To watch every episode of "The Simpsons" ever aired, you'd need to set aside more than a full week with no breaks for sleeping, eating or using the bathroom.
That is truly an amazing achievement for an animated show, or any show for that matter. The innovative and landmark comedy hit the 500-episode mark this past Sunday, extending its record as the longest-running American scripted, primetime television series. And even after all the video games, memorabilia, the movie, board games, college courses and everything else under the sun, it's amazing it even got off the ground when you think about it.
Imagine the pitch for the original show. It's an animated sitcom - something that never really had been done before - with an extremely dysfunctional family that never ages. There's very little carryover from episode to episode, the 10-year-old son swears at his parents and several instances occur where the father chokes the son. Whoever at FOX greenlit "The Simpsons" had to be a little bit insane, but the line between insanity and genius truly is a fine line.
That person - crazy or not - deserves a standing ovation, as it would have been a crying shame had the show never made it to air. The writing and voice work is spectacular, and those two elements somehow made you care about a show where characters never change and storylines completely wrap up every week. Most importantly, the show is really, really funny and has been for 23 seasons. It has its ups and downs - much like "Saturday Night Live" over the years - but there have been very few episodes that didn't at least make me chuckle a couple times. It may not be as great as it was from seasons 3-12, but it still is better than 95 percent of the shows on TV.
I'll admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for "The Simpsons," as it was one of the shows I grew up on (and somehow my moral fabric has still not unraveled, despite the views of some when the show first came out). True, the show can be offensive and it's certainly not a morality tale, but if you're looking to television for your moral code, you probably have other problems than just being offended by "The Simpsons."
My favorite part of "The Simpsons" is its unpredictability. Most of the time, the first five to 10 minutes of the show have absolutely nothing to do with the overarching plot of that particular episode. It keeps you guessing as to what is actually going to matter to the plot and what's just in for laughs.
"The Simpsons" also paved the way for many of the popular shows of the last 15 years. Without "The Simpsons," you most likely would never have had "South Park," "Family Guy," "Futurama" or any other cartoon not aimed at children.
On a side note, a Yooper is heavily involved with the show, as a casting director and producer for "The Simpsons," Bonita Pietila, graduated from Gwinn High School.
So thank you Bonita and all the thousands of people involved with "The Simpsons" over the years. I hope you make 500 more.
Zach Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.