Less than two weeks ago, FXX ran every episode of The Simpsons—as well as The Simpsons Movie—one after another in a marathon that took approximately 12 days to complete. On the first Tuesday of said marathon, Netflix released one of its newest original series, BoJack Horseman, and renewed it for a second season on that Friday. That week, I took (read: wasted) a large chunk of the end of my summer break watching both programs, and I was struck by the changes that have taken place in the adult animation genre.
No adult cartoon can match The Simpsons in terms of both influence and longevity. Now entering what seems like its millionth season, I have long since come to the conclusion that The Simpsons will probably outlive me. The Simpson family has achieved a level of stardom which has only been topped by Hollywood’s biggest stars—it would not surprise me if more people knew who Homer Simpson was than the president. That being said, it became painfully apparent during the second half of FXX’s stunt that the show is not as it once was, and hasn’t been for a long time. While watching an episode from the late 90s where Homer is put in command of a military submarine during war games, one of my friends told me that he was surprised by how funny the episode was, and how funny The Simpsons had actually been when we were young.
Now it has declined. There’s really no way it could not; everyone runs out of ideas eventually. Now, The Simpsons has partnered with Family Guy, its modern equivalent, in the most heinous of promotions, the crossover episode. In terms of blatant viewer-grabbing, the crossover episode is second only to publicizing the death of a major character, killing that character and then resurrecting said character less than a year later (two-for-two, Family Guy).
This crossover will attempt to rekindle interest in the longest running TV show of all time by subjecting it to the Griffin family and what is sure to be hilarious hijinks and more than a little bigotry (three for three, Family Guy). To see The Simpsons reduced to such a state is depressing; two immensely popular shows in decline banding together for what seems to be one last hurrah before both fade off into the purgatory that is early-afternoon TBS and WGN.
BoJack Horseman, on the other hand, is fresh and new. It boasts a wholly original setting and a cast full of nerd darlings like Will Arnett and Alison Brie. The “Inconceivable” guy from The Princess Bride even plays himself in two episodes. Will Arnett voices BoJack Horseman, a humanoid horse who was the star of a family sitcom in the ’90s called Horsin’ Around. Now, washed up, he gets high and watches his old show while permanent houseguest Todd (Aaron Paul) sleeps on the couch and generally annoys BoJack. The season centers around BoJack’s desire to release his autobiography and the ghostwriter (Brie) who helps him do it. This, of course, leads to shenanigans and middling character development.
Where The Simpsons relies on characters and plot, BoJack Horseman uses its unique setup (a world where all animals are essentially human) to pack its punch. The Simpsons has Mr. Burns and Ralph Wiggum; Bojack has a penguin that runs Penguin Publishing and a raven named Cameron Crowe. And that, I think, is the main change in adult animation. Oftentimes premise is more important than character, situation more than development. Hopefully, near what may be the end of the Simpson family’s legendary run, development can take on more importance before adult animation becomes a sputtering of incoherent situations and characters (four-for-four, Family Guy).
Think Family Guy is getting a bad rap? Let Jake know at email@example.com.