Stop squabbling over D’oh!
Showrunner Al Jean, one of the first writers hired for the series back in 1989, can laugh about it. ‘‘ I’d say that’s been happening since series two — honestly,’’ Jean says. ‘‘ Almost since the second half of the first year!’’
While the series may not rate as highly as it once did — hardly a surprise given new episodes are competing with 499 old episodes screening constantly in syndication — it is still more popular than other Fox animations such as Family Guy and American Dad and still gets nominated every year for an Emmy.
Jean says one of the writers pitched an idea some time back for a show where the Simpsons stumble into a secret town meeting.
‘‘ They want to ban the Simpsons because of all the stupid stuff they’ve done over the years,’’ he says. ‘‘ I thought: that’s a good 500th episode-sounding story and it came out really funny.’’ The show also features a montage of the best gags from the past 23 years, a reworked theme tune by Grammy winner Alison Krauss and an appearance by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (left). Sample joke: Marge asks him for his barbecue recipe and he says, ‘‘ I never reveal my sauces’’.
After so many episodes, Jean admits it’s hard for the show’s 20 writers to come up with new storylines. ‘‘ It’s definitely the part we wrestle the most with,’’ he says. ‘‘ Fortunately for us, there are bad things happening in the world you can turn into satire and that’s what keeps us going.’’
Coming up with new ideas also risks the ire of fans. A 2008 attempt to update Homer and Marge’s courtship from the ’ 70s to the ’ 90s (in which Homer invents grunge with his band Sadgasm) drew howls of protest. ‘‘ People do not want their continuity messed with,’’ Jean says.
While pay squabbles as contracts are renegotiated regularly lead to stories suggesting the show will be cancelled, Jean says Fox and the cast compromise as they desperately want it to continue.
‘‘ You’d have to be nuts not to want to work here and keep it going,’’ he says. Simpsons 500th episode, Eleven, March 21, 7.30pm