The new season of The Simpsons is getting more attention than usual because it’s the 20th, and that technically ties the record for longest-running scripted show — though as showrunner-for-life Al Jean points out, they’re still behind Gunsmoke and Lassie in terms of the raw number of episodes (becuase seasons were longer back then). Jean’s thoughts on the upcoming season are available here.

It seems unbelievable that ten years ago, people were seriously discussing whether The Simpsons had been on too long and if it was time for it to go. Nobody says that any more, much, because there’s really no reason for it to go; it’s already diluted the quality of the first eight seasons or so by lumping them in with the last ten not-so-great seasons, and one season more or less won’t change that. Nevertheless, the mildly frustrating thing about The Simpsons is that while it can’t be what it was at its best, you can see how it could be at least good again. There are many episodes with good ideas, jokes, even whole scenes that work. What the show does not have, and hasn’t had for years, is quality control, the firm guiding hand that eliminates bad puns, ineffective jokes, foolish story developments. With the movie, where James L. Brooks and other old hands took more of an active interest than they currently do in the show, you could see what the show can be when it tosses out all the bad jokes and filler lines: not as great as it was, but quite good. I don’t know if a new, non-Jean showrunner would help with that, but certainly there are a lot of Simpsons episodes that would work a lot better if the proverbial wheat were separated from the equally proverbial chaff.

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