Monday, October 12, 2009

One to add to my collection

In case you don't know, I am a very serious fan of The Simpsons. I distinctly remember the weeks of advertising leading up to the series premiere in December 1989, and then eagerly gathering around the television with my entire family to watch that famous first episode, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire." My eight-year-old self latched onto this cartoon family and I feel like we basically grew up together. My personal character developed alongside those of Springfield USA, and as I matured, so did the show. I would say that I credit much of my own sense of humor to The Simpsons, except that I think the more apt analysis is that the series shaped what is considered humorous across popular culture in general. As a long-term fan, I notice the Simpsons' influence in so many movies, TV shows, radio jabber, and more.

The fact that I have seen every single episode aired over 20 years is not as impressive proof of my fanaticism as my prized VHS library. There was a time, not long ago, when you couldn't run to Best Buy or Wal-Mart and pick up your favorite television series' collector's edition DVD with audio commentary and behind-the-scenes footage. Back in the nineties, if you wanted to watch a show under any other circumstances than live at its scheduled time, you would
need to program your Video Cassette Recorder. Taking this idea to a new level, I created an enviable collection of 19 tapes, six to eight hours each, containing episodes recorded from television without commercials. And I carefully cataloged each episode on each tape so that there were no duplicates.

My collection of 19 VHS tapes containing commercial-free, non-duplicated The Simpsons episodes from Seasons 1 through 14

THE SIMPSONS VIII tape with typed episode label as a sample from my prized collection

The project was quite an undertaking. Upon pulling out the videos to snap those photos, I discovered my episode lists from each season with systems for tracking which ones were missing from my tapes, and the scratch paper on which I looked up online and wrote down the dates and times when those episodes would be aired. My mother was a helpful accomplice to my obsession, as she generously bought me tapes with longer recording times, and on many, many occasions sat in front of the TV with the VCR remote to record my episodes and press pause when commercials began and the show resumed. That is true motherly love right there. This endeavor continued into the year 2003, when the accelerated release of complete seasons on DVD threatened to make my collection obsolete. In addition, the invention of TiVo and our "season pass" setting allows me to select from an ever-revolving couple of dozen episodes and watch one by pressing a few buttons on the remote. And I can easily skip the commercials.

I'll let you call me a Simpsons Geek any time. It's an obsession of which I've never been ashamed. And I might not watch those videos right now, but their mere existence is cherished.

As is common when a person indicates an interest in a theme, I have received many Simpsons-related gifts and collected some unique paraphernalia over the years. Here are a few favorite, and more obscure, pieces in my varied collection:

Artwork supposedly signed by Simpsons creator, Matt Groening. It was given to me by one of my high school best friends' dads who dealt in celebrity autographs as a business. I've always wondered at its authenticity, however, especially since he didn't provide any certificate. But I still like it, and yes, I have it framed and hanging on the wall in my house.

Wow, this one is amazing. I don't know where my friend Wiyaka found it, but she sent this Homer marionette of questionable origin for my daughter's first birthday. Technically I guess it belongs to Madelyn, then, who has been able to name the Simpsons family members for about a year now I would guess. (She learned them from the set of nesting dolls below; she doesn't actually watch the show. Yet.)

Madelyn has also commandeered this cool metal lunchbox recently too. She stashed her various trinkets and treasures in there and takes them places.

Another undeniably unlicensed article was mailed to me all the way from the Izmailovsky Market in Russia by my friend Bridget, who was living there at the time. Tiny little Maggie has been misplaced--I can only hope we'll find her when the time comes to move my desk. And Marge's head was sadly crushed underfoot when they were strewn about my office floor by a toddler one day, but the many pieces were carefully superglued back together, and you can't even tell, no? This set of matryoshka dolls is probably my favorite piece of Simpsons memorabilia, due partly to its exceptional distinctiveness and foreign origins, and partly because it reminds me of the bond that Bridget and I shared as teenagers with a mutual appreciation for the creative genius that we knew as The Simpsons.

Yesterday I learned of a new item that I might need to add to my collection:

That sultry temptress Marge has agreed to do a pictorial and appear on the cover of a special Collector's Edition of Playboy as part of the 20th anniversary celebration. I assume the spread will be tasteful and artistic, because surely Marge wouldn't consent to less. Okay, I probably won't buy an issue of "entertainment for men," but I'm curious enough to see it.

Happy upcoming 20th Anniversary, Simpsons!


Bridget said...

I'm sure you know I love this post. I'm touched by the reference to the nesting dolls. Really, I couldn't NOT buy them.

I had some Simpsons Anthology VHS tapes as well, with computer labels, but they weren't as complete a set as yours. And my mom, unlike yours, was not quite as supportive of my endeavor :).

Annie said...

We NEVER allowed the children to watch the Simpsons. Why, it was akin to something truly evil...until we John told us it is hysterically funny.

Just goes to show can deny them the Simpsons...until they move out on their own.


Amber said...

I am truly impressed with your videotape anthology. Those growing up in the current age have no idea the level of dedication and the amount of effort it took to possess one's favorite tv shows - and without commercials, no less! I don't think I ever had the attention span to record even one show I liked, unless I was going to miss it, much less season after season. Amazing!


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