Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 7.

Do you remember the first time you saw The Simpsons on TV? For me, it was probably the first time that I saw the video for “Do The Bartman”, which was on The Chart Show‘s special when they previewed some of the songs that could be hits at the start of 1991. I think I’d heard a little about the show, but I hadn’t ever really seen any of the characters in action before, so this caught my interest.

In January 1991 “Do The Bartman” was released, and this came about halfway through the second series (the majority of the vocals were performed by Bart, as he was the main character in the earliest episodes, supposedly being the ultimate mischievous boy). The video looks remarkably scruffy by today’s HD standards. This turned out to be a chart-topper for three weeks in the UK (and for nine weeks in Ireland), and this was a surprise for several reasons.

Firstly, the only way that you could see full episodes in the UK at this point was on Sky One, when there still wasn’t really a huge amount of viewers (The Simpsons didn’t come to BBC1 until November 1996, although you could buy episodes on VHS before that). This means that the success of the song was rather out of proportion to how many people were actually regular viewers. And this wasn’t even a hit single in America, which really is a shock.

What probably did help steer “Do The Bartman” to some success was the debate about whether there was an uncredited contribution by Michael Jackson (it turns out he was one of the backing singers and co-producer, but it might be stretching it to say that this qualifies as an outright Jackson song). It also meant that characters such as Principal Skinner and the like were suddenly on Top Of The Pops!

In February 1991 the album “The Simpsons Sing The Blues” was released, and this made the Top Ten too. Next in April 1991 was “Deep Deep Trouble”, which featured a main vocal from Homer as well as Bart, and also made the Top Ten (and was a chart-topper for four weeks in Ireland, making it 13 weeks altogether for the two songs). I remember when I saw the video for this for the first time I found it rather scary, I still don’t like to look at it much now.

Was this really all three decades ago now? Well, yes. Surprisingly, there were no more hit singles after this, unless you count “Spider Pig” from the film, but they had made their impact, and proved that they were here to stay, on TV, if not the singles chart. There have now been over 700 episodes of The Simpsons, and the 33rd series starts later this year.

The Comedy Vault – The Simpsons Movie.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

The Simpsons became one of the most successful TV shows of the 90s very quickly. After about a decade, some fans began to feel that the show was beginning to be past its best somewhat, with several comments that the first nine series or thereabouts was the peak, and the quality was now beginning to fall. For several years though there were rumours that there would be a film version.

In 2007 (it’s a surprise to realise how long ago this is now), although this definitely isn’t considered to be a golden era of the show, the film was finally announced as being confirmed, and there was still much anticipation about what direction this would go in. This was an opportunity to go really all out, do something ambitious and big-budget, and squeeze in as many of the best jokes that they still had. vlcsnap-00002

The film starts off fairly normal, with the Simpsons enjoying their regular family life, that mostly consists of Homer having some doughnuts, and also doing something silly and receiving multiple head injuries. But then things start to take a turn. Grampa fears something is coming. A large dome is placed over Springfield, meaning that nobody can get in or out, this lasts for a very long time, and eventually the residents have had enough. vlcsnap-00003

Of course, there are opportunities for the wide range of other characters to appear, including neighbour Ned Flanders, and many more, and just about rises above the “turn up, do your catchphrase, and go away” direction that they could’ve easily gone down. And guest stars Green Day sink into the sea. Homer also makes good friends with a pig who “does whatever a spiderpig does”. And somehow, despite everything, he does come to the rescue. vlcsnap-00004

And there’s a scene with an angry mob. I noticed Disco Stu among them, I always thought that he was supposed to be a one-off character, but he always turns up in the background in crowd scenes, because the show has developed an “everybody knows everyone” style. Maybe they should just do an episode where he follows the Simpsons around and they don’t know why, looking through their window when they’re at home and all that. If they’re struggling for ideas by the 47th series, they can use that idea if they want. vlcsnap-00001

Despite rumours of a sequel, there hasn’t been one yet, the most ambitious episode of The Simpsons since this being the crossover episode with Family Guy. Overall critics felt that this wasn’t too bad and they definitely earned their big moment. There was some merchandise released for the film, including comics and a computer game, and the DVD extras include some deleted scenes and fancy trails.

More TV Memories – The Simpsons.

The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present) simpsons0729131280jpg-881f0e_1280w

The story of how The Simpsons was created and what it’s about is very well known, so this piece will concentrate more on how I got into the show, and how it has been treated on British TV. Homer and co. first came to the screen in this country in 1990 on Sky One, there had been a huge buzz around the show that it was something special and in those days many people felt that to be able to watch episodes was just about the only reason it was worth getting a fancy new satellite dish for.

The first time that I can remember The Simpsons making an impact on me would have been round late-1990/early-1991 when I saw the video for the song “Do The Bartman” for the first time. This song was a big success and it became a chart-topping single in both the UK and Ireland, which was made all the more remarkable as I don’t even think that it was a hit in America. There was a second song released later in the year that also made the top ten.

After that, the first time that I can remember seeing a full episode for the first time was how I imagine many other people did in the early-90s, when we managed to contact someone who did have Sky to record a couple of episodes and then pass the tape on to us. The only other way you could see the show then was to buy VHS tapes which featured a couple of episodes from the early series, and I watched them a lot.

Also in the mid-90s, I used to enjoy The Simpsons comic. The American version used to be sold in WH Smith, and I remember enjoying the strips, and being rather bemused by the American adverts. I also bought various spin-offs including Radioactive Man, Krusty The Klown, and Itchy and Scratchy. In 1997 the British version of this comic launched, I bought a lot of issues, and it still continues to this day.

So it was something of a great relief to many people when finally in 1996 The Simpsons came to terrestrial TV when episodes would be shown on BBC1 for the first time. However they showed all of the episodes out of sequence, and after a short while it was moved to BBC2 because it was being beaten in the ratings would you believe by Sabrina The Teenage Witch which was on ITV at the same time.

The Simpsons stayed on BBC2 until 2004 when they were poached by Channel 4, who seemed to have shown at least one episode every day since. Of course, the show remains on Sky to this day, and over 600 episodes have now been made, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon, and Bart should think himself lucky that because so many stars have wanted to take part to provide a guest voice, he has now met just about every person who has been famous in the past 25 years.

In more recent years I have tried to collect as much merchandise as I can, and among my favourite things that I have are the episode guide books which have a great amount of information in them, there have also been some enjoyable computer games made, and I also have a lot of the DVDs which have some great extras which have revealed more about the show. There is of course a huge amount that has been written about The Simpsons online and it has made me notice some things.

A lot of people seem to think that the quality of the show began to drop of around the start of series nine, and I have read various blogs from mega-fans reviewing the show episode and episode, and it’s been sad to read how people have slowly fallen out of love with the show as the weeks go by, and some people now think that there are more bad episodes than good ones.

The Simpsons does remain a classic show though, and in more recent years there has been a film made, there has also been a special crossover episode with Family Guy, and needless to say the show has won a huge amount of awards. There are so many other great elements of the show that can be tapped into such as my favourite couch gags or characters, and I might do that in another piece soon.