It’s hard to imagine a world without “The Simpsons.” The show has been with us since April 19, 1987, when it appeared as an animated short on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” After three seasons the cartoon sketch from artist Matt Groening was developed into a half-hour sitcom. “The Simpsons” became the fledgling FOX network’s very first series to land in the Top 30 ratings (1989-90). It went on to become the longest-running animated program, then the longest-running sitcom. In 2009 it surpassed “Gunsmoke” to become the longest-running scripted show period in primetime history. It is, by every measure, an American icon. And it’s about to make history again.
In what has been reported as a $1 billion deal, the show is moving to FXX, FOX’ new(ish) edgy sitcom network. On Aug. 21 the show will make its FXX debut with a 200-plus-hour marathon. Yup, they’ll be showing all 25 seasons of the show (552 episodes in all) in chronological order. Plus The Simpsons Movie. Don’t bother setting your DVR. It won’t end until Sept. 1. And yes, that makes it the longest marathon in TV history.
Believe it or not, this is all just a teaser. In October FXX will launch “Simpsons World.” Described as “the ultimate Simpsons digital experience,” this offshoot of the FXNow apps on iPhone, iPad, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android phones and tablets—not to mention smart TVs, Apple TVs and other set-top boxes—will allow 24/7 access to every single episode. Viewers can create personalized playlists, share clips and interactively explore Springfield’s many characters and locations. This is basically 20th Century Fox’ shot across the bow of HBO’s “HBO GO” app. Basically every studio and TV station in Hollywood wants their own app giving viewers access to their exclusive content. But dividing up content by company leaves viewers with slim options. Few companies have large enough libraries on their own to justify the effort. But the Simpsons are a big enough brand on their own that simply having access to any episode at any time should prove a huge draw for FXNow.
A lot of people have slacked off in their “Simpsons” watching lately. The party line is that the show is past its prime. Recent episodes like the LEGO spoof and the Halloween episode featuring a pre-credit “couch gag” from director Guillermo del Toro would tend to argue otherwise.
Now FX just needs to get on the ball and work out the same kinks every other network is trying to surmount. According to The Hollywood Reporter, only 60 percent of FX subscribers are able to access the FXNow app. The problem is authentication. Cable, satellite and telecom providers aren’t really eager to allow customers unfettered access to their content. And they’ve made it very hard for people to prove they are actually paying for these networks somewhere along the line. In other words: Comcast isn’t getting rich off FXNow or HBO GO or any other app. They’re in no hurry to help you get access to them by proving you’re a subscriber. So we’ll have to see how that pans out.
A lot of people have slacked off in their “Simpsons” watching lately. The party line is that the show is past its prime. Recent episodes like the LEGO spoof and the Halloween episode featuring a pre-credit “couch gag” from director Guillermo del Toro would tend to argue otherwise. The show still has more laughs than any five sitcoms on CBS. And the idea of exploring 25 years’ worth of Springfield stories is exciting as hell.