Not that long ago we comprised a top 10 list about America’s most beloved fictional family, the Simpsons. But since the list had only 10 entries, it didn’t even come close to doing them justice. After all, this is a show that’s been on TV for nearly 30 years. So, we’ve decided to make another one, telling you more about our yellow friends, their backstories, and some other facts you might have not known about them. We won’t bore you with a long and tedious introduction, so without any further ado, here are the Simpsons, and some stuff which…let’s say, isn’t described in the show itself.
10. Smithers’ “Coming Out” is Based on Real Life
There was no real surprise for anyone who’s a fan of the show that Smithers, Mr. Burns’ loyal assistant/yes-man/servant, is gay. But up until this year, the show never truly “said it out loud.” During the 17th episode of the 27th season, called “The Burns Cage,” the show officially gave its audience this particular confirmation. Mr. Smithers finally accepts the fact that the love he has for his boss will never be reciprocated, and Homer even helps him on his search for true love.
What’s less obvious and less known about this is that the writer of the episode, Rob LaZebnik, said the episode was inspired by his own gay son. When Johnny LaZebnik, a teenager, came out of the closet and admitted to his own sexual preferences in front of his family, his father was very accepting and loving. “I am a Midwestern guy, so I don’t tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve,” the elder LaZebnik told the New York Post. “But I thought, ‘What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?'” His son had this to say about the matter: “The revelation that my father loves me is not much of a revelation, thankfully. He’s unbelievably accepting. We’re as close as a straight dad and a gay son could be.”
9. Lisa Can Predict the Super Bowl
There’s somewhat of an unspoken tradition within The Simpsons, started way back in 1992, where Lisa predicts the next champion of the Super Bowl in real life. It all started with “Lisa the Greek,” the 49th episode of the show, where Homer tricks his eldest daughter into helping him gamble on football. When she finds out, she makes a bet where the winner of the Super Bowl will be the Washington Redskins, if she is to love him, or the Buffalo Bills, if she doesn’t. When the show premiered, just before the Super Bowl, those two teams were actually squaring off in Superbowl XXVI, and Washington won by 37-24.
Over the following three years, the producers made it a tradition to air the episode just before the Super Bowl and alter the dialogue to fit the two teams playing that year. According to the DVD commentary, Lisa accurately picked the winning team every single year.
8. Bart’s Prank Calls to Moe Really Happened
The more we delve into The Simpsons, the more we realize just how “real” the show is. Another fact based more on reality than anything else are the prank calls Bart makes to Moe’s bar, just so he can have a laugh at how its grumpy (psychotic?) owner reacts. These calls are loosely based on the Tube Bar prank calls which actually happened back in the ’70s. Two young men by the names of John Elmo and Jim Davidson came up with the idea one day while passing the Tube Bar in New Jersey, and noticed the owner, heavyweight boxer Louis “Red” Deutsch, beating one of his customers for not drinking fast enough.
Known for his easily-ruffled temper, the two boys would often call up his bar and ask Louis Deutsch if they could speak to a fictitiously named customer. These names were mostly pun-based, like “Pepe Roni” (pepperoni), “Al Coholic” (alcoholic), or a few…oh, let’s say, more “colorful” names starting with the first name Mike. Most of the time Deutsch would call out the names, but sometimes he would catch on and respond with extreme hostility, shouting mostly profanity, with obscene sexual references.
7. Bush Hoped Americans Wouldn’t Emulate the Simpsons
In 1992, while still in office, former US president George H.W. Bush gave a speech in which he said, “We are going to keep on trying to … make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.” As a response, the show came out with a segment for the next season in which Bart said, “Hey, we’re just like the Waltons. We’re praying for an end to the Depression, too.” They also came out with a later episode in which the Bushes move to Springfield.
But this is not the only time the Bushes came into contact with the Simpsons. Back in 1990, two years before the President made his speech, his wife and first lady, Barbara Bush, was quoted in People magazine as saying The Simpsons was “the dumbest thing [she] had ever seen.” Not long after, she received a polite reply in the form of a letter from none other than Marge Simpson. This, in turn, was followed by Barbara Bush’s own apologetic reply. Unfortunately their communications stopped there and it’s quite safe to say that they didn’t become actual pen-pals.
6. Where is Springfield, Really?
Springfield is a fairly common town name throughout the US, so which one is it, actually? This question is somewhat difficult to answer and has been boggling people’s minds for a long while. In an interview, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening said, “I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever; I always go, ‘Yup, that’s right.'” This line of thinking makes us believe that Springfield is just a generic place that could easily fit anywhere within the US, as to be more easily relatable to its audience.
Nevertheless, we do know that Groening grew up on Evergreen Terrace (the same street as the Simpsons clan) in Portland, Oregon, and which is just 100 miles north of Springfield, Oregon. “Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show Father Knows Best took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown,” he told Smithsonian magazine.
But in the show itself, a letter to Mr. Burns indicates he lives in Springfield, New Jersey. Another instance has the narrator talking about the Simpsons as “this Kentuckian family…”, but to be fair, the narrator may have been indicating that the family originally came from Kentucky. There is also one opening couch gag where the camera zooms out from the Simpsons’ house, above the town of Springfield, continuing over the entire US and subsequently, the entire universe. Here, the location of Springfield suggests it to be somewhere around the Great Lakes area, probably in Illinois.
5. The First Season is Different From the Rest
Like most other animated shows, especially those with a particularly long run, it’s not surprising to see some differences, especially in design, after a few seasons. In The Simpsons, however, there are several other changes that make the first season different from the rest. For example, Homer’s voice was made higher pitched and less intelligent-sounding than it initially was. Chief Wiggum’s hair color changes from black to blue, not to mention Mr. Smithers, who was initially black, as well as Officer Lou, who had yellow skin at the beginning of season one.
The first episodes also had a somewhat different opening sequence (which you can watch above). While Bart is skateboarding on the street on his way home from school, we don’t see any of the recognizable characters we’re used to in the later episodes. We instead see a bunch of people running after a bus. Lisa is seen riding her bike, overburdened with school books, and then parking it, just before Homer’s car pulls into the driveway. The rest is similar to how it is today, with the exception of the frequent couch gag variables, of course.
4. Marge Has Bunny Ears
The reason for Marge’s long, cylindrical-shaped hairdo has nothing to do with the style women were wearing during the late 1980s, because they werent, for the most part. Admittedly, Matt Groening’s mother Margaret did wear it during the 1960s, and she is in fact the inspiration for Marge. But the real reason for why Marge is wearing that style is quite strange. From the very beginning, Matt Groening decided to reveal in the very last episode of the show, whenever it may be, that Marge actually had bunny ears underneath her blue hair.
This idea came as a shock to the other writers and co-creators of the show. In fact, co-creator Sam Simon got really angry and managed to convince Groening that this was a stupid idea, and that they would not be using it. Nevertheless, in the Simpsons Arcade Game, Groening did manage to have it his own way after all, and Marge was given large bunny ears. The reasoning behind Matt Groening’s original idea is still a mystery. Incidentally, considering Marge “posed” for Playboy (yes, there was an actual, real-life issue in which Marge appeared nude, around the time of The Simpsons Movie) and could now be considered a Playboy Bunny, it seems almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. The Most Guest Stars…Ever
While the show holds the Guinness World Record for the longest running, primetime TV animated series, it also holds the record for the most guest stars to appear in the show with over 600. Among them are Stephen Hawking, Jose Canseco, Jon Stewart, and Katy Perry. Michael Jackson also made an appearance in an episode, portraying a mental patient who believed he was…Michael Jackson. In the episode credits, however, the voice is credited as John Jay Smith.
Three of the Beatles have also appeared in the show: George Harrison (“Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”), Ringo Starr (“Brush With Greatness”), and Paul McCartney (“Lisa the Vegetarian”). There has even been an entire episode dedicated to the passing of the late George Harrison. Since John Lennon passed away long before the show even premiered, his song “Mother” was used in an episode, meaning in a sense that all of the Beatles had their voices heard within the Simpsons.
2. Who is Maggie?
Unlike the other characters in the show, which all have their respective actors voicing them throughout the many seasons, Maggie Simpson was played by anyone who was willing. Most of the female voices in the show have had a go at the spike-headed baby, creating her cute grunts and babblings, and on occasion, even delivering some lines in her dreams, or other fantasies. In the beginning of the show, most of her squeaks and cries were done by Yeardley Smith, but in later seasons, this “arduous” task fell mostly on Nancy Cartwright, who is also the voice behind Bart, Nelson, Ralph Wiggum, Todd Flanders, and a few others, on occasion.
In some special instances, however, guest stars have even been brought in to voice the awesome role of Maggie Simpson. Her first ever word was actually spoken by Elizabeth Taylor, in the episode “Lisa’s First Word.” Even though the word was simply “Daddy,” Taylor had to record the word numerous times before the producers were satisfied. Jodie Foster voiced a Howard Roark-inspired Maggie, who rallied babies in yet another daycare escape. And let’s not forget the James Earl Jones version of Maggie in the “Treehouse of Horror V” episode. But the most important Maggie role is actually played by Matt Groening himself, who’s the source for the ever present pacifier sucking.
1. Best and Worst Episodes
Like with every other show out there, there are good episodes, and not so good episodes. The season two premiere episode, called “Bart Gets An F,” was a bit controversial, to say the least. It was the first episode in the series to focus mainly on Bart (the most popular character at the time), as opposed to Homer and the family as a whole. This was coupled with putting the show up against The Bill Cosby Show, back before people realized how creepy and awful its star was. Nevertheless, these two gambles paid off in the end and the episode brought in the best Nielsen ratings the show has ever seen. The episode has quite an interesting moral: even if you try your hardest, you’re not guaranteed to succeed. This is still the highest viewed episode to date.
On the other end of the popularity spectrum is “The Great Simpsina,” which aired during the 22nd season of the show. The episode revolves around Lisa being a great magician, which sounds fine and all but was hurt by a couple things, including the fact that Lisa isn’t exactly the most popular character on the series. She’s great, for sure, but she’s pretty far down the cast “depth chart,” so to speak, for carrying her own episodes. But at the end of the day, the real reason why this was the least viewed episode has to do more with the fact that it appeared far later that “Bart Gets An F,” of course, and because the entire show itself has been losing its popularity as a whole as the years have gone on.