22 March 2012

The Simpsons

Look kind of familiar? The Simpsons as they appeared in 1987. The characters soon morphed into the more familiar images we still see today.

Over in America in early 1987, Matt Groening created The Simpsons.

The USA's favourite dysfunctional family first appeared in Mr Groening's mind whilst he was sitting in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office, producer of The Tracey Ullman Show for the Fox Network.

Tracey was already a celebrity here in England. Think of Three Of A Kind. Think of those wacky pop hits.

I can't break away, though you make me cry...

But they don't know about us - and they've never heard of love...

And so on.

Back to the USA and 1987.

Mr Groening had originally intended to pitch for a series of cartoon shorts for Tracey's series based on his Life in Hell series. However, he quickly realised that animating Life in Hell for television would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life's work. And so his fertile mind, working on absolute overdrive in Mr Brooks' lobby, came up with Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie.

The Simpsons debuted as a series of cartoon shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987.

According to legend, the show's producer was concerned about the ugly appearance of these new creations, and our very own Tracey reportedly reassured him: "Relax! It's an '80s show!"

And so popular were The Simpsons cartoon shorts that, in 1989, work began on a half hour series of Simpsons shows, with the first, a "holiday special", being broadcast on December 17, 1989.

And the rest is history!

An American TV guide from December 1989...

To some viewers one of the best parts of Fox's "The Tracey Ullman Show" was the commercial breaks.

That's no knock on the talented Ullman. It's just that each set of commercials was preceeded by the antics of the Simpsons, the animated family created by cartoonist Matt Groening whose playlets were hilarious dispatches from the front lines of the ongoing war between parents and their children.

We haven't seen much of the Simpsons lately. The quiet is due not to a truce, but to the preparation of a new offensive. The Simpsons will soon debut in their own Fox series, probably next month. And on Sunday, December 17, Fox will air "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire", a holiday special starring dad Homer, mom Marge, brother Bart, sister Lisa and baby Maggie...

The Simpsons are a family as families really are. Homer is in a continual state of low level exasperation, with the threat of an eruption always lurking. Marge is the jumpy peacemaker, bearing a quivering white flag back and forth between the battle lines of Homer and the children. And the kids are like the first mammals in the age of the dinosaurs, peeping from the underbrush at a world of behemoths, pausing in their torture of each other only to unite against the threat of its interruption by lumbering adults whose seeming soul purpose in life is to ruin any hope of having fun.

"The most common thing people tell me," says Simpsons creator Matt Groening in a soft, friendly voice, "is that I've been spying on them."

17/12/1989 - an historic telly event for America. The first full-length episode of The Simpsons, a seasonal tale entitled Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire, was broadcast.


Rick said...

I never knew that The Simpsons were invented in the 1980's. Really interesting blog.

Anonymous said...

ya i LOVE the Simpsons and knowing its history is the only history i like!!!!!