Back in 1994, there were plans for a spinoff of The Simpsons centered around Krusty the Clown moving to Los Angeles and becoming a talk show host. The twist is that the show would’ve been live-action, with Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Krusty, starring as the character. Creator Matt Groening, who co-wrote a pilot script with The King of Queens creator Michael Weithorn, was quoted in a 1999 Entertainment Weekly article reflecting on the challenges of working in live-action:
We had this running joke in the script that Krusty was living in a house on stilts and there were beavers gnawing their way through the stilts. But somebody at the network pointed out how expensive it was to hire trained beavers — and an equally prohibitive cost would be to get mechanical beavers — so I said, “If we animated this, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
And that was absolutely everything we ever knew about the project… until now!
Simpsons expert @ThatGuy3002, known for his deep dives into scripts on Twitter, found out a lot more about the ill-fated spinoff, and shared his findings in a tweet thread:
Short thread: This weekend I spoke with someone who was involved with what was going to be the first The Simpsons spinoff, a live action Krusty The Clown series, where the premise was that Krusty moved to Hollywood and became a talk show host.
Click through to read the whole thread, which reveals plot details about the surprisingly death-heavy pilot episode, how another Fox show about an alcoholic clown may have poisoned the well for clown-related entertainment, and what really killed the spinoff (spoiler: money). I have my doubts about the quality levels of what sounds like a Larry Sanders rip-off mixed with the 1992 Boris and Natasha movie, but I’m nevertheless fascinated by this odd footnote in Simpsons history. It doesn’t sound like production ever went any further than the script, but if any photographic evidence of Dan Castellaneta in full-blown Krusty makeup exists, please please please share it with the world.
First, some background: in fall 1990, Fox moved The Simpsons to Thursday nights in a heavily publicized move to compete head-on with The Cosby Show, which was then the reigning television champion. Eventually, The Simpsons managed to overtake Cosby in the ratings, and in June 1991, Bill Cosby announced the following season would be the show’s last. The final episode of The Cosby Show aired on April 30th, 1992. The Simpsons paid its respects with a hastily-assembled homage added to that night’s episode, a rerun of “Three Men and a Comic Book,” with Bart issuing an awfully prescient warning for viewers. It only aired that one time and was thought by many to be lost to the sands of time. Luckily, anything that has ever aired on television in the past fifty years will eventually resurface on YouTube:
Yes, Golden Age Simpsons managed to burn the current incarnation of the show from years in the past. The ownage levels are off the charts. [YouTube via No Homers Club]
Former Simpsons writer/showrunner and notorious “hacktivist” Bill Oakley, who has been in communication with fans via the internet since before most people even had the internet, has been tearin’ up the Twitter lately, uploading a treasure trove of rare Simpsons material that has never before been made public. Among the documents uploaded so far: the first draft of “$pringfield, (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling),” the first draft of the “Skinner and the Superintendent” segment from “22 Short Films About Springfield,” the original story outline for “Two Bad Neighbors,” and a list of random ideas.
Among the more intriguing ideas lost to the sands of time:
An aborted “$pringfield” subplot involving Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone maintaining a Planet Hollywood in Springfield that got dropped since the three actors never actually agreed to be on the show.
More scenes of Springfield being hit by an economic recession, which somehow feels more timely and relevant than last year’s “No Loan Again, Naturally” despite being written a decade earlier.
George and Barbara Bush eating pizza.
An episode plot where Bart obtains 144 Jeeps for some reason.
This visual gag:
The town secretary records the vote in a ledger, where we see
previous idiotic town votes, e.g. “Above-Ground H-Bomb Test,”
“Lower Drinking Age to 14,” and “Build Monorail.”
For years, The Simpsons Archive has had a page documenting a long-lost Simpsons short called “Nazis on Tap” involving Hitler, Stalin, and talking dogs. It was supposed to air in Season 2, but was never animated and apparently forgotten about. I always assumed it was a joke, but apparently it’s very real — Simpsons Archive webmaster Jouni Paakkinen recently discovered the long-lost audio track on YouTube, probably uploaded by some disgruntled show staffer who’s about to get 20 years of jailtime.