Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's taken me a lot of bowls of breakfast cereal, but I have finally caught up with the episodes of The Simpsons that have aired on terrestrial TV in England while I have been living in New Zealand.

Specifically I’m up to 2005 - the year after it switched channels in both countries.

In the UK, The Simpsons' first UHF transmission on the BBC had been a convention of own-goals. Even as early as the 1980s the corporation had bought The Tracy Ullman Show, but sagely cut out all the famous early Simpsons shorts that had been contained therein. Then, when the series proper was made, they let small-time satellite operator Sky buy it. Finally, six years later on 23rd November 1996, the Beeb at last proudly repeated the now ancient first episodes during prime time, to great fanfare.

Although it had been years earlier that I'd been introduced to the series on VHS by Monty, it was at the start of the BBC era that I determined to watch every single episode, in order. Well, since they were being shown in an apparently random order, this meant taping them all for several weeks until the chronologically next one got shown. There are gags in there that you just won't get if you're not watching them sequentially.

Anyway, as it was both from overseas and a cartoon, it wasn't long before the BBC buried the American rubbish away both within and just after children's programming on BBC2.

When they never showed the America's Most Wanted special, I had to later borrow the DVD off of Herschel. Admittedly, this did not turn out to be up to much, but a hipper station would have found a way to include it where it came anyway. Y'know, for the fans.

So, to 2004, the year when the BBC relinquished the most successful TV series ever to smart-mouthed Channel 4. Catching up with these off of VHS, would the transition in presentation notice? After all, the BBC had made quite a spectacular hash of things already.

Well, first of all, Channel 4 launched their run with a couple of their own specially-made programmes.

The World According To The Simpsons could more accurately be entitled The Simpsons According To Us, and was the traditional clips show dressed-up as a making-of documentary. Sure enough they trot out assumptions like "Wherever you are, The Simpsons are," without fact-checking. I once taught a classroom full of Chinese people, not one of whom had ever heard of it.

One celebrity fan croons about how great it is that Homer once said the W word in an episode, because in the US it's not rude. Funnily enough, Channel 4 decided to run that particular clip twice.

This programme was followed by The Simpsons Quiz Show, which again featured famous viewers attempting to answer questions about the series. Know what? They ask one question about Homer's use of the W word. Then they show the clip. Then they run the clip a second time. They just didn't do this with the other clips in either of these two shows.

Anyway, really high-brow stuff.

Once the series proper began airing, of course the episodes now had adverts in them, particularly for Pizza Hut who for a while were the series main ‘sponsor’. (Obviously they didn't actually sponsor the show, because it had been made many years beforehand) I must admit that I quite liked watching the British adverts - I also missed these while in New Zealand, and likewise needed to catch up. Presently, the Pizza Hut ads gave way to ones for Dominoe's.

However the episode Insane Clown Poppy (BABF17) cuts into the break right in the middle of a word. When we came back, it was a different scene. We never found out what Krusty was saying.

A few days after that I got to the episode The Computer Wore Menace Shoes (CABF02), which featured the end credits squashed sideways into just over two-thirds of the screen, to enable the visual and audial trailing of whatever was on next.

After that had finished, I turned the tape from 2004 off, to find The Simpsons still in progress on Channel 4 in present day 2010. Now they were squeezing the end credits into only half of the screen. I couldn't ignore the toll that six years had taken on presentation standards.

Later I got onto watching Christmas Day 2004's Alternative Christmas Message, which that year had been presented by the yellow family. Although airing amongst episodes that were several years' behind, this was a brand new almost three-minute sketch made especially for British TV, featuring the five of them making lots of jokes about the way in which Americans perceive Britain.

This felt kinda strange, especially when Lisa delivered a political joke in Cornish.

Still don't believe me? The rest of it is here.

Today I watched the last one - I Am Furious (Yellow) (DABF13). It's the last one recorded because that's the point at which it just became too difficult to chase all over Channel 4's schedules any more.

So I'm abandoning my quest to watch them all in order. There are just too many of them, and life is too short. Sometimes discontinuing a plan is the right thing to do. I really should never have made a resolve that was so subject to the choices of others.

I've enjoyed watching The Simpsons. It remains quality, and always gives me a positive outlook. I'll continue to dip into it whenever I come across it, but my devotion to such a wonderful show is no more.

I guess the BBC and Channel 4 should have just shown the episodes, instead of working so hard to mix them all up.

Worst. Presentation. Ever.


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