I've been holding this interview for almost six months, but I think it was worth it. When I was in Pasadena last summer for the TCA press tour (whose winter edition I'll be leaving for on Friday morning... eep!), I spoke to Morgan Spurlock about the 20th anniversary film he was making about The Simpsons. FOX has finally decided to air that film, entitled The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special -- In 3-D! On Ice!, on January 10, along with the venerable cartoon's 450th episode.
Spurlock was just in the initial stages of filming the documentary when I talked to him, but his views on the show, how it and the perception of it has changed over the years, and some of the interesting things he learned about the show made for a fun interview. Since I didn't know how long the movie was going to be, I start the talk by expressing some surprise about its length.
Matt Groening and Al Jean said an interview with Morgan Spurlock, the Super Size Me star and director hired for the show's big anniversary extravaganza, that they have no plans to start doing another Simpsons movie anytime soon.
They didn't rule out the possibility of another movie, but it certainly won't be in the foreseeable future. The pair said the process for the first movie was so frustrating that they couldn't fathom even starting a second one without some kind of heavy duty anti-psychotic medication.
Now he's an executive producer and showrunner, staring down the twentieth anniversary of the official start of the series, which happens in January. I spoke with him this week about this Sunday's season premiere, a bit of Simpsons history, and just how long the Simpsons can keep making people laugh.
After 20 years of doing The Simpsons, how do you find something new to do with the show? How do you generate ideas you haven't done before?
Well, it's the best of both worlds. If something happens to you in your life or to the world, you can satirize it but you get to use these characters that people love and that you're very familiar with. To me, there's a lot of topics that are fresh and interesting.
Twenty years later, Spurlock has established himself as a filmmaker with Super Size Me and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden, and will direct a segment for the upcoming adaptation of Freakonomics. And he'll get to tackle the show he's loved these past two decades as he produces and directs The Simpsons Anniversary Special - In 3-D! On Ice!, which will air Thursday, January 14, 2010.
Spurlock remembers his first impression of the show, watching back in his college days. "When it first came on, I was in college, and it was literally an obsession. It was something that me and all my friends would literally ... at 8 o'clock, we were sitting there on the couch watching this show, and it was something that we all did together," said Spurlock in a conference call with media last week. "For all my four years of college, that was something that we did."
Considering the fact that The Simpsons continues to be so successful -- last year's movie, for instance, grossed a staggering $526 million worldwide -- and remains hilarious and relevant, Fox would be nuts to let the show go. And one of the best things about this family sitcom is that the characters never age. Bart and Lisa only age in the episodes that fantasize about the future.
The Simpsons, paired with the Seth MacFarlane shows -- Family Guy and American Dad -- plus King of the Hill, gives Fox the most competitive and alternative programming for Sunday nights.
Day three of Comic-Con 2008 began with waiting in a line that streched the length of the convention center for the Futurama panel, which was followed by The Simpsons panel. Futurama featured the primary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, and John DiMaggio as well as creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.
Due to time limitations the panel when right into audience questions. One that was asked pertained to Matt and David's plans for the show. Both meant said that they had the entire story of Futurama planned even before the show began. They didn't know where the show would go, and they still have plenty of secrets to reveal in upcoming DVD releases.
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.
In a recent conference call, Simpsons writer and producer Al Jean spoke about the upcoming 400th episode, titled "Kent Always Say What You Want" (the title was originally "The Kent State Massacre" but that was changed for obvious reasons).
The episode airs May 20 at 8:30 p.m. and is preceded by the 24 spoof "24 Minutes" featuring guests Kiefer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub.
Simpsons executive producer Al Jean wants to get Princes William and Harry on the show. Not just as characters. He wants the actual William and Harry to lend their voices to an episode.
This article explains it. But if anyone can comment below and tell me what the hell a "tearaway" is, I'd appreciate it.
[via TV Tattle]
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