COMING ATTRACTIONS

In a stunt that puts NBC’s “Green Week” initiative to shame, Fox has apparently ordered several of its shows to include a musical number as part of a week-long campaign dubbed “Fox Rocks,” presumably to promote the network’s two most unpopular shows, American Idol and Glee. The Simpsons is participating by having “Homer, Marge and the gang” “rock out” to the song “TiK ToK” by Ke$ha in a couch gag.

When The Simpsons started, executive producer James L. Brooks had enough clout to mandate no network interference, which helped make the show great.

What happened? [The Wrap]

EXCLUSIVE

The Simpsons turn 20 today (that is, if you don’t count the Christmas special as the first episode and completely ignore the original shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show), and there’s been a number of retrospectives to mark the occasion. An oft-repeated claim in many histories is that creator Matt Groening, fearing the loss of his Life in Hell characters, came up with the Simpsons in fifteen minutes before a meeting with Ullman producer James L. Brooks. But the characters actually originated nearly 40 years ago, in an unpublished novel Groening wrote in high school:

Chat Transcript (April 6, 1999):

Question hobgoblin: How old were you when you first came up with the idea for “The Simpsons”? I know that the show has been on for a long time.
[…]
Matt_G “The Simpsons” originated in high school.
Matt_G I wrote a bleak little novel called “The Mean Little Kids” starring a teenage Bart Simpson with buckteeth and a very bad complexion.

Interview with Robert William Kubey, published in Creating Television: Conversations with the People Behind 50 Years of American TV (Late 1991):

How quickly did The Simpsons gel in your mind?

I needed to come up with an idea really quickly. In the back of my mind was the idea of doing something that might possibly end up spinning off into its own TV show, so I created a family which I thought would lend itself to a lot of different kinds of stories. In high school I had written a novel, a sort of a very sour Catcher in the Rye, self pitying, adolescent novel starring Bart Simpson as a very troubled teenager. I took that family and transferred it, made them younger, and then drew. It took about 15 minutes to design the characters the first time out.

Were they all the same characters that we now know and love?

Yes, but they’ve been transformed.

Why didn’t you leave Bart as an adolescent?

TV does children really badly, and I thought there was room for something different. Teenagers are already running rampant on television, but kids are done very unrealistically in sitcoms. Sometimes, a particular character gels with an audience and becomes the star.

Was Bart at the center all along?

Yeah. The rest of the Simpsons in my original conception were in a struggle to be normal and Bart was the one who thought that being normal was boring.

And now you know… the rest of the story.

READING DIGEST

Al Jean, executive producer and current showrunner:

“Nobody’s perfect,” Mr. Jean said in a telephone interview. “But I don’t think we have terrible secrets to hide.”

John Ortved, author of The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History:

The story ran in the August 2007 issue, and by the fall I’d signed on with Faber and Faber to expand the material into a book. When word of this got out, [executive producer James L.] Brooks sent a letter to every current Simpsons employee, and all the former ones he thought mattered, asking them not to speak to me. The writers’ agents sent denial after denial for interview requests and eventually stopped responding altogether. When I asked a mutual acquaintance to put in a query with Ari Emanuel, chief of the Endeavor agency (now WME Entertainment) – where many of the Simpsons writers were represented – Emanuel told my friend he couldn’t even begin to talk about it. James L. Brooks was on the warpath.

WAGON TRAIN

Along with at least 100 other showrunners, Matt Groening and James L. Brooks joined in solidarity with the WGA strike, signing a pledge and vowing that they “will do no writing” until a deal is made. Wait, they still work on the show? [WGA.org]

GROEN DRAIN

TW: Fans talk of the golden age, seasons three through eight or nine. Now that you’re into season 18, haven’t there been other phases, maybe a new renaissance?

MG: I don’t feel like I want to defend the show to people who don’t like it, but I would say that the animation is better, that we’re doing shows that I defy anybody to say that we’ve already done. We’re coming up with, I think, ideas that are certainly surprising to us. And the show still makes me laugh. That’s all I care about. I hope that it makes other people laugh, too.

For comparison to other executive producers:

Al Jean: “I think the last couple years have been among our best”
James L. Brooks: Season 17 is “a classic”
Matt Groening: Animation is better, surprising new ideas, still makes him laugh [The Wave]

BROOKS BLOTTER

The Simpsons Movie, which has been anticipated for nearly two decades, and in production over the past three years or so, is finally coming out in only six short months from now! What’s the latest status on its progress?

“We’re still trying to figure out what the movie is about,” admitted show producer James L. Brooks during a recent Television Critics Association panel discussions attended by FilmStew.

[FilmStew.com]

BART ART

Here’s a pretty generic update on the upcoming movie from the LA Times, with some mildly entertaining new tidbits – the producers seem to advise walking in with low expectations, Groening doesn’t know off-hand how many spikes of hair Bart has, director David Silverman wants it to be as wide as possible. But the real highlight of this article is this delightful Silverman drawing of Homer and Bart being chased by Silverman, Groening, Al Jean and James L. Brooks:

[Los Angeles Times]