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Personal connections part of ‘Simpsons’ as marathon airs

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By
From page B1 | August 22, 2014 |

As you read this, Fox network FXX is in the midst of a 12-day series marathon of “The Simpsons,” which began at 10 a.m. Thursday with the pilot, 1989’s holiday special, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”

After 25 years, “The Simpsons” is such a cultural touchstone that it seems everyone has some sort of attachment to it. It’s omnipresent and unavoidable, like Mr. Burns’ plan to block out the sun.

Think about it like this: There are airmen serving their country at Travis Air Force Base today who have never lived in a world without “The Simpsons.”

Those individuals may not remember the show at its prime – irreverent, whip-smart, setting the cultural tone, proving that cartoons were viable primetime programming while legitimizing Fox as one of the major networks.

In that sense, the younger crowd and I have something in common in that I didn’t watch many of them when they first aired, either.

I wasn’t allowed to watch “The Simpsons” when I was little.

Throughout the show’s first few seasons – those good, classic years, especially seasons four through eight – I saw a sum total of zero episodes.

I knew Bart said something about cows and eating shorts, but I had no context. Who eats shorts?

It’s a weird sort of exclusion that doesn’t exist anymore in pop culture terms. Now there are too many channels and too many shows to keep track, so we just assume everyone else might not view the same shows. I love “Mad Men,” but finding another fan of the show is like finding $20 on the ground.

I wasn’t allowed to watch “The Simpsons” because it was subversive and may have polluted my mind, or something like that.

I guess Mom and Dad fell more on George H.W. Bush’s side of the ledger. The former, elder President Bush once said he wanted to make American families “more like ‘The Waltons’ and a lot less like ‘The Simpsons.’ ”

For that, “The Simpsons” put him in the episode “Two Bad Neighbors,” in which the former president and Homer have a feud that continues to escalate.

In the late 1990s, I was finally allowed to watch the show. I joked every night that there was a classic episode of “The Simpsons” in syndication because, at that time, they all were.

For all of the times I felt left out when I was little, I grew an unusual appreciation for it.

It helped to be a little bit older when being introduced to the show, a little more pop-culture savvy.

Knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s films came in handy when seeing the “Treehouse of Horror V” gag “The Shinning” – not “The Shining” because, as Groundskeeper Willie asks, “You wanna get sued?” Homer filled with murderous rage due to his family’s seclusion in a cabin was morbidly funny in its own right, but piling on awareness of the reference made it even funnier.

It’s a style many shows have since copied and made “The Simpsons” a little less special for it. That’s been part of the show’s decline in quality.

I held out longer than many. My final episode as a habitual viewer came more than a decade ago, during season 14. That was around the same time the show’s merchandizing exploded, reshaping Krusty the Clown’s willingness to slap his name on any product available as self-referential.

That means that despite my voracious commitment to catch up on the series in high school and college, I’ve seen just more than half of its run.

The most recent episode I’ve viewed was “Brick Like Me,” one made earlier this year in cooperation with Lego. It was a touching installment, reminiscent of the show’s best years.

That one will come in the waning hours of the final day. The 552-episode marathon – plus the 2007 movie – ends as Labor Day does.

After existing for a quarter-century, I suspect many people have seen or have their own personal stories about “The Simpsons” and their attachment to it. As the late Phil Hartman’s Troy McClure said in “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular,” “Who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?”

To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco

Nick DeCicco is the editor of the Tailwind and writes the pop culture blog/column For Those About to Rock. Before joining the DR staff in July 2007, DeCicco (pronounced Deh-CEE-Coh) worked at The Union in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colo. A 2004 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, DeCicco spends his free time attending concerts, listening to music, going to movies, traveling and hiking.
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