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 ROUNDUP

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]
RIP

Simpsons writer Don Payne died yesterday at the young age of 48. The cause is unknown at this time, but former writing partner John Frink told the Wilmington Star-News he’d been suffering from bone cancer.

Fellow Simpsons writer Mike Scully broke the news yesterday afternoon on Twitter. Executive producer Al Jean issued a statement saying Payne was “beloved in the ‘Simpsons’ community and his untimely passing is terrible news to us all.”

Back in the 90s, Payne and Frink wrote for sitcoms like Veronica’s Closet, Men Behaving Badly and a bunch of unproduced pilots before they were both brought in to The Simpsons in 2000. Together they wrote the Simpsons episodes “Insane Clown Poppy,” “Bye Bye Nerdie,” “Simpsons Tall Tales,” and “The Bart Wants What It Wants.” They ended their writing partnership a few years later on amicable terms. Payne’s solo Simpsons credits include “Thank God It’s Doomsday” and “Fraudcast News,” the latter of which earned him a special Paul Selvin Award from the Writers Guild of America. In 2007, he gave the Star-News ten reasons why he loved working on The Simpsons, including “We can do jokes about socialism and Homer’s butt catching on fire.”

Rather than be constrained to writing television, Payne managed to achieve his childhood dreams of conquering Hollywood and writing boffo blockbusters. A lifelong comics fanboy, his first credited movie was the superhero spoof My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which later led to him co-writing the Marvel films Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Thor, and its upcoming sequel Thor: The Dark World. According to a 2011 interview, he had an idea for his own comic that he was keen to do if he could ever find the time between his Simpsons and film duties.

He is survived by his wife and three young children. [Wilmington Star-News]

BONGO BEAT, SPRINGFIELD SHOPPER

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post’s headline mistakenly said “atom” instead of “at them.” IN THE NEWS regrets the error.

radioactive man collectionThe most critically underrated component of the enormous Simpsons media empire is the Radioactive Man spin-off comic book series occasionally put out by creator Matt Groening’s Bongo Comics, which after 18 years is finally being collected in a deluxe hardcover anthology.

First, a little backstory. The premise of Radioactive Man is simple but ingenious: each issue was purported to be a random issue from the fictional comic book series’ nearly 50-year history, satirizing different comic book eras (Golden Age, Silver Age, etc.) and all the superhero conventions and gimmicks that come with it. There was initially a six-issue run in 1994, starting with #1 (mostly consistent with what we saw of it in the Simpsons episode “Three Men and a Comic Book”) and ending with a Spawn-tastic #1000, followed by an “80 page colossal” the following year. A second run debuted in 2000, this time written by the remarkable Batton Lash, with a noticeable improvement in the artwork. Each issue also featured faux ads from the Simpsons universe and letters from readers playing along with the joke (however, the letters in the second series were all fictional; i.e. #222 features a letter from a young Marge Bouvier). Everyone at Bongo is a giant comics nerd (the first issue of Simpsons Comics is a Fantastic Four reference, for example) and Radioactive Man really let them go hog-wild, sort of like how The Critic allowed Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss do all the movie parodies they wanted.
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JEAN MACHINE

al jeanTo the surprise of no one, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean told Entertainment Weekly he’d like to see the show continue past the 25 seasons guaranteed by Friday’s re-negotiation deal:

“I honestly think that 30 is a goal to shoot for. I want to put The Simpsons at 30 seasons before the end of the decade,” he quips, nodding to John F. Kennedy’s moon speech. “Forty sounds insane, but 25 sounded insane 20 years ago. Having seen how far it’s gone, it’s not for me to cap it… And Gunsmoke did 635 episodes [a record for a prime-time series], so that’s something to shoot for, too.”

Even though he’s supposedly quipping, keep in mind he can recite how many episodes Gunsmoke did off-hand. Please, nobody tell him about the animes.

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VOICE BOX

voiceworkUnlucky message boarder “JowTSJY” was forced to attend a table reading for an upcoming episode wherein Marge becomes a foodie, and he shared his horrifying ordeal with the good people at Simpsons Collector Sector with photographic evidence.

Some interesting observations:

Five of the six main voice actors were in attendance: Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, and Hank Azaria. Tress MacNeille and Pamela Hayden were also providing their voice acting skills, while Harry Shearer was represented by a speaker phone in the middle of the table. I was informed that Harry Shearer rarely attended the table reads, instead “phoning it in” from home. In fact, I was also informed that Shearer rarely came in to record his lines in the studio. He does that from home over the phone, too!

To be fair, he’s in a different recording studio using ISDN, but it’s still funny to imagine Harry Shearer as Charlie from Charlie’s Angels.

At 10AM the table read began as a man (whose name I didn’t catch) announced that The Simpsons had been renewed for its 23rd season. During the table read, this man narrated the non-dialogue portions of the script

Presumably, this man is showrunner Al Jean, who mysteriously doesn’t appear in any of the photos. That guy is craftier than Arthur C. Korn.

On our way back across the Fox lot, we saw Nancy Cartwright driving away in her Lexus. Her license plate read “4EVER10,” a reference to the fact Bart never ages. Someone mentioned that her old license plate used to read “I DO BART.” If that’s true, I can understand why she changed it!

hahahaha lol [Simpsons Collector Sector via No Homers Club]

BART ART, MY TWO CENTS

If you were one of the people watching The Simpsons last night (sucker), you may have noticed something a little different about the opening sequence!

The “couch gag,” if one could call it that, was storyboarded and directed by the pseudonymous Britain street artist known as Banksy, whose distinctive graffiti has shown up across the UK and the US, and whose work has been auctioned off for millions of dollars to limousine liberal luminaries like Brangelina.

Showrunner-for-life Al Jean told the New York Times he seeked out the ostensibly underground (despite having a publicist) “art terrorist” and asked him, via a series of messengers, if he’d do the opening, later receiving the storyboards without ever meeting the mystery man. Although 5% was cut out by request of Fox Broadcast & Standards, Jean insists the final product was as close as possible to Banksy’s original intention.

The response has been enormous – Banksy became a “Trending Topic” on Twitter last night (which is, like, super-important and stuff) and there are currently hundreds of news stories about it – which I’m sure makes up for the 29% decline in ratings from last week. It’s to quantify these things, but I think it’s safe to presume this will get more attention than other recent Simpsons “viral” stunts, from the godawful Ke$ha thing to the Itchy & Scratchy parody of Koyaanisqatsi (in the old days, The Simpsons usually generated buzz with actual episodes instead of context-free YouTube clips, but I guess that’s the way things are now in the New Media Landscape).

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KANCELLATION KOUNTDOWN

happyLast month, we were in a funk, because at Comic-Con executive producer Al Jean said they were writing a 2011 Christmas episode featuring Homer and Marge as grandparents, which would apparently confirm a 23rd season.

But in a recent interview, Jean jokingly suggests otherwise:

My math could be incorrect, but I believe your 500th episode will be airing this season. Are there plans for an extended special to celebrate this milestone?

Al Jean: I’m afraid your math is incorrect. Our current record schedule will take us to episode 493, so if Fox wants 500, then I’m afraid they will have to pick up season 23, hint, hint.

NOW I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE irked [MovieWeb.com]