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Guinness Book of Records in "load of crap" shock

This probably shouldn’t jump out as much as it did, but I couldn’t help but notice this story from San Diego Comic-Con, where The Simpsons was honoured by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “longest running sitcom in the world”.

Only… it isn’t, even, is it?

The Simpsons has been running since 1989, while Last of the Summer Wine has been on a solid run since 1976. It doesn’t take a genius of Frinkian proportions to do the maths on that one. Okay, so it appears that the criterion used in this instance is “greatest number of episodes” - but that’s not really what “longest-running” means, is it? If you watch every Simpsons episode back-to-back, then yes, it’s a far longer running time than Last of the Summer Wine (and indeed any other sitcom), but that’s not the same thing as having run for the longest period of time from beginning to end (or, in the case of both still-running shows, present day). You could argue the toss for both definitions, it’s true - but the point is that the ambiguity is sufficient to render the title bestowed upon The Simpsons as inherently pointless.

But then, announcing that the award had been given to Roy Clarke’s (admittedly far inferior) sitcom wouldn’t have garnered a fraction of the publicity - and drumming up publicity for Guinness seems to be what these little ceremonies were all about. Witness the quite ludicrous award given to Doctor Who for “most successful sci-fi series”. I thought the World Records were supposed to be about quantifiable, carefully-documented statistics? How loosely-defined and ethereal is the concept of “most successful”? The statement that “It’s hard to quantify illegal downloads, but we included those as well” from Guinness’ spokesperson just about says it all.

(And furthermore, there’s something faintly ridiculous about calling The Simpsons “one of the most important things that happened in the last 10 years”, when you consider that it hasn’t actually been particularly culturally relevant - with the exception of a brief flurry around the movie - since… ooh, probably about ten years or so ago)

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Isn’t it the case these days that the Guinness Book of Records seems to exist in a large part to promote various things. I’ve got an old 1960s edition kicking around here somewhere as well as a 1998 edition and the amount of barely-disguised advertising in the ‘98 edition is a bit shocking. It can only have got worse, I presume.

Although, much as I love the show, I was puzzled by their naming “Doctor Who” the “most successful sci-fi show”. What does that even mean?

Zagrebo's picture

By Zagrebo
August 03, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

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Ah, Seb mentioned the “Who” thing. Must remember to read all of article before diving in with a comment.

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By Zagrebo
August 03, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

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> If you watch every Simpsons episode back-to-back, then yes, it’s a far longer running time than Last of the Summer Wine (and indeed any other sitcom)

Every episode of The Simpsons back-to-back = (441 x 22 mins) 9702 mins

Every episode of Last of the Summer Wine back-to-back = (262 x 29 mins + 27 x 59 mins) 9191 mins

Okay that’s not going to be entirely accurate, and I’m guessing not ALL of the 27 specials of LotSW over the years have been an hour long… some were probably half hour, some may have even been longer than an hour, but this is probably a fairly close estimate without going into meticulous research.

Just to emphasize that even if you go by total running time, there’s not much in it.

I would certainly agree that naming The Simpsons “longest running sitcom” is rather questionable.

Carl's picture

By Carl
August 05, 2009 @ 1:10 am

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