The NeverEnding Simpsons

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week John Mather explains the long-running appeal of The Simpsons.

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week John Mather explains the long-running appeal of The Simpsons. The facts: In its 20th season, The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom (as well as cartoon) and recently became the longest-running scripted nighttime series. Last week, the 450th episode - featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and the rest of Springfield - aired. The Simpsons is both one of the most significant pieces of culture of the last 20 years and a testament to American television's remarkable inability to recognize that all good things must come to an end.

The first 10 years: No other series, animated or otherwise, was as consistently funny across demographics, making children and their parents laugh. The social commentary was apt, with oft-quoted phrases skewering popular culture and values. For instance, the Homer classic: "Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try." While critics balked at Bart's cursing and Homer's drinking, the show gathered millions of viewers and spawned comics, toys, musical albums, clothing, etc.

The rest: As the standard of animation climbed, the quality of jokes tumbled. Beginning around the 10-year mark the show's balance of zany and witty began leaning towards to former. Any remaining edgy comedy was surpassed in outrageousness by the likes of Family Guy (which has also grown stale). The series creator Matt Groening has said he sees the show never ending, even though himself and others have acknowledge that it has slid.

The conversation: Simpsons fans around? Forget about the last 10 years and bat around everyone's favourite classic quotes. M's pick is from Lionel Hutz, the archetype of sleazy attorneys: "This is the greatest case of false advertising I've seen since I sued the movie The Never Ending Story."