(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Series: "The Simpsons
Where You Can Stream It: Disney+
The Pitch: We all know "The Simpsons," arguably the greatest American animated show of all time, and one of the best American sitcoms ever. Virtually every modern adult animated show made in the U.S. owes something to this series, which not only is a masterclass in comedy writing, and in how to build a believable and lived-in world with colorful characters, but also a masterclass in using diverse camera angles and interesting filmmaking in animation.
Of course, after four decades, the quality is bound to vary a bit. The accepted consensus is that "The Simpsons" stopped being good or important after its initial 10 seasons, with viewership declining and its cultural relevancy going down too. It's not just that it wasn't as good; it's that nobody was watching, supposedly.
Well, to think that the show is irrelevant or not worth paying attention to would be a huge mistake, actually. Not only have the last two seasons of "The Simpsons" been good, some of their episodes stand among the show's best.
Why It's Essential Viewing
It's not to say that seasons 33 and 34 are the only good ones since season 10. "The Simpsons" has produced some great episodes over the years, from a "24" parody that plays out in real-time, to an episode made entirely out of Lego and a two-parter parody of "The Great Gatsby." What's different this time is that the entire two seasons have a consistent level of quality, rather than a few scattered gems.
Classic episodes of "The Simpsons" have a bit of a formula, in that they offer hilariously simple stories — Homer is too lazy to go to church, the town has some extra money to spend — that are blown out of proportion in the funniest way possible, all while offering some heartfelt character moments and biting social commentary. Some recent seasons have resorted to outright remaking these classic episodes, or trying too hard to comment on recent events like "South Park" does, rather than tackle more timeless subjects like the early seasons.
What makes these two new seasons so successful is that they find a good balance between timely and timeless. The settings are as modern as they can be, touching on the importance of social media, influencers, and ransom hacks. But rather than try to tie the plots to something specific, they are timeless enough to be a time capsule of modern America the same way episodes from early seasons were to the '90s and onwards. An episode about Bart trying to get Supreme-like sneakers may not be as relevant in 20 years as it is today, but neither is an episode about George H. W. Bush moving next to the Simpsons.
Experimentation Is Key
Indeed, experimentation seems to be the order of the day in "The Simpsons" nowadays. Classic Simpsons never repeated itself, and always tried new things, and these two new seasons are doing that too. Matt Selman, who has been involved with the show since the '90s, became a showrunner in season 33 alongside Al Jean, and since then the show has been doing a lot more experimenting with the story and even the format.
Take the two-parter "A Serious Flanders," which parodies streaming and the era of prestige TV and offers a non-canon story where even major characters die. Or what about season 34 having not one but two Halloween episodes, including a whole episode dedicated to an "IT" homage, and a "Treehouse of Horror" segment parodying the plot of "Death Note" that's even drawn in the style of the anime.
Episodes like these take advantage of the fact that "The Simpsons" has gone on for so long that "canon" is irrelevant because the show has already done so many stories, there's no rule or guideline that the writers cannot break.
But even when playing within the regular format of the show, this season has both reclaimed the anti-establishment roots of "The Simpsons," and their character-centric stories. The Emmy-nominated episode "Pixelated and Afraid" offers a delightfully earnest story about Homer and Marge rekindling their relationship, while "Poorhouse Rock" ends an already dark season with a bleak musical journey through the death of the middle class and the American dream — aided by Hugh Jackman! Plus, there's even an episode inspired by the excellent 2019 film "Get Duked!" previously known as "Boyz In the Wood."
"The Simpsons" will likely never be the center of American pop culture that it was during its early episodes, but it is as watchable as ever.
Read this next: The 27 Best Simpsons One-Off Characters Ranked
The post The Daily Stream: The Simpsons Is Still Good, You Guys! appeared first on /Film.