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The American animation The Simpsons is now in its 10th season as a show in its own right. It was created by Matt Groening as shorts for the Tracy Ullman Show and was bought by the Fox Network, which began screening it as half-hour shows in 1989. Initially its success was restricted to the 9-16 year old age group, and for animation there is nothing remarkable about this. Its success grew quickly and it is now popular in many countries with many different audiences. "In the 1990s we are seeing dramatic transformations in media industries and media cultures. In geographical terms, these transformations may be seen in the shift from national to global media." The Simpsons can be seen as both a remarkable piece of global culture and as a hugely successful piece of global television. (One need only look on an Internet search engine to discover that there are literally millions of Simpsons fan-sites around the world.). The Simpsons themselves are a simple family in a small town in Middle America called Springfield. They are: Homer (loyal but stupid father), Marge (dissatisfied, trapped housewife/mother), Bart (rebellious son), Lisa (unappreciated genius daughter), and Maggie (silent baby). The show also revolves around a number of other of the townsfolk, such as Mr Burns (Homer\'s miserly boss), Smithers (Burns\'s loving assistant), Apu (Indian shop owner), Principal Skinner and Moe (owner of the local bar). There are a number of reasons why we cannot simply view The Simpsons as a cartoon like any other. The rules and conventions that it follows are far more those of television or cinema than those of animation. The humour within The Simpsons exists on many different levels ranging from the obvious to the subtle, from the literary to the movie reference, and beyond. But most importantly we must consider the show\'s ability to make significant social comment, on general issues of culture and society, but more specifically on television, film and media, and on audience viewing and acceptance of these media. Traditionally, cartoons have been action driven and animation. Aside from the use of cameras to create the visual illusion of depth (Walt Disney famously explained the \'complicated\' technique used to allow Mickey Mouse to walk along a street without distorting depth or perspective), cartoons had a language of their own, unique and separate from that of cinema or television. They were simple and without layered meanings. They had their own conventions that were regularly used and easily understood by children. These included falling anvils, cannon balls, dynamite and gunpowder. Generally most situations in traditional cartoons are very simple and similar. They are based on a basic relationship between the chaser and chased. For examples look no further than children\'s television and you will see Tom chase Jerry, Wylie Coyote chase Roadrunner and Yosemite Sam chase Bugs Bunny. So what makes The Simpsons different from these more traditional cartoon forms? Both the characters in The Simpsons their roles and situations are far more complex than in traditional animation. Indeed, what are seen as sub-characters are often the bases of stories, as executive producer Bill Oakley explains: "Over eight years we\'ve developed a town full of characters…Moe, Mr Burns or Principal Skinner can all provide the engines for stories." Producers of The Simpsons say they concentrate more on scripts than on animation, making the show more humour and script based than action based. But despite The Simpsons being seen by many as a sitcom, Oakley likes to keep the show fresh, and generally avoids sitcom writers: "We want people who are not ruined by the standard sitcom form." One of the most important factors in explaining The Simpsons\'s cross-generational and broad demographic appeal is the sophistication of its writing. It is constructed to exist at many different levels. In terms of its humour, creator Groening says: "There are the obvious jokes, the visual sight gags, the subtle literary allusions and at the most subtle, what we call the freeze frame gags." While I agree with Groening, I would categorise the humour slightly differently. The first level is \'blatant comedy\'. This includes "obvious jokes". The appeal to children that originally heralded The Simpsons is based on blatant comedy and the antics of Bart, such as his famous phone pranks: Bart phones Moe\'s