If you’ve been using the internet for the past five years, mayhaps you’ve noticed a growing trend of episode-by-episode recaps and reviews of television shows. Virtually every major blog does a recap of Mad Men, Girls is considered “fantastically popular” to those within that New York media bubble, and even The Gray Lady has gotten in on the action. The epicenter for the TV recap industry is of course The A.V. Club, which greatly expanded its television section in an insane quest to review every episode of every TV show, with a (self-admitted) tendency to lapse into “pretentious twaddle” in the course of explaining what episode 702 of The Big Bang Theory says about the human condition.
Who’s responsible for all this? Slate places the blame squarely on alt.tv.simpsons, the infamous nerdy Simpsons newsgroup personified by the Comic Book Guy:
Long before the rise of TV recap culture, its best and worst elements commingled in the alt.tv.simpsons laboratory. The content ranged from meticulous (a list of the show’s blackboard and couch gags) to smart (a later-proven theory that Maggie shot Mr. Burns) to overcritical (in the middle the unimpeachably great Season 4, somebody started the thread “Simpsons in decline?” in which one poster claimed that “Marge vs. the Monorail,” a classic episode, “had 0 good quotes”) to offensive (e.g., “Lisa has a proto-dyke Marxist Jew agenda”).
Yep, sounds the internet all right. I’m sure whatever the big Star Trek newsgroup was at the time also played a big role – Trekkies are responsible for slash fiction and fandoms, mind you – but here it merits only a throwaway reference.
The rest of the article talks about the Simpsons producers’ relationship to the alt.tv.simpsons, which is mildly interesting. It doesn’t mention this, but there’s a Life in Hell strip I’d very much like to see that pretty much just quotes a scathing review of the Republican-bashing episode “Sideshow Bob Roberts” verbatim (there’s a transcript in this episode capsule; Control+F “Galvanek”), including this choice quote:
I would get such a kick right about now in seeing Groening writhing in pain as he dangled by a section of his intestine from a tree. At the very least I’m hoping for a sloooooow painful death via some horrible illness of his nervous system, on that allows him to remain fully aware until his very last breath.
Hmm, kinda makes you wonder why Matt Groening isn’t on Twitter.
Also, not that it was ever in any doubt, but Slate links to irrefutable proof that Alan Sepinwall, king of the TV recap industry, is a wiener: a post on alt.tv.simpsons where he complains about a continuity error. Haw, haw!