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Who Still Watches The Simpsons?

The SimpsonsLet me start with this: I am not asking with sarcasm, snark, or smugness. I really want to know, who still watches The Simpsons?

I count myself as a former super-fan among a close group of super-fans of one of the best American network TV comedies ever. (You don’t make it to the Fawlty Four of Funkhouser’s 2014 Greatest Television Episode Tournament if you ain’t good.) Half a dozen of us would spend entire weekends watching episodes old and new on TV or DVD or VHS(!), bickering over which ones were funnier, cobbling together conversations entirely from Simpsons quotes. We played Simpsons boardgames. We destroyed local Simpsons-themed bar trivia nights. Yet all of us, every single one, stopped watching almost a decade ago. Come to think of it, literally not a single person I regularly speak with watches The Simpsons anymore.

It’s not just us. Uproxx points out that the 1990 episode “Bart Gets an F” pulled in 33.3 million viewers33.3 million–while the last first-run 2013 Simpsons episode logged 4.8 million. I’m sure some of the decline is due to familiarity: “Bart Gets An F” was the first episode of Season 2 of a new-ish, highly anticipated, slightly edgy and controversial (at the time) show that has now run 25 seasons and counting. And yes, the number of TV shows in general has exploded as have the methods of delivering them, leaving us with difficult choices as to how we spend our time as entertainment consumers. But still, sloughing off tens of millions of viewers, even if it is over 20-odd years? If across-the-board quality and viewership are dropping, why not pull the plug? There’s something else at work. It must still be making money, which is what is important to Fox, and rightly so. Creating a TV show isn’t free. That doesn’t change the fact (? yes, I know comedy is subjective), that The Simpsons has struggled to remain consistently funny and relevant.

For former Simpsons fans, though, we can’t pinpoint a specific time that we stopped watching. Did we change? Did the show? Or both? If you ask fans of other shows why they stopped watching, most can give a moment or window of time. When Friends became all marriage and baby drama, when David Duchovny left X-Files, when the American version of The Office morphed its characters into two-dimensional stereotypes. And, of course, when Fonzie jumped the shark. As I’ve gotten older and parent-ier, my views of certain things have changed, but I don’t feel like my sense of humor is that different. I still laugh my ass off at the “Marge vs. the Monorail” or “The Cartridge Family” episodes. We just…drifted away, like friends who don’t have much in common anymore. I don’t know if that’s better or worse. I do know that we didn’t laugh nearly as much in those later years and when we did, we were forcing it, trying our hardest to recapture feelings that just didn’t exist anymore. The old, worn-out jokes. The gratuitous special guest and cameos. It was too planned, too contrived. We simply couldn’t go on like that.

So if you do still watch The Simpsons, can you let me know why? Is it for old times’ sake? Is it still funny, or at least funny enough often enough? Is it out of respect? To be clear, I haven’t rejected The Simpsons. I want to love it again. We never had a falling out. We just went our separate ways. And when the time comes and I read about its death, like an old friend in an alumni news letter, I’ll raise a glass and toast the good times we had. I may even cry a little.

Article written by Matt Shorr

44 Comments for Who Still Watches The Simpsons?

  1. Damon Long
    10:41 am July 16, 2014 Permalink

    I stopped watching The Simpsons because Family Guy does dysfunctional American cartoon family SO much better.

    • Derrick
      10:50 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

      Congratulations, you have just posted the dumbest comment in internet history!

    • tom
      10:52 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

      Amen to that. Never watched it…won’t miss it. Useless post

    • hell cat
      11:39 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

      No, it’s not the dumbest comment in internet history. I sort of agree. Family Guy imo is much funnier and edgier. I watched the Simpsons obsessively for a long time, but it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Aside from a few chuckles, the episodes just aren’t that funny to me. Family Guy and other shows passed the Simpsons as far as I’m concerned, and that’s hard for me to say, because I was a huge fan. Still love the older seasons.

    • Hartline
      12:53 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

      As stupid as Family Guy/American Dad can be I do appreciate their underlining political commentaries.

  2. Sari Gelzer
    10:54 am July 16, 2014 Permalink

    Matt, I am so glad you brought this up! Because of the advent of Hulu, I still watch the Simpsons. Watching a show on my computer as I unwind from work and fold the laundry is a bit less committed then the good ole days of just sitting on the couch, but maybe that had something to do with being a kid with no responsibilities, too 🙂 I still enjoy The Simpsons and find myself lately wanting to reference it in social situations, but it’s always the case that when I do mention it people look at me funny because nobody I know watches the Simpsons.

    Recent shows I’ve loved: the one where Lisa makes friends/enemies with a Republican classmate, the Lego themed show, the movie property rights show and the one where Homer goes to Brazil to be a referee and keeps getting bribed. The show has the ability to raise current issues in a smart and funny way and the family and characters have a way of holding the show together to give me a gushy/happy feeling at the end. (Something that Family Guy will never do).

    I love The Simpsons and I’m glad it’s still on TV. But, I hear what you are saying. It is like an old friend. It’s a mainstay of society as I know it. Is it packing the same punch and offering the same excitement that it did? No. And, I agree it’s hard to know if it’s the show, the times or me. I want it to stay around in part because of nostalgia. Plus, I wonder if it has staying power. Once it ends will my kids one day want to watch it on netflix? (Perhaps the halloween episodes?!)

    What if there was a spinoff with Lisa? I could get down for that. 😉

  3. anonymous
    11:54 am July 16, 2014 Permalink

    I think a lot of people would say around season 7, maybe as late as season 10 or so, with a lot of folks touching on things like who shot burns as the end of the good stuff, or when the original writers split the show, and so forth… If you watch early episodes, the drawing was straight non-mainstream graffic novel format, which was interesting, the whole mood and feel of the show was actually art, and so forth, whereas it has become relatively straightforward paint by numbers type affair in content and form over the last 15 years – some fun stories but nothing to write home about. Nowadays, with strict animation, in the US it’s probably all about Archer (season 1 and 2), Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, for sort of easy digestible but still on the edge imagination (or you can go off the deep end with stuff like Superjail, etc).

  4. cwashcatfan
    11:57 am July 16, 2014 Permalink

    I’ll agree with the article- I grew up with the Simpsons. The episodes with one-liners gave me laughter as a kid and, as I watch the same episodes as I grow older, the humor adapts to my evolved likes and dislikes. It’s fascinating to see the different intricacies of each character in different stages of my personal life. I first thought I wanted to be like Bart, a rebel ten year old skateboarding prankster but now I find Officer Lou or Lenny, the chill adults with random off-the-cuff remarks, to be hilarious and almost faux role models.

    As the success of the Internet skyrocketed, the Simpsons reign on reality cartoons slowly diminished. More people had access to the same type of technical and computer aided drawings for cartoons, editing, etc. More people took it upon themselves to create their own humor and ideas, expanding to more audiences. There are too many options now, not that it’s a bad thing. We as a society are individualistic in nature and want to appeal to our own needs and wants. Family Guy, King of the Hill, Futurama all appeal to different generations and audiences. As the author points out, the Simpsons have tried to adapt to the 21s Century with celebrity cameos like other successful shows right now. Can you blame them for trying to keep up? I stopped watching because the tv network in my area stopped airing them regularly at a time that was convenient for me. As I went off to college, campus and extracurricular activities were a much higher priority. It’s only until now, with money spent on DVDs or frantic searching on Google for episodes, that I can get back to the show I loved watching as a kid.

    They should have pulled the plug on a great show many seasons ago, keeping the legacy high among the ranks of the greatest shows of all-time. It’s sad to see arguably my favorite show of all-time die this very slow death in real-time.

    P.S. For what it’s worth, my favorite episodes are “Bart vs. Australia” and “Homer vs the 21st Amendment”.

  5. Homer
    12:22 pm July 16, 2014 Permalink

    I was thinking the same thing as you. The show started losing it for me around 2009 to 2010. I don’t ever watch it anymore. I still love the really old episodes when I get a chance to watch them. I think the show has simply gotten tired. Good post Matt.

  6. Sari Gelzer
    1:35 pm July 18, 2014 Permalink

    ok, last comment didn’t post. 🙁 Moderators, if you could that would be great. This one will be much shorter.

    Essentially, I think this is a great question as they are a defining cartoon of our generation. Because of Hulu I find myself casually watching the Simpsons these days rather than sitting on the couch with friends or family. I am the only one who still watches the Simpsons in my social group and I have recently wanted to reference current episodes to friends and have gotten weird looks because some people don’t even think they still exist. Current episodes I’ve loved: Homer Becomes a FIFA ref, Lisa Friends a Republican, Movie Copyright Episode and the Lego Episode.

    I love The Simpsons because it raises political issues in funny ways and often leaves me feeling gushy at the end because of their family ties (something Family Guy will never do to me). I agree it doesn’t pack the same political or comedy punch as it used to be, but I really do think the quality remains and I don’t want to see them go. Your article made me think of lasting power and I could see my kids watching the halloween episodes – not sure about many others. TV entertainment is definitely going through a growth spurt and I do think we’ve changed a lot as a consuming populace. Perhaps the Simpsons can reinvent the watching experience and stay relevant or Lisa could do a spinoff show! 🙂

  7. asdf
    9:34 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Other than a major event like the Superbowl, nothing gets huge ratings anymore. The viewing public has so many options these days that it’s hard to find a lot of people watching the same thing nowadays. The days of watercooler talk about watching something on TV last night (other than sports) are dead.

    • lmnop
      10:05 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

      Yeah you really can’t simply dismiss the changing landscape of modern entertainment when it comes to viewership. While a drop in the “tens of millions” sounds huge the audience left in today’s terms is still very sizable and sellable. The writer basically explains the drop in ratings but immediately dismisses it to try and bolster his point.

  8. tastes like burning
    9:47 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    my cat’s breath smells like cat food
    my cat’s name is mittens

  9. Sideshow Bob
    9:48 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I quit watching regularly roughly 2-3 years ago; however, I still season-record it and will watch an episode from time to time. It doesn’t capture my attention anymore, but the nostalgia of it keeps reeling me back in and giving it chance after chance. At this point, my expectations are so low that I don’t get disappointed anymore. I certainly think that the likes of Family Guy and American Dad have changed our perception on animation comedy to the point where we expect the same humor from all shows, but that’s not what The Simpsons delivers.

  10. Gavin S.
    9:56 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I recorded the Lego-Simpsons episode last night. I’ll watch it with my 8 yo at some point. Otherwise, no. For my money, Bob’s Burgers is my go to cartoon. That and Archer, of course.

  11. Crusty the Clown
    9:58 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I’ve been watching the Simpsons since they first aired. My wife and I have purchased every released season on DVD and watch them regularly. Why do I watch? Because they are like family to us. Sure, not every episode is a hit and it’s a little creepy that Bart, Lisa, & Maggie never age but I still love the Simpsons.

  12. Roofus Howls
    10:00 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I watch it like I watch everything else – on DVR or Hulu. I probably enjoyed every episode I watched. Some were better than others.

    I also DVR Family Guy, but can’t see how it is that much better than The Simpsons. Family Guy did one interesting thing when they killed off Brian and brought in Vinny, but it was either a planned rib or they caved to pressure and pulled the plug on that quickly.

    American Dad is probably better than either of the above, but I just don’t have time to DVR it.

  13. pfife
    10:06 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Simpsons and the other FOX cartoons are still funny and watchable, but South Park will makes me actually laugh.

  14. WalkersGoggles
    10:16 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Interesting that this was posted as I watched for the first time in ages last night.

    I have no idea when I stopped watching but I know it was sometime in the early 90s and it wasn’t because I didn’t like it but rather it just never fit into my time.

    I can’t believe the run that it’s had. It’s been on the year almost 25 years.

  15. lexslamman
    10:18 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I still love the Simpsons, have seasons 1-9 on DVD – but I stopped watching network television about 5 years ago. To tell you the truth, I just don’t have time for TV anymore – plus the internet has all the content you want, and free if you know where to get it. Who wants to watch commercials? Who wants to deal with exploitative cable companies? Television is increasingly irrelevant to pop culture anyway, thanks to the internet.

  16. Tom Blevins
    10:37 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Regarding the increase in choices, there are more choices in program viewing than may be obvious to some. VCRs were available in 1990, but if you wanted to watch something on one, you had to record it yourself, or rent it. Today you can buy a DVD of a movie about as cheap as you used to rent a VHS tape. For example, I bought season one of La Femme Nikita recently for $6.24. The seller even paid the postage. it was used, and the box is in rough shape, but the discs are fine. My collection of DVDs is ever growing, and this takes up a lot of my viewing time. This type of viewing doesn’t even show up in the Nielsen ratings. I used to watch the Simpsons semi regularly, but can’t remember the last time I watched it.

  17. aaron
    10:41 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    15 years ago my wife and I watched the Simpsons daily in college. She phased out 7-8 years ago. I still watch out of respect and for old times sake. Honestly its lost a lot over the years. Something newer and edgier has come along. However the episode “Diggs” was top notch and in my all time top 10 this season.

  18. Sandy
    10:46 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I stopped watching when they started having celebrity guest stars every week. The first one I can remember is Frankie Muniz back in the early 2000s. I know they’ve always had guest stars (Kelsey Grammer, Joe Montegna, Stephen Hawking, etc…) But there was a point where it became “Tune in this Sunday as Katy Perry guest stars on the Simpsons!” I’m sorry but I just don’t see how Mandy Moore or Eli Manning can really contribute comedically.

    • Chicago Chris
      11:19 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

      I agree. I think they dropped that star-a-week formula for the most part, though.

  19. Robert Smith
    10:54 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    still love the Simpsons.

    I can remember the episode that locked me in for more than a decade of watching. Dr. Marvin Monroe’s Family Therapy Center where Homer sells the TV to get the family shock treatment. After that I was hooked.

    I still watch all of the episodes, but with the DVR, I seldom watch them on Sunday night. I will watch first run Family Guy so sadly I guess its passed the Simpsons as my go to sitcom, but for sentimental reasons I will always love the Simpsons.

    Few people can remember that the Simpsons was actually pretty controversial when they first came out with veiled stabs at religion. Then Family Guy and South Park just went over the top and made the Simpsons seem tame in comparison.

  20. waaaaahhhh
    10:56 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    The Office, the American version, is much better.
    Quit your regurgitating of something you read on another website.
    2-dimensional stereotypes lol… go get a life.

    • Reality
      11:08 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

      The Office (USA) was amazing and hilarious, and then Steve Carell left and it was pretty good for about a season with Andy in charge before it really started heading downhill. Maybe if they had slowly cycled out the characters (Phyllis wins the lotto and retires, Stanley has a heart attack, Packer becomes the new boss, stuff like that to shake it up) instead of just constantly adding more it would have rebounded?

      The proposed Dwight spinoff would have been fun for a couple of seasons though, especially if they would have done something off the wall crazy like the Schrute version of “The Real Housewives” or something equally absurd.

  21. bluegrassstu
    11:17 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I have never watched that show, I rarely watch any tv, football and that’s about all.

  22. Mitch
    11:19 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    The Simpsons generates over $1billion annually in merchandising world wide. The TV show is a loss leader. You are welcome.

  23. Chicago Chris
    11:20 am July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I still watch and love the Simpsons, although rarely “live” thanks to Tivo. Sometimes the episodes miss, but I find current episodes superior to those from about 10 years ago. Simpsons quotes, as they apply to daily life, are always popping in my head.

  24. kgg
    12:39 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Like Chicago Chris, I DVR each new episode. There is at least one good laugh out loud moment in each show. That keeps me coming back. I respect that fact, that after 25 years they can still come up with decent story lines. But, if an episode gets a little herky, I just delete and move on. That being said, I feel 25 years would have been a good stopping point. Simpsons are much like Letterman, a legend that has finally lost his place in time, Sardonic humor that many don’t get, and have grown tired of.

  25. dude
    12:41 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    It was when Troy McClure passed away. Seriously, when Phil Hartman was killed I pretty much quit watching it…
    He was so brilliant it just made me sad that he was gone so I stopped watching so I would forget.

  26. gordonm
    12:42 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Don’t watch it much but when I do: Love the sarcasm on the Simpsons

  27. Funkhauser
    12:51 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Great post.

  28. Hartline
    12:54 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    Who enjoyed Futurama over the Simpsons or Family Guy?

  29. Wilson
    1:34 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I still watch the Simpsons, even reruns because they are usually more entertaining than whatever else is on at that time (no competition). I enjoy them as much now as when they first came on.

  30. Raymondtwmu
    1:35 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    simpsons is the greatest animated show period……will always remain great
    if anybody plays simpsons tapped out add me ……….user name is salmonwings

    lets get it

  31. YouKnow
    1:38 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    What else is there to watch on Sunday at 8:00 until football starts?

  32. UKFaniac
    2:07 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I quit watching when Homer bought the church and began playing the Cross like a guitar. Haven’t watched since!

    • gordonm
      2:52 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

      You don’t get that reference?

    • gordonm
      3:01 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

      Never saw that episode but your description says sarcasm.

  33. matt
    4:19 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    I still watch some of the new shows. They aren’t nearly as organized or fresh, but they do have good jokes in them.

  34. willie t
    6:06 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    For me it was 5 years ago when I had twins. Started DVR-ing everything and still couldn’t find time to watch. Now with teeball and soccer, I can barely watch the CATS much less any shows.

  35. Aint No Monorail and Never Was
    9:30 pm July 21, 2014 Permalink

    The Simpsons gave us 15 great years and some of the greatest TV lines of all times but overall I agree almost word for word with this article. Not sure why, but it just isn’t a priority anymore

    “Beer — the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”