Stop squab­bling over D’oh!

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

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

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