The Simpsons

And I have enjoyed them, one and all!!

Sunday episodes take ‘Simpsons’ to No. 400
Mmmm Ö 400!
With Sunday’s two episodes (Fox, 8 ET/PT), The Simpsons hits 400, a milestone reached by just four other prime-time scripted series. That’s something Homer can drool about.
“It’s so hard today to keep something on the air,” says executive producer Al Jean, who runs the day-to-day operation. “It’s immodest, but I think our achievement is unbelievable.”
Creator Matt Groening says The Simpsons, which premiered in 1989 after starting as short segments on The Tracey Ullman Show, has succeeded because Homer, wife Marge, children Bart, Lisa and Maggie and a cast of hundreds can appeal to all.
“I love the style that we stumbled into, this high-velocity pacing that allowed us to do every kind of comedy we could think of, from the most high-falutin’ literary references to sub-Three Stooges physical abuse,” he says.
The Simpsons, followed closely by Law & Order, trails only Gunsmoke (633), Lassie (588), The Adventures ofOzzie & Harriet (435) and Bonanza (430), says Ron Simon, curator at The Museum of Television & Radio.
He says it’s tougher today to hold onto an audience because of cable and the Internet. “We’re dealing with a much more crowded TV universe.”
The Simpsons, winner of 23 Emmys, no longer gets the big ratings that helped put Fox on the map (Season 18 average: 8.7 million viewers, ranking 67th), but it remains strong with prized young adults, ranking 34th, according to Nielsen Media Research. Syndication, DVD sales and product licensing have been a bonanza, with some sources listing the yield at more than $1 billion.
Groening credits then-fledgling Fox ó a frequent Simpsons target ó with taking a risk on animation, which can fly under the radar with satire, double-entendres and the like. “We were in this overlooked medium associated with children.”
Since the Janet Jackson incident, bare bottoms are out, but the boundaries of humor remain the same, Jean says. In the age of South Park edginess, the show no longer is a lightning rod for complaints.
In recent years, it has made digs about the decision to invade Iraq and its consequences. “The show always takes on who’s in power,” Jean says.
Creatively, the series can keep on going, Groening and Jean say. Groening disagrees with critics who say it has declined, calling current episodes as “smart and twisted” as ever. However, the chances of matching Gunsmoke’s 20-season run depend on re-signing the voice actors, whose deals end after next season, the 19th.
On his wish list, Groening says, he would like to see a series spinoff centered on Homer “in all stages of his life.”
That remains a faraway prospect, he says, with The Simpsons Movie opening July 27, a video game due later this year and a Simpsons theme park ride, along with the TV series. “And we’re trying to figure out how to fix the holes in the Bart Simpson balloon so we can get it back in the Macy’s parade.”