In May, I visited the offices of The Simpsons deep inside the Fox Studio Lot in Century City. I was the first reporter in many years to document how the show comes together. More precisely, I was the first reporter in many years to care. After eight seasons, from 1989 to 1997 — what connoisseurs agree is the classic period, the years of “Marge vs. the Monorail” and “Cape Feare” and “Mr. Plow,” from which an endless fount of memes is drawn even today — The Simpsons entered what you might call its Dark Ages. Whereas the classic period was a joke-a-minute spectacle that veered between absurdist physical gags and heartfelt family squabbles, the Dark Ages tried to maintain the joke density but lost the show’s emotional core. The result was an overwhelming blahness and deepening cultural irrelevance just as many shows directly inspired by The Simpsons took off.
Visit Vulture to read this article.