Posted Monday, April 23, 2012, at 4:40 PM
Still from last night's 25th anniversary broadcast of The Simpsons.
When The Simpsons celebrated Fox’s 25th anniversary Sunday night by taking a swipe at Fox News, it was only the latest example of what has become a long tradition. Indeed, taking shots at Fox seems to be The Simpsons’ favorite way of celebrating all its milestones. For the show’s 20th anniversary episode, a Springfield billboard during the opening credits read “Fox Network: Still Sucking After 20 Years.” For their 400th episode, The Simpsons did a riff on media censorship, ending with the 400th episode itself getting censored.
But The Simpsons doesn’t limit its treasons just to milestones and anniversaries. Fox News has arguably become the show’s favorite satirical target in recent years. (The media feud has even been summed up by Next Media’s Taiwanese animation.) While the jabs are sometimes friendly—and while the resulting attention may benefit Fox more than it hurts the network—the criticism can become quite biting. In 2003 Simpsons creator Matt Groening said that one bit of satire—which included a faux Fox News ticker reporting items like “Pointless news crawls up 37 per cent” and “Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at foxnews.com...”—prompted Fox News to threaten a lawsuit. Groening says The Simpsons kept the gag anyway because they didn’t think Rupert Murdoch would pay for one part of his corporation to sue another.
On the occasion of Fox’s 25th anniversary—and The Simpsons’ latest dig—we thought it a good time to round up a few of The Simpons’ greatest jabs at Fox and its parent corporation.
“The Fox Network has sunk to a new low,” Season 5 (1993)
In this early spoof, The Simpsons’ Arnold Schwarzenegger stand-in hosts Up Late with McBain, the network’s new late-night talk show. Not only is the show not funny—McBain has never been good with comic delivery—it quickly devolves into a series of homophobic remarks, prompting Lisa to call it a new low for the network.
Fox Night at the Movies, Season 9 (1994)
While the target of this episode might have been more broad than just Fox—it involves Homer getting crucified by the tabloid media, even though he’s innocent—it’s no coincidence that the dramatization of Homer’s falsely alleged crime plays on Fox Night at the Movies, a regular feature on the network throughout the 1990s. That series aired sensationalized accounts of alleged events—just like this episode’s made-for-TV movie, Homer S.: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber—sometimes before the suspects even faced trial.
When Buildings Collapse, Season 9 (1998)
When The Simpsons needed programming to represent the stupidest kind of entertainment, they looked no further than their own network. Here real-life Fox shows like When Animals Attack! are parodied as When Buildings Collapse. As Bart observes, the best part is when the buildings fall down.
“I’m Rupert Murdoch, billionaire tyrant,” Season 10 (1999)
Rupert Murdoch has long been a favorite target of The Simpsons (not to mention the rest of Hollywood) but this is one of the few satirical occasions for which Murdoch himself agreed to appear. It’s not the show’s most unflattering depiction of Murdoch—in another episode, Murdoch is so dumb as to be unable to spell his own name—but the writers did manage to get Murdoch to introduce himself as “Rupert Murdoch, billionaire tyrant.”
“You can’t control all of the media… Unless you’re Rupert Murdoch,” Season 15 (2004)
Once again the show makes a reference to Murdoch’s pervasive influence, implying that even The Simpsons’ writers must praise at the altar of Murdoch.
Banksy’s Couch Gag, Season 22 (2010)
Perhaps The Simpsons’ most subversive riff came not from its own writers but from graffiti artist Banksy. Executive producer Al Jean asked Banksy whether he would be interested in doing a couch gag. When he agreed, the show’s animators turned his storyboards into a full introduction—one that suggests The Simpsons is the product of hellish sweatshop labor. At the end of the sequence it’s revealed that all these horrible practices are taking place within the iconic 20th Century Fox logo.
“Not Racist, But #1 with Racists,” Season 22 (2010)
This clip from The Rachel Maddow Show rounds up some of the best of The Simpsons’ recent Fox News gags. At the beginning of the clip a Fox News copter sports the slogan “Not Racist, But #1 with Racists,” and later a Fox News truck reveals the network’s bias by sporting a “Bush-Cheney 2004” sign. I won’t spoil them all, but it’s worth sticking around for the parody of a Fox News interview.