When it comes to TV shows that have run for decades, I'm sure some big ones come to mind. You could bring up several police procedurals or law shows, like NCIS or Law & Order, or you could think of shows like Doctor Who, which has different iterations. But for me, the first thing that pops up is The Simpsons, and I’m glad we grew up watching it.
The iconic animated family sitcom changed the world of television when it first aired in 1989, and through more than thirty seasons, characters have come and gone – some of which have grown in popularity. And there are Simpsons characters you might not have realized weren't even in the first season. Let's talk about some of the most popular and when they first appeared.
Herbert Powell (Season 2)
Homer is hands down one of the most known cartoon dads out there – if not the cartoon dad that everyone thinks about. But did you know that Homer had a long-lost brother named Herbert Powell? The character first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and was very kind to Homer before his brother ruined Herbert's career.
One of my favorite actors, Danny DeVito, voiced Powell each time he appeared in the show.
Hans Moleman (Season 2)
Hans Moleman is a character from The Simpsons that I'm sure everyone can recognize, and someone who always seems to have something terrible happen to him – and like Kenny in South Park, there always seems to be a running gag of him getting harmed or killed in accidents – but turning out fine later.
While Hans technically appeared in a Simpsons short, he didn't appear in the mainline series until "Principal Charming" in Season 2.
Alice Glick (Season 2)
There have been plenty of elderly characters who have come and gone in The Simpsons, and Alice Glick, an older woman who appeared in several episodes, was one of them. She first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Three Men and a Comic Book," when Bart worked to get money for a new comic book by doing chores for her.
Mayor Quimby (Season 2)
Mayor Quimby, otherwise known as Joe Quimby, has been the mayor of Springfield for a long time and first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Bart Gets an F." While he may look like a nice guy on the surface, Quimby is slick and will do anything to stay in office, even taking bribes from gangsters.
Sanjay Nahasapeemapetilon (Season 3)
While Apu and Sanjay were retired from The Simpsons, their characters were still a big part of the show, and Apu's brother, Sanjay, was introduced in the Season 3 episode, "Homer At The Bat."
Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky (Season 3)
Krusty the Clown is about as iconic as any TV clown out there, and in Season 3 of The Simpsons, fans were introduced to Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky in the episode "Like Father, Like Clown." The character was Krusty's father and would appear for several other episodes whenever the show was focused on a particular Krusty storyline.
Maude Flanders (Season 2)
Maude Flanders is an interesting case because while we all met Ned Flanders in the first season of The Simpsons, Maude didn't appear until the Season 2 episode, "Dead Putting Society," when her son and Bart went up against each other in a minigolf competition. Maude's character has passed on in The Simpsons now but still appears in different ways – like the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, which have some great horror movie parodies.
Comic Book Guy (Season 2)
Comic Book Guy is one of the most sarcastic TV characters ever, who only appeared at the end of Season 2 in the episode "Three Men and a Comic Book." Since then, the character has become one of the most-known minor residents of Springfield and is known for his sarcastic and dry humor.
Superintendent Chalmers (Season 4)
Superintendent Chalmers, also known as Gary Chalmers, is exactly who you want yelling at Skinner in The Simpsons. He is the superintendent of Springfield Elementary and first appeared in the Season 4 episode "Whacking Day." He is one of many characters on the show that Hank Azaria voices.
Professor Frink (Season 2)
Are there other great scientists in incredible sci-fi movies that you could love? Of course, no one can beat Professor Frink from The Simpsons, a brilliant scientist, and his inventions always cause trouble wherever he goes. This character first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Old Money."
Kang & Kodos (Season 2)
I know there are some excellent horror sci-fi movies are out there, but you've never seen aliens as scary as Kang and Kodos. Okay, maybe you have seen more frightening, but these are my favorites. These two fan-favorite characters first appeared in the debut "Treehouse of Horror" episode in Season 2 and only continued to appear in several other episodes since – usually one focused around horror.
Kirk Van Houten (Season 3)
The father of Milhouse, Bart's best friend, Kirk Van Houten, made his first minor appearance in the Season 3 episode, "Bart's Friend Falls in Love." While he's not necessarily the most memorable dad out there on the show, he has a good heart and is willing to step up when the need calls for it – and I just can't get over how similar he and Milhouse look.
Troy McClure (Season 2)
Voiced by Phil Hartman, Troy McClure first appeared in Season 2 of the show in the episode "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment." He was a B-movie actor who started to appear regularly in small video clips or educational TV. After Hartmon's death, the character was retired.
Dr. Nick Riviera (Season 2)
On the subject of doctors in The Simpsons, Dr. Nick Riviera is a good one to bring up. First appearing in Season 2, he appeared in the episode "Bart Gets Hit By A Car." After that, he became a recurring character and even appeared in The Simpsons Movie, where he was killed but then revived.
Disco Stu (Season 7)
Do you want to go back to the movies of the '70s and the music that made you want to go out and put your dancing shoes on? Disco Stu from The Simpsons personified that. The character first appeared in the Season 7 episode, "Two Bad Neighbors," and he became such a mainstay in the series that he even married Marge's sister, Selma, in one episode – before that ended terribly.
Lionel Hutz (Season 2)
Lionel Hutz was a character that first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Bart Gets Hit By A Car," and Phil Hartman also voiced him. He's an incompetent lawyer who always ran into legal trouble. The character was also retired after Phil Hartman passed away.
Artie Ziff (Season 2)
Artie Ziff is the kid from all those great coming-of-age movies you want to like so badly, but he's so arrogant that you can't. The character first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "The Way We Was," when Homer revealed how he met Marge and how Artie had a thing for her. But he appeared in many more episodes later – often trying to get Marge to dump Homer for him, which ends hilariously.
Duffman (Season 9)
Move over, MCU and DCEU, there's a new superhero in town, and that's Duffman! The character first appeared in the Season 9 episode, "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson." The character is the mascot for Duff Beer, the drink we often see Homer and his buddies indulging in.
Rainier Wolfcastle (Season 2)
Rainier Wolfcastle is the action movie hero that we all want in our lives. Season 2 of The Simpsons is where we first saw him, in the episode "The Way We Was." A veteran in many action movies, the character is a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The show has used this character to parody his films plenty of times.
Fat Tony (Season 3)
Fat Tony was one of the characters that truly made an impression in the series and lasted for a while. Appearing in the Season 3 episode, "Bart The Murderer," he was the leader of the mob of Springfield and often used his money to get away with plenty of his crimes. The character did end up passing away at some point and was replaced by another leader, but we'll never forget Fat Tony.
Gil Gunderson (Season 9)
You know when there are those characters you feel so bad for, but they keep making bad decisions so you don't feel too bad? That's Gil Gunderson. The character first appeared in the Season 9 episode, "Reality Bites," and is an unsuccessful businessman who runs into more trouble than he's worth. He's possibly tried every job in the book, and yet somehow, he can not become successful through God knows how many episodes.
Roger Meyers Jr. (Season 2)
As a big fan of adult animated cartoons, no matter how violent they can sometimes get, I understand why Marge went straight to Roger Meyers, Jr. to complain about it. The character who runs the Itchy & Scratchy Show first appeared in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" and has continued to have guest appearances now and again because of the kid's connection to the show.
Sideshow Mel (Season 2)
We all know who Sideshow Bob is, but we must discuss Sideshow Mel, Krusty's sidekick. He's a recurring character on the show, and he first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge," and continued to appear throughout the series. He also had a minor role in The Simpsons movie, playing an antagonist.
Groundskeeper Willie (Season 2)
You can't get better than Groundskeeper Willie's Scottish accent coming up with the funniest lines. This iconic character from The Simpsons first appeared in Season 2, during the episode "Principal Charming." Ever since then, he has worked for and makes sure Springfield Elementary looks pristine – and gets into trouble occasionally.
Horatio McAllister (Season 4)
Whether you know him as the Sea Captain or you know him as Horatio McCallister, he has been in the show since Season 4 of The Simpsons. McCallister first appeared in the episode "New Kid On the Block" and has since made people laugh with his hilarious stories.
Akira (Season 2)
Akira seems to be a character with many talents. The character first appeared in the Season 2 episode of The Simpsons, called "One Fish, Two Fight, Blowfish, Blue Fish." In that episode, he worked as a waiter for a new Japanese restaurant but has since stepped into other areas of expertise, including working at a department store and as a sensei for a karate dojo.
Dr. Hibbert (Season 2)
I don’t doubt that you know who Dr. Hibbert is. He's about as iconic as shows like Grey's Anatomy, where you automatically recognize this doctor's face. Working as the long-time Doctor of The Simpsons family, Dr. Hibbert first appeared in the Season 2 episode, "Bart the Daredevil," and has since appeared in several other episodes to aid the Simpsons in their medical care – and have some pretty hysterical moments.
Eddie Muntz (Season 4)
While Nelson is one of the most known The Simpsons characters of all time, his father, Eddie Muntz, is a relatively well-known side character who first appeared in the Season 4 episode, "Brother from the Same Planet. The first episode he appeared in was delightful and funny and showed a great story with Nelson before he promptly turned into a mean man again and left his son.
Lurleen Lumpkin (Season 3)
Lurleen Lumpkin was an up-and-coming music star in Season 3 of The Simpsons, where she first appeared in the episode "Colonel Homer." Homer worked as her manager for a time before he realized that Lumpkin wanted something more, and he left the position to stay faithful to Marge – but she continued to appear in a few other episodes after that.
God (Season 4)
You can't get more literal than having God as a character. God first appeared in the Season 4 episode called "Homer the Heretic," and while we don't see God's face (as it is often hidden behind clouds), he is always getting into trouble with the Simpsons family and disappointed in many of their actions.
Mona Simpson (Season 2)
While we all know Homer's father, his mother is Mona Simpson and she first appeared in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" She had a recurring role in the show for some time, but due to her leaving Homer at a young age, he is often unable to reconcile their relationship. She passed away in Season 19.
Luann Van Houten (Season 3)
As the mother of Milhouse, it's not surprising that we saw her before we saw his father, Kirk, as she is friends with Marge. Luann van Houten appeared in the Season 3 episode, "Homer Defined," and has occasionally appeared in a story that often involves her son.
With so many characters, it's unsurprising that some have gone, some have stayed, and some are still on the show. Is anyone up for a marathon of every season of The Simpsons? Maybe we can catch up by 2027.