A classic soap opera is like a movie, so it makes sense that people would love to see it, says David Sperber, the co-founder of the company that makes The Simpsons.
In fact, the soap opera phenomenon started around the same time the first episodes of the hit TV show were broadcast, and Sperberg is quick to point out that the Simpsons has been around since the 1930s.
And now, Sperer says, you can watch your favourite characters’ stories unfold in the form of a web series that’s been making the rounds for years.
“The internet is an enormous source of new opportunities for people who don’t have any formal training in storytelling,” says Sperbier.
“They’re using the internet to tell their stories in a way that’s really engaging.”
There are hundreds of soap operas on YouTube, with hundreds of thousands of views, and many are based on real events.
Some, like the Australian drama The Secret, are created by real people, like actors and actors-turned-actresses who have appeared in other media, like film and television.
Others, like The Sopranos, are set in modern day London, and the plot is so tightly scripted that it’s difficult to tell who’s who, says Sverdlov.
The show is often filmed in a manner that would have made it into a Hollywood film, like in the way the lead character is treated.
And Sperben says that, when the show first started, the actors were often paid a small sum for each performance, or, as he puts it, “a little bit like the cost of a bottle of champagne.”
The success of The Simpsons has led to some pretty big changes for the web, says Robyn McEwan, a web development expert at the University of Cambridge.
For example, the BBC began to show more of the shows’ storylines and even gave them the chance to appear on the BBC’s daytime talk show The Andrew Marr Show, which airs on BBC One and the BBC iPlayer.
“This has really opened up access to people who might not otherwise have the means to make the effort,” she says.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people watching these shows, which has really changed the way we think about what we can do as a society.”
The Simpsons’s popularity has also led to a few new projects for Sperbers company, called The Simpsons Studios.
“We’re a company that develops and produces television shows on our own, which is really unusual for us,” he says.
And one of those new projects is a web version of The Soprano.
“It’s based on a real-life soap opera from the early 1930s called The Secret,” he explains.
“That’s the original source material for the series.”
The series is now in its fourth season, and is being produced by The Simpsons writers, producers and editors, but Sperberes hopes that it will become even more popular as it gets older.
“I think The Simpsons is probably the only show on the web where the audience is constantly being updated,” he continues.
“And it’s also probably the show that’s most accessible, because we’re able to create an entire web series, even if it’s not the show itself.”
Sperbarbs plan is to create a series based on the story of the fictional town of Springfield, California, and a web video of the episode will appear on The Simpsons TV show.
“If we were to produce a series about Springfield and its residents, we would probably do a version of the Simpsons and use it for a web project, and then have the episode broadcast on a TV show, with the Simpsons themselves as the stars,” he concludes.
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who died in May, was born in St Louis, Missouri, but lived in Springfield from the age of eight, says his favourite TV character is “the town girl” and he says he’d like to create another web series based around the town.
The town of the same name is located on the western coast of California, about 120 kilometres north of San Francisco.
It’s one of the few places in the US where people still call it The Simpsons, despite its name being changed several times.
The name was first used by a cartoon character named Barney Stinson in the 1960s, and was then changed to The Simpsons by Groening in 2001.
It also became a popular nickname for a fictional TV character called Bart Simpson, who was popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
But the town of The Springfield is so big, and has so many characters, that it took Groening many years to create The Simpsons as a whole.
“At the time, I was working on the first season of The Flintstones,” says Groening.
“But I was really inspired by the way that a lot of these characters were portrayed in those shows, and that I thought it would be interesting to write and create something from that