Tomorrow, St Patrick's Day, sees another The Simpsons first. In the Name of the Grandfather witnesses America's foremost cartoon family heading for Ireland, where Grampa and Homer buy a pub.
Irish Star Trek actor Colm Meaney is the guest star. It's not the fact that this is the Simpsons' first visit to the Emerald Isle that is making history so much as that, after 434 episodes, this is the first time it has been shown in Europe before it has gone out in the US. In the Name of the Grandfather will be screened on Sky 1 tomorrow, five days before it's shown in the States.
To mark the screening of the episode, The Simpsons producers Al Jean and James L Brooks and voice star Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Todd Flanders, Ralph Wiggum, Kearney) are coming to Dublin and will take part in the St Patrick's Festival, including the parade.
But isn't this just the sort of gimmick on which, according to critics, Fox's cash-cow cartoon has become over-reliant in recent years?
The Simpsons has been under sporadic enemy fire since the beginning of the century and these days, despite having almost single-handedly invented the animated-sitcom genre, the show no longer has the field to itself. Not only does it have strong opposition, that opposition is about to grow with the imminent premieres of The Goode Family, The Cleveland Show and Sit Down, Shut Up. But more of them later.
Currently three of the main contenders for The Simpsons' slipping crown are products of the same network -- Rupert Murdoch's Fox Broadcasting Channel -- and transmit immediately after The Simpsons on a Sunday night: King of the Hill, Family Guy and American Dad, comprising the so-called Animation Domination line-up. Actually make that two, because King of the Hill -- a cartoon about a redneck Texan family from Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge -- has been axed.
"Family Guy and American Dad, while they are amusing and ambitious, they are essentially a string of disconnected punch-lines in search of genuine characters and a connective storyline," reckons Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond.
I don't entirely agree with that since both Family Guy and American Dad can be darker, ruder, nastier, sharper and often funnier than latter-day episodes of The Simpsons. But I would go some way to agreeing with Richmond when he says: "The only show that comes close to the qualitative level achieved by The Simpsons is South Park."
Matt Stone and Trey Parker's fearless animated sitcom, whose 13th series premieres tonight on Paramount 1, is (as Rolling Stone magazine put it while celebrating the show's 10th anniversary in 2007) "still sick, still wrong".
But South Park is now way older than its protagonists, the perpetual fourth-graders Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman. What is in the animation pipeline, and will any of it topple the 20-year dominance of The Simpsons?
Fox's Sit Down, Shut Up, which begins airing in the US next month, sounds like it has the most promise. Based on a short-lived live-action sitcom from Australia, the animated US version revolves around the staff members of a (you guessed it) dysfunctional high school.
Mike Judge has the wicked-sounding The Goode Family (for ABC this time), about an obsessively green family.
Meanwhile, two new seasons of The Simpsons have been announced, taking it to within spitting distance of its 500th episode. Will it ever end?