Friday, August 31, 2018

“The Simpsons”: Woo-Hoo!

While Rupert Murdoch hadn’t bet his network on the success or failure of The Simpsons, there was a lot riding on it. The network was waiting for the overnights on pins and needles. When the ratings arrived- jubilation.

While Married... With Children had been a hit for the network, it was a slow burn, becoming a mega-hit only after several years and a misguided attempt by censors to try to shut it down. The Simpsons was a bonafide smash hit from day one.

But still, Fox was a bit unsure of whether the show would truly be a hit. The network hadn’t even tried to merchandise the show. The success of the show, just days before Christmas, meant that any of the show’s new fans would find  Nothing Simpsons-related under the Christmas tree that year. But would they find anything next year? A few merchandisers came calling, but Fox was skittish. It hadn’t renewed the show yet despite its success. Would the success continue? It would.

The show was a sensation. After several weeks, Fox embraced its success, finally ordering season two. The network’s initial skittishness was now causing problems. Stores were besieged with requests for Simpsons merchandise that didn’t yet exist. Fox realized that there was no way it could get new episodes before the Fall, yet the show’s fans were clamoring for more. Luckily for Fox, its young viewers were willing to watch the few episodes that did exist multiple times. Quick deals with JCPenney and other retailers got Simpsons merchandise into stores as soon as possible, though much of it was not the best quality.

For the first few months of its existence, there was probably more bootleg merchandise than legally licensed items. Although it was caught off guard, Fox was planning on making sure there would be plenty of Simpsons merchandise available for Christmas 1990. That wouldn’t be the only surprise it would unleash on the world that Fall. Fox’s first big hit- Married... With Children- had a working title of Not The Cosbys. Its second big hit- The Simpsons- would become The Cosby Killers.