Tag: television

Time to watch the Simpsons

This fall, I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done in more than ten years: I’m going to watch a full (all-new) episode of the Simpsons.

I distinctly remember the last time I saw the Simpsons: it was 1999 and I was in a Penn State dining hall. It was the one where Mr. Burns masqueraded as a doped-up alien.

When I was at Penn State, the Simpsons was the show. If the Simpsons was on any channel in the lineup back then, every public TV would be showing it (the only exceptions to the rule being football games and this movie). And since I had to eat, and since the dining halls had public TVs, I ended up seeing it pretty often.

Back then I expected maybe three or four more years out of the Simpsons, since it clearly wasn’t as good as it had been in the early 90s. At some point I probably uttered something under my breath like, “I’m never watching the Simpons again. Well maybe if it’s still on ten years from now (yeah right) I give it another try.”

I don’t know if I uttered those exact words, but it has been ten years, it’s still on, and so I will give it another try.

Looks like seasons typically start around the end of September. I will keep this blog post updated.


I watched the Simpsons on October 3, 2010; first time I watched a full episode in more than a decade. Because I haven’t watched it in so long, I am uniquely qualified to assess how well the show is now compared to how it was ten or more years ago, since I am not biased by ten years of new shows in between. Admittedly this is a small sample size, but here’s my verdict:

No, it’s not as good. The Simpsons characters always seemed to be stereotypes to me and not real people, but now they seem to be nothing more than substrates to carry jokes. Nothing remotely made me go, “Ha, that’s so Homer” or “That’s so Bart”, but I had lots of “Marge being Marge again” moments.

And the show is still using the same old storylines. I’m not sure if I happened to watch the first episode in ten years implying a Lisa/Nelson romance, or if it’s a running thing.

Nevertheless I did chuckle a few times, meaning it’s still better than a lot of shows out there.

Believe it or not, Scrubs is actually a good show

When I first saw Scrubs, I thought it was a stupid show. It seemed to be a bunch stupid characters incapable of making an intelligent decision, the kind of show that makes me cringe and shout at the TV, “It is inhumanly impossible to be that stupid!” Those kinds of show annoy me more than they make me laugh.

In fact, it reminded me a lot of Three’s Company. Now, Three’s Company probably had the stupidest, fakest, and shallowest characters ever known to man. It would be wrong to call Jack, Janet, and Chrissy one-dimensional caricatures; that would be an insult to one-dimensional caricatures. No, Jack, Janet, and Chrissy (and her replacements) completely lacked any dimension at all. They had no capacity to change or learn or grow. They were inhuman. They were (poorly) preprogrammed androids hopped up on speed, unable to adapt to anything.

The thing that made Three’s Company successful was that it consistently kept the laughs coming, in spite of the shallow characters. To be sure, you were laughing at them, not with them. You didn’t care much about the characters, because you knew that no matter what happened, nothing would ever change. But laughing at them still counts for something, and on that show, you laughed at them an awful lot. It almost made the cringing worth it. Almost.

Back to Scrubs. When I first saw Scrubs, I got the same impression as I got from Three’s Company: these were stupid characters incapable of making an intelligent decision. Only Scrubs was a lot less funny. And if I can hardly sit through Three’s Company, I’m certainly not going to sit through something much less funny. Thus, Scrubs went into my “not interested” bin pretty quickly.

Over the past few months, however, I couldn’t realistically avoid watching the show without avoiding the telly altogether. These days, it’s syndicated on about 50 different channels at any given time of the day. Plus, the blonde on it (Sarah Chalke) is oddly cute. Inevitably, I ended up watching it a few times.

That’s when I saw that the stupidity of the characters was all an act. The Scrubs gang really does have a lot of depth; their outward shallowness is only something they project as a defense against a stressful work place. In fact, the way their true character manifests itself is very interesting, and goes a long way toward building sympathy and making the characters believable.

So when someone on Scrubs does something stupid, we don’t have to roll our eyes or cringe; they’re not acting that way because they’re manifestly compelled to always do the absolute stupidest thing possible. We understand why they did it (somewhat). And when something funny happens, the joke is more heartfelt and enjoyable because we can sympathize with the characters.

Needless to say, I am converted. Sure, it’s cliched and relies on stereotypes too much (that’ll probably date it a few years down the road). But overall, it’s really a good show. Although it doesn’t hold a candle to some of the great sitcoms of the 70s and early 80s (All in the Family, Good Times), it’s probably the consistently funniest non-animated show that’s been on TV for at least ten years.

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