Currently in its 34th season, The Simpsons is enjoying some of its best reviews in years. From an anime-style episode to a meta episode toying with the many fan theories surrounding the show, many installments of The Simpsons’ latest run have caught audiences’ attention. But The Simpsons as it exists today is pretty far removed from the series that premiered on the Fox network back in 1989.
From grounded storytelling to Homer’s original voice to an unwavering focus on the Simpson family, there are many elements from the first season of The Simpsons that can’t be seen in more modern episodes of the series.
10/10 Grounded Storylines
Modern Simpsons episodes aren’t particularly concerned with realism. But back in season 1, most episodes followed a grounded storyline, like Bart photographing Homer dancing with another woman or Marge being wooed by a charming French bowler.
Later seasons would explore absurdist story arcs like Homer taking a job working for a supervillain or Homer taking his claim of an alien sighting to Mulder and Scully or Homer going to space.
9/10 Missing Supporting Characters
The Simpsons is renowned for its enormous supporting cast consisting of Springfieldians who exist around the Simpson family. Characters like Kent Brockman and Principal Skinner make Springfield feel like a real town. Fan-favorite supporting players like Mr. Burns, Moe Szyslak, Ned Flanders, and Krusty the Clown have been around since the first season.
But many beloved Simpsons characters – from Lionel Hutz to Mayor Quimby to Dr. Hibbert to Troy McClure to Professor Frink to Comic Book Guy to Groundskeeper Willie – didn’t make their debut until later seasons.
8/10 Homer’s Original Voice
Dan Castellaneta has played Homer Simpson since the original Tracey Ullman shorts, but fans would be forgiven for assuming that Homer was voiced by somebody else in the Ullman shorts and season 1 of the show. Castellaneta significantly altered his Homer voice after the first season.
Homer’s original voice was a loose Walter Matthau impression, but Castellaneta told Fox News, “I was trying to find something I was more comfortable with that had more power to it, so I had to drop the voice down. People will say to me, ‘Boy, I’m glad they replaced the guy that was there that first season.’ That was me!”
7/10 Smithers’ Original Design
Most Simpsons characters ended up veering away from their original conception as the series went on. Moe originally sounded more like Al Pacino, Ralph was originally much smarter, and Smithers originally had a completely different design.
In season 1, Smithers had a dark complexion, a white lab coat, and a red bowtie. In subsequent seasons, Smithers was given the Simpson family’s yellow skin tone as well as a snazzy new green jacket and purple bowtie combo.
6/10 No Celebrity Guest Stars
A lot of modern Simpsons episodes are driven by their guest stars. The polarizing season 23 episode “Lisa Goes Gaga” saw Lisa learning life lessons from Lady Gaga. Such A-listers as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Mark Hamill, and all the baseball legends in “Homer at the Bat” have found themselves in Springfield, rubbing shoulders with the Simpsons.
Season 1 had some high-profile guest voices, but no superstars playing themselves. Albert Brooks and Penny Marshall voiced one-off characters, while Kelsey Grammer made his first appearance as Sideshow Bob.
5/10 Rougher Animation
Compared to today’s high-def visuals, the 30-year-old animation in the early episodes of The Simpsons looks pretty rough. Over the course of The Simpsons’ decades-long run, the show’s animators have adapted with the times.
The series started out with a traditional cel animation style, then switched to a digital ink and paint animation style in the early 21st century. Now, the show is presented in a glorious high-definition format that makes each half-hour episode look as glossy as the movie.
4/10 Darker Subject Matter
There are some Simpsons episodes that explore dark subject matter – “Homer’s Enemy,” “The Joy of Sect,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” – but they tend to be the outliers among typically lighthearted fare. In season 1, heavy themes were unusually common.
In season 1, Lisa grapples with depression, Homer attempts suicide after losing his job, Bart stays with crooked French winemakers César and Ugolin, who try to poison him with antifreeze, and in the season finale, a sinister babysitter threatens the kids.
3/10 No Consequences For Bart
The first season of The Simpsons was met with controversy among critics and concerned parents, because the mischievous Bart was never punished for misbehaving. As a result, the character was labeled a bad role model for children.
Subsequent seasons of the show made efforts to rectify this problem. The writers even came up with a whole episode, “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie,” about the importance of following through on punishments for unruly children.
2/10 Homer Takes His Career Seriously
In season 1, Homer took his career as a nuclear technician at the power plant seriously. He was always pretty inept, but he cared more about doing a good job and keeping that job in season 1. Homer fell into a deep depression after losing his job and even tried to take his own life.
In later seasons, Homer would lose his job every couple of episodes, never seemed bothered by it, and occasionally spent entire episodes gleefully unemployed.
1/10 Focus On The Simpson Family
Back in season 1, every Simpsons episode revolved around one or more members of the Simpson clan. But that’s not always the case these days. As the episode count got into the hundreds, the writers expanded their reach to take other characters’ perspectives.
Later seasons fleshed out the extensive Springfieldian supporting cast. In recent seasons, the writers have dedicated episodes to Cletus, Duffman, and Moe’s filthy bar rag.