Television’s long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons opens another chapter – literally – when it airs its 600th episode in the US on Sunday (Monday AEDT).
Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are so firmly imprinted in our culture that few would be unaware of the fictional dysfunctional family, or the myriad supporting characters introduced to the town of Springfield over the years.
The 600th Simpsons episode, the fourth in the 28th season, will be aired in the US on Sunday night local time as Treehouse of Horror XXVII, the latest in the show’s Halloween specials.
The episode is scheduled to air on Network 10’s Channel 11 on Wednesday night. And the show will have a strong Australian connection.
Watch the US trailer:
The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and the longest-running American scripted primetime television series.
Only US western drama Gunsmoke has screened more episodes at 635 over 20 seasons.
The Simpson family was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in January 2000 and the satirical show has won a total of 31 Primetime Emmy awards, 30 Annie Awards for animation and a Peabody Award for public service.
In another milestone, Fox Broadcasting has teamed with Google Spotlight Stories to create a virtual reality experience for the show’s regular show-opening couch gag for the 600th episode.
The segment, titled “Planet of the Couches”, will be available via Google Spotlight Stories and Google Cardboard app for the VR experience.
The show’s roots date back to 1987 when Matt Groening’s central characters first appeared in short, animated segments on MTV’s Tracy Ullman Show.
Two years later The Simpsons premiered in the 30-minute format we know today.
Part of our culture
The Simpsons have been a part of our television menu for so long that huge numbers of avid fans weren’t born when the first episode was screened in December 1989.
To put it into perspective, The Simpsons, as we know them, were introduced to the world in the same year that Australia welcomed its first internet connection. It was also the year that the Berlin Wall came down heralding the end of the ‘Cold War’ between the West and the Soviet Bloc.
1989 was also the year that George H W Bush (the first Bush president) replaced Ronald Reagan in the White House; Iran placed a $US3 million bounty on British author Salman Rushdie over his book The Satanic Verses; and Chinese students captured the world’s attention with their protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Speaking at a party to celebrate the 600th episode on Friday, co-creator James L Brooks said he can remember the exact moment he realised The Simpsons had become a pop culture phenomenon.
Watch the Bond-style 600th episode teaser:
“It was 27 years ago and some magazine like Satellite News put us on the cover,” he said.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, we’re on the cover!’ And put it on my wall. Remember how in [the movie] Tootsie, there’s this montage where all these magazine covers start coming at you at once? It was like that, and suddenly all the covers were on my wall. There’s an actual sound that happens when you enter the culture and I remember experiencing that.”
Groening said the secret to The Simpsons’ enduring appeal was down to the teamwork behind the show.
“It’s a huge shared vision among writers, animators, actors, and musicians and we’re all facing the same direction and everybody throws in their life experience and makes the show better,” he said. “It’s a true collaboration that really works.”
In another testament to the affection and enduring appeal of The Simpsons, comedian Jimmy Kimmel visited Springfield during his talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live last week to promote the 600th episode.