On Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on Fox, The Simpsons will be airing its 450th episode. Entitled Once Upon a Time in Springfield, the episode will be followed by an hour-long documentary from Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), called The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D on Ice.
“I think we could do it for another 20 years, actually,” says Simpsons creator Matt Groening ,talking about the show tying the longest running show in history: Gunsmoke, a series that has recently been tied by NBC’s Law & Order. “Omigod! Another 20? We’ll TRY,” he chortled. “We’ll do our BEST!”
“What I love about The Simpsons is, it’s so collaborative,” says Yeardley Smith about the writing process for the show. Smith voices the precious Lisa Simpson. “The actors do a third, the animators do a third and the writers do a third. That’s how I see it.”
“Together with NFL football, The Simpsons put the Fox network on the map — whatever you think of that,” said Harry Shearer, who voices many roles on the show including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Dr. Hibbert and Principal Skinner. “And Fox has changed the face of network television — you got to decide for better or worse. “I wish I could say that we inspired an awful lot of funny, smart, irreverent, acerbic shows that took a lacerating view of the institutions of society. But I don’t think we have.”
“Matt has a satirical, anti-authority streak,” says Shearer. “From the beginning, The Simpsons was taking the side of the family against all the authority figures and institutions that buffeted them in the modern world. Certainly, that resonated for me.
Shearer remembers the first script the series, whose characters assigned to him were highlighted in yellow. Most of the time, he didn’t see drawings of the new characters until months after he had created their voices, when the episode was finished: “Oh, THAT’S what he looks like!”
He adds “that after 20 years and 450 episodes,” Shearer sums up, “I don’t really think The Simpsons has increased the country’s skepticism about nuclear power.”
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