Correction Appended: June 3, 2011
We realize it’s nigh on blasphemous to defame The Simpsons. We did, after all, put it on our list of the 100 Best TV Shows of All Time. It is, after all, the longest-running sitcom in history (based on number of episodes). It is, after all, one of the most affecting portraits of a family ever aired on television. But anything that has existed for that long is bound to suffer a decline in quality. And so it has been with The Simpsons, which has aired on Fox for more than 20 years. The common line is that it has moved away from stories in favor of absurd comedy, that it has turned its once vibrant characters into caricatures, that it has sold its soul for the many guest stars it showcases every season (see Bob Costas, above). And while 2007’s The Simpsons Movie reminded viewers why they fell in love with Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa in the first place, the show itself has fallen deep in the ratings. Reliable and familiar should not equal immortal.
Correction: The original version of this story stated that The Simpsons was the longest-running sitcom in history. It is based on the number of episodes. In terms of number of years, however, British comedy Last of the Summer Wine takes the prize, having run for 37 years.
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