30 years ago today a crude, rude, funny, endearing, unusual, primary-colored family was unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
Everyone knows the story by now. Here are the bullet points:
- James L. Brooks wants to animate Matt Groening’s newspaper comic strip “Life in Hell” and put one-minute versions of the cartoon on his FOX show, “The Tracey Ullman Show” as bumpers leading into and out of commercial breaks
- Matt Groening decides NOT to share control or ownership of “Life in Hell” with FOX and virtually overnight creates an alternative
- The first Simpsons short, “Good Night” airs on “The Tracey Ullman Show” on April 19, 1987
- Before long, the popularity of the shorts begins to eclipse the popularity of “The Tracey Ullman Show”
- FOX decides to cancel “The Tracey Ullman Show” but spins off the cartoon shorts into their own half-hour animated series, the first on network television since the 1970s – “The Simpsons” series debuts on December 17, 1989
- The rest, as they say, is history
I had been a full-time music editor for just over a year when the first short aired. I was working on a new TV series at the time titled “Sidekicks” and was thrilled to be working at my new job in a profession I had loved and dreamed about being part of.
I was also a fan of “The Tracey Ullman Show”. It was funny, inventive, smart, a quasi-variety show with sketch comedy, musical numbers, recurring characters – similar in many ways to the great “Carol Burnett Show” but more modern and edgy. And I really enjoyed the cartoon bumpers. I’ll admit, the crudeness of the animation and the character design was a bit off-putting at first but, as always, great writing will always win an audience over and it won me over big time.
If you want to know more about how I managed the incredible good fortune of being hired to work on this incredible piece of television and cultural history, I cover it in four blog posts from a few years back. If you’re interested (and have about 20 minutes to read them) check them out here: click here for part 1, click here for part 2, click here for part 3, and click here for part 4.
As for today, it’s an amazing, probably-never-to-be-repeated feat to celebrate 30 years of a TV cartoon. There are no words to describe the feeling to be part of show that has touched so many lives, elicited so many laughs, started so many arguments over its appropriateness, inspired so many memes, and has brought together people from around the world with a universal shout in the night: “D’oh!”
But, today is also another work day in Springfield. As I write this there are 3 episodes to complete before season 28 comes to end in May, there are already 4 episodes in the pipeline in various stages of writing/re-writing/animating/pre-recording music for season 29.
My plate is full. So is my heart for all the love these characters have received for 30 years and for the opportunity to support my family doing something I love so much. I’ve often said I’m the luckiest music editor in Hollywood – not just because I’ve been employed on ONE SHOW for 28+ years, but because I get to laugh, listen to great music, interact with our brilliant cast, share ideas with our writers and producers, and be part of television history. Sure, like with any family, we have our down moments and disagreements, but it’s all been so, SO worth it.
Happy Birthday Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Matt.