Entertainment

Yes, There Are Actually People Who Prefer the New 'Simpsons' Seasons

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everything after Season 10 sucks, but some fans controversially beg to differ.
March 11, 2021, 9:15am
The Simpsons
Photo: SKY

In early March 2021, as the end of the world celebrated its one year anniversary, Fox announced that The Simpsons will never die. The network renewed the show for two more seasons – numbers 33 and 34 – causing old school fans to clutch at their temples and weep, “Stop! Stop! He’s already dead!”. 

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It’s one of those truths – one of those truths that’s accepted right the way around the universe – that The Simpsons had a “Golden Age” that ended around 1999 with Season 10. Since then, the show has measurably declined in quality, with its IMDb ratings dropping dramatically year on year. Some fans have nicknamed the last two decades of the show “Zombie Simpsons” – an undead menace that continues on, arms outstretched, sullying the body of its host. 

Which is to say: it would be pretty unpossible for anyone to prefer the newer seasons of The Simpsons, right? Right? I mean, there’s a whole episode in Season 23 where Lady Gaga has psychic powers and she tries to stop Lisa feeling depressed and then they sing a duet about being a superstar. In one 2012 episode that I once caught on the telly – or did it catch me? – Moe’s dirty bar rag narrates its personal history for 22 minutes and 39 seconds. You don’t win friends with salad. You just don’t prefer the newer seasons of The Simpsons.

Except, of course, some people do. And in the interests of both science and embiggening the harmony we feel with our fellow man, we asked these people: why?

When he was around ten years old, bartender Liam was obsessed with all things Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – one Christmas, his entire wish list was filled solely with Simpsons stuff. Yet last May, the 28-year-old Mancunian came to a shocking realisation. Although he still believes older Simpsons episodes are “timeless classics”, he actually prefers the newer stuff. 

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“I generally prefer the newer episodes because the writing always reflects the current times,” he says when asked to explain himself. “I think the writers have done very well in terms of making sure that the content ages with its audience.”

Liam enjoys it when modern episodes reference current tech and culture such as Netflix and Fortnite and likes that most of the characters now have smartphones. His favourite new Simpsons episode is Season 31’s “Bart the Bad Guy”, in which Bart sees a superhero film a month before it comes out and blackmails Springfield by threatening to spoil the film – Liam likes that it was clearly inspired by Avengers: Endgame

”My take is that the earlier episodes are funnier but the newer episodes are more well-written,” he argues, adding that the latest episodes also “look nicer”.

This is a sentiment shared by Erin, a 32-year-old medical student from Indianapolis. “Honestly, the animation is creepy to me,” she says of older episodes. “It’s not aesthetically pleasing and that turns me off.” 

As a child, Erin was “strictly forbidden” from watching The Simpsons because her parents feared it would give her a “bad attitude” – a sentiment famously shared by George HW Bush. Although she started enjoying Simpsons reruns in high school, Erin realised that she preferred the newer stuff to the old around 2014, when the show was in its 26th season.

“The humour just feels fresher to me and a little less... crass is maybe the word I am looking for?” she explains. “I think I find the various pop culture references funnier, and I like the guest appearances from the later episodes.”

Erin goes as far to say that she doesn’t understand why people insist the old stuff is best: “I’d love to hear them articulate why because I really don’t get it. There’s something almost abstract about the old stuff that is just unappealing to me… Too much of the humour is about Homer screaming at Bart.” 

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Liam still watches The Simpsons regularly, but Erin hasn’t tuned in for a few years. Mitchell, a 22-year-old from Australia, keeps up with the show on Disney+. As a member of Gen Z, Mitchell grew up on newer episodes of The Simpsons – much of what he watched every night at 6PM was already considered past the Golden Age. The supermarket manager says he doesn’t “prefer” the newer or older seasons of the show (he sees pre and post Season 12 episodes as separate beasts) but admits, “most of my favourite episodes come from the later seasons.” 

“I find entire episodes to be more memorable,” he explains, “whereas in earlier seasons I instead recall more of the humour.” His favourite episode of all time is Season 27’s “Barthood” – a parody of the critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama Boyhood. “It really allowed me to connect to a character I sometimes struggle to like. It actually brought a tear to my eye.” He calls the episode “beautifully written” and notes that it also made him laugh multiple times. 

Mitchell still believes that many older episodes do have superior qualities – for example, he preferred it when Lisa acted more like a kid and not “some weird super intelligent adult” – but he disagrees with the widely held belief that Homer has become dumber over time. He also finds the old animation style “distracting”. While he doesn’t deny that newer episodes can regularly miss the mark, he loves that, “it feels more satirical than it did before, and it isn’t afraid to shake up the formula for something interesting”. 

When I reach out to various people who have professed – at some point, somewhere on the internet – that they prefer modern Simpsons, something curious happens. Multiple people feel unable to stand by their bold claim. Dale is one such person – though he tweeted in 2013, plain as day, “I prefer the newer Simpsons to the older Simpsons”, he now says he doesn’t remember writing these words. 

“I don’t think they are better than the originals,” the 27-year-old Scot says of the newer stuff, clarifying his stance, “but I do believe people write them off unfairly and should definitely give them a chance.” 

Dale grew up watching The Simpsons and had a few VHS tapes of episodes that he would watch “religiously”, wearing them out. He sees Golden Age episodes as a “comfort blanket” but finds it exciting to see a new Simpsons episode that he’s never seen before. “I don’t think it’s fair to just assume every new episode is rubbish because it’s a new episode and nothing more.”

While he admits that the celebrity cameos in modern Simpsons episodes are often “cringeworthy”, Dale notes that older episodes also aren’t beyond reproach. “There are little jokes about sexuality that certainly wouldn’t make the cut today. There are also some jokes about race and religion that are also very inappropriate.” In the end, his stance is perfectly cromulent: “Not every old episode is good, just like not every new episode is bad.”

@ameliargh