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Eureka!

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Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM


01. D'oh Dynasty

What: The Simpsons

Who: Matt Groening, creator and executive producer

Impact: First appearing on Fox's The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, the Emmy and Peabody award-winning animated sitcom that stars the hilariously unadmirable Simpson family not only skewers American life with malign glee, it also spawned what is now an estimated $2-billion business, cemented itself into popular culture and transformed its own genre. "People talk a lot about how The Simpsons reintroduced adults to animation, but it's much bigger than that," says Michael Schneider, television editor at Variety. "It's changed comedy as we know it, making it more cynical, ironic and irreverent." President Bush once exhorted the nation's families to act "more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons," which surely put a smile on the faces of certain denizens in both Springfield and L.A. The show, in the middle of its 18th season, is the longest-running sitcom on network television.

Eureka moment: Aspiring writer Groening came to Los Angeles from Oregon in 1977 at the age of 23 and toiled as a chauffeur, music critic and record store clerk. The Simpsons' precursor, Life in Hell, was both the comic strip that put Groening on the map and his real-life assessment of life in Tinseltown. He started penning the acerbic cartoons and sending them to friends back home, but the L.A. fame machine plucked Groening out of obscurity after Life in Hell began appearing in the local alternative press. Producer James L. Brooks was a fan and approached Groening about creating animated shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show.

— Kristine Breese '86

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