It Keeps Going, and Going, and Going...
The Simpsons has been on the air for 24 YEARS, and with good reason. Before Matt Groening took network television by storm, airing an animated show for adults was not recommended, especially in a prime-time slot on a network as reputable as FOX. Now the concept is De Riguer for most networks, and the series itself has been highly influential in the realms of animation, sitcoms, and comedy in general. This show brought cartoons back into the spotlight, and continues to lampoon American pop culture to this day.
But can a show really run for longer than the lifespan of most viewers of this blog, still crank out joke after joke, and stay relevant to the general American populace? And can there be a drinking game that will accurately encompass 24 years of television? We sat down to find out.
"Driiiinkiiiiing Gaaaaaames": The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops. That's every time someone says "Simpson" or "Simpsons"
2. Drink for Daddy Issues
3. Drink when they drink.
4. Drink when someone laughs at another's expense.
5. Drink for celebrity cameos. That's real world celebrities.
6. Drink when someone eats something disgusting. Homer at one point in "To Surveill with Love" eats a piece of steak that he grilled by strapping it to his feet and walking on hot coals. That's the level of disgusting I'm talking about.
7. Pick a side character. Drink when they appear in an episode. Your choices are limitless.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink when someone bursts into song.
2. Drink when someone causes another pain.
3. Drink for Springfield specific celebrity cameos. Kent Brockman, Duffman, Krusty the Klown...and a bunch more.
4. Drink when someone screams. There are specific Simpson screams. You'll know what they are.
5. Drink when someone's body does something it shouldn't.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for attempted murder. The attempt must be intentional.
2. Drink when an ethnicity is mocked. Twice if the ethnicity is German.
3. Drink for references to Jesus. He never actually shows up in this show, but the characters sure talk about him a lot.
4. Drink when someone misspells or mispronounces a word.
5. Drink when an authority figure does something immoral or incompetent.
Seb: "Chief Wiggum" (Medium)
Pooh Daddy: "Principal Skinner" (Medium)
Paul, a.k.a "Big Moose": "Itchy" (Medium)
Shirley Whiskas: "Disco Stu" (Hard)
You may have realized this already, but what lies ahead is madness. Come follow us in our descent.
What 24 Years can Do
For example, The Simpsons has one of the most iconic opening title sequences in television history. It's the same every time, except for the "Couch gags" which are different in every episode. However, during the past few years, the show has begun a new trend. Here's an example: the opening sequence to Episode 2120, "To Surveill with Love".
First of all, this made our game much harder: one drink for "bursting into song", a drink for every character we picked who shows up in the opening, a couple drinks for violence, and all the celebrities present (That's Mike Tyson hoisting up the left side of the Simpson couch)...that cranked up our drink total.
Secondly, this opening dates the episode. The opening is so classic because the jokes are funny no matter when you're watching it. It's 2013 now, and "Tick Tock" has long since been off the radio (replaced by "Die Young", for future historians). There's some funny visual gags ("Boys blowing up our phones" becomes literal. Heehee), but otherwise, it's a straight-up pop culture reference, which rarely tread new ground in terms of comedy.
Finally, this opening illustrates the major change that came about as The Simpsons continues. In early seasons, even as late as Season 10, the plots are generally character driven. The plots resolve when characters deal with each other and the inevitable consequences of their actions. Later seasons usually are a bit more outlandish; in "Kill the Alligator and Run", which is episode 1105, the plot revolves around the family taking refuge in the deep south after accidentally killing the animal star of one of Florida's spring break parties. "To Surveill with Love" deals with a Big Brother type organization eventually helmed by Ned Flanders, and serves more as a statement against privacy invasion than any sort of situational comedy.
Also, celebrity cameos become much more frequent (drink!). While before, celebrities would merely voice guest characters (like Michelle Pfeifer in episode 0509 "The Last Temptation of Homer Simpson"), in later seasons they would star as caricatures of themselves (Like Elton John in episode 1014, "I'm with Cupid"). "People volunteer to be on The Simpsons," Paul commented, noting that in South Park, Trey and Matt usually impersonated famous people while The Simpsons get the real deal.
Satire has always been part of The Simpsons' lifeblood, but that's not what it is at its core, and that's not what made the show successful. What brought the show to great heights was a recipe equal parts observational comedy and straight slapstick. That's also what led to our downfall.
I was confused. How could she know already? We'd just started. Turns out Shirley was all too correct.
Here's the problem with the game as it currently stands: the rules don't necessarily happen frequently, but when they do happen they usually invite multiple drinks. For example, when somebody hurts another, this is usually followed by one or more people laughing at that act of violence. Also, the first violent act is usually followed at least twice within a few minutes by a repeat punch, or slap, or whip, or electroshock, or strangle (these all happened during the course of the night).
"Stop writing the rules while you're watching the show, Krissy!" The Bishop commanded. I admit, I was a little more academic while creating this game than I usually am. I love The Simpsons, and leaped at the excuse to watch as many episodes as I could, so I watched five on my own and created the rules by cherry-picking the most frequent tropes I saw. I thought I'd added enough weak rules to each difficulty level to dilute the strength of the game.
I was wrong. Medium and Hard mode got their asses handed to them during this game. Easy mode didn't quite catch up until the basic rules got put into effect in the later two episodes; in episode 1710 "Homer's Paternity Coot," the entire EPISODE involves around the premise that Abe might not be Homer's real father (drinkdrinkdrink!). But the violence, screaming, singing, and generally immoral behavior was rampant throughout all the episodes (when Sandy drank for Mr. Burns opening a trapdoor under one of his subordinates, I reconsidered the meaning of the words "authority figure"). The difficulty of this game didn't change based on which season we were watching, and we were never spared.
"Krissy, I'm going to start a mutiny," Seb declared at one point. That never happened; the great thing about leading a drinking game is that if it goes wrong, everyone's too tired to take action against you.
It all started when Pooh Daddy looked longingly at the screen as Homer ate a donut. "Goddammit, now all I want is donuts," he said.
Others murmured assent. We picked up a buttload of donuts at [name of donut supplier censored for our protection] and began to chow down. We also picked up loaded fries and bacon burgers at [name of delicious fast food corporation here].
During "I'm with Cupid," Homer goes to talk to Apu at the Quick-e-Mart about his wife Manjula. "There's a slurpee machine," said Pooh Daddy. "I want a slurpee."
"Pooh Daddy, you're very easily suggestible," said Seb.
Then Pooh Daddy, let the record show, ate six donuts. By himself. I guess we all have a little Homer Simpson in us.
The Springfield Community
Little by little, their lives change. Even though the characters don't age in years, they accumulate experiences. Apu gets married and eventually has several children. Ned's wife tragically dies. Milhouse's parents get divorced. SEVERAL people come out of the closet in that one episode. The 24 seasons of this show detail these little and big changes with care and manage to stay true to the characters and their personalities, however thin they may be. It's almost like an absurdist, animated version of "Our Town". We keep watching for those little moments of insight, for Maggie saying her first word, for Homer deciding to stay with his wife instead of sleeping with his hot co-worker, for Bart empathizing even a little bit with the bullied underclass at his school.
It doesn't hurt that the show throws the wildest parties of all time.
Switch up the Medium and Hard Mode rules.
Mostly, move the "harm to another" rule to Hard mode, and make that the only rule. Delete whatever else you'd like from those two levels, the other rules didn't make much of a difference, but honestly you could drink for violence alone and be totally fine.
Only drink for Celebrity Cameos when there's actually a celebrity on screen.
We drank whenever there was any whiff of a star in an episode, even if it was just someone's voice. Bad idea. Save your liquor for the real thing, folks.
Get rid of the "Title Drop" rule.
I know it's sad, but certain characters (Mr. Burns) only call Homer "Simpson." And there are at least five episodes that use that fact as a plot point. I don't want any of you to experience the shit show that episode would be.
And that concludes our television month! To tell you the truth, I've missed watching movies. And we're continuing next week with a classic.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). Video footage is taken by Pooh Daddy (Vincent Graham) and edited by Seb (Amy Yourd). All "Simpsons" images are owned by 20th Century Fox