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FXX Airs ‘The Simpsons’ in Wrong Aspect Ratio. Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

FXX Airs 'The Simpsons' in Wrong Aspect Ratio. Won't Someone Think of the Children?

FXX’s marathon of every episode of “The Simpsons” is underway, and it’s still early into the show’s best seasons. But hardcore fans of the series have noticed something off about the early seasons: they’re in the wrong aspect ratio. Instead of running the episodes in their original 4:3 standard definition format, frames have been cropped, zoomed in and stretched to fit 16:9, or the current format for HDTV, complete with heavy digital noise reduction to make it look cleaner (not always a good thing, and certainly not here). At its most benign, it looks slightly off. At its worst in previous cropped versions, it makes some of the more meticulously composed images look like this:

Or this:

Not only is it unsightly, but the cropping renders some of the show’s trademark freeze-frame gags unintelligible: “Formerly Chuck’s” isn’t real funny without “Sneed’s Feed & Seed” before it.

Liz Miller, who live-blogged the first day of “The Simpsons” for Indiewire, has a few other examples here.

On top of that, while this marathon is running only the original cuts of the episodes, future airings on FXX will be the shorter, syndicated versions, which have cut jokes so as to fit in more ads. The uncut episodes will be available in 4:3 on the “Simpsons World” app, but those looking to tune in to the episodes they saw when they originally aired will be mighty disappointed. FXX says they plan to break out the originals only for special occasions (and presumably still in 16:9). 

Not to sound ungrateful for something that’s brought the best of “The Simpsons” back to everyone’s attention again, but doesn’t this violate the spirit of the whole idea of airing the series uncut? The show didn’t switch to 16:9 until 2009, about a third of the way into season 20, so that’s the bulk of the series that’ll suffer. A number of “The Simpsons” fans on social media are annoyed, with some comparing it (rightfully) to pan-and-scan for widescreen films back in the days of VHS. 

Still, some fans and writers haven’t totally given up on the marathon. Trying to make the best of the situation, A.V. Club contributor Vikram Murthi wrote, “I’m not saying it’s ideal, but jeez, it’s still ‘The Simpsons.’ They’re also unedited cuts. C’mon.” And plenty of other “Simpsons” die-hard fans are tuning in, so even if it’s bothering people, it’s not totally killing the show.

But the reason people were so excited for FXX’s marathon was for the return of the show’s best years, a reminder of why the show mattered and why, even as it goes on long after it should have ended, it has a place in so many hearts. “The Simpsons” shaped the sense of humor of a couple of generations, and it remains a major cultural touchstone in television history. As with any film or TV show, it should be preserved as its creators intended. If the marathon and all subsequent runs of “The Simpsons” are worth doing, they’re worth doing right. In conclusion:

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I'm OK with the conversion. I've seen every episode in standard-def enough times.


Watching any show in the wrong aspect ratio really makes me despise white privilege. Am I right, people?


To Max O'Connel-
after all the bitching from you all about how the Simpsons has been cropped and stretched to God Knows What,
The only sight joke the Simpsons ever did was, la di dah, still intact. The all powerful Sneed's Feed & Seed was still there.
I have a photo of it from the TV with that FXX logo in the bottom right.
I can't believe how much press this one joke gets. And my oh my its still intact.


Matt Groening begs us several times in the DVD commentary to watch the show in the original aspect ratio. I am surprised it wasn't part of the deal.


Half the screen taken away?? Please.

A few jokes gone is more than enough to stand if they are actually gonna air the old episodes.


Why not write in the article about a better fix to your issue, rather than just complain?


Thanks for bringing this up. Some people think it's not a big deal.. but why would I want to watch the classic episodes (many of which are better than the current seasons) with half the image cut off. It just makes no sense. It would be like colorizing Casablanca. Some would love it.. but it would just be wrong, wrong wrong.

The Bandsaw Vigilante

So torn on this marathon. On the one hand, FXX is rebroadcasting the awesome, non-crappy years of The Simpsons (i.e., Seasons 1-8), but on the other…as someone else just tweeted, "I feel like I'm watching [the show] on zoom."

Just caught the episode from the sixth season where Marge sees her therapist (played by Anne Bancroft), and there were some massively cropped-and-stretched shots that took me right out of the viewing experience.

While I'm glad that a younger generation of viewers will finally be exposed to the TRUE Simpsons at long last (these days, most local, syndicated repeats focus more upon the later seasons than the classic early ones), the cropping out of many of the visual gags makes this whole endeavor a "draw," at best.


omfg… stop your effing whining god effing dammit… holy effing shit you effing whining asses can never shut the eff up… never happy… always effing complaining… it's really effing amazing… un effing believable… just watch the effing show and effing enjoy it… it's effing amazing how good the show was and still is and yet we hear 90 percent effing complaints…


There would be a LOT more complaints if they were shown with big black bars on the side. People, dumb people admittedly, demand that their screens be filled.


The two examples of how the cropping "ruins" scenes are from episodes from 1999 and 2002 that won't be airing in the marathon for several days and when they do air, I am sure they won't look like that. I've watched quite a bit of this marathon and can say it's not 100% cropped. Particular shots are shown stretched instead of cropped in order to keep on-screen text in the frame (for example during the writer/producer/director credits that run over the start of the first act). Additionally, whenever we are watching something that is playing on the Simpsons' TV, the aspect ratio is kept at the original 4:3 to match the aspect ratio of that TV. They have also added some camera movements where there weren't any before, in order to follow the action. For example, in the opening, the camera tilts up as Maggie pops out of the grocery bag, to keep her in the frame, and tilts down to follow Bart as he skateboards over the top of Homer's car on the driveway. So this was not a careless hack-job. I would say great care was taken to minimize butchering of the original image in the conversion process.


Those episodes haven't aired yet you moron


I sent FXX an email asking about their decision to crop the episodes. Their reply said there is an issue with my TV!

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