Sure, you’ve probably seen the “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode of “The Simpsons” a dozen times. But soon you’ll be able to watch the episode — along with more than 500 other installments of the show — on cable, stream it or view it on demand.
It was announced Friday that “Simpsons” reruns would be heading to FXX, the cable network launched in September by 21st Century Fox. This is obviously big for the new network, which is in 26 million fewer homes than FX. Once FXX starts airing the show in August, it will be able to rely on “The Simpsons” to grab attention and pull in decent ratings. (As Josef Adalian points out over at Vulture, new episodes of the show still draw viewers and reruns airing all over the country clearly perform well enough to warrant airing in high-profile time slots.)
Of course, “Simpsons” episodes have seemingly been on or available at any given moment of any given day for years. Syndicated reruns have been all over local stations for two decades, while the newest episodes are streamed on Hulu.
Yet it’s the streaming element that might be the biggest news for many viewers. Rather than having to seek out old episodes by getting DVD sets or happening to stumble upon them, audiences will be able to watch the show the same way we watch television now. Viewers are used to being able to call up an episode, movie or other piece of entertainment whenever they feel like it.
The first decade of the show is littered with classics fans have seen again and again, but many viewers may not have seen them in years. (Remember how worked up you — and by you, I clearly mean me — got at the end of “And Maggie Makes Three”? That episode first aired eighteen years ago.) Someone who didn’t purchase the DVDs or missed an older episode when it rotated through the syndication schedule will gain new access to what may be a key part of their cultural upbringing.
Plus, the streaming of older episodes means that a younger audience — one that largely knows the show in its current, relatively diminished form — could discover the glory of those early “Simpsons” seasons.
New episodes will continue to air on Fox, while the syndicated episodes will still run on local stations (they gave up the exclusivity that had been part of the syndication contracts, which kept the show off of cable until this deal). But soon, when viewers want to remember the words in “See My Vest” or see Sideshow Bob walk into rakes, they’ll be able to watch the entire episodes containing those gems.