Let's talk about "The Simpsons." See, I've been watching that yellow, mostly overweight family since 1989, when I was eight years old and the "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells" gag from the first episode resonated with me because I'd just sang it a week before. Ah, the things that are funny when you're eight. (Also hilarious in 1989: armpit fart noises, men getting kicked in the groin, the word "poppycock." Still funny to Brendan Frasier in 2006: all those things. Except "poppycock," which he deems "too cerebral.")
I don't think anything else has had a more profound effect on what I think is funny than "The Simpsons." After all, I've been watching it for 17 years (17 years and one day, to be precise). I remember almost going palsy with glee when they started syndication. I had Simpsons video games, Simpsons books, and Simpsons shirts made by slave-wage-earning pre-teens in Indo-China. And I'm not even close to the most rabid fan I know. I have a roommate who can call an episode based on half a joke, recites memorable quotes in every other conversation, and shaved his head a-la Homer for Halloween (with his girlfriend sporting a full-on, two-foot blue-cotton-ball Marge-wig no less). And you know what? I still sit down every Sunday at 8. "The Simpsons" are just what I do every Sunday. It's like church except, well, far superior. Added bonus: not having to drink the body of Christ after some guy with herpes sores.
But every once in a while, "The Simpsons" dissapoints. Last night was one of these nights, one of those nights when the show's all over the place and they're borrowing jokes from the phenomenally-inferior "Family Guy" and it doesn't seem like the writers have their hearts in it. But, of course, I watched. I watched in the way a parent might watch his kid foul up at his piano recital by concluding a Chopin piece with that knuckles song on all the black keys. I watched, recoiled in vicarious embarrassment, but never lost faith. Because, like I said, nothing has ever had a more profound effect on my sense of humor than "The Simpsons." If it wasn't for that show, I might have ended up watching T.G.I.F., shamefully laughing at Urkel or the Olson twins before they devolped eating disorders that were barely less funny than the show they were on. I could have ended up watching "Major Dad" or "Mad About You" or "Will & Grace," which are all about as funny as watching your dog get put to sleep.
So I'm taking today to remind myself of that. They'd need roughly 15 years of crappy episodes for me to lose my faith. Or if they allow Paul Reiser to start writing. Either or. Because, hey, if it wasn't for the Simpsons and Alex Trebeck, I wouldn't even have a TV. Which, come to think of it, might not be a good thing. Perhaps I should reevaluate this whole thing...