December 10, 2006

Something About Inmates and the Asylum

Hello fellow Film Freaks:

If you've been reading this blog for long, then maybe you know me as the anonymous "ian" fellow who's always posting responses to the missives that appear here, usually a dashed-off paragraph or a humorous shot in the dark at the latest screencap contest. However, contrary to popular belief, I do actually have a last name and, what's more, write professional criticism; I've been peddling my wares to various publications lately, and as you may have already guessed, I've landed what amounts to a real dream gig. So with great excitement, I'd like to introduce myself: I'm Ian Pugh, and I'm the newest staffer here at FILM FREAK CENTRAL.

Never fear, I'm not going to be the Dick Sargent to anyone's Dick York around here in any way, shape or form, but I will be specializing in TV on DVD. Finally, an opportunity to fully delve into the pleasures and pains of the boob tube without having to live by the networks' clock. Suffice it to say that this means fewer commercials that try to call Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest the "film of the decade," or try to pass off an Air Bud sequel by way of Look Who's Talking as anything less than goddamn terrifying. At the very least, I'll be armed with a "skip" button. Wonderful invention, this "dee-vee-dee."

My deepest thanks go to Bill, Walter, Travis and Alex in allowing a relative greenhorn like me to join their ranks. After leaving comments here for so long, I feel a little like Mark Wahlberg in Pittsburgh epic Rock Star... or maybe its Philadelphia counterpart, Invincible. (Memo to Marky Mark: I'm onto your diabolical plan to control Pennsylvania's inspirational film market.)

For those interested seeking out more of my critical work beyond the blog comments, check out my biweekly article "What's at the Movies" at The River Reporter of Narrowsburg, NY (this week it's Deja Vu) or The Triangle, the student newspaper of my collegiate alma mater, for which I still write the occasional review of a theatrical release. A brief cross-section from the past few months: Death of a President, Poseidon, Open Season, The Queen.

But my love affair with television is a lifelong one, and to tackle it head-on like this will be a fascinating endeavor. I look forward to trading barbs and ideas with all of you good folks here at the blog, who have been immeasurably helpful in my critical escapades. Look for my first FFC article soon.

But until then, let's open the floor for a somewhat generic question: with much of the water-cooler fare on holiday hiatus, what has everyone been watching on the old idiot box lately?

Update - 12/13/06
Feel the sting of The Monarch with my review of The Venture Bros.: Season One. Meanwhile, Walter documents the slow, painful decay of Anglo-American relations in The Holiday. In case you missed them: Bill checks the specs on the Little Miss Sunshine DVD, and Travis continues his Gary Cooper odyssey while tackling oddly-named DVD collections with The Taking of Porky's 1 2 3.

Update - 12/15/06
Walter takes on a weekend of movies that went without a spell checker with Eragon and The Pursuit of Happyness.

R.I.P. Peter Boyle -- for as many great moments you could find in the man's career, my personal favorite is a throwaway from Taxi Driver: his weary salutation, "Char-lie T..."

And despite the news reports, the Golden Globe nominations fail to surprise anyone.


Walter_Chaw said...

Hi Ian -

Welcome, man.

Just catching up lately on the first season of Six Feet Under on On Demand.

Haven't watched HEROES, yet, any good?



Anonymous said...

Well, Mr. Pugh, let me among the first to say, congratulations, good job, welcome aboard, yada yada, but still: I hate you. Jerk.

Also, to answer you question: House, M.D., which I love for Hugh Laurie if nothing else, and good old "Adult Swim." Well, maybe I shouldn't say good... Aqua Teen Hunger Force has been on a long, slow, terrible slide into mediocrity over the past season and a half, I'm still not sure where I stand on Metalocalypse and Frisky Dingo, and I'll be damned if I can figure out just what Assy McGee is actually about. Oh, well. At least there's Futurama and old Simpsons reruns.

jer fairall said...

Welcome, Ian!

Family Guy and The Daily Show/Colbert Report are the only shows I make a point of watching when they're on, but I have a rental queue stuffed with TV shows that I've been urged to check out. I'm currently a little over halfway through the run of Arrested Development and have The Office (UK), The Awful Truth, Monk, Leave it to Beaver (inspired by Bill's review), Queer as Folk (US) and Aqua Teen Hunger Force waiting their turn. Also have old favorites Eerie, Indiana and My So-Called Life still in plastic and due for a re-watch one day.

Also love The Simpsons, Six Feet Under, Sports Night and Seinfeld. Behind The Music and The E! True Hollywood Story are great guilty pleasures, depending on their topics.

tmhoover said...

Welcome to the party, Ian. Looking forward to seeing you unleashed on the TV fare.


Jefferson said...

Hooray for transfused blood. Welcome, Ian.

Significant Otherette and I both enjoy Battlestar Galactica (stumbling somewhat in its third season), the revived Doctor Who (great fun, deep themes) and Heroes -- the last (I put in for Walter's benefit) more for its potential than what's actually onscreen, and in spite of some fairly glaring we-didn't-know-we-were-really-going-to-series continuity blunders and erratic characterizations. Looking forward to that one hitting stride, perhaps, in the new year. Lost has finally lost us; the first six episodes of the season sat around unwatched on DVR until we looked at each other, shrugged, and erased them.

Of the shows I haven't checked out thoroughly, but would love to once time and DVD availability allow: Rome, Sleeper Cell, The Wire, Band of Brothers miniseries (although Netflix is now telling me they don't carry it).

But other than the shows I watch, TV sucks, right?

Vikram said...

Hey Ian,

Congrats on the gig - the more the merrier on FFC as far as I'm concerned. Look forward to reading your stuff.

As for TV shows, I don't watch any show regularly but I recently started watching DVD's of The Wire and it is pretty astonishing stuff.

Bill C said...

I did the private welcome, now for the public one: glad to have you on the team, Ian. Let's hope you manage to civilize us before we corrupt you.

As for TV, the only show I've watched religiously this season is the American "The Office", which recently pulled off the brilliant feat of creating a show-within-a-show and then literally "merging" the two, although they keep shaving off new cast members through firings and/or resignations to keep the ensemble at a manageable number. This week's episode is a loose adaptation of "The Office Special" and I'm on pins and needles.

On a side note, I finally caught an episode of "Studio 60" and it was even more dreadful than I'd feared. MADtv's parody--set on a porn shoot where the actors would aimlessly walk up and down stairs while spewing Sorkin-speak--turned out to be deadly accurate.

dave said...

In my opinion the only interesting new(!) show this year is Showtime's Dexter which I like quite a bit, though it's still a far cry from HBO shows like The Wire or Deadwood. BTW, I'm eagerly awaiting the FFC review of Rome (I think Walter wrote some time ago that he's currently watching the first season on DVD?).

Alex Jackson said...

Nip/Tuck is, IMHO. the best show on television, but I don't get FX so I have to wait for the DVDs to come out. What can I say, I love that stuff. Anything in the sattelite of melodrama and softcore porn and I'm there. Veronica Mars is sweet, but the "shaving rapist" thread is just a PG-13 rated version of The Carver and I've begun seeing that show is Nip/Tuck for tweens. I hate myself for not seeing Running with Scissors while it was in theaters. I know that it's supposed to suck, but I hate myself for it all the same.

Deadwood is great, in sort of a dull factual there-is-absolutely-no-point-whatsoever-in-debating-its-merits way.

I like Cops every once in a while. Even less frequently, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes.

Best right wing show on television? 24, of course.

Real Time with Bill Maher is great, but his opening monologue sucks. Speaking of which Conan O'Brien is the only remotely good late night talk show host on TV. I used to be a huge David Letterman fan in Junior High but I have gone a complete 180 and despise the man.

Family Guy is a fine enough time waster and American Dad has gotten better. I know that The Soup is lame, but I still watch.

And, I'm sorry, but I still find the Scrubs gang lovable.

Chad Evan said...

+Welcome, Ian.
Lately I've been watching The Wire (the season ended last night, and what a season it was...thinking about writing it up for my own two-bit reviewing gig) and Fraggle Rock, which is even better than I remembered it being. We need more children's entertainment like Fraggle: sweet but not mawkish, clever but not snarky, thought-provoking but not didatic.
Otherwise, I like the usual suspects, with the provision that Family Guy, while often funny, is so piss-poor in the animation and design departments that, combined with the reliance on random bits of pop culture ephemera, it makes me feel like a Kevin Smith fan when I watch it. McFarlane's interest in the possibility of his medium are truly as woefully limited as Smith's, but you rarely hear anyone but hardcore animation fans make this complaint. Odd.

Royal Warrant said...

"The Ghost Whisperer" is the only program I make it a point to catch every week. If Angela Lansbury ever makes a guest appearance I am going to levitate.

Jared said...

Most of the good shows are in an "off season" period right now. I still watch the Six Feet Under reruns on Bravo.

Never been into Nip/Tuck, tried it, wasn't much on it. Rescue Me is hands down the best thing ever produced for basic cable though and FX has the right idea.

My brother likes Heroes but I don't watch because network TV is pretty much dead to me and it runs opposite Six Feet Under reruns.

When i get Netflix I'm gonna watch t shit out of House and 24.

My dad rented the first season of Prison Break and I hated what I saw of it, thought it was sloppy and lazy and stupid.

Sopranos come back in April and have a chance to redeem themselves with i think it's now 9 episodes that have been ordered, last season was atrocious.

Deadwood only has 3 TV movies left and then that's over.

Dexter I really want to watch but i'm waiting for the season to end so i can download the whole show in one neat little torrent package, Michael C. Hall is great. I wish Peter Krause was up to something more interesting.

I've been watching Twin Peaks season one round the clock. Can't wait for the Season Two DVDs.

TV seems to kind of be in a funk to me, I'm not into a lot of the shows other people like such as Lost (HORRIBLE), Grey's Anatomy (WORSE THAN LOST), etc...Just because everything is huge budgeted, broadcast in widescreen, and hour long doesn't mean it's better than the movies. Also my cartoons have been letting me down lately, Family Guy has had a really bad season but American Dad has steadily improved with a great episode last night. South Park's 10th season, especially the second part, might have eclipsed their all time high of the 6th season, it feels impossible to wait for Season Eleven in March.

I need to get Netflix so I can watch through these shows, although one thing I recall from having Netflix in 2002 (yes, that long ago) was that TV shows would always get all screwed up since the one disc you needed would always be gone. I think i had to wait a month to watch disc 2 of Sopranos Season 3.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ian

Just blew through the first two (and, alas, only) seasons of HBO's Carnivale. Check 'em out if you get the time. Really weird stuff, and not just the freaks.

Jefferson said...

Maybe there's an FFC essay in How We Watch TV Now: DVD vs. bittorrent vs. satellite vs. On Demand vs. good old fashioned shitbox.

Seconding Nip/Tuck for the gross, soapy abomination that it is, by the way, and Six Feet Under for reasons that are similar, if less high-gloss

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the warm welcome, all.

Ditto the US Office, Bill. I grew up not too far from Scranton -- (what?) -- the Electric City, so beyond the general insanity I get a little amusement from the local references as well. You may see an obnoxious yellow bumper sticker around the office printed with the words "Froggy 101" -- that's a country/western radio station.

Anon: The point of Assy McGee seems to be the same parody of the "give me your badge and gun!" cop movies for the duration of every episode, although the difference is that the cop is genuinely terrible at his job (and is also a walking pair of buttocks). Obviously, it gets old quickly; I think it would have been a lot more successful as a short. Half-agreement on recent Aqua Teen, too -- they've had a few good ones in the past few weeks but any season that starts off with an eleven-minute penis joke...

Alex: Running with Scissors was indeed terrible, mostly through its own pointlessness. Imagine if The Royal Tenenbaums focused more on the setting than the characters -- complete with the Super Sounds of the '70s -- all while being wrapped up in self-consciously quirky bullshit.

I also admit a grudging admiration for Numb3rs, if only because I'm a fan of Peter MacNichol and the largely irrelevant analysis-flashbacks strike me as more of a cynical half-parody of CSI than a rip-off.

Anonymous said...

I second Dexter as the best new show of the current season (that I've seen anyways) Michael C. Hall is damned good--and it's a twisty, sneaky show that pulls your sympathies in strange, unresolvable directions. (much the same as Big Love, the best starter of last year) Haven't seen enough of Brotherhood and The Wire to offer anything but cautious praise--but, they're both mighty good from where I'm sitting. I don't bother with much of the big network stuff--most of what I've seen is either formulaic nonsense (House, any of the Law and Orders) glib, fair-Harvard crap (Grey's Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother and the truly wretched Studio 60) or just downright, intolerable (Old Christine--nuff said) I've seen most of these only once (except for Studio 60--which for some reason I thought could be willed into being good, I guess)so--comprehensive critical assessment this aint. I've seen 24 and Lost exactly once and couldn't give a fiddler's fart about either. I love The Baldwin so, I'm willing to give 30 Rock more rope than it probably deserves, my biggest guilty pleasure is probably Intervention--I'm a bad, bad man.
Deadwood, Carnivale and Arrested Development have always left me cold--there's a lot to admire about all three, and I really tried--but, I just couldn't walk the walk.

Family Guy is terrible, you know it, I know it. That said, I watch it pretty much every week.

Jared said...

Ignoring the part of your post about Arrested Development which was just too excellent to live...

"Family Guy is terrible, you know it, I know it. That said, I watch it pretty much every week."

Yep, best sentence ever written describing Family Guy. I enjoy the manatee gags and don't care about the plot, character development, or any of that shit TV is really about when i watch that show.

Anonymous said...

Fix the goddamn Venture Bros. link.

Joan said...

Welcome aboard, Ian. Good luck on the dream job.

What I'm watching: Friday Night Lights, better than Battlestar Galactica, especially lately. Doctor Who, which is equal parts cheese and charm, and wholly successful. House, because I like trying to guess the problem before they do, and because I love Hugh Laurie's character, although the crap they are putting him through this season is getting on my last nerve.

What else: reality TV Top Chef now that Project Runway is over, and I can't believe I'm even admitting that -- this is my first year ever watching any reality tv.

I've given up on Lost, but still enjoy The Office (US version) tremendously, Steve Carrell just kills me. I also like the bizarrely sweet and yet often gross My Name is Earl... I like watching a show wherein the happy -- or at least satisfying -- ending is assured. So shoot me.

Will watch 24 when it returns, and am also psyched for the return of Rome, which was phenomenal. The Sopranos are circling the drain and I doubt the show can recover, but there's always hope.

Guilty pleasures: re-runs of Sex and the City (fascinating to me, these women are like a different species), Farscape (of course), and the newly cleaned-up classic Star Trek on WGN (I think), which I can watch with my kids because the ads aren't disgusting. (Even with TiVO and fast-forwarding, some of the ads on G4 are not kid-safe.)

Bill C said...

Fix the goddamn Venture Bros. link.

Chill, dude. That was an accidental batch upload; the dead link has been removed and the review will go up tomorrow.

Nate said...

fascinating to me, these women are like a different species

Yes, they're gay men.

I like "Mythbusters" and CNN.

Recently watched both seasons of "Carnivale" on DVD. I liked it. Wish there were a third season.

dave said...

Since everyone seems to love the American "Office" around here, I'd like to add that the second season of new Gervais/Merchant show Extras was the most hilarious stuff I saw this year (although that might change since there are still the DVDs of Curb your enthusiasm 5th season lying on my desk, waiting for the christmas holidays...).

The Captain said...

Another vote for Dexter - it's not HBO-quality material, but I'm finding it very enjoyable.

Despite their gaping flaws I still enjoy Scrubs and the ever misanthropic House - is Studio 60 really that awful?

Alex (and other 24 fans), have you caught a look at the completely retarded Season 6 prequel? Once again, I'd front the question of how right wing the show actually is, with the entirity of last season SPOILERS focusing on taking down an evil president who attempted a personal terrorist war for oil, as well as featuring various anti-conservative elements such as the relationship between married woman CrazyMartha and AwesomePierce (go CrazyMartha, btw, rather than making her a useless insane stereotype, she spent a lot of S5 kicking ass), America's own weapons being used against them, Presidential assassination, and lovely bloodletting of children/families/etc. The worldview is pretty unpleasant - there's no flags being raised, and it doesn't make America look like the promised land, with every layer of power tainted.

Another vote for Veronica Mars - not superb, by any standard, but fun and watchable.

I gag my way through atrocities Prison Break and Lost from week to week - both give me plenty of laughs and we're taking bets on which one will get cancelled first.

Alex Jackson said...


Then again fourth season had terrorists who said that there was nothing that we could do to stop them from their mission, they had no demands, they just wanted to see Americans die. Not to mention how the show briefly convinced me that 24/7 sattelite surveillance and torture were absolutely essential in protecting the United States from terrorist attacks.

You're right though that what happens in fifth season doesn't quite fit a "24-is-right-wing" model. I wonder if they made a concerted effort to steer it away from that direction.

Jefferson said...

The producers of 24 spent part of their summer cuddling up to the conservative base, though ... they (plus several of the actors) were part of a forum at the Heritage Foundation last June, about whether the show represented the real war on terror or whether methods depicted therein are valid anti-terror strategies. That doesn't mean that Laura Ingraham is right in (idiotically) saying that the show's popularity is an endorsement of waterboarding, but the showrunners sure didn't distance themselves or the show much by signing on for such a ride.

And Mary Lynn Rajskub let Rush Limbaugh smooch her on the lips. You could almost hear my heart breaking.

Bill C said...

In my best Darth Vader voice: Nooooooooooooo! I adore Mary Lynn Rajskub; how devastating.

Wanted to chime in on "Nip/Tuck". I'd agree that "Veronica Mars" is a junior version (in addition to being a secular "Buffy"), but I was happy to have that as a safety net once "Nip/Tuck" began its inexorable decline, and I must confess I gave up on "N/T" before they revealed the identity of the Carver--right around the time that Matt started beating up transsexuals. I know they blame it on "Running with Scissors" (and here I thought they were being metaphorical), but I've never seen a plunge into mediocrity quite like it, especially since the season opener was maybe the best episode of the entire series. The image of a 1000lb woman sitting on a couch on the back of a moving flatbed truck while "Dance Me to the End of Love" plays on the soundtrack is as poetic as the medium gets.

corym said...


I couldn't disagree more about the third season of "Battlestar Galactica". The only complaint I have about the New Caprica story is that it didn't last longer. But I have to give the writers credit: they didn't hit the reset button once the fleet was reformed. The effects of the occupation are still being felt.

I catch "Nip/Tuck" now and then and I like it every time. Could say the same about "Veronica Mars" but I'm not a regular viewer of either.

I'm only a year out of college, so I still have a deep love for Adult Swim. I'm glad to see a positive review for "The Venture Brothers". I've loved that show since it started. "Metalocalypse" might be the funniest thing on the network, but I may be biased from my metalhead days. (Really, how many people can laugh at a restaurant named Burzum's?)

Anyone else keeping an eye on "The Lost Room"? It isn't without a few problems, but Peter Krause is always watchable. I find the show's obsession with human detritus strangely compelling. I'd definitely be interested in a full series.

Anonymous said...

As someone who had the same impression of Carnivale... is there anything else you can recommend (either TV or DVD) that is at all similar in theme (inexorable, misunderstood power heading towards a collision) available? Other than highlander, of course ;)

Alex Jackson said...

So Peter Boyle passed.


Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

The Wizard has returned.

tmhoover said...

Obits? Who do you think I am, Bertrand Russell?

Anonymous said...

Given that his most high-profile gig was on Everybody Loves Raymond (or, “that show with those awful, screaming people” in my house) my greatest hope is that the inevitable Larry King love-fest with said "awful people" will mention his brilliant turn in Young Frankenstein, Joe and Schrader’s underrated Hardcore.

RIP Peter. Hope you’re putting on the ritz in heaven.

Jefferson said...

What WASN'T Peter Boyle in?

Re: Boyle, death, and television: "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," from the third season of X-Files. A really poetic hour of TV, and Boyle is just heartbreaking in it.

Raymond did nothing for anybody -- just a horrible show from top to bottom.

Among his films, many obituarists have mentioned Joe (1970). Obviously, one I will have to check out.

Bill C said...

Film-wise, his two Schrader flicks and Young Frankenstein are what I'll always remember him for. And "Clyde Bruckman" is the only "X Files" ep that's aged gracefully, if you ask me.

Seattle Jeff said...

On the idiot box...

I discovered this show in reruns called Arrested Development...wild, huh?

Truth is, I had much disdain for the show because of Ron Howard's narration. But now I see the narrator as an important and integral part of the show. I'm enjoying it immensely.

On the topic of TV on DVD, I own the complete series of "Significant Others" that aired on Bravo a few years back. If you can get ahold of these discs, you will be richly rewarded.

theoldboy said...

I don't get HBO or anything, so I don't have too much good stuff to watch. I mostly try to confine my viewing to the Daily Show/Colbert Report hour, give or take some Scrubs which I've just got around to watching and aside from the annoying moralism at the end of each episode that makes me want to smack Zach Braff in the fucking mouth, it's just good fun, although I rarely laugh out loud at it.

For a while, the Daily Show had begun to resemble a sort of Wagnerian symphony, essentially repeating the same things every night in different variations, but they've stepped up in the last month or so with some really brilliant stuff. Colbert is amusing, but his shtick isn't as flexible as Stewart's. I can't see his show going on for that much longer.

I remember being addicted to 24 a year or so ago for a month or two, but at this point it's a joke because the premise has been stretched to the point of not just implausibility, but impossibility, unless there's somebody out there like Jack Bauer whose life is really that exciting.

I saw the first episode of The Wire a few weeks ago. That looked like some good shit.

Patrick Pricken said...

So, any plans on an Ergaon review? I gave it 1.0 stars (out of a maximum five) and thought that at least main actor Edward Speleers managed to outact the horrible John Malkovic and hold his own against a not-so-horrible-but-still-not-decent Jeremy Irons. So he was better than I feared (just look at Joss Stone's cameo appearance). Still a horrible movie though, with no sense of pacing or structure (which means it fits right into recent hollywood productions, so the sequel is a given).

Bill C said...

Yeah, Walter's review goes live tonight but here's a sneak peek -

Jack_Sommersby said...

A fabulous debut review, Ian. Looking forward to a steady slew of top-tier reviews like this.

Kyle said...

Agreed, Ian. I didn't check out the name until the end of the review, at which point I realized I had no idea who the hell you were.

And anybody who watches "Family Guy" would do well to come on over to the "Venture Brothers" -- a mass of obscure and unexpected pop culture references that don't come at the expense of superb characterization and suspense. As a bonus it is also without the by-now-completely-irritating random interjections. Spontaneous incongruity does have its comedic limits.

Erin said...

Welcome, Ian! I find myself rather surprised that NBC's Thursday night is actually really funny (uh, minus that Scientologist/redneck tragedy My Name is Earl). Very telling that all four are non-conventional sitcoms (ie no live studio audience/laugh track). Or maybe I am just getting lame & old.

I'm also very curious about Dexter but I'll have to wait until it comes out on dvd.

Anonymous said...

Another big thank you to the bloggers here for your continued support and compliments. I'm glad that the "Venture Bros." is going over so well; more to come, of course.

Rick said...

I do not understand why Family Guy is so popular. Social satire, irony and thought-driven comedy was perfected by The Simpsons and Mr Show. Family Guy is such a derivative I just can not get into it. Yes, it may be offensive which I guess is always (cheaply) funny but it just is not consistent enough. And does anyone think South Park is/was overrated? Family Guy and South Park seem too lazy at times and do not follow through with great ideas. It seems old Simpsons episodes were thinking numerous steps ahead of the audience, getting you to buy into a mediocre joke and then self consciously spoofing it, taking it to another level. It seems Family Guy/ South Park are happy with the mediocre basic irony the Simpsons would make fun of. Id take the edgeless Simpsons running today over both. New Simpsons may not be topical or offensive, but it is still clever and full of wit.

And about MADTv spoofing Studio 60, they actually do some great spoofs. They had one recently making fun of Dane Cook, which was hilarious. MADtv should just do parodies, because the other sketches are usually not that funny.

Rich said...

Rick, I'm curious: what do you consider 'old' Simpsons? I'm of the opinion that it got pretty shitty somewhere around the 5th or 6th season and not too many people seem to agree with me. I think around that time it began getting lazy and unfocused in much the same way South Park and Family Guy have, but I still consider Seasons 3 and 4 to be some of the best and funniest stuff I've ever seen.

Needless to say, I'm not eagerly awaiting the upcoming Simpsons movie. The trailer seems to embody all the stuff I hate about 'new' Simpsons. It reminds me of one of the main reasons I dislike the modern Simpsons: the voice acting is utter shit. Used to be good - no, great - now it's shit. Same deal with South Park.

Chad Evan said...

Yeah, The Simpsons hit a peak in the third and fourth seasons, but they were still pretty damn great--if much more farcical--for another six or so years. My main problem with the later episodes (they've been subpar for so long that "new" really doesn't cut it) is that the inside jokes, which once were there to reward loyal fans, have swallowed the show whole to the point that there isn't much else. That and the horrible celebrity cameos.