|Setting, Characters, Story|
|Censorship and Other Matters|
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Is there anyone in the world who has not seen The Simpsons? For these unfortunates, the show follows the adventures of a fairly typical animated family, who live in the town of Springfield, USA. Father, Homer, and mother, Marge, struggle to raise their never-aging children: Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie.
The town of Springfield, founded many years ago by Jebediah Springfield, is populated by a wide assortment of interesting characters. Homer works at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, owned by withered millionaire, Montgomery Burns. After work, Homer joins Barney Gumble at Moe's bar for a moody drink, while the kids watch TV after school. Their favourite show features Krusty the Klown and his sidekick, Sideshow Mel (replacement for the felonious Sideshow Bob), with the violent, cartoon antics of Itchy & Scratchy to liven things up. Some might say these cartoons are Bart's inspiration in his many, delinquent escapades, which ensure he's always in trouble with Principal Seymour Skinner.
Other members of the family include Homer's father, old Grampa Simpson, falling asleep at the drop of a hat for a few seconds' sleep, and Marge's celibate, twin sisters, Patty and Selma, who don't approve of Homer at all.
But just so it won't seem it's all in the family, the Simpsons' adventures introduce them to many of Springfield's other inhabitants. There's the trendy family doctor, Doctor Hibbert, to minister to the body, and Reverend Lovejoy to save the unwilling soul. Police Chief Wiggum is more interested in beer and doughnuts than dealing with rampaging elephants or a crime spree. The town's culinary needs are served, at an inflated price, by Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart. But Mayor 'Diamond Joe' Quimby doesn't mind, so long as he gets his kickbacks and his wife doesn't see his new, super-model mistress. Milhouse is Bart's partner in crime, but no matter how many adults they defy, they can't stand up to Nelson and his gang of bullies.
And finally, there's Ned Flanders and his God-fearing family, model of Christianity and part-time Satan. There's nothing Homer hates more than a goody-two-shoes, but at least it gets him away from the TV.
A cast of hundreds colours the adventures of the Simpsons, with many characters voiced by celebrity guests. No wonder The Simpsons has amassed thousands of loyal fans.
Due to Australia's strict policies on television censorship, many scenes from The Simpsons have never been seen on Australian, free-to-air television. Some of the censored scenes are very funny, but clearly beyond the realms of children's humour. Of course The Simpsons is actually intended for a mature audience, but because it screens in prime time, younger viewers are also exposed to the show. The end result is a larger fan base, counteracted by the imposition of censorship. Fortunately, the full, uncensored episodes may now be seen on Foxtel.
Of more concern than the censorship is Ten's policy (since late 1996) of combining two episodes into a single, one-hour show on Sunday nights. This has angered many Simpsons fans, especially since Australians have consequently missed out on a number of special jokes found either in the credits or the opening sequence of new episodes. Ten claims to be ordering these episodes "pre-cut" from their distributor in the US. However, it is clearly their own decision to do so, presumably to fit more advertising in the prime-time slot.
Specifically, with two episodes playing in a one-hour timeslot, Ten have been removing the credits from the first episode and the entire opening sequence from the second. This means viewers are missing the chalkboard and couch gags from the second episode, as well as credits for celebrity guest voices in the first. Furthermore, many of the newer episodes play special music or display a series of amusing stills over the credits.
Ten has shown great reluctance to reverse their policy. Fortunately, Foxtel has now acquired the rights up to Season Eight, and is screening them uncut and uncensored. One can only hope that Australian viewers without access to pay TV will also eventually see these episodes in their entirety.
Fortunately, new episodes are no longer being shown in a double time slot, and are hence being screened intact.
To close this section on a puzzling note, for a long time three episodes from Season Six could not be seen on Australian free-to-air television, one of them containing the infamous death of Bleeding Gums Murphy. These episodes were specially commissioned by Fox to bring the season up to 25 episodes. When Network Ten purchased the rights to Season Six, they were inexplicably not included in the package (although Foxtel had no trouble acquiring them along with the rest of Season Six). In March of 1998, Ten finally showed these missing episodes, albeit without closing credits. No explanation was offered for the three year delay, though Ten's advertising tried hard to blame it on some nameless Hollywood distributor; rather unfairly, I thought.
For anyone collecting the episodes on video, it's useful to know how long each Simpsons episode is. Basically, uncut episodes are 22 minutes long, except for Season One, where they're 23 minutes long. Hence you can fit the following number of episodes on a video tape without using long play:
|Eight 23-minute episodes on a 3 hour tape.|
|Eleven 22-minute episodes on a 4 hour tape.|
If you include ads, each episode spans between 24.5 and 26 minutes on Foxtel, and closer to 30 on Network Ten.
However, times may vary, for a variety of reasons. Many episodes on the Ten Network are censored, and others are cut for other reasons (most notable is the current practice of merging two episodes into a single, one-hour show). Even with the credits in place, episodes may vary between 20 and 23 minutes, though this has been more consistent in recent times.
On the other hand, Foxtel does not cut or censor The Simpsons, yet episodes in Seasons Two through Four may be as long as 23 minutes each, with no additional material over a 22 minute version. This is apparently due to variations in the frame rate conversion process. It seems that The Simpsons are drawn with 24 frames each second. In the U.S., six frames are repeated each second to bring this up to 30 frames per second. In Australia, we use 25 frames per second. I believe the versions most often shown on Foxtel may not have the extra frame each second, so they play almost a minute shorter than the same episodes on Channel Ten. There may also be other factors involved.
The Simpsons shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show run between one and three minutes per episode.
Thanks go to the following people:
|Tony Lammens for putting up my Foxtel Simpsons information on Sofcom's web page in the first place, and for producing and maintaining the first versions of these pages for a long time.|
|Those who keep the online Foxtel Guide up to date, allowing me to confirm episode names and scheduling changes.|
|My contacts at Foxtel for their occasional assistance.|
|The Australian TV Guide at Sofcom for originally hosting these pages.|
|David Siegel for his wonderful HTML style guide, which gave me heaps of ideas.|
|The Simpsons Archives for providing copious information to Simpsons fans around the world, so we often know more of what's going on than the TV stations!|
|Everyone who has sent information my way, helping me come closer to my aim of providing the very best information on The Simpsons in Australia.|
|Matt Groening and all the team at Fox, for producing a delightfully funny TV show.|
If you have any suggestions or contributions regarding this page, please email .
Copyright ©1997-2003 Paulius Stepanas. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: 4-December-2003