In this television season, Homer Simpson, aided by his “loving” family, has set 2 television records. To truly understand the magnitude of this achievement, you need some background information.
America’s true “wild west” history lasted from approximately 1865 to 1895. From that history of tall tales and true came many, many stories about cowboys –most of them made into movies starring John Wayne. (My personal favorite was his last film: “The Shootist.” In it, he was aided by the sexiest woman in Hollywood history (Lauren Bacall) (see below) and a “kid” almost old enough to Direct a film (Ron Howard)). In spite of millions of movies made about adventures in that period of time (OK, thousands of movies), some of them even being true, there were still more thousands of ideas that were made into TV shows. The record for most cowboy-based TV shows in one TV season was 26 in 1959. Remember: at that time, there were only 3 broadcasting networks, each with only 3 or 4 hours of programing available in prime time per day. From that mass of cowboy-based shows came one that stood above all others: Gunsmoke.
You might expect television to choose Mr. Wayne to star in the show. It was not to be. However, THE cowboy movie star did introduce the viewing audience to the new TV show. It got the show off on the right foot. Gunsmoke was on television for 20 years (1955 to 1975): a record length of primetime for any show. It also set the record for number of episodes: 635. Each ran for one hour.
In 1989, Homer and family, unwittingly, took on this giant of television history. The Simpsons’ creator, Matt Groening, has said: “We certainly didn’t expect to last this long. When we started, we didn’t even know if the Fox network was going to last, much less our own show. Fox was an experiment, and they allowed us to do pretty much whatever we wanted. When we first started, we were part of the downfall of civilization. Bart said he was ‘an underachiever and proud of it, man.’ Simpsons T-shirts were banned in grade schools. I knew it would blow over. At the heart of our show is a churchgoing family who eats dinner together every night and is very traditional. They drive each other crazy but they do love each other.” (see below)
What was the outcome of Gunsmoke vs. The Simpsons? The record 20 year lifetime of Gunsmoke was eclipsed by Homer’s family “drama” which is in its 29thseason (1989 – 2018). Gunsmoke’s record 635 episodes has been exceeded by The Simpsons’ 639 episode this year –and is still going.
Everyone knows Homer’s reaction to these achievements will be: “Records are made to be broken …by me.” And Mr. Groening’s outlook? “I don’t see any end in sight. It’s always possible. But I live in denial of death, much less the cancellation of The Simpsons.” And what could be Bart’s reaction? (see below)