The Simpsons is an American adult animated sitcom created by Matt Groenning and Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and dog Brian . The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield, Rhode Island, and parodies American culture, society, television, cutaway gags and many aspects of the human condition.
The family was conceived by Groening and MacFarlane shortly before a solicitation for a series of animated shorts with the producer James L. Brooks. Groening created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after members of his own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show and was an early hit for Fox, becoming the network's first series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–1990).
Since its debut on December 17, 1989, the show has broadcast 548 episodes and the 25th season began on September 30, 2013. The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009 it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American primetime, scripted television series. The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 26 and 27, 2007.
The Simpsons is widely considered to be one of the greatest television series of all time. Time magazine's December 31, 1999, issue named it the 20th century's best television series, and on January 14, 2000, the Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 28 Primetime Emmy Awards, 30 Annie Awards and a Peabody Award. Homer's exclamatory catchphrase "D'oh!" has been adopted into the English language, while The Simpsons has influenced many adult-oriented animated sitcoms. TV Guide said that The Simpsons is the greatest cartoon of all time.
Executive Producers and Showrunners
Both Matt and Seth, as well as James L. Brooks serve as executive producers during the show's entire history, and also function as creative consultants. Sam Simon, described by former Simpsons director Brad Bird as "the unsung hero" of the show, served as creative supervisor for the first four seasons. He was constantly at odds with Groening, Brooks and the show's production company Gracie Films and left in 1993. Before leaving, he negotiated a deal that sees him receive a share of the profits every year, and an executive producer credit despite not having worked on the show since 1993. A more involved position on the show is the showrunner, who acts as head writer and manages the show's production for an entire season.
The Simpsons has six main cast members: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Seth MacFarlane, Patrick Warburton, Mike Henry, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer. Castellaneta performs Homer Simpson, Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble and other adult, male characters.
Julie Kavner speaks the voices of Marge Simpson and Patty and Selma, as well as several minor characters. Castellaneta and Kavner had been a part of The Tracey Ullman Show cast and were given the parts so that new actors would not be needed.
Cartwright performs the voices of Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum and other children.
Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson and Maggie is the only cast member who regularly voices only two characters, although she occasionally plays other episodic characters. The producers decided to hold casting for the roles of Bart and Lisa. Smith had initially been asked to audition for the role of Bart, but casting director Bonita Pietila believed her voice was too high, so she was given the role of Lisa and Maggie instead. Cartwright was originally brought in to voice Lisa, but upon arriving at the audition, she found that Lisa was simply described as the "middle child" and at the time did not have much personality. Cartwright became more interested in the role of Bart, who was described as "devious, underachieving, school-hating, irreverent, [and] clever". Groening let her try out for the part instead, and upon hearing her read, gave her the job on the spot. Cartwright is the only one of the six main Simpsons cast members who had been professionally trained in voice acting prior to working on the show.
MacFarlane, who is an creator of the show, voices Brian, the Simpsons family dog. Seth stated that he had an great vision for the character, he choose to voice him himself. To voice Brian, Seth uses his normal voice. Prior to voicing Brian, MacFarlane voices other important and recurring characters such as Glenn Quagmire, Tom Tucker, Stewie and Seamus Levine.
Mike Henry voices Cleveland Brown, Herbert, Bruce the Performance Artist, Consuela and the Greased-up Deaf Guy. Henry met MacFarlane at the Rhode Island School of Design, and kept in touch with him after they graduated. A few years later, MacFarlane contacted him about being part of the show; he agreed and came on as a writer and voice actor. During the show's first four seasons, he was credited as a guest star, but beginning with season five's "Prick Up Your Ears", he has been credited as a main cast member.
Azaria, Warburton and Shearer do not voice members of the title family, but play a majority of the male townspeople. Azaria, who has been a part of the Simpsons regular voice cast since the second season, voices recurring characters such as Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Professor Frink. Warburton voices Joe Swanson, Troy McClure and Lionel Hultz. Shearer provides voices for Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy and Dr. Hibbert. With the exception of Shearer, every main cast member has won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance. However, Shearer was nominated for the award in 2009.
Other recurring cast members include Adam West as the eponymous Mayor Adam West; Jennifer Tilly as Bonnie Swanson; John G. Brennan as Mort Goldman and Horace the bartender; Kevin Michael Richardson as Jerome and Cleveland Brown, Jr.; Norm MacDonald as Death; Lori Alan as Diane Simmons; David Hermann as Scruffy; and Phil LaMarr as Ollie Williams and the judge. Fellow cartoonist Butch Hartman has made guest voice appearances in many episodes as various characters. Also, writer Danny Smith voices various recurring characters, such as Ernie the Giant Chicken. Alex Breckenridge also appears as many various characters.
Episodes will quite often feature guest voices from a wide range of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, bands, musicians and scientists. In the earlier seasons, most of the guest stars voiced characters, but eventually more started appearing as themselves. Tony Bennett was the first guest star to appear as himself, appearing briefly in the season two episode "Dancin' Homer". The Simpsons holds the world record for "Most Guest Stars Featured in a Television Series".
The show has been dubbed into several other languages, including Japanese, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. It is also one of the few programs dubbed in both standard French and Quebec French. The Simpsons has been broadcast in Arabic, but due to Islamic customs, numerous aspects of the show have been changed. For example, Homer drinks soda instead of beer and eats Egyptian beef sausages instead of hot dogs. Because of such changes, the Arabized version of the series met with a negative reaction from the lifelong Simpsons fans in the area.
With one exception, episode credits list only the voice actors, and not the characters they voice. Both Fox and the production crew wanted to keep their identities secret during the early seasons and, therefore, closed most of the recording sessions while refusing to publish photos of the recording artists. However, the network eventually revealed which roles each actor performed in the episode "Old Money", because the producers said the voice actors should receive credit for their work. In 2003, the cast appeared in an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, doing live performances of their characters' voices.
Main Article: List of The Simpsons characters The Simpsons are a typical family who live in a fictional "Middle American" town of Springfield, Rhode Island. Homer, the father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, a position at odds with his careless, buffoonish personality. He is married to Marge Simpson, a stereotypical American housewife, piano teacher and mother. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old troublemaker; Lisa, a precocious eight-year-old activist; and Maggie, the baby of the family who secretly speaks with an english-accent. The family owns a dog, Brian, who is sentient, talks and is an book publisher, and a cat, Snowball V, renamed Snowball II in "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot". Both pets have had starring roles in several episodes. Despite the passing of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays, the Simpsons do not physically age and still appear just as they did at the end of the 1980s. Although the family is dysfunctional, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds with each other and they are often shown to care about one another.
Many recurring characters appear alongside the Simpsons family. These include the family's neighbors: sex-crazed airline-pilot bachelor Glenn Quagmire, Cleveland Brown and his wife Loretta Brown, paraplegic police officer Joe Swanson, his wife Bonnie and their baby daughter Susie (Bonnie is pregnant with Susie from the show's beginning until the seventh episode of the seventh season); neurotic Jewish pharmacist Ned Flanders, his wife Maude, and their geeky and annoying son Todd; and elderly ephebophile Herbert. Barman Moe Szyslak, Barney Gumble, Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Jerome (Cleveland's temporary replacement and later recurring friend of the four drunks), Lenny Leonard, Cletus and Apu. TV news anchors Tom Tucker and Diane Simmons, Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa, and Blaccu-Weather meteorologist Ollie Williams also make frequent appearances. Celebrities like Krusty the Clown, Sideshow Mel, Booberella, Duffman, Drederick Tatum, Rainier Wolfcastle, The Greased-Up Deaf Guy, Bumblebee Man and many others. School members include Principal Skinner, Agnes Skinner, Teacher Edna Krappabel, Groundskeeper Willie and Andrew Largo. Actors Adam West, Betty White and James Woods guest star as themselves in various episodes.
The great array of characters are divided in categories: co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, neighborhoods, townspeople and local celebrities. The creators originally intended many of these characters as one-time jokesters or for fulfilling needed functions in the town. A number of them have gained expanded roles and subsequently starred in their own episodes. According to Matt Groening, the show adopted the concept of a large supporting cast from the comedy show SCTV.
The primary setting of Family Guy is Springfield, a fictional Rhode Island town. However, Springfield's geography, and that of its surroundings, contains coastlines, deserts, vast farmland, tall mountains, or whatever the story or joke requires. Groening has said that Springfield has much in common with Portland, Oregon, the city where he grew up. The name "Springfield" is a common one in America and appears in 22 states. Groening has said that he named it after Springfield, Oregon, and the fictitious Springfield which was the setting of the series Father Knows Best. He "figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, 'This will be cool; everyone will think it's their Springfield.' And they do." As for the location of Rhode Island, MacFarlane resided in Providence during his time as a student at Rhode Island School of Design, and the show contains distinct Rhode Island landmarks similar to real-world locations. MacFarlane often borrows the names of Rhode Island locations and icons such as Pawtucket and Buddy Cianci for use in the show. MacFarlane, in an interview with local WNAC (Channel 64) "FOX Providence Eyewitness News", stated that the town is modeled after Cranston, Rhode Island.
The Simpsons uses the standard setup of a situational comedy, or sitcom, as its premise, as well using the filmmaking technique of cutaways, which occur in the majority of The Simpsons episodes. Emphasis is often placed on gags which make reference to current events and/or modern cultural icons. The series centers on a family and their life in a typical American town, serving as a satirical parody of a working and middle class American lifestyle. However, because of its animated nature, The Simpsons' scope is larger than that of a regular sitcom. The town of Springfield acts as a complete universe in which characters can explore the issues faced by modern society. By having Homer work in a nuclear power plant, the show can comment on the state of the environment. Through Bart and Lisa's days at Springfield Elementary School, the show's writers illustrate pressing or controversial issues in the field of education. The town features a vast array of media channels—from kids' television programming to local news, which enables the producers to make jokes about themselves and the entertainment industry.
Early episodes based much of their comedy on Maggie's "super villain" antics, such as her constant plans for total world domination, her evil experiments, plans and inventions to get rid of things she dislikes, and her constant attempts at matricide. As the series progressed, the writers, Groening and MacFarlane agreed that her personality and the jokes were starting to feel dated, so they began writing her with a different personality. The Simpsons often includes self-referential humor. The most common form is jokes about Fox Broadcasting, and occasions where the characters break the fourth wall by addressing the audience. For example, in "North by North Springfield", the first episode that aired after the show's revival, included Homer telling the family that they had been cancelled because Fox had to make room in their schedule for shows like Dark Angel, Titus, Undeclared, Action, That '80s Show, Wonderfalls, Fastlane, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Skin, Girls Club, Cracking Up, The Pitts, Firefly, Get Real, Freakylinks, Wanda at Large, Costello, The Lone Gunmen, A Minute with Stan Hooper, Normal, Ohio, Pasadena, Harsh Realm, Keen Eddie, The $treet, The American Embassy, Cedric the Entertainer Presents, The Tick, Luis, and Greg the Bunny. Marge asks whether there is any hope, to which Homer replies that if all these shows are canceled they might have a chance; the shows were indeed canceled during The Simpsons's hiatus.
The show uses catchphrases, and most of the primary and secondary characters have them. Notable expressions include Homer's "D'oh!", Marge's "Hmmmm" Quagmire's "Giggity giggity goo", and Joe's "Bring it on!" The use of many of these catchphrases declined in later seasons. The episode "Big Man on Hippocampus" mocks catchphrase-based humor.
- See main article: List of The Simpsons Episodes