The Simpsons on Reflection, Part I: The Shorts

My partner and I are currently working through “The Simpsons” in order. We started from the Tracey Ullman shorts (God bless filesharing), and are now into the beginning of the second series.

Naturally, anyone that’s seen Series 7’s “Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular” will be familiar with the style of the shorts. I had only seen them in this episode previously (as a UK citizen that grew up in the ‘90s I can’t say I’ve had the opportunity before). There’s not too much raving I can do about them; though they probably made me laugh more than a single episode of Zombie Simpsons, their appeal lies in seeing The Simpsons as we know it unwind before our very eyes. As each short clip passes, the appearance and voices of the characters evolve (138th Episode Spectacular does cover this well – selecting a decent collection of clips to demonstrate its development). By the end of the shorts, a lot of the characteristics of the Simpson family have been established. Who knows? Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a hit without that miniature collection; they do sort of feel like a series of experiments.

Another interesting aspect to note is the fact that these shorts either centre around Bart, Lisa and Maggie as a triple act, or one or two of these three (invariably, Bart, a trend that carries on into the show’s first official season). Homer gets his fair share of screen time, too, but it felt at times that he and Marge were merely a supporting act to their offspring. Marge, in particular, has a very small role – much smaller, in fact, than that of her youngest daughter. Despite being unable to speak, Maggie frequently plays a central role in the shorts. This is, of course, very different to the 22 minute version of The Simpsons (Series 1 being somewhat of an exception). One could argue that there’s only so much a mute and entirely dependable character can do; however, it may highlight a more imaginative perspective in the early days of the show.

Lastly, the show is very much The Simpsons, in that it focussed solely on the 5 key family members and is rarely set outside of the Simpson home. The only members of the supporting cast to get introduced are Grandpa (also, of course, a Simpson), the barber (not exactly a key member of the cast, but they kept the same character design and he appears a handful of times that I can recollect), Krusty the Klown, and Itchy & Scratchy (you can decide for yourself if they count or not… I’m willing to include them… even if they are fictional characters within a fictional show, they’re still characters, right?).

If you can get hold of these shorts, I’d recommend them. They certainly do offer something in the way of entertainment value.


One Response to “The Simpsons on Reflection, Part I: The Shorts”

  1. […] She’s watching everything Simpsons, starting with the shorts and going from there.  Part 1 is about the Tracey Ullman shorts; Part 2 deals with the question of which was really the […]

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