No d’oh: “The Simpsons” on Sunday set the record for the most episodes of a prime-time scripted television series, surpassing the 635 tallied by the venerable 1955–1975 TV Western “Gunsmoke.”
“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” declared “The Simpsons” Twitter page Friday as it previewed the episode’s “Gunsmoke”-themed opening credits. The 41-second clip shows an animated Marshal Matt Dillon, originally played the late James Arness, on a dusty Western street, facing off in a showdown with infant Maggie Simpson. “Can’t let you do it,” the lawman growls. “Can’t let you break my record.” But Maggie’s the quicker draw, and so Marshal Dillon is left pushing up daises.
Following this, the credits to the episode titled “Forgive and Regret” introduce the characters with generic Western music and a parody of the “floating-heads” opening of “Gunsmoke,” which began circa 1967. This appeared only in the promo and not in the episode as it aired.
“Thank you to you, who have cared about the show and made it what it is,” executive producer Al Jean tweeted Sunday. The Simpsons premiered Dec. 17, 1989, and is in its 29th season.
“Gunsmoke,” however, was an hourlong program for about half its run, while “The Simpsons” is half-hour, and so the former retains the record for most hours of television. As well, the Western series had begun on radio in 1952.
The closest other scripted prime-time series, the family drama “Lassie,” about an ingenious collie, ran on network and then in first-run syndication from 1954 to 1974, for 591 episodes.