NEWS BRIEFS

police dog

When Simpsons news falls through the cracks, Lewis Black catches it, in a feature we like to call “NEWS BRIEFS,” because we couldn’t think of a more creative name.

  • Ex-Simpsons/Futurama writer Patric Verrone trailed in his bid for State Senate and won’t be advancing to the general election in November. This is great news, because he now has more time to work on his Supreme Court figurines. [Variety]
  • The town of Springfield, Oregon is getting an officially-sanctioned Simpsons mural even though they’re not “the real Springfield” and don’t deserve diddly squat. Go to hell, Springfield, Oregon. [The Oregonian]
  • Some fans held off on buying the barebones DVD version of The Simpsons Movie because they were expecting Fox to “double-dip” by selling a more deluxe set with more features later on. That ended up never happening, and Simpsons head honcho Al Jean has confirmed there are no current plans to release one. He blames the dwindling home video market, but I think we all know the real reason: it was axed once the executives realized it could never live up to my joke version. [Al Jean via Twitter]
  • Seth MacFarlane’s western movie bombed at the box office and will likely be quickly forgotten, much like Matt Groening’s ill-fated turn as a hardboiled detective in 1993’s Deadly Slumber. [Los Angeles Times]

JEAN MACHINE

al jean

Simpsons showruner Al Jean recently joined the social dating app “Twitter,” and has already committed many a faux pas. It’s always funny to see new users struggle with the learning curve, doubly so if it’s someone semi-famous.

Here’s a DEVASTATING TAKEDOWN of his initial tweets from friend-of-the-site hammster, with links added:

his first tweet he refers to joining twitter as “entering twitter”. entering.
his second tweet tells me to watch a couch gag on youtube without linking to it
his third tweet he misspells excited as “exicted”
the only tweet he has favourited is a manual retweet of a tweet from the official simpsons account RATHER THAN THE ACTUAL TWEET

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MY TWO CENTS, SPRINGFIELD SHOPPER

armour hot dogs

Shocking news for Simpsons fans concerned about the artistic integrity of an episode based entirely around a name-brand product: it turns out The Simpsons‘s upcoming 30 minute LEGO commercial was partially funded and essentially proposed by The LEGO Group.

Entertainment Weekly casually mentioned The LEGO Group’s financial stake in the episode in an interview with producers Matt Selman and Brian Kelley:

Lego helped pay for the episode. How much input did the company have into the creative side? I understand that there was a sex scene between Lego Homer and Lego Marge that they wanted to tone down.


KELLEY:

Let’s say we had a lot of fun with the Lego sex scene, and I’m not surprised that it was a little too risque. But we’ll always treasure the memory. [Laughs] They were good partners. Our audience is slightly older than their audience, so they would occasionally have concerns, but all the words in the episode are ours. If they had an objection, which they did on very rare occasions, we’d find a way around it.

Good to know that a show with “a near-total absence of network interference” (virtually unheard of in the industry) is now taking notes from a toy company.

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MY TWO CENTS

Mrs. Krabappel

Mrs. Krabappel made her final speaking appearance last Sunday in an episode that also featured Sideshow Bob using animal DNA to obtain gills and stepping on a rake underwater. Spoiler: Ned Flanders is cursed, and his Vegas wife should fear for her life.

Other than that, the producers still aren’t totally sure what to do about Bart’s lack of a teacher:

So who will replace Mrs. Kabrappel [sic.] in the fourth-grade classroom? For the time being, no one. The rest of this season’s episodes — which already have been completed — do not involve Bart with his teacher.

It appears they’ve already been removing her from classroom scenes. There’s a recent episode where a still image of Groundskeeper Willie is just pasted in the background of a scene (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t blink).

As for season 26, “we have some ideas,” says Jean. “It’s also possible both given the way the show works and the state of public schools there won’t be a permanent teacher. We can get some great guest stars here and there before we settle on somebody. We’re looking at it from different angles.”

So, basically it’ll be like the post-Steve Carell episodes of The Office, then. Great!

While my preference would be for the show to cease production immediately, my worthless, hacky suggestion is to just have Principal Skinner take over. It’d give the show more chances to focus on his adversarial relationship with Bart and, as a bonus, isolate him from his mother, who’s easily my least favorite character. Meanwhile, Superintendent Chalmers would naturally become principal, since he’s already at the school all the time anyway.

Either that, or it’s finally time for Nameless Ponytail Teacher to step into the spotlight.

[Entertainment Weekly]

ANIMOTION MACHINE

Otaku My Wife... Please!

The Simpsons homage to legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki that delighted the internet a month or two ago was apparently ten years in the making:

The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean said his team had been trying to work in an homage to Miyazaki on their show for at least a decade, but the eventual episode — in which Comic Book Guy marries a woman from Japan — was well underway before the filmmaker announced his retirement.

In the episode, Homer gets drunk with the Japanese woman’s father for no apparent reason, they have an anime dream because Japan, and the father realizes he should let his daughter be with Comic Book Guy because he sees his face on No-Face from Spirited Away. The whole sequence is rather disjointed from the rest of the episode, and the awkward attempt to justify its inclusion by making it the story’s climax makes for a weird, lazy plot progression (problem → get drunk → problem solved). If the episode was created just so the writers could finally put in a Miyazaki tribute they’d been wanting to put in for over a decade, you’d think they could’ve worked it in better.

Oh, and Miyazaki hasn’t even seen it.

[BuzzFeed]

RIP

Marcia Wallace, the voice of Mrs. Krabappel, died of pneumonia complications Friday night at the age of 70.

Once a student teacher in Iowa, Wallace moved to New York in 1964 and got her start in show business typing scripts. She eventually worked her way up to regular appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, which caught the attention of CBS founder Bill Paley, who personally demanded she be given a role on The Bob Newhart Show in 1972. For six seasons (and a 1994 episode of Murphy Brown), Wallace played the smart-mouthed and lovelorn secretary Carol Kester, a role that made her a star. Afterwards, she became a regular on various game shows, including Hollywood Squares. In the late 1980s she became a voice actress for cartoons including Darkwing Duck, Captain Planet, and The Simpsons. She was also a stage actress in a number of regional productions, including a starring role in An Almost Perfect Person.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1985, Wallace became an activist for breast cancer awareness and a motivational speaker. She lost her husband of six years, Dennis Hawley, to pancreatic cancer in 1992, leaving her to raise their adopted son alone. She wrote about her ordeals in her 2004 memoir, Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way:

Ten years ago, I was a devastated widow with a little kid, a house that was ready to be foreclosed, and a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debts. Now all that’s paid off and my house is secure. And I’m opening up to new possibilities. Who knows what’s around the corner? I feel ready to find out. You know me, hon, I’m a scrappy gal. And I’m not looking back… ’cause I’m not going that way.

For 25 seasons, Marcia Wallace played Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson’s acerbic chain-smoking fourth grade teacher. Openly disdainful of her students, Krabappel was a exquisite personification of an uncaring public school system, and her caustic “ha!” became a trademark. She dated Principal Skinner a while, and in recent seasons married Ned Flanders. Wallace won an Emmy in 1992 for her performance in the episode “Bart the Lover.”

Technically a recurring guest star, Wallace is the third cast member of the The Simpsons to pass away, following Doris Grau (Lunchlady Doris) in 1995 and Phil Hartman (Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure) in 1998. As with Hartman’s characters, Mrs. Krabappel’s “irreplaceable character” will be retired, according to showrunner Al Jean:

Before her death Wallace “recorded several lines which will appear in upcoming shows,” Jean said. “But I don’t intend to have anyone else play Mrs. Krabappel. I think Bart will get a new teacher and Ned Flanders will be a widower again.”

Simpsons staffers have been expressing their sympathies. Jean told the Los Angeles Times that she was “sweet, funny, not at all pretentious […] and just a wonderful person to be around.” Co-star Yeardley Smith tweeted “Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you, Marcia.” Director David Silverman drew a tribute sketch.

Wallace has a small role in the upcoming film Muffin Top: A Love Story, scheduled for release next year.

[Deadline, TMZ, MarciaWallace.com, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times]

COMING ATTRACTIONS, JEAN MACHINE, MY TWO CENTS

Al JeanSimpsons executive producer Al Jean, who in the past few years has killed off Homer’s mom and the real Fat Tony for no real reason, has vowed to kill again, this time with more hype:

“We’re working on a script where a character will pass away,” he confirmed. “I’ll give a clue: The actor who plays the character won an Emmy for playing that character. I won’t say who it is.”

Will nothing stop this man’s insatiable bloodlust??

Now the guessing game begins, for this episode that likely won’t air for another year! The Emmy clue doesn’t really narrow things down, because five of the six main voice actors have won Emmys for their performances. That would mean Harry Shearer’s characters are safe, but look at this scene and tell me they’re not already dead.

The smart money is on:

Rabbi Krustofski (Jackie Mason): Krusty’s estranged father, old, rarely appears, voiced by guest star, nowhere else to go with the character.

Jacqueline Bouvier (Julie Kavner): Marge’s mom, old, rarely appears, difficult voice to do, death would keep viewers from noticing how Marge sounds exactly like her these days.

Just Stamp The Ticket Guy (Hank Azaria): Perhaps the most iconic character, death would bring guaranteed ratings.

Here’s some characters that aren’t likely to die but are being mentioned in other articles anyway:

Princess Penelope (Anne Hathaway): Krusty’s wife. You didn’t forget Krusty was married, did you? Or that he’s still a Congressman? She’s not a particularly memorable character, so why bother killing her off?

Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer): I doubt they would kill him off without a guarantee that this is the last season (still waiting on renewal, by the way). He’s a costumed character at Universal Studios Florida and it seems weird to have him alive for The Simpsons Ride while dead in the series.

Mrs. Krabappel (Marcia Wallace): Are they heartless enough to kill off Ned Flanders’s wife a second time? Bart would need a replacement teacher, and the show rarely (if ever) replaces a character… Gil is occasionally a lawyer for the Simpsons, but I wouldn’t say he’s a straight-up replacement for Lionel Hutz.

Fun fact: Comic Book Resources posted about this more than a week ago, but for some reason it’s only just now trending, due to this Sun News article. It seems to use the exact same quotes, so either they sat on the story for a week or Al Jean robotically uses the exact same quotes every time he talks to the press… which is exactly the kind of thing a serial killer would do.

[Comic Book Resources]

COMING ATTRACTIONS

seymourBad news, everyone! Hot off the heels of the announcement that Family Guy is doing a Simpsons crossover episode, executive producer Al Jean announced at Comic Con that The Simpsons is doing a crossover with its soon-to-be-deceased sister show Futurama. It will air next year as either the season finale of the upcoming season, or the season premiere for the season after that.

The comic books already did a fairly okay crossover a decade ago, having managed to find a loophole in creator Matt Groening’s ironclad “rule” that Futurama is real and The Simpsons is fictional – the brain spawn send the Futurama characters into an issue of Simpsons Comics – but no matter, the TV crew will do it again anyway.

Assuming this is a full-fledged crossover and not some glorified cameo (like Bender in the episode Future-Drama), this is a terrible, comically bereft-of-ideas last-ditch dying gasp of an idea.

[Entertainment Weekly]

GROEN DRAIN, JEAN MACHINE

So, pop superstar Justin Bieber had a small 10-second cameo in last Sunday’s Simpsons episode, which seemed to disappoint everyone. Bieber fans didn’t like it because it was too short, unbeliebers thought it was too long, and Bieber himself initially tried to suppress all evidence of it last year.

Perhaps wary of The Controversy, executive producer Al Jean attempted to deflect blame for it onto his boss, Matt Groening:

According to Jean, Groening requested that Bieber be worked into an episode. “I think he has a family member who was a fan,” Jean says. “I think he’s a fan, too. So he asked us to find a place to use him. I think [Bieber] had also met Matt and wanted to be on the show.”

Matt Groening, a Bieber fan? It’s possible, but Groening – a former music critic – is known for his eclectic music taste. He likes oddball rock & roll, Balinese gamelan music, and Romanian brass bands. He said pop music “usually sounds like the audio equivalent of CGI.” He wrote a biography of The Residents. He’s curated the All Tomorrow’s Parties progressive music festival twice. He guest-edited an anthology of music writing. He’s let indie bands Tender Forever and Electrelane hang out at his house. He’s a big Captain Beefheart fan. He interviewed and was friends with Frank Zappa.

Nice try, Al.

[Rolling Stone]

NEWS BRIEFS

police dog

  • Conan O’Brien got tired of people always asking him about The Simpsons, so he did a lengthy roundtable discussion with his former co-workers Al Jean, Jay Kogen, Jeff Martin, and Mike Reiss that touches on Tracey Ullman, the writers’ room, Reiss’s feud with a line producer, Sam Simon’s impeccable writing and drawing skills, and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. My favorite anecdote is Jay Kogen running up to Bruce Springsteen, who instinctively shielded his wife from the crazy person. [Team Coco]
  • After a 30 year run, Santa Monica radio station KCRW is replacing Harry Shearer’s Le Show with something called “TED Radio Hour,” which is either Seth MacFarlane making raunchy jokes in the guise of a horny teddy bear for an hour or repackaged TED Talk lectures where captains of industry share “inspiring” words of wisdom cribbed from Chicken Soup for the Soul. Not sure which is worse. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Not only does Fox’s parent corporation News Corp. have an education division (“If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you?”), but said division has created their own Android-based learning tablet. Which is great, because why wouldn’t you want to buy a communication device from a company embroiled in a massive phone-hacking scandal? [New York Times]