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Review: The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: In 3-D! On Ice!

by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 11th 2010 12:15AM
The SimpsonsA documentary film may not be the way most television shows would choose to spend their 20th anniversary hour-long special, but The Simpsons isn't an ordinary show. It's easy to forget in 2010, with an entire lineup of animation on FOX, Adult Swim and several cable channels devoted to animation, that The Simpsons was groundbreaking for its time.

While everything today is compared to The Simpsons, The Simpsons were being compared to The Flintstones, a prime-time cartoon that lasted six seasons in the 1960s. Nobody was doing animation for adults when The Simpsons came on the air, and they got a lot of grief for what they were doing. But The Simpsons put FOX on the map, and made it okay to have a cartoon for grown-ups, too.

The series took the world by storm, and has been merchandised in every conceivable way, so what better way to look back at 20 years of The Simpsons than to do so through the eyes of the global audience that made it a worldwide phenomenon.

I'm actually glad FOX went this route, rather than another tired clips show. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me, 30 Days) quite literally traveled the globe speaking to fans of all walks of life. He found the largest single collection of Simpsons merchandise and it was a frightening and beautiful thing to see. It spotlighted just how important this show is to some people, and how much these characters have resonated with generations of fans now.

It was also great seeing the interviews with the voice actors, as we so rarely get to see the faces that go with so many of the voices on the show. There are so many great characters on The Simpsons, it's hard to imagine that so few actors voice all of them. Personally, I would have gotten a huge kick out of seeing them all do their big characters, but maybe that's just me. The work that goes on behind each episode fascinates me. But that's not what this special was about.

It was about this show and its importance. They even talked to Tracey Ullman, on who's show The Simpsons got their debut. It was a lot of fun to see how different they looked and sounded back then, and it did a great job of making me feel old because I remember watching The Tracey Ullman Show and getting a huge kick out of this weird-looking family.

It was a long time ago, but I distinctly remember a sequence where Bart's face did indeed "get stuck that way" as all of our mothers have warned us over the years would happen if we kept making them.

It wasn't particularly exciting or flashy, but neither are The Simpsons these days. And it managed to work in a couple of digs on President George W. Bush that seemed a little inappropriate considering the supposed point of this documentary. But I guess if you're going to have Morgan Spurlock do the documentary, these things will happen. Imagine if Michael Moore had done it!

I found myself entertained throughout the special, and I thought the hour flew by. The Simpsons as a phenomenon is an endlessly fascinating topic. They've spawned books, comics, toys, sheets, clothes, food, music, a top-grossing film and even Duff Beer (lawsuit pending -- a bit of a dark turn of events). It's an impressive feat for one show, but The Simpsons isn't just any show. It's something weirdly wonderful, even when it's not particularly great episode by episode, and that's exactly what this documentary showed us.

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I think the dozens of Simpsons video games should have been included (Some are good, some are terrible), but, other than the quick shot of the Virtual Springfield PC game in one of the collector's houses, all the Simpsons games were not mentioned in the retrospective. Was it due to some kind of licensing issues or something?

January 11 2010 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved Dana Gould's remarks that were something like this:

Sometimes people come up to me and tell me that the show isn't as good as it was 5 years ago. Yeah, well, neither are you.

Brilliant and accurate.

January 11 2010 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And where in the Hell was Harry Shearer?

January 11 2010 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alan's comment

From what I've heard, Harry Shearer is not super cooperative, so I'm guessing he was asked, but declined.

January 11 2010 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Bush episode and the Brazil episode where times were times when the Simpsons story became mainstream media story.

I read this documentary was suppose to be 2 hours and then Fox made them cut it to 1 hour. We it showed - It was very disjointed.

They talked all about Homer but I swear Dan Castellaneta had one line in the documentary

I wanted more -

January 11 2010 at 8:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Aargh! I didn't get it TiVoed. Anyone know if it's going to be on again, or if it's going to come out on DVD?


January 11 2010 at 7:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Aym's comment

Hulu.com has the 450th episode, but not the special.

January 11 2010 at 8:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Watch it now at fox.com

January 11 2010 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Moses Paul

Milhouse is my FAVORITE Simpson Character.How can you talk about a favorite character and not show her? I am OUTRAGED that Pamela Hayden, who is Milhouse, was not
interviewed for this "Special". She is an Integral part of the Show. What is with you people? DOH!!!

January 11 2010 at 12:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Moses Paul's comment
Sarah Rush

I totally agree that Pamela Hayden should have been included in the special. When Milhouse was highlighted, why on earth was Pamela Hayden not interviewed? Milhouse is such an integral cast member. I am much more interested in the cast than interviews of the fans. That was a huge mistake in my opinion. Long live Milhouse. Long live Pamela Hayden!

January 11 2010 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think 20th anniversary deserved more! It was nothing to do with Simpsons it was all about Krusty and some penolopy! And their love story!
It should have been about all the characters in the Simpsons! May be in 25th!

January 11 2010 at 12:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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