With the future of The Simpsons secured through season 28, executive producer Al Jean took a moment to chat with Variety about the show’s past, present, & future.
There were the typical over-asked questions about dream guest stars (Sandy Koufax: pick up your phone), the possibility of another film (not while the show is still going), and the death & philanthropy of Sam Simon (“I’ve never seen someone who passed away who still seemed so alive,”), but Jean also gave some upcoming plot previews as well.
“In the premiere, it’s discovered after all the years Homer has narcolepsy and it’s an incredible strain on the marriage,” Jean said. “Homer and Marge legally separate, and Homer falls in love with his pharmacist, who’s voiced by Lena Dunham. We’ll have cameos from the other women from Girls. We have an episode coming up where Lisa befriends a homeless woman who turns out to be an incredible singer. The woman is voiced by Kate McKinnon, but the singing is done by Natalie Maines. In another episode, Spider-Pig makes his return. Sideshow Bob appears in a segment, and we finally see him do something he’s wanted to do for 25 years. And we have an episode based on the film Boyhood. It’s a flashback/flashforward about Bart. We go to various points in his life and his life to come, which I think came out really well.”
Can’t say I’m super excited about another big Homer/Marge fight, but what are ya gonna do?
Next year is also an election year, and of course that doesn’t go unrecognized by the oft-political Simpsons satirical element. “We’re definitely going to have Homer vote in 2016,” Jean said. “One aspect of the pickup that made me happy is that Homer can vote again. He voted for Romney in 2012 because he invented Obamacare. He tried to vote for Obama in 2008 but all his votes went to McCain.”
This topical nature of the show can be tricky with a production phase that takes place months before each show’s airing, but The Simpsons seem to manage, especially when they’re able to predict the future. “We just had this thing a year ago where we did a World Cup parody,” Jean explained. “We were reading about the corruption in Greece. We had a FIFA executive get arrested, and now this week it’s gone online and gotten half a million views. There are things that happen in the world. We can’t do daily humor like The Daily Show, but there’s always insane stuff going in the world that you can’t imagine. I still think back, the Vice President shot a guy in the face — and the guy apologized. That happened! If we put it in a show people would go, ‘That’s ridiculous!’”
Still, some topics have to be stale by the time they reach the air, and in our 21st century world, there are solutions for this. “We have a couple of ways to respond (to news),” Jean said. “Now with Twitter we can say something and we can put it on Facebook. Occasionally we can do something which I really love, like when Scotland was having its referendum we filmed a small bit with Groundskeeper Willie where he was for Scotland and got, ‘Aye or Die’ tattooed on his chest. We have a good range. The chalkboards are always up to the minute. And on the very sad side, if someone’s passed away, we can do an in memoriam.”
With the notable deaths this year, let’s hope seasons 27 & 28 have a lot less mourning and a lot more classic Simpsons antics. After all, even though it always attempts to stay current, there are subjects that remain relevant no matter what year it is. “Jim [a.k.a. Simpsons producer James L. Brooks] always says whatever show you want to do, The Simpsons will put on the clothes and do it. It’s an unbelievable vehicle for any satiric thing you want to say. I always thought the people who created it — Jim and Matt [Groening] and Sam — were all geniuses in different ways. The actors are all great. But the centrality of it is it’s about a family. Everyone comes from a family of some kind. Everyone has a father and a mother even if they’re not always present. That makes it a show that everyone could relate to it immediately, and the supporting characters flesh it out great. And it’s timeless because it’s animated.”[via Variety]