Outlook's Third Annual Spring Cleaning List

Let's get rid of 'The Simpsons'

"Facts are meaningless," Homer Simpson once proclaimed. "You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!" That Fox's "The Simpsons" has seen better days is a more than remotely true proposition — the long-lived cartoon's past 10 seasons provide more than enough damning evidence that the series should pack it in.

The problem isn't that "The Simpsons" is never funny anymore, but that it's funny in ways that remind me of its ruder, dumber progeny. (Yes, "Family Guy," I'm talking about you.) It's lost the sublime fusion of plot, characterization, visual pizazz, parody, satire and heart that made early episodes so amazing. Matt Groening's once-magnificent, indispensable comedy about a dysfunctional family has become obligatory and disposable, churning out 22 seasons to no discernible end beyond lengthening an ever-weirder list of guest voices. (Yes, Russell Brand, I'm talking about you.)

Like the doddering tenured professor beloved by everyone on campus though nobody can remember what class he teaches, "The Simpsons" in syndication and on YouTube creates a false sense of vitality. Its best moments came before the lamentable quality ebb of the late '90s: Homer imagining himself in the Land of Chocolate; Marge starring in the musical "Oh, Streetcar!"; Sideshow Bob stepping on all those rakes; Ralph Wiggum declaring, "Me fail English? That's unpossible!"; Poochie suddenly returning to his home planet.

To say that the series is still better than most of the dreck on prime time is the faintest imaginable praise. Granted, to quote Homer again: "Everything looks bad if you remember it!" But that line's from "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" in Season 8 — not Season 18, whatever happened that year.


Matt Zoller Seitz is a television critic for Salon.

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