‘The Simpsons’: Producer Al Jean ‘Optimistic’ Series Will Continue Past 2015

"Everybody loves doing it. We still do very well for Fox."


Homer Simpson

The show will likely go on.

Al Jean – a veteran producer of THE SIMPSONS – says he expects the long-running Fox series to continue after current cast contracts expire.

“We’re about to start reading season 26 this week, which would air all the way through December 2015,” he told reporters on a media call yesterday.

“The cast contract expires with this season so we would be in a period, again, where we’d renegotiate. That being said, I’m optimistic. Everybody loves doing it. We still do very well for Fox. I think we have something like the fourth highest ad revenue of any show on the air, which is the main number that really counts.”

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THE SIMPSONS debuted as a recurring sketch on THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW on April 17, 1987. It was developed into a half hour series in 1989 and has since broadcast 541 original episodes.

This Sunday, Fox presents back-to-back episodes — one with guest star Daniel Radcliffe and the other marking the return of fan favorite Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer).

Here’s more of what Jean had to share about these episodes and the future of TV’s longest running animated comedy:

How do you keep the show fresh and funny after 25 seasons?
I tell you, we just work on it all the time. I never take more than a weekend off, and other writers, as well, just believe in it. We know this is the best job in the world and we want to keep it going. It’s just work and not settling.  It’s also just an incredibly rich universe of characters; starting with what Matt [Groening] created. It certainly helps that it’s animated so that Bart now isn’t like a 35-year-old dropout, which would be pretty depressing.

What is it about Sideshow Bob that makes him such a great reoccurring character?
We just did our first DVD commentary with Kelsey, and that voice is just so amazing. We’re doing this commentary, and he’s in the back of the room and he just is like, “Hello everybody…”  And your hair goes on end. It’s one of those incredibly live, brilliant voices that gives you so much. I think everything comes from that. It’s, to me, an updating of the road runner and the coyote where you have this incredibly brilliant guy who can’t seem to find a way to kill a 10-year-old boy and it’s a classic dynamic and it’s a great character to write for.

There’s been a lot of talk about how there’s going to be an all-LEGO episode coming up later in the season. What can you share about how that came to be, and what fans should expect from that?
It’s a terrific episode written by Brian Kelley, who, a long while ago, said, “What would happen if Homer basically, in his imagination, went into a world of LEGO?” And there’s a reason that he does, and a reason that he prefers it. We contacted the LEGO Company to see if they would authorize it, and its animation that looks like LEGO CGI for much of the show, and there’s some regular Simpsons animation, and it’s a really beautiful blend, and it’s going to be the 550th episode airing in May. It’s been in the works a long time; about a year and a half on our end.

How much have you had to change things because of the death of Marcia Wallace?  Has that affected your plans for having one of the long-term characters die this season?
No. There will be a character who dies in the season premier next year, but in terms of Marcia, it was just a great loss for people who loved Marcia. For the show, it’s kind of like steering an ocean liner; you have upcoming things that you adjust, and there isn’t that much material left that she actually recorded. We’ll air everything that she did. Obviously, Bart will get a new teacher, and there won’t be any Mrs. Krabappel after Marcia’s material’s gone.

What can you share about the Daniel Radcliffe episode and that character and why did you make him into what you did make him into, or how did it come about?
The writer of the episode, Dan Greaney, wanted to do an episode where Bart befriended kind of a Holden Caulfield-type boy — where he was a little older, and seemed like a great kid and then the more that he found out about the kid, there was something tragic about him. Daniel had done the show one other time, and he’s a huge fan. He listens to the DVD commentaries with us …. I had seen him on Broadway, too, in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS where he was fantastic doing an American accent. So I thought for playing a 13-year-old boy, I couldn’t think of anybody better than him, and that’s why we asked him and he was really great; happy to do it.

Do you have more stars coming that you can share with us; people we haven’t heard?
We do. Zach Galifianakis is coming up in a couple weeks. He plays a little kid who wants to become a competitive eater, and Lisa is trying to save him. He came to the read, he was great; really, really nice guy. We have an episode in the fall, which is The Simpsons/Futurama crossover, where we got everybody from the Futurama cast, which was a real thrill. I thought—at that table read, you had the greatest assembly of voice-over actors. It was everybody; our cast, to Billy West, Maurice LaMarche. We also have John Oliver, who plays a neighbor who’s hosting a mystery game that The Simpsons go to, and we have a lot of surprises.

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

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