You’ll Never Guess Which Comedy Has Been on the Air Longer Than ‘The Simpsons’
On December 17, 1989, Fox aired the first episode of a TV series adapted from an animation short on The Tracey Ullman Show that would go on to be one of the most culturally transformative and comedically significant shows in TV history. However, little did Fox know that, just three weeks earlier, ABC did almost the exact same thing when they made a TV show about suburban dads getting kicked in the balls by their dogs.
Along with Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons is universally recognized as a quintessential example of a TV comedy with staying power. Sitcoms have long been the backbones of network TV programming schedules, and Matt Groening’s un-aging animated nuclear family was almost lab-designed to outlast every one of its live-action contemporaries. The Simpsons has been on the air for longer than many Simpsons superfans have been alive — myself included.
But another series launched in 1989 has had identical staying power for completely different reasons. This show commands no cult following, has no merchandising and will certainly never see a feature film adaptation — it is, of course America’s Funniest Home Videos, TV’s pre-internet answer to the question, “What if everyone’s most embarrassing moment could be seen by the entire country?”
America’s Funniest Home Videos, or AFV as it styles itself, is based on a segment from the Japanese show Fun TV with Kato-chan and Ken-chan in which viewers sent in clips from home movies for public humiliation. In fact, ABC still pays royalties to Tokyo Broadcasting System for continued use of the format, which was originally adapted into an hour-long special hosted by Bob Saget at the height of his Full House family-friendliness.
The premise is simple: Viewers send in self-filmed clips of any hilarious (and definitely not staged) accident, prank or practical joke hoping to compete for the coveted $100,000 prize given after a block of episodes, which, upon winning, will place them in the running for the “Grand Prize,” which is typically a Disney vacation worth significantly less than six figures.
With this straightforward concept, AFV has run for a total of 723 episodes in the last 34 years (28 shy of The Simpsons total) and seen four different hosting tenures, with Alfonso Ribeiro of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame currently running the show. This past Sunday saw the premiere of AFV’s 34th season as, somehow, the internet fails to make AFV obsolete while the number of idiotic amateur videos of cats falling in toilets available on demand to anyone with a smart phone continues to approach infinity.
The Simpsons proved that a single animated family can continue to entertain a country for decades on-end. AFV proves that, sometimes, the only entertainment anyone needs is a camera and their dumbest family member.