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It remains a television institution, but is the thrill gone on this 15th go-round of our fair series....?
Fox / 484 Minutes / 2003-2004 / Unrated / Street Date: December 4, 2012
Around the eighth season of The Simpsons I remember thinking that the show was losing its bite. Lisa's Date With Density (in which she gets her first kiss . . . from bully Nelson Muntz), Hurricane Neddy (when Ned Flanders’ house is destroyed and the townspeople rebuild it), and El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer (where Homer hallucinates after eating chili) were, you know, fine. But that's the thing: until that point, the show was rarely fine - episodes were nearly always great.
Since then, The Simpsons has been running on fumes. Seasons that weren’t so funny at the time now seem classic compared to the truly hit and miss episodes we’ve been treated to since the show went on auto-pilot. There’s a reason for this. Originally, the show’s writing staff was comprised of those who grew up on Monty Python, National Lampoon, and other counterculture artifacts. With the exception of some old-timers, the current Simpsons writing staff consists of writers who grew up on The Simpsons. That’s an entirely different frame of reference and even though it seems beneficial to the show, it’s really not.
There isn't a full-tilt classic on this Fifteenth Season collection - even the typically reliable Treehouse of Horror episode is lackluster - but The Simpsons at its most mediocre is nevertheless not without its occasional charms. The magic may be 95% gone - even Comic Book Guy would attest to this - but The Simpsons working on 5% capacity is still funny enough to keep nerds like myself tuning in.