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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Flashback: The Simpsons Are Born -- And So Is a Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge sc_14_fox_sfirstnight.jpg

For decades after the DuMont Television Network collapsed in 1956, nobody had successfully launched a fourth commercial network to compete with ABC, CBS, and NBC. And based on its prime time debut -- a single hour of programming on Sunday, April 5, 1987 -- nobody could be blamed for thinking that the Fox Broadcasting Co. wouldn't be able to pull it off, either.

Big fanfare intro, with footage of the first three letters of the Hollywood sign covered with "FOX." Foxlywood? Sure! The very first show was Married ... with Children, featuring a pre-skankwear Christina Applegate sporting more of a Molly Ringwald look.

Fox's broadcasting was limited to Sunday nights at first, and it relentlessly promoted what it considered to be its real ace in the hole, 21 Jump Street, beginning the following week with "a two-hour movie premiere!"

Up next after Married...with Children was The Tracey Ullman Show, which we all remember fondly as the show that brought us The Simpsons. (We'll get to that.)

For the next 21 Jump Street promo, Fox broke into a public access station and added some way-cool posterization effects.

I didn't care for The Tracey Ullman Show or its horrible theme song at the time. Still don't.

Finally, after 10 minutes of so-so sketch comedy, our first cartoon! Here's where a multibillion-dollar empire and a zillion catchphrases are born!

...except, no. The Simpsons shorts premiered two weeks later. Instead, the first night's cartoons were M. K. Brown's Dr. N!Godatu, which I've edited together for your convenience:

Your mom probably liked it, and in all fairness, the early Simpsons shorts weren't very good, either.

Other things your mom liked that premiered two weeks later: Duet and Mr. President.

Duet aside, we finally got the first Simpsons shorts on April 19, 1987. ... And their eventual massive financial success would one day help fund the creation of Fox News.

Come back, Dr. N!Godatu. All is forgiven.

Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer. She also curates and hosts Bad Movie Night at The Dark Room, every Sunday at 8 p.m.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Sherilyn Connelly on Twitter at @sherilyn) and like us on Facebook.
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