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'The Simpsons' Vs 'Family Guy': What Did You Expect?

If ever there was a sign of just how far from its creative peak the show is, this is it. As a cultural product, 'The Simpsons' just belongs to a different age. This mashup is guaranteed to let you down, but you'll still watch it.

Screenshots taken from The Simpsons/Family Guy Crossover - Comic-Con 2014

For most people nowadays, the continued existence of The Simpsons is a bit like the continued existence of vacuum cleaner repair shops: It’s something that seems to sustain itself on the basis of people you hardly-never meet. These people are a phantom army who diligently record season 24, giggling along at Gramps’ latest gripe, Krusty’s latest wife, Homer’s latest hobby or Wiggum’s latest Deputy, completely unaware that everyone else is watching the internet. In fact, those of us who don’t breathe through a cable box only really perceive it as a series of headlines in newspapers about celebrity cameos: “Russell Brand to Star in Simpsons Episode”; “Simpsons Parody Game of Thrones Opening Sequence”; “Jeremy Irons to Star as a Talking Dishrag in The Simpsons”; “Lady Gaga Simpsons Episode Lowest-Ranked for Quality in Show’s History”. Etc etc etc. This week, the Simpsons headline everyone is talking about is: “The Simpsons Characters Feature in Family Guy.” If ever there was a sign of just how far from its creative peak the show is, this is it. This year, The Simpsons turned in all-time low ratings at 3.5 million viewers. By comparison, Family Guy is still pootelling along with a remarkably consistent 7 million. Whereas once Family Guy was the upstart/rip-off, now, it is the one holding out a life buoy to its drowning dad.


Sadly but inevitably, as a cultural product,

The Simpsons

just belongs to a different age. To me, it always feels strange when

The Simpsons

do gags about modern pop culture. It’s like a more fleshed out version of that "Modern


Twitter account. At its core, the show exists in that world before we all lost our tiny minds. In Springfield, it is always nearly time for Lollapalooza. Bill Clinton is always a handsome young President leading an optimistic nation that has just won the Cold War. The Exxon Valdez is always one punchline away.

Family Guy—

popular as it is—has never really meant anything to anyone in the way that

The Simpsons

did, and as such it can continue undimmed forever. While

The Simpsons

holds a rarified, Beatles-esque grip on pop cultural history,

Family Guy

is more like Kiss—just another noisy derivative which can continue for an eternity, happy in the knowledge that when all one’s audience wants is stupidity, it’s never going to be hard to keep them happy.

The writers seem to understand the general perception that, at it’s best,

The Simpsons

is the best and at its best

Family Guy

is fart jokes. Judging from the trailer premiered at Comic-Con, once we get past the easier post-modern jokes (Stewie: “What state are we in?” Brian The Talking Dog replies: “I can’t imagine we’re allowed to say” or a Stewie take on the Bart phone prank trope, which ends in a rape joke) it revels in this class difference. The real meat of the matter comes when Homer and Peter Griffin talk about their respective local beers and whether one is a rip-off of the other. Griffin: “It may have been INSPIRED by Duff, but I like to think it goes in a different direction…”. We can tell where it’s going—a kind of polite, lame mash-up of two South Park episodes (


'The Simpsons Already Did It

' and

'Cartoon Wars


The Comic-Con package climaxes with Peter Griffin and Homer having a fight. They fall into the cooling tower of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Then they emerge glowing-green with Marvel-style superpowers, and shoot up into space, where they collide with an incoming alien spacecraft and tumble across the Springfield Canyon made famous by Homer on a skateboard. The Simpsons has been a world with its own rules—a place where the entire town could riot over a single cheese-puff, but it has never been a world where people jump into nuclear reactor cores and then come out with superpowers – because that’s just silly, the sight of cowed writers who’ve lost touch with the characters, the world, the tone, just mashing the keys in pursuit of spectacle while an angry executive stands behind them with a gun at their head demanding more and more episodes.

Many people bitched about the last episode of Seinfeld being a piece of self-obsessed twaddle which treated its viewers with contempt for swallowing the same level of character-driven, predictable farce every week. It feels like The Simpsons has been running that episode for over a decade now, but what do you expect? How can any TV show sustain itself over a lifespan longer than Buddy Holly’s? There are people out there having sex today who weren’t born during Legendary Vintage Season Nine, and if he weren’t animated, Bart would be older than Macaulay Culkin, and apparently you’re supposed to sneer at that guy as a tragic has-been now. The four-and-a-half minute promo doesn’t reveal how this episode is going to end. But here’s a suggestion: no-one wins the fight. In fact, it continues for so long that eventually everyone in Springfield dies of boredom and The Simpsons’ house sits there quietly for years as the corpses rot. Eventually, decades later, the Prophet Muhammad and a manatee squat the building and a new series of satirical adventures begin. Has a certain swagger, no?

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