Monday, March 18, 2013

SCIENCE IS SEEKING A CURE FOR THIRST AND I HAPPEN TO BE THE GUINEA PIG:  Whether you accept MZS's resolution of the Vulture Sitcom Bracketology depends on whether you consider The Simpsons to be a sitcom in the first place. If you do, and if cultural impact is part of your criteria, that pretty much ends the inquiry, and I rather like Seitz's analogy that we don't discount the overall greatness of the Rollling Stones just because they haven't been brilliant for the past few decades.

If like me, however, you see animation as liberating The Simpsons to do things with narrative, scope, and pace which go way beyond what filmed programming could do, such that it's comparing apples with MacBooks to put it in a competition with Cheers, Roseanne, and The Cosby Show, then not only did Seitz get it wrong but he answered a question which should not have been asked. Especially, as Linda Holmes notes, when ubiquity is used as a metric for quality, and The Simpsons are being compared to shows which didn't have Usenet/WWW vehicles to drive discussion and foster that ubiquity. (And there is no Cheers or Cosby equivalent to Songs in the Key of Springfield.) Moreover, looking at things that way denies the singular talents of the shows' stars -- you couldn't reproduce The Cosby Show because there's only one Bill Cosby.

We don't knock George Washington's skills as a general just because he didn't use tanks and bombers. Same should apply here; Cheers 4ever.


  1. Here's Linda's longer post about the Simpsons vs. Cheers:

    Also, my vote goes to Cheers. Always.

  2. A lesson the sci-fi blogs learned when doing similar things: leave out the Whedonverse. It skews all the results. I'd argue The Simpsons are the equivalent here.

    Either way, there are only two animated series in there. I'd argue neither should've been included. They're outliers.

  3. Someone needs to teach the people at NY Mag how seeding works with a bracket. Also, how is Parks and Rec not on there but Community is? (Insert something about Community pushing barriers while not acknowledging which was the better show over a longer time.) And 30 Rock loses to SATC? Yikes, you guys. Yikes.

  4. sconstant5:27 PM

    Also: Public radio bracketology:

  5. Because Community has been consistently better than Parks and Rec. (Especially not having P&R's dismal first season.)

  6. Well, Community is certainly making up with it with its unwatchable fourth season. By my count, Parks has had 78 non-first season episodes, most have which have been good-to-great with a few clunkers. Community has had 71, with some really great episodes and more clunkers.

    If you wanted to go to the critics, I'm sure we could both find plenty of support, but just turning to people who A) I know do end-of-year lists B) This blog has referenced before/respects C) Are easily searchable, here are some year-end rankings:

    2012: James Poniewozik had Parks number one, Community not in top 10. Alan Sepinwall had Parks number three, Community not in top 10. AV Club (which moonlights as a Community fan site) had Parks 5th, Community 8th.

    2011: JP had Parks 2nd, Community 8th. AS had Parks 1st, Community 5th. AVC had Parks 2nd, Community 4th.

    2010: JP had Parks 3rd, Community not in top 10. AS had Parks 4th, Community 5th. AVC had Parks 3rd, Community 2nd.

    So, no, I don't think it's been consistently better than Parks.

  7. Jenn.8:46 PM

    This was the reason given for excluding P&R:

    Parks and Recreation: It’s certainly the most endearing sitcom currently on TV, with an irresistible cast with whom we want to spend every Thursday night. As it is the only one of the Big Four of NBC’s recent Must-See comedy era to not make the list, excluding it feels like a slap across dear Leslie Knope’s face — and yet, in the end, what makes it unique now is that it recalls a time when comedies could be smart and sweet, so it is at heart a throwback.

    When I read that, I pretty much dismissed the whole exercise. Something can be the best and still be "smart and sweet." Excluding the first season (which was awful, but then again, so was Seinfeld's and The Office's), it has been consistently strong, and manages to use small town government as a unique and interesting backdrop.

  8. Ah well, I do. Community has had fewer clunkers overall.

  9. Sheila10:51 PM

    This is awesome - thanks for linking! My favorite part is reading the ridiculous over-reactions in the comments from people who take their public radio very seriously.