A history of "The Simpsons"





In January 1992, during a campaign stop at a gathering of the National Religious Broadcasters, George H. W. Bush made a commitment to strengthen traditional values, promising to help American families become "a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons." A few days later, before the opening credits rolled on the animated sitcom's weekly episode, The Simpsons issued its response. Seated in front of the television, the family watched Bush make his remarks. "Hey! We're just like the Waltons," said Bart. "We're praying for an end to the Depression, too." While the immediacy of the response was surprising, the retort was vintage Simpsons: tongue-in-cheek, subversive, skewering both the president's cartoonish political antics and the culture that embraced them. Twelve months later, Bill Clinton moved into the White House. The Waltons were out; the Simpsons were in.

When The Simpsons had premiered on Fox, in 1989, prime-time television was somewhat lacking in comedy. Despite a few bright spots such as Cheers and the barbed, happily crude Roseanne, the sitcom roost was ruled by didactic, saccharine family fare: The Cosby Show, Full House, Growing Pains, Family Matters. Of the last—the show that gave the world Urkel—Tom Shales piously declared in The Washington Post, "A decent human being would have a hard time not smiling."...


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