The Simpsons Syndication FAQ
Formerly by Frederic Briere
Revised and augmented by Brian Petersen
Maintained by Matt Garvey (email@example.com) & Chad Lehman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last revised January 12, 2002
Q: What is syndication?
Syndication is a general term for the sale of television shows by their
owners to individual stations and networks, both foreign and domestic.
Most popular American television shows premiere on one of the six U.S.
broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, UPN, or WB. Networks usually
add new shows to their schedules after evaluating pilots developed by
production studios like Columbia Tri-Star and 20th Century Fox Television.
In some cases, networks develop shows internally and charge outside
studios with some or all of the routine production duties. An example
of the latter is NBC's Saturday Night Live, developed by NBC but
produced in part by Lorne Michaels' "Broadway Video, Inc." It is
typically the developer which owns a television show, and licenses its
rights to broadcasters.
Because of the higher ratings potential, production studios first seek
a network interested in licensing the shows they develop. If unsuccessful,
studios alternately market their shows directly to individual stations.
This is known as "front-end
syndication." Front-end syndication operates
just like network broadcasting, where a new episode is provided almost every
week to stations, and summer months are generally filled with current-season
repeats. Star Trek: The Next Generation is one example of a series that
found its audience through front-end syndication.
The most common form of syndication is "back-end
syndication." This is
where episodes of shows formerly licensed to networks (or shown in front-end
syndication) may be found. The back-end syndication of a program typically
begins after it completes its fourth season. By that point, the show's
owner is left about 100 episodes that are generating no profit: the front-end
stations or network licensee is busy showing only new episodes and repeats of
episodes from the present season. Back-end syndication makes episodes from
former seasons profitable again by selling them directly to stations interested
in airing old episodes 5-7 days per week. Buyers of back-end lincense deals
can include cable networks, independent stations, or even the stations already
buying new episodes from front-end syndication (or affiliated with the network
to which new episodes are being licensed).
The final form of syndication is "international syndication."
This is the licensing of episodes old and new to broadcasters in other nations.
International broadcasters may schedule episodes in any order (and with any
frequency) desired, often delaying the premiere of new episodes by months
or even years. The sole exception to this rule is Canada, where
current-season episodes of American shows (new and repeat) must be
synchronized with American network and front-end syndication schedules.
This prevents a situation where Canadian viewers would see new episodes
via signals from south of their border before Canadian broadcasters
themselves aired the new episodes locally. For this reason, while other
international broadcasters receive new episodes via tape shipment, all
Canadian broadcasters obtain new episodes of American shows via special
satellite pre-feeds days before their American TV premiere dates.
The Simpsons is produced by Gracie Films and 20th Century Fox Television.
20th Century Fox Television is the owner of the series. It licenses new
and current-season repeat episodes in the United States to the Fox
Broadcasting Company (the Fox network), and to 20th Century Fox
International Television (which re-sells its rights via international
syndication to broadcasters such as Canada's "Global" network, the UK's
"Sky" satellite broadcasting service, and Australia's "Channel 10").
Back-end syndication of The Simpsons began in 1994 and is offered to
United States and select Canadian broadcasters by Twentieth Television
(not to be confused with 20th Century Fox Television).
The remainder of this FAQ will focus on the back-end form of syndication.
Q: How does back-end syndication work?
In back-end syndication, programming is sold via "barter," "cash," and
"cash-plus-barter" contracts. Some shows are offered on two or more
of these contacts simultaneously. For instance, if your local station
broadcasts two episodes daily, one episode might be on a barter contract,
while the other is purchased on a cash basis.
Under a barter contract, all episodes are fed to stations at no charge
via satellite. In exchange for the free programming, some of the
available commercial time is pre-loaded by the distributor (Twentieth
Television) with "built-in" commercials. All stations must follow the
distributor's episode scheduling, which ensures
that the built-in commercials air throughout the nation on the same dates.
The amount of commercial time a distributor keeps for itself under a
barter contract varies from one show to the next. During the old barter
runs of The Simpsons, all built-in advertising was located in the 1 minute
space between the end of the second act and the "The Simpsons will be right
With cash contracts, stations simply buy the broadcast rights to
a series, and sell all of the available commercial time to their
own sponsors. This allows stations to schedule episodes as they wish.
Stations under cash contracts get episodes by either building a master tape library from
the satellite feeds offered to barter contracted stations, or
they can order a complete set of tapes at a charge from the distributor.
Cash-plus-barter contracts offer a mixture of the principles of cash and
barter contracts. For instance, three episodes a week might be offered with
built-in commercials, while the commercial breaks in the remaining two are
left entirely empty for the stations to fill.
The Simpsons entered back-end syndication on an exclusively barter basis. As
ratings increased, additional barter runs were added. Today, The Simpsons
is available only on a cash basis. The former barter runs were:
Sep 19, 1994 - Sep 10, 1999 (1st national run)
Apr 15, 1996 - Sep 11, 1998 (2nd run)
Sep 24, 1994 - Sep 13, 1997 (6th run, Saturdays)
Sep 25, 1994 - Sep 17, 1995 (7th run, Sundays)
Nov 3, 1996 - Sep 14, 1997 (7th run, Sundays)
See Simpsons Barter Scheduling
History for complete back-end syndication information.
Q: Why are syndicated episodes cut?
Episodes are cut to allow more time for commercial advertising.
Episodes rarely have censorship cuts -- at least in the United States.
Back-end syndicated episodes are cut by Twentieth Television
before they are distributed to the stations. Episodes in international
syndication, however, are offered uncut so that the recepients may choose
their own editing techniques.
Back-end syndicated episodes are also time-compressed.
Episodes are played faster than normal,
creating more time for advertising. Twentieth Television time-compresses
episodes before they are distributed. This doesn't
mean that the stations can't add more time compression or cuts.
Usually stations don't; it may violate their contracts by changing the
calculated cost of showing the episodes, versus "out of the box" commercial time.
Q: What has been cut out of the episodes?
Glad you asked <g>. The Simpsons Archive's Syndication Cuts Guide details all the episode cuts for American syndication and most cuts through Season 8 for Canadian syndication. See the index page for more information on Canadian cuts.
Q: Why create a list of syndication cuts?
Some viewers may never have seen the excluded parts, having only viewed older episodes in syndication. The guide allows one to quickly discover if he/she's seen the uncut version of a particular episode.
Additionally, watching syndicated episodes over and over might eliminate the need or will to watch uncut versions. Entire scenes can be completely forgotten. Frederic Briere had termed this as syndication brainwashing.
This list may also be a reference for "Worst/Best cuts" discussions on alt.tv.simpsons.
Finally, this list serves as a permanent record of now rare Simpsons scenes. Uncut episodes released on DVD notwithstanding, as Edward Graham Johnson said: "I hope we can preserve this information before it is lost forever..."
Each episode's cuts are listed in what Frederic Briere called an s-capsule. Older s-capsules are broken into three acts, with cuts listed under each act's heading. Newer s-capsules are broken into five sections, with cuts in the opening sequence and ending listed as well.
S-capsules are archived by season and airdate.
The following notation is used throughout the s-capsules.
% This is how cuts are indicated, by the leading (%). The length
<0:00> % of the cut (in seconds) can be found at the left in one of two
<00> % formats.
# Even original versions are not complete, as some scenes don't
|0:00| # even leave Gracie Films. We sometimes get to see them in Clip
# Shows or other occasions; when that happens, they will be
# indicated in this way.
+ New scenes or audio not present in the original version. These
<-0:00>+ will add time, of course, and so they are presented as negative
$ Symbol used when an episode is edited for a special broadcast,
$ usually to make room for some promotion.
* Time compression information.
! These are comments specific to the syndication process; I
! mostly use them to complain about my work. :)
Different cuts in the same act will be separated by 2 tilde
symbols, as shown here.
~~~~~ ACT I <0:10> (0:20) 7:00 / 7:20
This line precedes each act: it indicates how much has been cut
<0:10> and how much has been gained by cuts and compression (0:20).
If those two figures are the same, it means the act wasn't compressed.
The act's length, in both syndicated and normal versions, comes at the end of the line. A similar line precedes the whole s-capsule.
Opening sequence cuts (the old way)
Older s-capsules recognized three parts in an episode's opening sequence: The blackboard, Lisa's sax solo and the couch gag. If a part was part of the original
version, it is included in the header line. For example:
No blackboard, original couch
This episode had a blackboard punishment, but it was cut; it didn't originally have a saxophone solo; the couch gag wasn't cut. The following explain themselves:
Complete original opening <- Blackboard, solo and couch
Original opening <- Blackboard, solo and couch
Original short opening <- Blackboard and couch
Original special opening <- Original non-standard opening
Full xFxx opening <- Opening comes from xFxx
Opening sequence cuts (the new way)
Unfortunately, openings are more complex than that. While compiling the Simpsons Openings List and Lisa's Sax Solo List, I found that some opening sequences cut right to the blackboard, without the aerial swoop over Springfield. Then, either after Lisa's solo or right away, the opening cuts directly to the Simpsons' driveway.
Excluding special openings, we have five different types of openings to deal with--not just two or three. Now, the words Original Short Opening have no meaning. Sigh..... to deal with this, for starters, new s-capsules include the following two lines:
~~~~~ OPENING <0:55> (0:55) 0:22 / 1:17
~~~~~ ENDING <----> (0:04) 0:52 / 0:56
The OPENING line also gives more meaning to something like "No blackboard, no solo, original couch". For now, refer to the Simpsons Openings List to see details on any episode's opening sequence.
To give more meaning to the s-capsule information as a whole, a summary of each season is posted at the beginning of each s-capsule file. Hopefully, the overall effect of syndication will be clearer with the summaries.
Story cut episodes: AABF22, BABF13, BABF14, BABF16.
I've termed cuts that take place in one of an episode's three acts as a story cut. They are the cuts we've all been griping about. These cuts are generally more memorable to the public than missing sax solos in the opening sequence, or whether the credits are chopped in some way.
Compressed episodes: All episodes were compressed.
This line will indicate which episodes in the season used time compression.
Missing lines: BABF03, BABF08.
Some episodes are not cut; rather, the audio is muted for one reason or another. Usually, this happens when lines run into the credits. Episodes in a season which are missing lines are indicated here.
Added content: BABF06.
This line displays any episodes which have content in syndication that didn't appear in the original episode. A famous example is Don Brodka's line in [3F07] talking about having "smoke blown up his... with a pack of cigarettes and short length of hose." This information is useful in case someone only has original versions on tape, without the new content.
Changed content: BABF01, BABF09, BABF16.
Sometimes, episodes have had lines redubbed, there is new animation, or entire scenes have been moved to a different part of an episode for syndication. Episodes that have had changes that aren't just direct cuts are indicated here.
Total time cut: 21:28 (21 min 28 sec)
All time that has been cut from a season is displayed here. Openings and endings are included.
Story time cut: 2:27 (2 min 27 sec)
This notes the time for story cuts for the whole season, giving us an idea how much of the more important content is missing.
Total time added: 0:10 (0 min 10 sec)
Syndicated episodes having scenes that aren't present in the original will be longer than originals. The time is summarized here.
Total time gained: 26:31 (26 min 31 sec)
All time gained from both compression and cuts season-wide is listed here. This is an idea of the wake of devastation wreaked by syndication for an entire season... (well, it's not as melodramatic as that... <BG>)
Additional season-specific information, as well as changes in the s-capsule format is given here. It's also a space for my incoherent ramblings. ;-)
How cuts are discovered and recorded
Frederic Briere first thought that comparing the length of
the cuts with the extra time in the original version would do it, but
he found out there are some cuts less than 1 second long.
Furthermore, many episodes are "time compressed."
That threw any direct synchronization of syndicated episodes and original episodes out of whack.
His method was the one I used, before even reading his original FAQ:
Watch the two versions simultaneously, on two VCRs and two TV sets. Use
the pause button to re-synchronize the two versions when time compression is used. Mark the times for each act, the duration of each cut, and a transcription of what was cut
in a scratch file, and assemble them into an s-capsule later. It results in a fairly accurate job.
Still; I'm human, and Frederic claimed to be the same :). The s-capsules may be incomplete. If you find a cut that
we've missed, then PLEASE tell me about it.
Frederic got his syndicated episodes from CBC (CBMT 6 in
Montreal) and FOX (WUTV 29 in Buffalo). I get all my syndicated versions as well as the full versions
from KSTU Fox 13. Don't hesitate to ask questions or make
Aaron Garnett for being a true kind human being; I now have the uncut versions of 1F22, 2F11, 2F15, 2F17, 2F18, & 2F21 and him to thank eternally,
Brian Petersen for authoring the explanation of syndication in this FAQ, and for handing me this mountainous, but enjoyable job,
Jouni Paakkinen for his patience <S>,
Jibberuski for his interest in the cuts guide, and for keeping me honest,
and Frederic Briere for being a good sport about me taking over his baby 8^D.
Dave Hall, James A. Cherry, Ricardo Lafaurie, Haynes Lee, Don Del Grande, Dennis Vaughn, and Mountain Man.
A very special thanks:
Tim Reardon for his s-capsules covering missing episodes through Season 7 and much of Season 8.