on the Simpsons.

          • 12 Charlie Sweatpants
            8 April 2010 at 11:11 am

            You’re right, and if you want to get technical, “Futurama” isn’t a spin off either. But both shows are linear descendants of “The Simpsons”, sharing writers, voice actors, and creators. They’re even animated in such a similar style that when they did “A Star Is Burns” all they had to do was make Sherman yellow, the character model fit right in.

            I use the term “spin off” to refer to them because I think it properly marks them as closer to “The Simpsons” than, say, “Family Guy” or “South Park”. Those shows (and countless others from “Aqua Teen” to “King of the Hill” to “Boondocks”) followed in “The Simpsons” footsteps, but had their own independent genesis.

            • 13 Scott S
              27 May 2012 at 4:24 am

              I wouldn’t have thought of the Critic as a spin-off from the Simpsons, either, but Futurama feels a bit closer. I’m not sure there was any creative crossover with the Critic, but Matt Groening created Futurama, and it has the feel of the Simpsons after it had started to go south, but without the baggage of the Simpsons it feels more enjoyable than zombie Simsons.

  7. 14 Ian Hochstrasser
    29 September 2010 at 11:59 am

    This is a touchy subject that will remain controversial as the years continue. I don’t think anyone doubts that the Simpsons has lost some of its luster and clout with the general public, but they aren’t entirely to blame. I’ve talked to fans of “Family Guy” that think “The Simpsons” is junk. Family Guy owes its life to The Simpsons, but many of its fans have lived in a world where the Simpsons have always existed, and may always exist as far as they are concerned. In other words, they take the Simpsons for granted, like youth who often take the existence of their parents for granted.

    I’ve tried to love Family Guy, American Dad, South Park and other various shows that owe so much to the Simpsons for the road the show blazed for intellectual cartooning, but they always fall short for me. Sure, I laugh sometimes at Stew Griffin or American Dad, but I’m always thinking of Homer.

    The Simpsons is a tour de force which will not leave America’s psychi or conscience for many years. Name another television entertainment show that’s been around for a quarter of a century. Name another show that’s been around since before Seinfeld-and outlived every comedic competitor. In a way, Krusty the Clown’s show is a mirror of the Simpsons: it’s been around a long time, and to get it off the air, someone will have to pry the show from Fox’s cold, dead hands.

    In the 13th Season the show even poked fun at its own lifespan with a parody of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics: “They’ll never stop the Simpsons
    Have no fears, we’ve got stories for years…”

    But remember: If you want the Simpsons off the air, you’ll get your wish someday. They won’t likely continue making new episodes when Matt Groening dies. As far as television shows are concerned, The Simpsons has exceeded its life expectancy. The show is not in its prime anymore. Despite the fact that nobody on the show ever ages, the show itself has and continues towards the twilight.

    Make no mistake: When The Simpsons airs its last episode, you’ll be there watching, mourning the death of an old friend.

    • 15 Derp
      29 September 2010 at 3:37 pm

      The Simpsons has been out of its prime for over ten years.
      Yes, I’ll be devastated when it’s gone, but that’s because it’s been a part of my life for so long, however small.

  8. 16 billy
    6 October 2010 at 9:02 am

    Age has nothing to do with it. I was born in 1990, have been watching the simpsons since I was 5, and haven’t been able to stand it since I was 10. If there are people who can’t tell the difference between old and new simpsons, its an intelligence gap, not a generation gap. And to lighten the mood…

    Homer: Uh oh, I think he’s a spy.
    Marge: Of course he’s a spy! You just saw him go through spy school!

  9. 17 Wiimeiser
    13 April 2011 at 8:50 am

    The problem is Al Jean and his focus on Homer. If I made a Simpsons game (and getting the rights off EA won’t be hard as they have almost no value) I’ll cast Al as the antagonist.

  10. 18 Dan
    8 July 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for this. You’re doing God’s work with this site.

  11. 19 daniel
    17 August 2012 at 1:06 am

    The simpsons was actually pretty good up until season 12 (i can’t really remember when the bad ones started taking over, but im referring to the early and middle ones)
    The only time i have actually laughed during a newer episode was when a couple of vampires died well sucking homers blood due to chalestrol poisoning. Every other joke sucks

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