“Not the Box Factory Again”

Steve Williams and Ian Jones with an introduction to The Simpsons

First published May 2002

Already blessed with a heaving, often frighteningly comprehensive, presence online, The Simpsons is one of those TV shows it’s tempting to feel has been almost analysed to death. It’s certainly generated a mountain of commentary, argument and, perhaps inevitably, pedantry over the years – a legacy that’s often somewhat overwhelming in its scope and detail. It’s also tempting to wonder sometimes if, given the amount of theorizing and, it has to be said, nitpicking that goes on, the actual business of enjoying an episode for what it is has got rather lost and forgotten.

OTT isn’t presuming to furnish readers with the definitive take on The Simpsons, or offer up one that claims to be superior to any other. Indeed, if anything it’s somewhat straying beyond OTT’s “remit” to tackle such a well-documented, well-known series, and one that’s not exactly underrepresented online.

Rather, we’re presenting a selection of articles and overviews approaching the series from slightly different and hopefully fresh perspectives, to complement rather than replace existing thinking on this subject. We’re here to commemorate The Simpsons, its strengths and its weaknesses; it’s still, and probably will always be, amongst these writers’ favourite ever TV programmes.

And so we’ve tried a number of things. We’ve traced the show’s origins and history from the point of view of its scripts and writers. We’ve explored the nature of its much-delayed arrival and continuing presence on British terrestrial TV screens. We’ve suggested an inventory of features that make for an all-time classic episode. We’ve also offered up our own selection of five of the best, and the worst, Simpsons shows.

If, however, we’ve stopped short of providing a simple, neat, single answer to the question why The Simpsons is so fantastic – then, well, hey, we thought it was just a bunch of stuff that happened.