I think, first of all, that almost everything is an era artifact to some degree or another. Animation is, or was, a possible exception. Many cartoons either make humans very generic in appearance and clothing (plus they wear the same clothes most of the time) or use funny animals instead of humans, which makes it harder for people — especially children — to see them as “old.” Dated jokes in The Simpsons stick out more because the early seasons don’t have a specifically early ’90s feel, whereas any live-action show from that period is stuck with the clothes and the hair.
I took a history class in the summer of 1997 with the late Dr. Love. Western civilization. Dr. Love provided us plenty of reading materials, including Voltaire . He made the note that Candide was successful because it appealed to various classes and ages, using low-brow humour as a means toward pointing out the hypocrisies and injustices of the day. He then compared Candide to The Simpsons, and posited that kids will be studying the 1990s by watching The Simpsons in the same way we read Candide to learn about the 1750s.
Perhaps, but I doubt it.
The early Simpsons episodes are certainly television classic and hold up fairly well. (Episodes since Armand Tanzarian jumped the shark? Well, at least they had a good run.) I also agree, as good as it has been this past season, Community probably wouldn’t capture that same magic in syndication. Other shows which will likely hold up include Seinfeld (despite the saturated syndication), Arrested Development and the vastly underrated Newsradio. All these shows were bolstered by great ensemble casts and timeless writing, without much in the way of topical humour.
I doubt my great-great-grandkids will ever view Seinfeld et al. in their own history of Western civilization course, in part because there may not be anything left with Western civilization except its history, but don’t take my word for it. Read Weinman’s piece and draw your own conclusions.