View here an exploration into The Golden Age of The Simpsons and the infamous episode that ‘started its downfall to mediocrity’. Presented by Entertain The Elk ….
Here’s an edited version of the video narration ….
‘As far back as I can remember, The Simpsons has always been on television. I grew up watching it, and like many, it shaped my childhood. It was the type of show that seemed to attract everyone with its blend of animation, intelligence, humor, satire, heart, and countless references to both television/film and cultural events.
The Simpsons has aired well over 600 episodes, and is currently in the middle of its unprecedented 28th season. However, most fans and even creators of the show agree that the Golden Age of The Simpsons was from seasons 3-8. In that span, they had brilliant writers and directors collaborating on the show like Conan O’Brien, Brad Bird, and Greg Daniels, they won 11 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and on US television it averaged 18-22 million viewers per episode. In comparison, the recent premiere of the 28th season pulled in only 3.36 million viewers.
The Golden Age of The Simpsons was one classic episode after the next, filled with quotable lines and celebrity guests… But on September 28, 1997, The Golden Age came to an end with Season 9’s second episode– “The Principal and the Pauper”
The controversial episode, which is based off of Jorge Borges’ short story “The Improbable Imposter Tom Castro”, gives us the backstory of Armin Tamzarian who served in the Army, befriended Sergeant Seymour Skinner, and then assumed his identity after Skinner presumably died in the war. The now infamous episode was almost universally panned upon its release. Series creator Matt Groening called it one of his least favorite episodes on the Season 9 DVD box set.
And even Harry Shearer (the voice of Seymour Skinner and many, many others) said this to the writers after having read the script — “That’s so wrong. You’re taking something that an audience has built eight or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason… It’s so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it’s disrespectful to the audience.” In an interview years later, Shearer added this in reference to the episode– “It’s like punishing the audience for paying attention.”
And I think that’s the biggest mistake the writing staff made with this episode. The audience will connect to the main characters no matter who or what they are, as long as the creators respect the characters too. That’s the beautiful phenomena of television– we become so attached to the characters because we spend hours upon hours with them, watching them grow and develop over time. And after eight years and 179 episodes, we grew attached to all the characters in The Simpsons, including Seymour Skinner. We watched him struggle to find meaning in his life after he’d been fired as the principal, and we also watched him fall in love for the first time. To throw a wrench in the works and change Skinner’s entire background was cheap, lazy, unearned drama. Like Harry Shearer said, it’s unfair to punish the audience for caring about the characters and investing in them. Besides a few refreshingly unique and heartfelt episodes sprinkled here or there (such as the episodes Holidays of Future Passed and Barthood) The Simpsons has been out of fresh ideas for the past two decades. Homer has tried seemingly every job imaginable– And the family has traveled all over the world–
To this day, I still consider seasons 3-8 of The Simpsons my favorite span of television of all time, but unfortunately, I stopped watching The Simpsons years ago. I found it more depressing than anything, watching what I once considered to be the greatest show ever slowly reduced to a hollow shell over time. Out of the vast catalog of Simpsons episodes, The Principal and the Pauper is far from the worst, but I think the reason it sticks out in the minds of many fans and critics is because that episode definitively marked the end of a beloved show’s historic run— It’s Golden Age.
It was the day The Simpsons, as I like to remember it, died’.
Credit – Entertain The Elk