Dogma has long held that The Simpsons hasn’t been good since the late ’90s. That means it’s been muddling along for 26 years—which would make even “bad” Simpsons the longest-running prime-time scripted show in television history. Yet, as Jesse David Fox points out, the series’ 34th season has brought about a new approach to writing, and with it a stunning creative reversal. D’oh you believe it?
Selman sees the show as a “Groundhog Day–type reality, where at the beginning of every episode, they’ve forgotten everything that’s happened before.” That frees the writers from the burden of story continuity, allowing them to push the boundaries of what The Simpsons can do. No recent episode defines the current spirit like “Lisa the Boy Scout,” a mind-bending postmodern intervention into the series. In it, hackers interrupt the episode to play supposed deleted scenes that would “ruin” the audience’s conception of The Simpsons universe. There’s a clip in which Carl learns that his best friend, Lenny, was actually a figment of his imagination and another in which it is revealed that Martin, Bart’s nerdiest classmate, is actually a grizzled 36-year-old father of three with an aging disorder that leaves him looking 10.