When it premiered on FOX in 1989, The Simpsons was unlike any other TV show in history. But over the past few years, fans have been plagued wondering endlessly why The Simpsons isn't as good as it used to be. Is it just that the series has been on the air for so long, or is it because of a wrong direction the show took creatively somewhere along the way?
It's not unfair to wonder why or when did The Simpsons go downhill either, as the series was known for many years in the 1990s as being one of the best shows to ever grace the small screen. But despite making a name for itself for its biting satirical comedy, iconic characters, and brilliant comedic moments, the series has become - more or less - a shell of its former self.
It's time to investigate and truly delve deep into the reasons behind why The Simpsons has become such an ineffective TV comedy over the years. So here are our reasons for why The Simpsons isn't good anymore.
The Characters Have Lost Their Way
One of the biggest criticisms that The Simpsons has faced in recent years, is how simplified the characters in the series have become. After all, while Homer, Marge, Bart, Lucy, and Lisa were all based on archetypes that audiences were previously familiar with, The Simpsons managed to make them all memorable by taking the time to shade them in with more dimension than other shows or movies usually did.
While Homer was a drunk, lazy, and often violently angry man, he also deeply loved his family and the town of Springfield, which made viewers grow attached to him. Similarly, Bart was an anarchic and rebellious teen who simultaneously caused trouble and suffered through deeply serious internal issues as well.
Now, none of the decisions or jokes that characters make on the show feel in tune with those pre-established emotions and contradictions. Homer has devolved into being the dumb and mean father while Bart often causes trouble just for the sake of causing trouble, rather than the trouble he causes being the manifestation of his own inner conflicts.
Almost None Of The Original Staff Is Still Around
Building off of the last point, anyone who knows about the creative team behind The Simpsons in the late 1980s and 90s knows how integral that specific team was to shaping the vision of the show.
As such there's an obvious correlation between the disintegration of that original team, and how different the tone and direction of The Simpsons is now compared to how it was in its original seasons. That goes father than just original creators/developers, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon no longer being involved in any real capacity too.
In addition to those three men, The Simpsons had a stellar writer's team in its early seasons, which included the likes of Conan O'Brien, Greg Daniels, Bill Oakley, and more. Now, in the show's 28th season, only three of those original writers remain. This means that was once one of the most effective and collaborative writer teams in TV history, is now all but completely gone.
The Existential Questions Are Nowhere To Be Found
Building off of the previous point, what made The Simpsons one of the greatest shows in history when it first premiered was how it managed to avoid being the typical TV comedy viewers might have expected. While the episodes were filled to the brim with jokes the series also used that comedic lens to deal with difficult issues like depression, PTSD, and even free will.
Episodes like "Bart Sells His Soul" or "Homer's Enemy" all delved into the psyche of its characters - whether it be Bart or the disgruntled Frank Grimes - without ever handling the topics in a heavy-handed fashion. The existential questions present in the show's first 8 or 9 seasons, not only allowed the series to tackle a variety of topics, but fit in perfectly with the show's satirical take on the life of a "normal" American family. Now, The Simpsons very rarely, if ever, deals with those same kinds of questions.
The Jokes Aren't As Complex
In this excellent video essay by Super Eyepatch Wolf, he details how the comedy on The Simpsons has grown increasingly less complex or smart over the years. Not only does that mean a lot less beats in each of the show's many gags, but also in the removal of many of the jokes' brilliant layers.
Nowadays, The Simpsons is starting to more and more resemble the typical TV comedy that it fought so hard not to be in its early seasons. That's resulted in the repeated use of jokes that often betray the motivations and personalities of the characters as well, and are as far removed from the intellectual nature of the show's original comedic style as possible.
Whether that means the hiring of a new crew of writers on the series or consulting more with the show's original team, it's clear that The Simpsons has, more or less, lost its comedic way.