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Simpsons turn 16, but don’t age at all

January 22 2003 at 09:26AM By David Bauder

New York – Perpetual 10-year-old Bart, his clueless dad Homer and the rest of the Simpsons clan are about to go into the TV history books.

United States broadcaster Fox recently announced a deal to renew the cartoon for two more seasons, taking it at least into 2005 – its 16th year. That will push The Simpsons past The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, which aired on American TV from 1952 to 1966, as the all-time longest-running sitcom in the US.

The Simpsons premiered as a series on December 17, 1989, after the animated characters were first introduced on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1988.

‘It continues to mock the culture and has a very loyal audience’
“Isn’t that extraordinary?” said

Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman. “It says something about the quality control on a show that seems to be able to garner a new generation of fans every few years while still maintaining the core audience.”

Al Jean, one of the show’s executive producers, said he can’t wait for the show to hit its 16th year. “At that point we’ll be old enough to drive,” he said.

While following the lives of the mythical family from Springfield, The Simpsons has always been bitingly funny about the world around it. Sometimes the show has to be watched twice to grab all the subtle jokes that come flying by.

“It’s a very well-written show – sharp and satirical,” said Tim Brooks, TV historian and author of The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Television Shows. “It started off as the Bart Simpson show and it has gone off in a lot of different directions. It continues to mock the culture and has a very loyal audience.”

It avoids the pitfalls of many comedies that seem trapped in the time they started, he said.

As cartoon characters, Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa never grow old and, unlike live actors, can’t hold out for more money (although there was a contract dispute a few years ago with the people who provided their voices).

There were no such problems this time. Few people were even aware of renewal negotiations.

“There was a general sense in the creative part of the group that things were chugging along creatively,” Berman said. “You don’t have the drama that you’ve had with other programmes.

The show averaged 14,3-million US viewers this season, according to Nielsen Media Research. Of the top 20 scripted shows from last season, The Simpsons is one of only three with more viewers this season. And it was nominated for its first Golden Globe award, though it didn’t win.

Jean, who started writing for the show in its first year, said there was never any intent to make the characters age. “As they didn’t, it just seemed all the wiser,” he said.

The Simpsons has to beat Gunsmoke, which ran from 1955 to 1975, to become the longest-running scripted show ever in the US.

The record for the longest-running prime-time show of any kind in the US seems safe. It’s 60 Minutes, which went on the air in 1968 and is still ticking. However, Britain’s TV soap opera Coronation Street has been running for 42 years, since debutng in 1960. – Sapa-AP