Thirty years ago this month, America’s favorite animated family made their debut as part of The Tracey Ullman Show. To celebrate, CoS will be broadcasting live from Springfield all week with a slew of Simpsons features. Today, Zack Ruskin looks back at moments from the show that gave us the vapors more than the giggles.
One of the many reasons The Simpsons continues to resonate 27 years after it first aired is a talented writing staff that saw the value in occasionally exchanging a sight gag for genuine emotion. There are far more jokes than there are tears in The Simpsons’ long, continuing history, but the heart-punch moments peppered throughout have played a large role in ensuring the show remains a cultural touchstone nearly three decades in.
Many episodes, in fact, boast smaller slices of the scenes highlighted below, like Bart showing Lisa in slow motion the exact moment she broke Ralph’s heart (“I Love Lisa”) or even the recent opening scene chalkboard that read simply “We’ll really miss you Ms. K” (“Four Regrettings and a Funeral”). However, the 10 moments below are extraordinary in that they take the format of a 22-minute cartoon show about a dysfunctional family and truly find something profound to extract from characters that are usually known for their casual child abuse, incessant nagging, and spray-painter alter egos.
In short, making Homer’s gurney fall out the back of an ambulance, causing him to plunge once more down Springfield Gorge is easy. Making viewers want to call their mom and tell them they love them as the end credits roll is not. The fact that The Simpsons did both, time and time again, is why no other cartoon show will ever compare.