The Simpsons: A Complete Guide To Our Favorite Family
Everything has it’s time; the often short period where you can say a particular movie, video game, toy… – the list is endless – is either so great or relevant that it fits neatly within the much wider, global context. Usually, this period is brief, but this shortfall is typically more than made up for in the quality of the item in particular. The Simpsons was once such a T.V. show. For a period during the mid to late 90‘s, the writing staff succeeded in creating a show that brilliantly satirised popular culture; better still, enjoyable escapades for the folks in Springfield would always be assured, supported often by a broad array of celebrity voice talents. Nowadays, the arrival of yet another new episode of The Simpsons is proving more and more that this once brilliant animation’s time in the sun is long gone. To quote the Thick of It character Steve Fleming, ‘It’s just not buttering any parsnips anymore!’. The sooner the series bows out, the better, as with each new season is going to make it difficult for this end to appear at all graceful.
Tie-in’s were always going to be a foregone conclusion with a franchise as popular as The Simpsons – toys, comics, even atrocious sounding songs; The Simpsons seems to be particularly potent in attracting a large array of assorted consumer tat. The only thing I have consistently enjoyed amongst these is the comics, and these rather ace (but dubiously made) slippers. There were also some other literature-based Simpsons tie-ins, such as Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life, which would make for excellent toilet reading. Another one of was the The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to our Favorite Family, which probably remains to this day the most comprehensive companion for any T.V. show in history.
The book is essentially an episode guide for the first eight seasons of The Simpsons, – including the Tracey Ullman shorts – providing fans with a handy reference point for every episode during the show’s initial 8 year run. There is enough detail in the book to make any Wikipedia editor out there smile. It’s all here – every storyline, every character, every D’oh! – all laid in chronological order, season by season. Readers will happily go away with a much more thorough knowledge of their favourite Simpsons episode, as well as some insight into some of the hidden jokes. As a show that is very much contemporaneous in its humour, a quick flick through this book helps provide those who are watching the older episodes for the first time with the necessary knowledge to see them chortling abundantly.
Between each Season, there are a few bonus sections setting out things such as a complete catalogue of Krusty the Klown’s merchandise, the synopsis of every Itchy and Scratchy Episode and a list of every coach gag from every episode. Although placed understandably as an effective ‘break’ between each season, I get the impression that some of the details in these short sections – such as the couch gags, for example, – could have been placed under each individual episode, as opposed to being cast to their own individual section.
For a book that also purports to be the “complete’ guide to the series, the level of detail on what may the most least known and obscure part of Simpson history is somewhat meagre; I am, of course, referring to the early shorts. A paltry two pages is all that is granted to them, with only a basic synopsis of each shorts story and a brief quote or moment of notability. This is somewhat frustrating, given that the vast majority of Simpson fans across the world were not able to – and probably never will – get an opportunity to view them originally. There is also a general impression that the books level of comprehensiveness does not extend to ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of the shows creation. Sure, we get to know who wrote each episode, and who voices the many myriad of different characters, but it would have been nice to at least gain a sneak-peak into the making of an individual episode, how the writing process works…you get the picture.
The book must have been popular enough when it was released as a number of sequels (if they could be called that) were published, covering seasons 9 and onwards. Only a series that has been as popular and influential as The Simpsons could command such an impressive publication pedigree. I get the feeling though that the book is representative of what is now a by-gone era. In the time before lightning fast internet connections and the instantaneous supply and demand of facts, the only way that fans of a T.V. show, band or any other pop-culture item could learn more about their obsession is through books such as these. Now, by simply typing an individual episode of The Simpsons into Wikipedia, nearly all the facts (and then some) of that episode that can be found in the Complete Guide can be displayed in front of you – free of charge. The rather obvious money-swindling purpose of the book put aside for the moment, it is still nice to have a physical copy of such information; a copy that is well-presented, detailed and very much an essential parts of any die-hard Simpsons fan collection.
(Image courtesy of mycomicshop.com)