The Simpsons, Fox’s quirky animated family, turns 30

April 19, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
The Simpsons, one of the longest running programs in TV history, turned 30 today. William Brangham tells the story.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, another television milestone.

FOX Television’s animated comedy series “The Simpsons” turns 30 today and is one of the longest-running programs on television history.

William Brangham tells that story.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thirty years ago today, viewers met what would become an iconic American family, the Simpsons.

On April 19, 1987, this strange-talking, yellow-skinned family of five made their TV debut, appearing initially on the sketch comedy series “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

But, soon, 20th Century Fox spun them off into their own 30-minute program. More than 600 episodes, and 32 Emmy Awards later, the Simpsons is now the longest-running scripted prime-time show in U.S. history.

In its early years, “The Simpsons” was criticized by cultural conservatives, who felt the show’s subversive streak set a bad example for the nation.

DAN CASTELLANETA, Actor: Just remember to have fun out there today. And if you lose, I will kill you.


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The show even earned a presidential rebuke in 1992.

READ MORE: Quiz: How well do you know ‘The Simpsons’ characters?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: To make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.

NANCY CARTWRIGHT, Actress: Hey, we’re just like the Waltons. We’re praying for an end to the depression too.

ACTOR: Not now. I’m on Twitter.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But, in time, the show’s wit and biting satire made it a critical and commercial success. It’s earned Fox billions of dollars.

The 616th episode of “The Simpsons” airs next Sunday night, and, according to its creators, there are no plans for stopping anytime soon.

From Springfield, I’m William Brangham for the PBS NewsHour.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We certainly hope not.