The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture, society, television, and many aspects of the human condition.
The family was conceived by Groening shortly before a solicitation for a series of animated shorts with the producer James L. Brooks. Groening created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after members of his own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show and was an early hit for Fox, becoming the network’s first series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–90).
Since its debut on December 17, 1989, the series has broadcast 580 episodes. It is currently airing its 27th season. The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009 it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American scripted primetime television series. The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 27, 2007, and grossed over $527 million. On May 4, 2015, the series was officially renewed for seasons twenty-seven (2015–16) and twenty-eight (2016–17), consisting of 22 episodes each.
The Simpsons has received widespread critical acclaim, especially for the “Golden Age” of its approximated first ten seasons. Time magazine named it the 20th century’s best television series, and The A.V. Club named it “television’s crowning achievement regardless of format”. On January 14, 2000, the Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 31 Primetime Emmy Awards, 30 Annie Awards, and a Peabody Award. Homer’s exclamatory catchphrase “D’oh!” has been adopted into the English language, while The Simpsons has influenced many adult-oriented animated sitcoms. Despite this, the show has also been criticized for what many perceive as a decline in quality over the years.
The Simpsons are a family who live in a fictional “Middle American” town of Springfield. Homer, the father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, a position at odds with his careless, buffoonish personality. He is married to Marge Simpson, a stereotypical American housewife and mother. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old troublemaker; Lisa, a precocious eight-year-old activist; and Maggie, the baby of the family who rarely speaks, but communicates by sucking on a pacifier. Although the family is dysfunctional, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds with each other and they are often shown to care about one another. The family owns a dog, Santa’s Little Helper, and a cat, Snowball V, renamed Snowball II in “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot”. Both pets have had starring roles in several episodes.
The show includes an array of quirky supporting characters: co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, townspeople and local celebrities. The creators originally intended many of these characters as one-time jokes or for fulfilling needed functions in the town. A number of them have gained expanded roles and subsequently starred in their own episodes. According to Matt Groening, the show adopted the concept of a large supporting cast from the comedy show SCTV.
Despite the depiction of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays passing, the characters do not age between episodes (either physically or in stated age), and generally appear just as they did when the series began. The series uses a floating timeline in which episodes generally take place in the year the episode is produced even though the characters do not age. Flashbacks/forwards do occasionally depict the characters at other points in their lives, with the timeline of these depictions also generally floating relative to the year the episode is produced. In a nod to the non-aging aspect of the show, when asked during the Family Guy crossover episode “The Simpsons Guy” how long Nelson Muntz has been bullying him, Bart replies “24 years.”