By Darryl Mason
It took more than 120 hours of valuable research time to come up with the data for this headline grabbing study but the researchers could have found all the exact same data in half a second by simply searching the words 'The Simpsons smoking' :
One of the most popular television shows in history contains a "large number" of tobacco-related scenes, say researchers who watched 400 episodes of the cartoon for science.
"We recorded 795 instances of smoking or references to smoking," says Dr Guy Eslick, a fellow of the International Union Against Cancer and honorary associate of the University of Sydney's School of Public Health.
"The most notable characters who smoked were Marge Simpson's sisters Patty and Selma, Krusty the Clown and Bart's school teacher Mrs Krabappel."
Actually, according to this list, the first result when you Google 'The Simpsons smoking', Homer Simpson is seen smoking or referring to smoking 25 times, while Mrs Krabapple and cigarettes appear only 23 times.
Interestingly, "795 instances of smoking or references to smoking," is almost exactly the same number you get if you count every mention, reference or allusion to smoking and tobacco in this list.
"Even instances of smoking being reflected in a negative way, particularly among young characters, could have an impact on promoting children to smoke cigarettes," Dr Eslick said.
The study concludes: "Viewing The Simpsons characters smoking may prompt children to consider smoking at an early age".
But this news story claims the researchers only watched the first 18 seasons for their project, yet they came up with almost the same number of smoking references as this recently updated archive, which includes smoking references in seasons 19, 20 and 21.
Imagine that. They could have saved all that precious research time simply by Googling 'The Simpsons Smoking'. It's the Very First Link!
Did the researchers find that archive and then decide to go ahead and watch 400 episodes of The Simpsons anyway?
400 episodes of The Simpsons, running at about 21 minutes each, works out to be about 120 solid hours. Which is the equivalent of getting one researcher to do nothing but watch The Simpsons seven hours a day, five days a week, for almost three solid weeks.
I'd like to take this opportunity to offer my value-price services to any researchers needing to know how many unhealthy meals Tony Soprano grunts his way through in The Sopranos, or how many times made up swear words are used in all seasons of Battlestar Galactica.
I think the more interesting research results would have come from studying what happens to someone who does nothing but watch The Simpsons all day, five days a week, for three weeks.
I know from personal experience back in the early '90s, that even two or three days of solid Simpsons marathon viewing sessions can seriously distort your perceptions of the non-cartoon reality. It's certainly not as colourful.