We’ve now gotten through a little more than half of Season 11 on Crazy Noises, and it’s inspired quite a few comments along the lines of “this is when I knew the show was dead”. Most notably, a couple of weeks ago commenter Dan S. just went ahead and asked:
I’m curious to know how all of you felt about season 10 and 11 when they first aired. Looking at them today it is unmistakable that the quality had declined horribly, but at the time of first airing when I was in eighth grade I don’t remember talking about how bad they were or even noticing until about season 12. I chalk most of that up to being relatively young, but I wouldn’t mind reading an article about a look back to how you felt about the show as it was in its decline.
There are a few interesting replies in that thread (and it’s fascinating to see how different episodes had similar effects on different people), but I was very far from the internet that weekend and couldn’t give it the attention it deserved. However, that basic question, how you felt about the decline of the show as it was happening, is something that’s been on my mind since last summer when we were going through Season 10.
What’s struck me about Seasons 10 and 11 is how little my opinions have changed since they were first broadcast. With Season 7, and especially Season 8, my estimation of quite a few episodes went way up as I saw them more times. For example, I really didn’t like “El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer” the first time it was broadcast. I thought the whole dream sequence was dumb and I can remember saying that “Batman’s really let himself go” was the only genuinely excellent joke in the whole episode. But as that one got to syndication, the shock of the initial zaniness wore off and I appreciated it more and more.
So while I didn’t like a lot of Seasons 9 and 10 when they were new, I was willing to give them some time to change my mind. The problem was that as Seasons 9 and 10 got dumped into the rerun pool, fewer and fewer episodes grew on me the way “El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer” had. There are only a handful of episodes in Season 8 that I basically never watch, but in Season 9 it’s more like half, and Season 10 is even worse.
It wasn’t until Season 11 was being aired that I finally started admitting in public that the show had gone massively downhill, and that was only because I couldn’t help but notice that the syndication runs now had quite a few episodes that I simply didn’t like to watch. I wanted to like these episodes, and I was desperate for any sign that the show was returning to form, but too many of them weren’t merely weirdly surprising on a first viewing, they were just plain boring. Until then I was still defending the show by saying something along the lines of, “wait until you’ve seen it a few times before passing judgment”, but that excuse ran dry when Season 10 started in reruns.
Season 12 was the last full season I watched all the way through, and it contains “Simpson Safari”, the episode that broke my hopes that the show could ever again become what it had been. In Season 13 I instituted a “first commercial” watching policy, where I’d give the new episodes until the first commercial break to make me laugh. If I cracked up or sort of liked it, I kept going. More often than not, though, I’d either turn it off after the first commercial or start doing something else and mostly ignore it. After not watching very many whole episodes, I gave up entirely.
With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say I stuck it out a bit too long. If I’d known in 2000 that the show would still be on in 2012, I probably would’ve quit sooner. But at the time, me and everyone I knew kept expecting to hear that the show was finally going to end, and I didn’t want to miss out on what I thought were its last seasons, however poor.
So, in answer to Dan’s question, that’s what I was thinking at the time. Those of you old enough to remember the show’s decline as it happened, how did you feel? Those of you too young for that, when did you figure it was lost?