FOX Sunday animation panel: The Simpsons is still the king - TCA Report
As usual, FOX leaves the best press conference (at least as far as I was concerned) for last. I sat through Karl Rove and Chris Wallace getting contentious with the critics near the end of the FOX News panel (more on that later), Jerry O'Connell and the cast of Do Not Disturb strain to answer questions about a show whose clip reel wasn't all that funny, and the millionaires from Secret Millionaire talk about being poor for a week. All of it was made worth it (and, really, seeing Rove start to get annoyed near the end was fun to watch) so we could see the final panel: all the producers of all FOX's Sunday animated shows.
The first person who spoke up, not surprisingly, was Seth MacFarlane. "Is this where Karl Rove sat? Because I don't want to get AIDS." Wow. Unfortunately, no line that was said after that was as shocking or funny. But it was all still pretty good.
Alan Sepinwall tried to start some trouble by asking The Simpsons' Matt Groening and Al Jean if they had anything to say to MacFarlane, given the number of times that Homer and company have implied on the show that Family Guy ripped them off. "We love Seth!" said Groening. "If we weren't so rich, we'd be very depressed."
MacFarlane replied that they all "get along extremely well. He's a wonderful guy."
Much of the rest of the press conference was spent heaping praise on The Simpsons, given how influential it was on animation since its debut as a series in 1989. Most of the praise came from MacFarlane and the producers of his other two shows, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. Mike Judge and John Altschuler of King of the Hill didn't join in the heaping, but then again, they're a pretty big institution of their own, as they're coming up on producing their 250th episode (TCA members will hear a table read of that episode later this week).
"When Simpsons and King of the Hill came on the air, they all had this very underground look, they didn't look very slick," said MacFarlane.. "It told you, this isn't a kid show. I took a cue from that; that's a look no one's seen before. You learn from people who do it first." As soon as he saw The Simpsons, he said, he instantly went from wanting to work for Disney to wanting to create a more adult cartoon. I can imagine that's when Family Guy was born.
I asked Judge and Altschler if we're done hearing that we're coming up on the last season of King, since it seems like we've been hearing that for at least four years. "For me, I keep thinking I have one bad season in me, but we keep having good episodes," said Judge. "So I think the next season is the bad last one. As long as the episodes are good as long as the network renews it and it's still fun, I'll keep doing it." Altschuler also felt that if they didn't continue to come up with good stories, they'd stop. Judge then chimed back in by saying, :"We've been all degrees of canceled."
Some other tidbits:
- Mike Henry and Richard Appel were asked if there was going to be any crossover between Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. Along with MacFarlane, they said no, though Seth said he'll bring Cleveland back to be R2D2 in his Empire Strikes Back parody.
- Speaking of which, the sequel to Blue Harvest is on its way to the animators, according to MacFarlane. He made sure to say that Lucasfilm was "very generous" to give him permission to make these faithful but funny parodies, citing how difficult it usually is to get the blessing of a studio.
- King of the Hill's 250th episode is "just an episode of King of the Hill," according to Altschuler. They'd just rather put their heads down and continue creating episodes than to stop and make one that's different or special. A lot of that, he said, was because the episodes are written so far in advance.
- When Al Jean was asked about guest stars on the 20th season of The Simpsons, he replied that "we had Mark Cuban and Jeff Bezos playing themselves with what's probably the richest supporting cast in the history of --" which is when Groening chimed in with the second-best line of the day: "Other than the The Simpsons cast."
- That reference to the slightly strained negotiations with the voice cast led someone to ask Groening if he felt the writers should get paid the same as the actors. Whle he was happy that the cast got the money they deserved, he also said that "I want everynody -- in this room! -- to get rich off The Simpsons. Everyone works really hard and yes, people need to be compensated." About his cast, Groening said that "we're knocked out by them. When they give me, you know, good lines, as good a lines as you can, and they take it to another level."