From practically the first episode, broadcast in 1989, The Simpsons impacted on planet TV like a giant multi-coloured meteor. With a claim to being the defining pop cultural phenomenon of the 1990s--hip, fast, sharp and primary--there was nothing even in rock & roll to match this. The Simpsons is possibly the greatest sitcom ever made. Although the animation was initially primitive, never before had cartoon characters been so well drawn. There had been loveable middle-aged layabouts on TV before, but Homer Simpson successfully stole their crown and out-slobbed them all in every department ("The guys at the plant are gonna have a field day with this," he grumbles in "Call of The Simpsons" as he watches scientists on a TV news item who can't decide whether he is incredibly dense or a brilliant beast). However, in this first series he isn't quite yet the bloated man-child he would become in later series; instead he's a growling patriarch with a Walter Matthau-type voice. His sensible half Marge's croak, meanwhile, has yet to settle down, while the vast cast of minor Springfield characters have yet to find their place. Bart, however, was a smash from the start: dumb as Homer but spiky-haired and resourceful, he sets out his manifesto in "Bart the Genius"; while "Moaning Lisa" spotlights his over-achieving sister and is a good early example of the series' clever handling of melancholy bass notes.
Throughout its life there's always been confusion as to whether The Simpsons is a show for kids or adults, but with allusions in these first 13 episodes to Kubrick, Diane Arbus, Citizen Kane and (in a very satisfyingly anti-French episode) Manon des Sources, it should already have been clear that this was a programme for all ages and all IQs from 0 to 200. Dysfunctional they may have been, but the Simpsons stuck together, and audiences stuck with them into the 21st century