What do you do if you’re a long-running show that’s totally out of ideas? Do you scrounge up long-discarded episode ideas from the Trash Co. waste disposal unit and try to pass them off as new? What if you’ve completely exhausted that avenue? What’s your next recourse? Well, if you’re The Simpsons, you do the next best thing – scrounge up long-discarded fanfiction.
A little while ago, comedy movie king Judd Apatow told Slashfilm he wrote a fanscript for The Simpsons way back in 1990 after only five or six episodes had aired, which he described like so:
And what it was about was they went to see a hypnotism show and at the hypnotism show, they made Homer think he was the same age as Bart. And then the hypnotist had a heart attack. So now Homer and Bart became best friends and they spent the rest of the show running away because Homer didn’t want responsibility and didn’t want to be brought back to his real age. So I basically copied that for every movie I’ve made since.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because there was a Rugrats episode with the same idea a few years later.
Apparently the Simpsons people caught wind of this story and decided, as Apatow told Conan O’Brien in an hour-long interview, to produce the episode and pay him $2,200. Apatow doesn’t mention anything about giving them the script, so it seems safe to assume his influence will be limited to that three-sentence plot summary, which is just slightly less than Ricky Gervais’s contributions to the episode he wrote a few years back. Only The Simpsons would invite famous comedy writers to write and then… not have them write.
Not to say that Apatow doesn’t have a stellar track record (which includes a stint on The Critic), but as one might expect from an episode written when George H.W. Bush was still president, it’s something that won’t really work today. The characters and their relationships to one another have shifted too much over the decades. Homer and Bart becoming friends really isn’t that much of stretch these days; for a few years it seemed like every other episode was about them being partners in crime caught up in yet another one of Homer’s harebrained schemes (becoming truckers, stealing lard, becoming grifters, going to the Thomas Edison museum to smash his chair, etc.). Plus, Homer not wanting to face responsibility and remain emotionally ten years old is… basically how he is everyday. How do you top that? Same Homer with less strangling? This episode may have felt novel and had some dramatic impact in Season 1, but it will be Season 25 when this airs.
It’s just too bad Home Improvement ended before my fanfic could be produced.