This Saturday marks the 16th anniversary of what many would
argue was the most pivotal American cultural moment of the 20th century,
wherein the nation and the world set upon a path that would forever change how
the typical consumer and citizen perceived virtually every icon, ideology, and
tradition previously revered or—at the least—considered unassailable. We speak,
of course, of the debut of the first full-length episode of The Simpsons.
On Dec. 17, 1989, the “Simpsons Roasting on an Open
Fire” episode—otherwise known as “The Simpsons Christmas
Special”—kicked off what has since become the longest-running animated
sitcom in U.S. television history, garnering more than 20 Emmy Awards and earning
the fictional Simpson family its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That’s
not bad for a spin-off from The Tracey
Ullman Show, where the Simpsons first appeared in the form of crudely
animated comedy shorts.
FOX Network originally intended for the ongoing Simpsons series to debut with its entire
fall premiere slate in 1989. However, production problems with the
“original” pilot episode, “Some Enchanted Evening,” forced
the network to delay the show.
Many have attributed those production problems to various animation
issues. An alternate theory is that series creator Matt Groening decided the
original version was unacceptable and required a massive overhaul.
Suffice it to say, The
Simpsons didn’t hit the airwaves until midseason of the 1989-1990
television calendar, and the production team rejiggered the preproduction
episode schedule to make the best of a contentious situation. Rather than
inaugurating the first season of The
Simpsons, “Some Enchanted Evening” ended up being the episode
that wrapped it.
The show’s fortunes have improved somewhat since those shaky
beginnings. Case in point: Besides the aforementioned Emmys, on Feb. 9, 1997, The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones as the longest-running
animated sitcom in America. In addition, at the close of its current season—the
show’s 17th—The Simpsons will
supplant The Adventures of Ozzie and
Harriet as the longest-running sitcom of any type, period.
That said, despite receiving frequent references as the
longest-running cartoon of all time, The
Simpsons can’t claim that title. Indeed, by one measure, The Simpsons isn’t even the
longest-running American cartoon.
WHAT’S THE ONLY AMERICAN CARTOON TO BOAST MORE EPISODES THAN
Which animated series is the only American cartoon to boast
more episodes than The Simpsons,
currently in its 17th season?
The various and sundry incarnations of Scooby-Doo holds the distinction of most episodes ever produced for
an American-originated cartoon. It first debuted on Sept. 13, 1969 and ran for
16 years before finally airing its last original first-run episode on Dec. 7,
A spin-off, A Pup
Named Scooby-Doo, revived Scooby and friends from 1988 to 1991. And in
2002, the Cartoon Network resumed the show once more; What’s New Scooby-Doo? is its current incarnation.
Of course, it wasn’t until 2004 that The Simpsons gave up its episode-number supremacy to Scooby-Doo, which needed three separate
series to beat out the gang from Springfield. Moreover, FOX has contractually
renewed The Simpsons through its 20th
season, and the Cartoon Network could cancel What’s New Scooby-Doo? at any moment. So, there’s just no telling
when or if Homer and company will reclaim their episode-number crown.
Fan speculation is rampant that the 20th season of The Simpsons will likely be its last as
a regular television series, especially considering public comments by Matt
Groening that FOX intends to produce a feature film version of The Simpsons after the TV show ends.
According to IMDB.com, the film’s tentative release is November 2008.
(And for the record, Scooby-Doo
is not the longest-running cartoon of all time, either—just the American
frontrunner. Several Japanese cartoons have been in continuous production for
decades, perhaps most notably Sazae-san,
which has run every Sunday in Japan since October 1969.)
Oh, and in case anybody asks, The Simpsons technically has three different episodes that could
arguably claim the title of pilot episode. As we’ve noted, “Simpsons
Roasting on an Open Fire” aired first, while the
production-problem-plagued episode “Some Enchanted Evening” was first
on the drawing board.
However, the “Bart the Genius” episode was the
first to air as part of an admitted Simpsons
series, debuting on Jan. 14, 1990. Remember, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open
Fire” debuted as “The Simpsons Christmas Special,” rather than
as the pilot of a series—even if FOX already had a full-blown series in
Thus, by some counts, “Bart the Genius” is the
first real Simpsons episode. Such is
the nature of d’oh-licious Geek
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The Quibble of the Week
If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of
this week’s Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article.
Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and
discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.
This week’s quibble comes from the November 30 edition of
Geek Trivia, “The
cold hard truth.” TechRepublic member Sloan—who really knows his meteor physics—busted me for improper
use of the term combustion.
“The ‘fire’ of a meteor occurs
when the air and the outer layers of the meteor itself is heated to a point of incandescence (energy levels cause
photons to be released), but not combustion. Combustion occurs when a chemical
reaction occurs between a fuel and oxygen (or other reactive pairs) and the
fuel is consumed.
“In the case of super-heated air
around meteors (or, for example, the space shuttle), there is no fuel-oxygen
reaction occurring. Just like a normal light bulb, the energy levels are raised
so that electrons are pushed into higher energy levels and then return to their
normal energy level, releasing photons.”
Once again, applied physics is not my friend. Thanks for
keeping me humble, dear readers, and keep those quibbles coming.
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The Trivia Geek, also
known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s
duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic
books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.