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story.lead_photo.caption The Simpsons just keep rolling along. They are (from left) Homer, Santa’s Little Helper, Marge, Lisa, Snowball 2, Maggie and Bart.

D'oh! And the final record bites the dust.

Let us take a moment to reflect upon the milestone recently set by The Simpsons. It is a record not likely to be broken in our lifetimes, or those of our children's children.

At 7 p.m. on April 29, viewers tuned to Fox witnessed The Simpsons become the longest running prime-time scripted series in the history of American television based on the number of episodes. Remember where you were so you can tell your grandkids.

Also, anal-retentive viewers need to note all the qualifiers. The record is for prime time, not daytime. It's scripted and not a news or talk program. If you omit the qualifiers, then you must include such shows as NBC's Meet the Press (premiered 1947) and CBS Evening News (1948) and the Today show (1952) and The Tonight Show (1954).

If you include daytime TV, then the CBS soap opera Guiding Light is the king. It debuted on radio in 1937 and on TV in 1952.

The Simpsons episode, "Forgive and Regret," was No. 636 for Homer and the gang. That surpassed the total episodes from the venerable Gunsmoke, which ran on CBS from 1955 to 1975.

To celebrate, the episode featured a Gunsmoke parody opening theme, with Marshal Matt Dillon in a shootout with Maggie. Maggie won.

The Simpsons, now in its 29th season, surpassed Gunsmoke's 20 seasons in 2009, but because TV seasons are shorter these days, The Simpsons had only 441 episodes at that time. Now it has the most seasons and the most episodes.

And before you ask, yes, Law & Order ran on NBC for 20 years (1990-2010), tying Gunsmoke as the longest-running live-action scripted American prime-time series. But with only 456 episodes, it ended far short of the episodes record.

And, yes, Hallmark Hall of Fame is scripted and has been around since 1951, but it's not regularly scheduled.

Law & Order may have ended its run, but Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is still catching perps after 19 seasons. NBC hasn't officially renewed it for a 20th season, but when it does, it'll tie the L&O original. Personally, I can see the 54-year-old Mariska Hargitay chasing bad guys in her walker years from now.

The argument can be made that the Simpson family, which hasn't aged a day in all these years, had an easier time making it 29 seasons than a human cast would.

Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty), for example was a girlish 26 when Gunsmoke debuted, and 46 when it rode off into the sunset. James Arness (Dillon) was 32 at the beginning and 52 at the end.

However, Bartholomew JoJo "Bart" Simpson is, was, and shall forever be 10 years old. Nancy Cartwright, the woman who does Bart's voice, is 60 these days.

The Simpsons first appeared as an animated short within Fox's The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987, and debuted as a separate series on Dec. 17, 1989. Matt Groening's satirical take on dysfunctional family life has won 31 Emmys.

• Civilizations, 7 p.m. today on PBS and AETN. Have you been watching the outstanding Civilizations stuff on AETN? If not, check it out today and catch up with past episodes on demand at

Today's fourth episode in a nine-part series is titled "Encounters." It demonstrates how art becomes the great interface by which civilizations judge and understand one another, as seafaring advances and the interest for trade and exploration allow distant and diverse cultures to meet for the first time.

First Civilizations follows at 8 p.m. "Cities" is the third episode in the series and takes us to the Middle East, site of the world's first villages, towns and cities. This was the birthplace of civilization, as cities "were vessels for invention and innovation." It is also available on demand.

Bull. The Season 2 finale of the Michael Weatherly series airs at 8 p.m. today on CBS. In the episode "Death Sentence," Bull's team finds new evidence a client is innocent, but must find a way to present it in court without being found in contempt. CBS has already renewed Bull for a third season.

Lethal Weapon. The Season 2 finale airs at 7 p.m. today on Fox with an apparent death threat on Riggs' (Clayne Crawford) life. Will this be the end of the series?

Several Hollywood sources report that Crawford has a history of bad behavior on the set and the show's renewal for a third season is in jeopardy.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

Style on 05/08/2018

Print Headline: Cowabunga! The Simpsons smashes TV record


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