Lisa the Skeptic

"Lisa the Skeptic" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 23, 1997. On an archaeological dig with her class, Lisa discovers a skeleton that resembles an angel. All of the townspeople believe that the skeleton actually came from an angel, but skeptical Lisa attempts to persuade them that there must be a rational scientific explanation. The episode's writer, David X. Cohen, developed the idea after visiting the American Museum of Natural History, and decided to loosely parallel themes from the Scopes Monkey Trial. The episode also makes allusions to actual hoaxes, such as the Cardiff Giant.

It has been discussed in the context of ontology, existentialism, and skepticism; it has also been used in Christian religious education classes to initiate discussion about angels, skepticism, science, and faith. The episode received generally positive reviews.

"Lisa the Skeptic"
The Simpsons episode
The Simpsons 5F05
The townspeople see the "angel" "come to life".
Episode no.Season 9
Episode 8
Directed byNeil Affleck
Written byDavid X. Cohen
Production code5F05
Original air dateNovember 23, 1997[1]
Guest appearance(s)

Stephen Jay Gould as himself
Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz

Episode features
Chalkboard gag"I will not tease fatty"
Couch gagThe living room is a sauna, with three men in towels relaxing. The Simpsons (also in towels) arrive, but leave sheepishly as the three men glare at them.
CommentaryMatt Groening
Mike Scully
David X. Cohen
George Meyer
Yeardley Smith
Pete Michels

Plot

Homer attempts to claim a motorboat from a "police raffle" that turns out to be a sting operation. While returning home, the family passes a new mall being built on an area where a number of fossils were found. Lisa protests and the management allows Springfield Elementary to conduct an archaeological survey. During the excavations, Lisa finds a human skeleton with wings. Springfield's residents are convinced it is the remains of an angel, and Homer cashes in by moving the skeleton into the family's garage, charging visitors to see it.

Lisa remains skeptical and asks scientist Dr. Stephen Jay Gould to test a sample of the skeleton. When Dr. Gould appears at the Simpson house the next day to tell Lisa that the tests were inconclusive, Lisa goes on television to compare the belief in angels to the belief in fictional things, such as leprechauns. In response, Springfield's religious zealots go on a rampage to destroy all scientific institutions. Appalled with the violence, Lisa goes into the garage to destroy the skeleton, but finds that it has disappeared. The mob soon converges on the Simpson household and Lisa is arrested and put on trial for destroying the skeleton.

Before the trial even begins, the skeleton is seen outside the courtroom. Everyone rushes to it to see a foreboding message added to the skeleton warning that "The End" will come at sundown. Sunset approaches and the citizens gather around the skeleton, but nothing happens. As Lisa reprimands them, a booming voice from the skeleton silences her and announces "The End... of high prices!" The skeleton is then hoisted over to the entrance of the new Heavenly Hills Mall. Lisa realizes the whole event was a publicity stunt for the mall, and criticizes management for taking advantage of peoples' beliefs. The bargain-loving public shrugs off the exploitation and goes shopping, and Dr. Gould confesses that he never actually tested the sample. Marge observes that while it was talking, Lisa believed the angel was real. She denies this, but admits she was frightened and thanks her mother for her support.

Production

David X. Cohen by Gage Skidmore 2
David X. Cohen wrote the episode after being inspired by a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.

"Lisa the Skeptic" was written by David X. Cohen, and directed by Neil Affleck.[2] Cohen was inspired to write the episode after a trip to Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History, where he decided to turn the visit into a "business trip", and think of a possible episode connection to the museum.[3] He initially wanted Lisa to find a "missing link" skeleton, and do an episode reminiscent of the Scopes Monkey Trial.[3] Writer George Meyer convinced him instead to have the focus be on an angel skeleton, while keeping an emphasis on the conflict between religion and science.[3] Both Cohen and Meyer acknowledged how silly the "angel skeleton" idea was owing to simple questions raised such as why an angel died and why bones were left behind, but they went forward with the idea anyway.[3]

In an early draft of the script, the skeleton was made of pastry dough baked by the mall's window dresser.[3] Cohen had initially written the Stephen Jay Gould role as a generic scientist or paleontologist, not knowing that they would eventually get Gould. He had taken Gould's Introduction to Paleontology class at Harvard University.[3] The only phrase Gould had objected to in the script was a line that introduced him as the "world's most brilliant paleontologist".[4] His original final line was "I didn't do the test. I had more important work to do", but it was cut because the writers felt it would be funnier to give him a short final line.[3] In an earlier version of the episode, Marge would have ended up apologizing to Lisa for not supporting her, letting the ending be more of a nod to Lisa's correct assumptions all along.[3]

Themes

Author Joley Wood compared "Lisa the Skeptic" to an alternate reality game, in analyzing the effects of watching the television program Lost on contemporary culture and our own perceptions of reality.[5] Dan O'Brien cited the episode in a discussion of ontology, skepticism, and religious faith, in his book An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge.[6] O'Brien leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not Lisa was justified in her skepticism.[6] In The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer, "Lisa the Skeptic" is cited as a prime example of why Lisa is seen as the epitome of a nerd.[7] The book also cited the episode in noting that Lisa is not infallible, for when the Angel appeared to speak at the end of the episode she became as frightened as everyone else.[7] Lisa's frustration with the marketing gimmick used by the mall developers is seen by Turner's Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented Defined a Generation as yet another example of her conflict with corporations throughout the series.[8] Like O'Brien, Turner also analyzed the episode in the context of Lisa's questions about existentialism, self-absorption, and consumption.[8] In The Psychology of the Simpsons: D'oh!, the authors discuss Lisa's level of anger displayed in the episode, noting that in this particular case her anger gave her the wherewithal both to confront social injustice, and keep her mind clear for critical thinking.[9] Mark Demming of Allmovie noted that Lisa symbolically stood for the side of reason, while her mother Marge symbolized belief and spirituality in the episode.[10]

In their 2010 book The Simpsons in the Classroom, Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay note that the episode is one of the best for teachers and professors to use in religion or cultural studies courses, noting the irony that though Lisa is the only skeptic through most of the episode, she is the only one who is offended at the publicity stunt.[11] Parvin's The Gospel According to the Simpsons: Leader's Guide for Group Study is a group study guide companion to Pinsky's The Gospel According to the Simpsons.[12] In the section pertaining to "Lisa the Skeptic", a skeptic is defined as: "a person who doubts, questions, or suspends judgment on ideas generally accepted by others".[12] The study group is asked to debate the episode in the context of skepticism as related to other unexplained phenomena, including UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman, the Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, mediumship, psychics, and fortune-telling.[12] In Pinsky's book itself, he noted that Lisa faced the difficult task of confronting religious hysteria and blind faith, and also attempted to reconcile science within her own belief system.[13] He also wrote that when Lisa asks Stephen Jay Gould to estimate the age of the skeleton, the issue is never raised of why angels or other spiritual entities would even leave skeletons behind in the first place.[13]

Cultural references

The scene in the courtroom where Lisa is put on trial for stealing the skeleton is seen as a reference to the 1920s Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, which dealt with issues of separation of church and state and the debate between creationism and evolution.[13] The publicity stunt created by the mall developers in the episode has been compared to scientific hoaxes such as the Cardiff Giant and the Piltdown Man.[13] When Lisa asks if the townspeople are outraged at the end of the episode for being fooled by a publicity stunt, Chief Wiggum is about to answer her but is distracted when he catches sight of a Pottery Barn in the new Heavenly Hills mall.[8] A shot of the diggers in silhouette against the sunset is modeled after Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).[14]

Reception

In its original broadcast, "Lisa the Skeptic" finished 37th in ratings for the week of November 17–23, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 9.5, equivalent to approximately 9.3 million viewing households. It was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files and King of the Hill.[15]

Donald Liebenson wrote for the Amazon.com movie review that "Bart Sells His Soul" and "Lisa the Skeptic" were among the best episodes of The Simpsons. He also noted, "Without being preachy (or particularly funny), this episode is pretty potent stuff", citing the theme of Apocalypticism towards the end of the episode.[16] In the July 26, 2007 issue of Nature, the scientific journal's editorial staff listed the episode among "The Top Ten science moments in The Simpsons".[17] "Lisa the Skeptic" was utilized in a Salt Lake City Episcopal Church Sunday School class in 2003, to stimulate a discussion among fourteen-year-olds about belief in angels, and the juxtaposition of science and faith.[18] The episode was compared and contrasted with Proverbs 14:15.[18]

The episode is used by the Farmington Trust (UK) for Christian religious education, to teach children about skepticism.[19] The episode is used as a tool, to involve the students in a debate about religion and science, as well as to discuss Lisa's own skepticism, and her respect towards others.[19] A group of The Simpsons enthusiasts at Calvin College have also analyzed the religious and philosophical aspects of the episode, including the issue of faith versus science.[20] The episode has been compared with Gabriel García Márquez's short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and utilized as a teaching tool in a Saugerties, New York grade school class.[21] In an exam on the subject, students were asked to use details from both "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and "Lisa the Skeptic", in order to analyze the quotation "Appearances can be deceiving".[21]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Lisa the Skeptic". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
  2. ^ Alberti, John (2004). Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture. Wayne State University Press. pp. 305, 320. ISBN 978-0-8143-2849-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cohen, David S. (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Skeptic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Skeptic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ Wood, Joley (2006). Living Lost: Why We're All Stuck on the Island. Garrett County Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-891053-02-3.
  6. ^ a b O'Brien, Dan (2006). An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. Polity. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7456-3316-9.
  7. ^ a b Irwin, William; Aeon J. Skoble; Mark T. Conard (2001). The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer. Open Court Publishing. pp. 16, 32, 55, 138, 287. ISBN 978-0-8126-9433-8.
  8. ^ a b c Turner 2005, pp. 172, 227, 267.
  9. ^ Brown, Alan S.; Chris Logan (2006). The Psychology of the Simpsons: D'oh!. BenBella Books, Inc. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-932100-70-9.
  10. ^ Demming, Mark. "The Simpsons: Lisa The Skeptic (1997), Review Summary". Allmovie. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  11. ^ Du Vernay, Denise; Waltonen, Karma (2010). The Simpsons In The Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield. McFarland. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7864-4490-8.
  12. ^ a b c Parvin, Samuel F.; Mark I. Pinsky (2002). The Gospel According to the Simpsons: Leader's Guide for Group Study. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-22590-2., Pages 15–18.
  13. ^ a b c d Pinsky, Mark I.; Tony Campolo (2001). The Gospel According to the Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 43, 133, 182. ISBN 978-0-664-22419-6.
  14. ^ Bates, James W.; Gimple, Scott M.; McCann, Jesse L.; Richmond, Ray; Seghers, Christine, eds. (2010). Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20 (1st ed.). Harper Collins. p. 430. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8.
  15. ^ "CBS no. 1 as sweeps month nears end". Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. November 28, 1997. p. 4E.
  16. ^ Liebenson, Donald. "The Simpsons Trick Or Treehouse: Vol. 3 Heaven & Hell (vhs): Amazon.com movie review". Amazon.com. Archived from the original on March 9, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  17. ^ Hopkin, Michael (July 26, 2007). "Science in comedy: Mmm... pi". Nature. 448 (7152): 404–405. doi:10.1038/448404a. PMID 17653163.
  18. ^ a b Jarvik, Elaine (December 12, 2003). "Sun-Doh! School — Teachers use pop culture to appeal to masses". Deseret Morning News. Archived from the original on May 30, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  19. ^ a b Taylor, Tessa (Autumn 2004). An Introduction to Philosophy: The Wit and Wisdom of Lisa Simpson (PDF). St Mary's College, Durham: Farmington Institute. pp. 30–32. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 2, 2011.
  20. ^ VandeBunte, Matt (December 27, 2003). "The Gospel according to The Simpsons; Calvin students find more than laughs in the hit show". Grand Rapids Press. pp. Page B1.
  21. ^ a b ""A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" & "Lisa the Skeptic": A Comparison". Saugerties Central School District. Saugerties, New York. July 16, 2007. Archived from the original on February 25, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2007.

Bibliography

External links

1997 in science

The year 1997 in science and technology involved many significant events, listed below.

Billy Beer

Billy Beer was a beer first made in the United States in July 1977, by the Falls City Brewing Company. It was promoted by Billy Carter, whose older brother Jimmy was the incumbent President of the United States. In October 1978, Falls City announced that it was closing its doors after less than a year of Carter's promotion. The beer was produced by Cold Spring Brewing, West End Brewing, and Pearl Brewing Company.

Black Angus Steakhouse

Black Angus Steakhouse is an American restaurant chain, specializing in steaks, that is based in Los Altos, California. The chain was founded April 3, 1964, by Stuart Anderson of Seattle, Washington.

Christian Science Reading Room

A Christian Science Reading Room is a place operated as a public service by a Christian Science church in the community where that church exists. The Mother Church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist) in Boston, Massachusetts, maintains these rooms as a place where one may study and contemplate the Bible and Christian Science literature in a quiet atmosphere, similar to a library.

Literature and other items related to the study of Christian Science may be borrowed or purchased. There are approximately 2,000 Christian Science Reading Rooms worldwide.

David X. Cohen

David Samuel Cohen (born July 13, 1966), better known as David X. Cohen, is an American television writer. He began working on Beavis and Butt-Head, has written for The Simpsons, and served as the head writer and executive producer of Futurama. Cohen is a producer of Disenchantment, Matt Groening's series for Netflix.

Lisa Simpson

Lisa Marie Simpson is a fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. She is the middle child and most intelligent of the Simpson family. Voiced by Yeardley Smith, Lisa was born as a character in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987. Cartoonist Matt Groening created and designed her while waiting to meet James L. Brooks. Groening had been invited to pitch a series of shorts based on his comic Life in Hell, but instead decided to create a new set of characters. He named the elder Simpson daughter after his younger sister Lisa Groening Bartlett. After appearing on The Tracey Ullman Show for three years, the Simpson family were moved to their own series on Fox, which debuted on December 17, 1989.

Intelligent, passionate, and the moral center of the family, Lisa Simpson, at eight years old, is the second child of Homer and Marge, younger sister of Bart, and older sister of Maggie. Lisa's high intellect and liberal political stance creates a barrier between her and other children her age, therefore she is a bit of a loner and social outcast. Lisa is a vegetarian, a strong environmentalist, a feminist, and a Buddhist. Lisa's character develops many times over the course of the show: she becomes a vegetarian in season 7 and converts to Buddhism in season 13. A strong liberal, Lisa advocates for a variety of political causes (e.g. standing with the Tibetan independence movement) which usually sets her against most of the people in Springfield. However, she can also be somewhat intolerant of opinions that differ from her own, often refusing to consider alternative perspectives. In her free time, Lisa enjoys many hobbies such as reading and playing the baritone saxophone, despite her father's annoyance regarding the latter. She has appeared in other media relating to The Simpsons – including video games, The Simpsons Movie, The Simpsons Ride, commercials and comic books – and inspired a line of merchandise.

Yeardley Smith originally tried out for the role of Bart, while Nancy Cartwright (who was later cast as the voice for Bart) tried out for Lisa. Producers considered Smith's voice too high for a boy, so she was given the role of Lisa. In the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, Lisa was something of a "female Bart" who mirrored her brother's mischief, but as the series progressed she became a liberal voice of reason which has drawn both praise and criticism from fans of the show. Because of her unusual pointed hair style, many animators consider Lisa the most difficult Simpsons character to draw.

TV Guide ranked her 11th (tied with Bart) on their list of the "Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time". Her environmentalism has been especially well received; several episodes featuring her have won Genesis and Environmental Media Awards, including a special "Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award" in 2001. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals included Lisa on their list of the "Most Animal-Friendly TV Characters of All Time". Yeardley Smith won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992 and Lisa and her family were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000.

List of The Simpsons couch gags

The Simpsons is an American animated television sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The opening sequence of The Simpsons features a couch gag: a "twist of events that befalls the Simpson family at the end of every credit sequence as they converge on their living-room couch to watch TV." The couch gag is a running visual joke near the end of the opening sequence.

The couch gag changes from episode to episode and usually features the Simpson family's living room couch. A typical gag features the Simpsons running into the living room, only to find some abnormality with the couch, be it a bizarre and unexpected occupant, an odd placement of the couch, such as on the ceiling, or any number of other situations, such as to make a pop culture reference. Longer couch gags have sometimes been used to fill time in shorter episodes, such as in "Lisa's First Word", "The Front" and "Cape Feare". The show's 500th episode "At Long Last Leave" showcases each couch gag that was used in the series.

List of The Simpsons episodes (seasons 1–20)

The Simpsons is an American animated television sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. It is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its eponymous family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield, and lampoons American culture, society, and television, as well as many aspects of the human condition. The family was conceived by Groening shortly before a pitch for a series of animated shorts with producer James L. Brooks. Groening created a dysfunctional family and named the characters after members of his own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became a part of the Fox series The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime-time show that was an early hit for Fox.Since its debut on December 17, 1989, The Simpsons has broadcast 662 episodes. The show holds several American television longevity records. It is the longest-running prime-time animated series and longest-running sitcom in the United States. On February 19, 2012, The Simpsons reached its 500th episode in the twenty-third season. With its twenty-first season (2009–10), the series surpassed Gunsmoke in seasons to claim the spot as the longest-running American prime-time scripted television series, and later also surpassed Gunsmoke in episode count with the episode "Forgive and Regret" on April 29, 2018.Episodes of The Simpsons have won dozens of awards, including 31 Emmy Awards (with ten for Outstanding Animated Program), 30 Annie Awards, and a Peabody Award. The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 26 and 27, 2007 and grossed US$526.2 million worldwide. The first eighteen seasons are available on DVD in regions 1, 2, and 4, with the twentieth season released on both DVD and Blu-ray in 2010 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series. On April 8, 2015, show runner Al Jean announced that there would be no more DVD or Blu-ray releases, shifting focus to digital distribution, although this was later reversed on July 22, 2017. Another two years later, on July 20, 2019, it was announced that Season 19 will be released on December 3, 2019 on DVD.On November 4, 2016, The Simpsons was renewed for seasons 29 and 30. It reached its 600th episode on October 16, 2016, in its twenty-eighth season. The thirtieth season ended on May 12, 2019. On February 6, 2019, The Simpsons was renewed for seasons 31 and 32, in which the latter will contain the 700th episode.Season 31 will premiere on September 29, 2019.

== Series overview ==

=== Ratings ===

With its first season, The Simpsons became the Fox network's first series to rank among the top thirty highest rated shows of a television season. Due to this success, Fox decided to switch The Simpsons' timeslot in hopes that it would result in higher ratings for the shows that would air after it. The series moved from 8:00 p.m. on Sunday nights to the same time on Thursdays, where it competed with The Cosby Show, the number one show at the time.Many of the producers were against the move, as The Simpsons had been in the top ten while airing on Sunday, and they felt the move would destroy its ratings. Ratings wise, new episodes of The Cosby Show beat The Simpsons every time during the second season and The Simpsons eventually fell out of the top ten. At the end of the season Cosby averaged as the fifth highest rated show on television, while The Simpsons was thirty-eighth.The show continued in its Thursday timeslot until the sixth season, when, in 1994, it reverted to its original slot on Sunday. It has remained there ever since.

==== Key ====

The ratings for The Simpsons are split into two tables:

Season 1–11 are ranked by households (in millions) watching the series.

Season 12–30 are ranked by total viewers (in millions) watching the series.

==== Notes ====

Until the 1996/97 television season, ratings were calculated over 30 weeks from September to mid April. Episodes that aired after mid April were not part of the overall average and ranking.

Season one had approximately 13.4 million viewing households. Season two dropped 9%, resulting in an average of approximately 12.2 million viewing households.

Season three had an average rating of 13.0 points. For the 1991/92 season, each point represented 921,000 viewing households, resulting in a total average of approximately 12.0 million viewing households.

Season four had approximately 12.1 million viewing households. Season five dropped 13%, resulting in an average of approximately 10.5 million viewing households.

List of The Simpsons guest stars (seasons 1–20)

In addition to the show's regular cast of voice actors, celebrity guest stars have been a staple of The Simpsons, an American animated television sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company, since its first season. The Simpsons focuses on the eponymous family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. The family was initially conceived by Groening for a series of animated shorts, which originally aired as a part of The Tracey Ullman Show between 1987 and 1989. The shorts were developed into a half-hour prime time series which began in December 1989. The series' 29th season began in October 2017 and 662 episodes of The Simpsons have aired. A feature film adaptation of the series called The Simpsons Movie, was released in 2007.

Guest voices have come from a wide range of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, musicians, artists, politicians and scientists. In the show's early years most guest stars voiced original characters, but as the show has continued the number of those appearing as themselves has increased.

The first credited guest star was Marcia Wallace who appeared in "Bart the Genius" in her first stint as Bart's teacher Edna Krabappel. Singer Tony Bennett was the first guest star to appear as himself, appearing briefly in the season two episode "Dancin' Homer". Several guest stars have featured as recurring characters on the show, including Phil Hartman, Joe Mantegna and Kelsey Grammer. Hartman made the most appearances, guest starring 52 times. Grammer, Mantegna, Maurice LaMarche and Frank Welker have appeared twenty times or more; Jon Lovitz and Jackie Mason have appeared over ten times, while Albert Brooks, Glenn Close, Michael Dees, Dana Gould, Terry W. Greene, Valerie Harper, Jan Hooks, Jane Kaczmarek, Stacy Keach, Kipp Lennon, J. K. Simmons, Sally Stevens, George Takei and Michael York have made over five appearances.

Two guest stars, Ricky Gervais and Seth Rogen, earned writing credits for the episodes in which they appeared. Grammer, Mason and three-time guest star Anne Hathaway all won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for guest voice roles on the show. The show was awarded the Guinness World Record for "Most Guest Stars Featured in a TV Series" in 2010. As of May 12, 2019, there have been 826 guest stars on the show[A], with this figure rising to 831 if The Simpsons Movie is included.

List of recurring The Simpsons characters

The Simpsons includes a large array of supporting characters: co-workers, teachers, family friends, extended relatives, townspeople, local celebrities, fictional characters within the show, and even animals. The writers originally intended many of these characters as one-time jokes or for fulfilling needed functions in the town. A number of them have gained expanded roles and have subsequently starred in their own episodes. According to the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, the show adopted the concept of a large supporting cast from the Canadian sketch comedy show Second City Television.

Marge Simpson

Marjorie Jacqueline "Marge" Simpson (née Bouvier) is a fictional character in the American animated sitcom The Simpsons and part of the eponymous family. She is voiced by Julie Kavner and first appeared on television in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987. Marge was created and designed by cartoonist Matt Groening while he was waiting in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office. Groening had been called to pitch a series of shorts based on Life in Hell but instead decided to create a new set of characters. He named the character after his mother Margaret Groening. After appearing on The Tracey Ullman Show for three seasons, the Simpson family received their own series on Fox, which debuted December 17, 1989.

Marge is the matriarch of the Simpson family. With her husband Homer, she has three children: Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Marge is the moralistic force in her family and often provides a grounding voice in the midst of her family's antics by trying to maintain order in the Simpson household. She is often portrayed as a stereotypical television mother and is often included on lists of top "TV moms". She has appeared in other media relating to The Simpsons—including video games, The Simpsons Movie, The Simpsons Ride, commercials, and comic books—and inspired an entire line of merchandise.

Marge's distinctive blue beehive hairstyle was inspired by a combination of the Bride's in Bride of Frankenstein and the style that Margaret Groening wore in the 1960s. Julie Kavner, who was a member of the original cast of The Tracey Ullman Show, was asked to voice Marge so that more voice actors would not be needed. Kavner has won several awards for voicing Marge, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992. She was also nominated for an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature for her performance in The Simpsons Movie. In 2000, Marge, along with the rest of her family, was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Politics in The Simpsons

Politics is a common theme in the animated television series The Simpsons, and this phenomenon has had some crossover with real American politics. U.S. conservatives voiced opposition to the show early in its run, when it was still controversial for its crude humor and irreverent take on family values. Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said that the U.S. needed to be closer to The Waltons than to The Simpsons. The show's admitted slant towards liberalism has been joked about in episodes such as "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", in which a reference is made to "hundreds of radical right-wing messages inserted into every show by creator Matt Groening". More recently, however, conservative bloggers and commentators have enthusiastically promoted cultural memes from the series, such as Groundskeeper Willie's derisive term for the French, "cheese-eating surrender monkeys".Political topics addressed on The Simpsons include homophobia and gay marriage (in the episodes "Homer's Phobia" and "There's Something About Marrying"), immigration and border control (“Much Apu About Nothing,” “Midnight Rx”, “Coming to Homerica”), drug and alcohol abuse ("Brother's Little Helper", "Weekend at Burnsie's", "Smoke on the Daughter", "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment", "Duffless", "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)", and "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses"), gun rights ("The Cartridge Family"), environmental issues ("The Old Man and the Lisa", "Trash of the Titans", "Lisa the Tree Hugger", "The Wife Aquatic", "The Squirt and the Whale", in addition to being an important plot device in the feature-length film), election campaigns ("Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish", "Sideshow Bob Roberts", "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington", "See Homer Run", "E Pluribus Wiggum", "Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson"), and corruption ("Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington").

Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge

"Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge" is the twenty-second episode and season finale of The Simpsons' thirteenth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 22, 2002. In the episode, a massive heatwave causes the residents of Springfield to install large air conditioning devices in their homes. This leads the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to overload, causing two town-wide blackouts to occur. The Springfield Police Department are powerless to the riots that follow, prompting Homer, dissatisfied with the police's incompetence, to start his own security company called SpringShield.

"Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge" was directed by Pete Michels and written by Dana Gould, who also pitched the idea for the episode. It features American actor Joe Mantegna as recurring character Fat Tony, and includes references to Dragnet, High Noon and The Sopranos. In its original broadcast, the episode was seen by approximately 5.3 million viewers, finishing in 53rd place in the ratings the week it aired. Following its home video release on August 24, 2010, the episode received mixed reviews from critics. The episode was dedicated to the memory of Stephen Jay Gould who died two days before it aired. He had voiced himself in the ninth-season episode "Lisa the Skeptic".

Realty Bites

"Realty Bites" is the ninth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 7, 1997. The episode sees Marge becoming a real estate agent, while Homer enjoys Snake's car. It was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Swinton O. Scott III.This episode has the final speaking appearance of Lionel Hutz, five months before the death of Phil Hartman. The episode's development grew out of a desire by the writers to do a show focused on Marge, where her job did not work out. The episode received positive mention in the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, and is featured in the special 2003 DVD release The Simpsons: Risky Business.

Religion in The Simpsons

Religion is one of many recurring themes on the American animated television series The Simpsons. Much of the series' religious humor satirizes aspects of Christianity and religion in general. However, some episodes, such as "Bart Sells His Soul" and "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily", can be interpreted as having a spiritual theme. The show has been both praised and criticized by atheists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives and religious people in general for its portrayal of faith and religion in society. The show can function as a mediator of biblical literacy among younger generations of irreligious viewers.In the series, the Simpson family attends services led by Reverend Lovejoy. The church's denomination is identified as the "Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism" in the episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star." This is generally interpreted as representing the multitude of American Protestant traditions in general and not one specific denomination.

Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould (; September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

Gould's most significant contribution to evolutionary biology was the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he developed with Niles Eldredge in 1972. The theory proposes that most evolution is characterized by long periods of evolutionary stability, which is infrequently punctuated by swift periods of branching speciation. The theory was contrasted against phyletic gradualism, the popular idea that evolutionary change is marked by a pattern of smooth and continuous change in the fossil record.Most of Gould's empirical research was based on the land snail genera Poecilozonites and Cerion. He also made important contributions to evolutionary developmental biology, receiving broad professional recognition for his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny. In evolutionary theory he opposed strict selectionism, sociobiology as applied to humans, and evolutionary psychology. He campaigned against creationism and proposed that science and religion should be considered two distinct fields (or "non-overlapping magisteria") whose authorities do not overlap.Gould was known by the general public mainly for his 300 popular essays in Natural History magazine, and his numerous books written for both the specialist and non-specialist.

In April 2000, the US Library of Congress named him a "Living Legend".

The Monkey Suit

"The Monkey Suit" is the twenty-first episode of the seventeenth season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 14, 2006. In the episode, Ned Flanders is shocked after seeing a new display at the museum about evolution. Together with Reverend Lovejoy, he spreads the religious belief of creationism in Springfield, and at a later town meeting, teaching evolution is made illegal. As a result, Lisa decides to hold secret classes for people interested in evolution. However, she is quickly arrested and a trial against her is initiated.

J. Stewart Burns wrote "The Monkey Suit", for which he received inspiration from the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. The episode features a few references to this legal case, as well as several references to popular culture. Many analysts have commented on the episode's treatment of the creation–evolution controversy, a dispute about the origin of humanity between those who support a creationist view based upon their religious beliefs, versus those who accept evolution, as supported by scientific evidence.

Critics have given the episode generally positive reviews, praising it for its satire of the creation-evolution debate. "The Monkey Suit" has won an award from the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) for being "one of those rare shows in the media that encourage science, critical thinking, and ridicule those shows that peddle pseudoscience and superstition." In 2007, a scene from the episode was highlighted in the scientific journal Nature.

The Simpsons (season 9)

The Simpsons' ninth season originally aired on the Fox network between September 1997 and May 1998, beginning on Sunday, September 21, 1997, with "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson". With Mike Scully as showrunner for the ninth production season, the aired season contained three episodes which were hold-over episodes from season eight, which Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein ran. It also contained two episodes which were run by David Mirkin, and another two hold-over episodes which were run by Al Jean and Mike Reiss.Season nine won three Emmy Awards: "Trash of the Titans" for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour) in 1998, Hank Azaria won "Outstanding Voice-Over Performance" for the voice of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, and Alf Clausen and Ken Keeler won the "Outstanding Music and Lyrics" award. Clausen was also nominated for "Outstanding Music Direction" and "Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore)" for "Treehouse of Horror VIII". Season nine was also nominated for a "Best Network Television Series" award by the Saturn Awards and "Best Sound Editing" for a Golden Reel Award.The Simpsons 9th Season DVD was released on December 19, 2006 in Region 1, January 29, 2007 in Region 2 and March 21, 2007 in Region 4. The DVD was released in two different forms: a Lisa-shaped head, to match the Maggie, Homer and Marge shaped heads from the three previous DVD sets, and also a standard rectangular shaped box. Like the previous DVD sets, both versions are available for sale separately.

The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons

"The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons" is the seventh episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 16, 1997. It was written by Richard Appel and directed by Steven Dean Moore. The episode sees Apu Nahasapeemapetilon marry Manjula, and incorporates several aspects of Hindu wedding ceremonies, which the writers researched during the episode's production. Appel pitched the episode several years before season nine but the idea was not used until Mike Scully became showrunner. The episode's subplot, which sees Homer stay at the Springfield Retirement Castle, was initially conceived as a separate episode, but could not be developed in enough detail. The episode received mixed reviews.

Season 9
Themed episodes
See also

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