Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 13: The Simpsons Pt.2

Welcome to Lesson 13 which is part 2 of the History of The Simpsons.

The Simpsons uses the standard setup of a situation comedy, or sitcom, as its often called. The series centers on a family and their life in a typical American town. 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.

The Simpsons' opening sequence is one of the show's most memorable hallmarks. Most episodes open with the camera zooming through the show's title towards the town of Springfield. The camera then follows the members of the family on their way home. Upon entering their house, the Simpsons settle down on their couch to watch television.

The opening was created by David Silverman.This was the first task he did when production began on the show. The series' theme song was composed by musician Danny Elfman in 1989, after Groening approached him requesting a retro style piece. This piece, which took two days to create, has been noted by Elfman as the most popular song of his career.

Another thing about the theme is that three of the segments change from episode to episode: Bart writes different things on the school chalkboard, Lisa plays different solos on her saxophone, and different gags accompany the family as they enter their living room to sit on the couch.

On February 15, 2009, a new opening credit sequence was introduced to accompany the switch to HDTV. The sequence had all of the features of the original opening, but added numerous details and characters.

The special Halloween episode has become an annual tradition. "Treehouse of Horror" first broadcast in 1990 as part of season two and established the pattern of three separate, self-contained stories in each Halloween episode.

These usually involve the family in some horror, science fiction, or supernatural setting and often parody or pay homage to a famous pieces of work in those genres. They always take place outside the normal continuity of the show.

Although the Treehouse series is meant to be seen on Halloween, in recent years, new installments have premiered after Halloween due to Fox's current contract with Major League Baseball's World Series.

The show's humor turns on cultural references that cover a wide spectrum of society, so that viewers from all generations can enjoy the show. Such references, for example, come from movies, television, music, literature, science, and history.

The animators also regularly add jokes or sight gags into the show's background via humorous bits of text in signs, newspapers, and elsewhere.

The audience may often not notice the visual jokes in a single viewing. Some are so fleeting that they become apparent only by pausing a video recording of the show.

Kristin Thompson argues that The Simpsons uses a "...flurry of cultural references, intentionally inconsistent characterization, and considerable self-reflexivity about television conventions and the status of the program as a television show."

One of Bart's early hallmarks were his prank calls to Moe's Tavern owner,Moe Szyslak. In this little prank,Bart calls Moe and asks for a gag name. Moe tries to find that person in the bar, but rapidly realizes it is a prank call and angrily threatens Bart.

These calls were based on a series of prank calls known as the Tube Bar recordings. Moe was based partly on Tube Bar owner Louis "Red" Deutsch, whose often profane responses inspired Moe's violent side.

As the series progressed,it became more difficult for the writers to come up with a fake name and to write Moe's angry responses,so the pranks were dropped as a regular joke during the fourth season.

The Simpsons also often includes some self-referential humor. The most common form is jokes about Fox Broadcasting.

The show also uses catchphrases. Most of the primary and secondary characters have at least one catchphrase each. Notable ones include Homer's "D'oh!", Mr. Burns' "Excellent...",Nelson Muntz's "Ha-ha!", And Ned Flanders' "Hi-dilly-Ho" and "Okaly-Dokely".

I have no clue how to spell Flanders' catchphrases. So I just winged it. Moving right along.

Some of Bart's catchphrases, such as "¡Ay, caramba!", "Don't have a cow, man!" and "Eat my shorts!" appeared on t-shirts in the show's early days. However, Bart rarely used the latter two phrases until after they became popular through the merchandising.

The use of many of these catchphrases has declined in recent seasons. The episode "Bart Gets Famous" mocks catchphrase-based humor, as Bart achieves fame on the Krusty the Clown Show solely for saying "I didn't do it"

The Simpsons was the first successful animated program in prime time since Wait Till Your Father Gets Home in the 1970s. During most of the 1980s, pundits considered animated shows to be...well,for kids..Plus animating a show was too expensive to achieve a quality suitable for prime-time television. The Simpsons changed this perception.

The use of Korean animation studios for tweening, coloring, and filming made the episodes cheaper. The success of The Simpsons and the lower production cost prompted television networks to take chances on other animated series. This development led to a '90s boom in animated prime-time shows. Shows like: Bevis and Butt-Head,South Park,King of the Hill,Futurama,and The Critic.

The Simpsons was the Fox network's first television series to rank among a season's top 30 highest-rated shows. While later seasons would focus on Homer, Bart was the lead character in most of the first three seasons.

In 1990, Bart quickly became one of the most popular characters on television,in what was dubbed "Bartmania". He became the most prevalent Simpsons character on memorabilia, such as T-shirts.

In the early 1990s, millions of T-shirts featuring Bart were sold; as many as one million were sold on some days. Believing Bart to be a bad role model, several American public schools banned T-shirts featuring Bart next to captions such as "I'm Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?" and "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')".

The Simpsons merchandise sold well and generated at least $2 billion in revenue during the first 15 months of sales.

Because of his popularity, Bart was often the most promoted member of the Simpson family in advertisements for the show, even for episodes in which he was not involved in the main plot.

To this Day Bart Simpson still appears in the Butterfinger commercials.

Stay Tuned for the conclusion of this lesson.

1 comment:

Stefan said...

Bart Simpson is Truly Iconic.

Another Excellent entry!