If I’m being honest, “The Simpsons” isn’t one of the few remaining low-definition outliers that I was particularly concerned about. I’m much more frustrated when I find myself watching a college basketball game on ESPN and it ends up being low-def or when “America’s Next Top Model” continues not to let me examine every pore on the fierce runway-strutters’ faces.
But starting on Sunday (Feb. 15 night) FOX’s long-running animated classic moves into high-def.
[More after the bump…]
The fanboy sentiment that “The Simpsons” hasn’t been funny in five (10? 15?) years is, of course, nonsense. A more accurate assessment would be that “The Simpsons” hasn’t been consistent for some time, that the ratio of quality episodes to 30-minute duds may have swayed slightly in the direction of the less funny episodes. But as long as the show can occasionally give me a “The Burns and the Bees” or “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind” or the first half of “Husbands and Knives,” I’m going to stick around.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that Sunday’s episode, “Take My Life, Please” is a new classic. In the episode, Homer discovers that the race for class president his senior year may have been fixed and, thanks to oddball magic I’d rather not spoil for you, he gets to see how his life would have been different if he’d been able to hold elected office.
“Take My Life, Please” is both an alternative future/present episode (the show has done a couple of those), plus a flashback episode. In the process of re-envisioning Homer and Marge’s time in high school, the show scraps all of the revisionist history that was created for last season’s “The ’90s Show,” an episode that, at least in theory, was supposed to have corrected the show’s dated continuity.
Plus, building a show around a stolen election, complete with an appearance (but not, I don’t believe a vocal cameo) by Al Gore, seems awfully dated, even for a show that doesn’t pride itself on the swift turnaround of a “South Park” or “Family Guy.”
But anybody who was ever a fan of the show should tune in for the first two minutes, because the shift to HD mandated a new credit sequence.
Now most shows have to periodically change their credits just as a matter of necessity. Stars come and stars go. People get new haircuts. If you’re lucky to stay on long enough, fashions change and you don’t want your 1995 cast of “Beverly Hills, 90210” to be starting every episode looking like the 1991 cast of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
“The Simpsons” has never had that problem and the show’s credits have remained the same for 19-plus years, spiced up by new chalkboard quotes and couch gags. The idea of changing those credits, with their whiz-bang introduction to Springfield and several of its denizens, might seem almost blasphemous.
Fortunately, the new HD credits introduced on Sunday night’s episode are properly reverential to the original “Simpsons” credits. They still begin with a zoom in on Bart, doing his after school penance. They still flash through Lisa at band rehearsal, Homer extricating himself from a day’s labor and Marge and Lisa doing the grocery shopping, all eventually converging on the family’s living room and a seat in front of the television. In an age in which families rarely dine together in any form, credit to Marge for mandating that her clan at least eat simultaneously and with a certain propinquity.
All the new main titles do is acknowledge that the universe of “The Simpsons” has expanded over the years. Characters who were less appreciated when the show began (didn’t even exist yet) finally get their fleeting seconds of fame. There are a dozen new sight gags, including acknowledgement of inflation. Plus, this week’s credits end with a pretty great couch gag.
To my mind, it feels right.
If you don’t feel like watching tonight’s episode or if you don’t feel like waiting or if you don’t have HD and you don’t figure it will make any difference…
See? Still funny.
What do you think of the new titles?
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