On Sunday nights, when The Simpsons, the nation's best-known dysfunctional family are a fixture in millions of American households, many Christians are in church. At home, the less devout are probably tuned to the competition, Touched by an Angel, which usually wins the ratings time period. But a lot of people are watching The Simpsons, and have been watching faithfully and, yes, religiously for more than a decade.

In addition to the estimated 14.4 million who watched the series each week during the 1999—2000 season, according to the Fox Network and Nielsen Media Research, another 4 million people tuned in each week watch reruns of the show in syndication. More than 180 Fox affiliates carry the new episodes on Sunday nights and more than 250 stations in the U.S. and Canada air reruns, some twice a day. Now entering its 12th season, the series was once in the top 10 prime-time shows and now ranks comfortably in the top 25, doing best among males 18—49, and actually gained viewers last season.

As important to Fox as the show's enduring ratings success has been The Simpsons' enduring critical acclaim. The show has been nominated for 33 Emmys and has won 15, as well as a Peabody Award. Time magazine called The Simpsons the century's best television show, and the entertainment industry took note of the series 10th anniversary with a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

The New York Times predicted in its millennium edition, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that The Simpsons would still be a top-rated show in 2025. From the time of its premiere in the 1980s, when Bart Simpson T-shirts set off controversies in schools from coast to coast, until now, The Simpsons continues to influence American culture.

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