But nothing's happening tonight--or Sunday night, when the nine-year-old program airs its 167th episode and becomes the all-time leader--to pay homage to the milestone. In fact, the irreverent series has built its loyally followed franchise largely by not paying homage to anything.
Besides, last season Fox aired the "Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular," an episode that mocked the standard sitcom-anniversary show by celebrating a completely random and arbitrary milestone, using a hodgepodge of previously-aired footage that looked purposefully slapped together.
"The storylines of both programs have nothing to do with the actual milestone," says Simpsons show consultant Antonia Coffman. "The producers weren't even aware of it when they were creating these shows."
Still, they made one feeble attempt at acknowledging the historic moment. Several seasons ago, The Simpsons featured a cameo of The Flintstones as part of the "couch scene" in its trademark intro. Producers wanted to use that intro again for tonight's show, but couldn't get clearance to re-air it. (Another old episode featured Homer singing a parody of The Flintstones theme.)
Audio Clip: Homer, "The Flintstones Theme"
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Consistently among the top-10-rated programs in the early '90s, The Simpsons still enjoys a zealous following, particularly on the Web, home to hundreds of fan pages. After a ratings dip, the audience has perked up this season.
The Simpsons was first seen as a short on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 and debuted as its own Fox series on January 14, 1990. "I can't believe we've been annoying people for this long," executive producer and show creator Matt Groening told the Associated Press.