Did David Mirkin start the show's decline?

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I'm going to use an economic theory (which I don't agree with, but still) to make this argument.

Many free-market capitalists believe that Keynesian economic policies (when the government increases spending to try and stimulate the economy) may help the economy in the short-term, but in the long-term not so.

When David Mirkin became showrunner, the level of wackiness was increased (in my opinion, anyway). This "stimulated" the show in the short-term, but in the long-term not so, because the wackiness got predictable (again, in my opinion). What if he had continued the style of the Jean-Reiss era (i.e. a more emotional style)?
 

Real Melvin

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I'd say the percentage increase in wackiness was greater in going from Season 2 to 3 than in 4 to 5 or 5 to 6.

really, it's just a thing that a show with a specific concept only has so much time in it. I'm not going to knock your theory though; I don't quite agree, but sure it's a fine enough thought
 

dj

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The silly ridiculous wackiness kicked in around season 10, so if he was involved in that time, then yes, you may be right.
 

arii

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The biggest problem I have with this idea is that TV shows aren't supposed to last for more than twenty years. It's silly to consider the long term in such a manner. Nobody back in 1994 or 95 thought that they'd need to keep the show stable so that in 2010 it could remain a quality product. Television is much more short term than that.
 

Granto

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i always enjoyed the wackiness of Mirkin episodes, such as Deep Space Homer, because he had the ability (talent?) to keep it reigned in unlike later showrunners. don't think he could ever be blamed
 

Solachinx

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It's not wackyness in general that I blame for the show's decline; it's gratuitous wackingess mixed with bad characterization. The Mirkin Era may have been more catoonish, yes, but because of the characterizations, the interactions, and reactions from the characters, it still felt like The Simpsons. The Scully Era, however, had none of that asside from a few hiccups.

Although I will admit that S6 felt a tiny bit more stale than S5. So, wackyness was a good changeup, but it shouldn't be the dominant style for a long period of time.
 

Nauru-1

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I would say that Mirkin's taking over was the first time the show didn't improve. I'd also say season 5 was the weakest season from season 2 through season 7. However, this really doesn't say much as the show was in the midst of an incredible run that no doubt included Mirkin's tenure. By the time season 6 came around the at times excessive wackiness seemed to be worked out, although the absolute peak of the Simpsons for me will always be the Jean/Reiss years.

Probably the worst thing the Mirkin era contributed was that it in a way planted the seed that would mutate into the Scully era. Oakley and Weinstein especially in season 7 showed that the emotional core of the show was still very alive, but by then there was the idea out there that the Simpsons could work with a goofier tone. Episodes such as Homer the Vigilante and Bart Gets an Elephant seem to me like funnier, more successful incarnations of stories you might see butchered in the Scully era.
 

jal90

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Even though Mirkin probably -and I say probably because at some points Jean & Reiss got even wackier- added some absurd and wackiness to the series that could later evolve into something like the Scully style, there is no reason to talk about decline. As Solachinx said, there's not only a matter of being more/less wacky, but actually a mix of qualities including story writing, character interaction and dialogue, pacing, even voice acting, use of animation or background music. The fact is Mirkin came with the show in a peak of greatness and left it in the same privileged position, and for that alone I think the question asked is, at least, unfitting. Add to this that season 7 came later, which I consider the best The Simpsons has ever offered...

Actually it's been said too that Oakley & Weinstein started the decline and that is another theory I usually disagree with. Just because, even though season 8 may have some clunkers and signs of weariness, there were considerable differences between the style that O&W tried to give to the series and what became in the Scully years. As I said in another thread, while the eight season tried so hard to bring something new every week, the next ones became essentially the same episode, the same style again and again and the creativity of the writers got killed. That was, in my opinion, the start of the decline; not only the loss in quality but the fact that almost everyone who worked in the show stopped caring and feeling involved. They didn't try to come up with anything original nor fresh, and the series just got tired.
 
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friendswithsalad

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While Mirkin episodes were crazy the characters always stayed grounded. It felt almost as if the Simpsons were an average family which crazy things happen to whereas under Scully it felt more like a crazy family which crazy things were happening to.

Plus the plots actually had a structure despite perhaps being based on a crazy premise while Scully plots often felt structureless. I guess you could argue Mirkin planted the crazy seed for the show but I think Jean and Reiss had sorta done that already.
 

lionelhutz123

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All television shows are meant to evolve over time. When it evolves so much to the point where nothing more good can come out of it, it just changes into something completely different that resorts to disappointing direction in style, tired ideas, and inevitably a decline in quality. The Mirkin era was just part of the evolution process. Like I always say, tv series are not meant to be in for the long haul. You produce with what positive things you have to offer, and then you quit while you're ahead. Oakley & Weinstein was the last brilliant era. Season 8 (more than season 7 IMO) was unbelievably daring, experimental, and somehow was able to pull off the last big batch of genius episodes despite a few episodes that pushed the limit of the show a little too far. That should have been the last season, but instead they chose to change showrunners, which at the same time isn't a bad thing. Mike Scully would be the new showrunner and if he can bring something new and fresh to the table that would contribute to the core series, then that would be fine. It's quite a challenge after the previous 8 years, but the show was extremely popular and making alot of money. Season 9 came out and revealed many early signs of unlikable characterizations. The writing wasn't as appealing as it used to be. Sure, there were a handful of decent episodes, but there were alot of problems occuring during this year. Once the staff realized what was becoming of their show, it should have ended with season 9 before things got worse, which it did by alot in the Scully era. The question has pretty much been answered here, so like everyone is saying, Mirkin was not considering what effects that his era would have on the future of the show, because he didn't trust the show to last as long as it is now. It's Scully's fault for trying to take the wacky aspects of the Mirkin run and abusing it. Scully started the decline.
 
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Patches O'houlihan

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I remember Season 5 'feeling better' than Season 4 when it first aired, but after a few years passing, I liked Season 4 more. However, Mirkin did produce Season 6, which imo is the season that had the most straight-up humor and is my second favorite season behind 4 & 7 (which tie as the best seasons).
 

jet

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Episodes such as Homer the Vigilante and Bart Gets an Elephant seem to me like funnier, more successful incarnations of stories you might see butchered in the Scully era.

Interesting you mention those, because I watched Bart Gets an Elephant recently and it really doesn't hold up nearly as well as I thought it would, certainly feels miles behind the more emotional character based episodes at the time. Also interesting is that those eps are both written by John Swartzwelder who was credited with some of the worst scripts in the Scully years, which shows how bad the rewriting got during the Mike Scully era.

lionelhutz123 said:
Like I always say, tv series are not meant to be in for the long haul. You produce with what positive thing you have to offer, and then you quit while you're ahead. Oakley & Weinstein was the last brilliant era.

I've always wondered what the shows legacy would be like had the show gotten canceled after season 8 or 9. Certainly those two seasons would be remembered as better than we remember them now, similar to how I have fond memories of the final seasons of Seinfeld despite the writing getting crazier/less grounded/worse. The current writers of the show would recieve less fan abuse now had the show gotten canceled in that era, I'm sure whatever show they would have ended up at would have a far less picky fanbase than The Simpsons (unless they worked at Futurama). The Simpsons would be given even more credit than it is now if it had poor viewership (followed by cancellation) in season 8 and 9, because that's what always happens to "cult" TV shows. Unfortunately the Simpsons was a cultural phenomenon which had (and continues to have) remnants long after the quality disappeared.

Patches O'Houlihan said:
I remember Season 5 'feeling better' than Season 4 when it first aired, but after a few years passing, I liked Season 4 more. However, Mirkin did produce Season 6, which imo is the season that had the most straight-up humor and is my second favorite season behind 4 & 7 (which tie as the best seasons).

I think in one of Oakley and Weinstein's DVD commentaries they said that the super jokey episodes hold up better to repeat viewings, and I couldn't disagree more. I feel much the same way you do, that upon the initial viewings of all the seasons, each step into hilarious absurd humour feels like an improvement, but looking back, you've heard all the jokes before and it doesn't feel fresh, and you wish the show had stayed where it was, because the emotional episodes become the classics and those were the ones that were closest to the old formula. It was quite a feat of Oakley and Weinstein to pull the show back a step in absurdity and craziness, because that NEVER happens on a lesser show that lasts seven seasons. I remember seeing Marge vs. the Monorail and Last Exit to Springfield years ago and thinking that was as good as the show could get, but looking back at season 4, I would rather watch something like Duffless or another emotionally grounded episode any day. Because of my appreciation of better emotional writing, I happen to like Season 3 better than season 4, and I find season 2 to be just a notch worse than 4, rather than miles behind it like some people feel.

To answer the thread question: No, he did not start the decline, because A. He expanded the auxilliary and main characters and his shows always (or mostly) had exceptional characterization, and B. His shows were way funnier. Seriously, if Scully's shows were as funny as Mirkin's(Mirkin era was probably the funniest the show has ever been), he would receive WAY less vitriol from Simpsons fans and Simpsons critics alike.
 

Kiyosuki

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Although season four to me the show at it's most perfect blend of the grit from before, and the lighter comedy of later there's no way Mirkin started the decline. It may have gradually started, even ever so slightly, to shift away from the show's initial roots of being a reality-check cartoon but it did it in ways that I think made it more accessible and broadened its comedy. Like Arii said up there most shows aren't meant to last for even 10 years so shaking it up is pretty necessary, and in this case it gave it more personality I think by making it a little less intense while still staying consistent to what came before. Besides aside from the subtle touches I don't find 5 and 6 all that different from 4.
 

jet

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I agree that shaking up the show with a new exec. producer/showrunner is necessary every two or three years. Unless you have a plan for the show from the start, (like LOST or pretty much any critically acclaimed cable drama) you can't keep the same show runner on for four or more years, it will just get stale and repetitive.

Certainly a show like The Simpsons which has a distinctive meandering, episodic style, needs to change it up every so often. We almost all feel that Scully and Jean both outstayed their welcome.
 

hin_01

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This is a great discussion, and I agree with the general consensus that Mirkin did not start the show's decline.

Mirkin was a brilliant show runner, IMO. He was able to take outlandish plots and somehow keep them grounded. Deep Space Homer and Bart Gets an Elephant, for example, are ridiculous premises that somehow don't feel that way when you're watching. This is no small accomplishment, as Mike Scully would prove years later. It's a high-wire act, but he navigated it beautifully.

Season 6 is one of the show's best, and season 5 is not shabby either. Mirkin gave us Who Shot Mr. Burns, which was really well-done. I think the best thing I can say about his tenure is that I cannot, off the top of my head, think of a weak episode (not counting All Dancing, All Singing). Homer Goes to College, maybe? It was a pretty strong time.

I get what the original poster is saying, in that Mike Scully seemingly tried to copy Mirkin's tenure, only he failed miserably to keep it grounded (and funny). What I would say is, Mike Scully's tenure is like David Mirkin's on acid...and by on acid, I mean braindead.
 

Bart's treehouse

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I rewatched season 6 earlier this month and I found that it's a season with a core of absolutely brilliant episodes(contains the most on my top 30) but the majority of the season was completely average. I found myself becoming bored with it. But season 5 is my favourite season. In my mind it showcases what is great about the Simpsons ie the ability to have rapid fire humor but for the episodes to still be contained and down to earth. Also great emotional episodes and secondary character building(a thing O&W really mastered) and pointed satire. But you can't say it was Mirkin who introduced wackiness to the show as episodes like Bat and Monorail had been done during the Jean/Reiss era. In terms of wackiness and outlandish plots that failed you'd have to look at O&W last season not Mirkins(That's what Scully did for the most part wrong). But at least O&W for the most part in season 8 were able to keep characterization in tact a thing Scully completely smashed.
 

jet

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Season 5 is a season that I never know where to place among the classic seasons. I could never tell wether it was one of the best or the worst of the classic seasons. Some say it's a transitional season where Mirkin started a gradual change to his wacky humour style that would shape The Simpsons for two years, a transition between season 4 and the funnier/better season 6. Others say it's the better of Mirkin's two, and it improves upon season 4 with more character development and the jacking up of the wackiness.

Either way season 5 is a pretty good mix of episodes, it feels like it was planned out better than season 4 to me.
 

Steve

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I'm sorry but "David Mirkin" and "show's decline" simply DO NOT belong in the same sentence.

Unless the sentence is, "David Mirkin had absolutely nothing to do with the show's decline."


Mirkin's two seasons are two of the best in the entire series and that's all there is to it.
 

Patches O'houlihan

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Mirkin's two seasons are two of the best in the entire series and that's all there is to it.

Slow your roll.

For better, or for worse, Mirkin took the show in a new direction, but unlike the Scully shitfest years, Mirkin didn't ruin the show in the process and kept it highly entertaining.

However, don't go back to Snpp.com and try to debunk the internet criticisim of season 5. Mirkin's style was in major conflict with the first 3 seasons and if that was your only exposure to the Simpsons, Mirkin's efforts did come across as being too over the top.
 

Steve

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I could see that, yeah. 5 and 6 just happen to be two of my personal favorite years. But regardless of what direction Mirkin's seasons steered the show into, the blame could never be placed squarely on his shoulders for whatever decline happened after that. Just because he steered the show in a different direction doesn't excuse all the showrunners that came after him from any blame.
 

zartok-35

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Dave Mirkin was a fine show runner, and he sucessfully made season 5 as good as season 4, which musn't have been too easy. Episodes from season 6, however, don't have the same pizzaz and full-bodied flavor that I really enjoyed in seasons 3, 4, and 7. I don't think it's significant enough to be labeled a decline, though.
 

jet

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I've been watching a few Mirkin episodes lately and I must say at the moment from what I've been watching I'm feeling that season 6 holds up better than season 5.

Season 5 has a few crazy episodes that don't really hold up at all for me like Homer Goes to College and Bart Gets an Elephant (I used to like those episodes a lot more), but I must admit Rosebud is still a genius episode. There are some really cleverly satirical episodes in the bunch, as well, and of course Last Temptation of Homer which is a nice semi-low-key emotional episode. I would of course need to watch the whole season to pass judgement, but looking over the titles of the episodes there are very few that I remember being completely memorable and running a complete gamut with emotional realism, story, and humour.

Season 6 I feel has more of those really strong episodes like Homer Badman, Barts Comet, Lisa on Ice, Homer the Great, and Who Shot Mr. Burns (although some of those are debatable) and has some decent crazy episodes like Lemon of Troy. The worst of season 6 is probably at the same level as the worst of season 5, bland but inoffensive.

Anyway, although my preference of Mirkin seasons changes between 5 and 6 a fair bit, I must reject the notion that season 6 was a step down from season 5, and I don't think the show was noticably declining when Mirkin was in charge (unless you mean the craziness factor, which totally started in season 4 or even 3). I've heard people talk about Futurama and say that season 4 had more "perfect" episodes while season 3 had fewer masterpieces but was more consistent in general. Now I don't necessarily agree with that, but perhaps that could potentially be a reasonable description of the difference between season 5 and 6.

The supposed quality difference between season 5 and 6 has some bearing on the decline subject, so that's why I posted it in this thread. Also it's not a bad thread.

Also Al Jean did not start the show's decline, it began in either season 8 or 9.
 

Bart's treehouse

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I've been watching a few Mirkin episodes lately and I must say at the moment from what I've been watching I'm feeling that season 6 holds up better than season 5.

Season 5 has a few crazy episodes that don't really hold up at all for me like Homer Goes to College and Bart Gets an Elephant (I used to like those episodes a lot more), but I must admit Rosebud is still a genius episode. There are some really cleverly satirical episodes in the bunch, as well, and of course Last Temptation of Homer which is a nice semi-low-key emotional episode. I would of course need to watch the whole season to pass judgement, but looking over the titles of the episodes there are very few that I remember being completely memorable and running a complete gamut with emotional realism, story, and humour.
I always found that season 6 has lots of great episode such as the ones you mentioned etc. But season 5 is the best example of what the show could be mixing satire,rapid fire comedy and emotional episodes. Season 5 often gets tossed aside(for season 7 etc) because people just view it as a zany Mirkin era season. But in all truth the season produced some of the best character studies and emotional episodes with Sweet Seymour Skinner,Rosebud etc while still maintaining the same level of hilarity that season 4 had brought on.
 

Dehumanizer

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No, Mirkin did not start the decline of the show. While yes, there were some wacky plots during season five and six, they were wacky within reason. They were not totally wacky like Scully's were. There was still a balance of season two, three and four character depth and emotion with a new style (Mirkin's). And overall, I think season five is greater than season four. Mirkin is a great showrunner and turned out two fine seasons.

Which yes, people often do throw season five aside for seven or four. To be honest, while season seven is good, it's definitely not in my top three favorites.

To me, the overall decline of the show began in season eight.
 

Ned

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Seasons 4-8 was a great classic era seasons and the decline didn't really take place until Mike Scully took over the show in Season 9 were its decline started to take place,Al Jean seem like at first that he did a good job but he made the show ever worser then before and the only season he did a good job with were Seasons 13-16.

All of the classic era Seasons were the best well handled of the show,David and Mirkin never did start the Show's decline,Mike Scully and Al Jean are to blame for the show's Decline,Seasons 1-5 were were a classic and season 6 was the best classic season with good plots and it wasn't wacky either,Season 7 is were the show still keep getting strong without it being veiw as zany,David and Mirkin were the best showrunner for the show and those classic era Seasons aswell.
 

HRH Sir Prince Charles

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I think you can make the argument that Mirkin opened the door for Scully by taking the show in a more wacky direction that clearly appealed to the ex-Yakov Smirnoff writer in Scully and that Mirkin's success with the wackier plots led him to believe the show could successfully move further in that direction. So in that sense I would say Mirkin indirectly helped the show's eventual decline, such as it was.

But then, it's important to look at the show today and chart it's decline from season 13 to now under the watch of perhaps the most establishment Simpsons producer of them all. The march toward stale, overly mainstream, lame crap that has defined the Jean era is what I imagine a post Oakstein Simpsons that went with someone other than Scully being anyway. The decline was inevitable, shows aren't meant to last this long, Mirkin can only be blamed for the manner of the decline. After all, some of the stalest elements of the Jean are his attempts to make every episode Duffless.

That the show (arguably) produced roughly 13 watchable seasons is an astounding feat, when you really think about it. Hopefully at some point the powers that be will realize that and end the whole thing.
 
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