TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “The Simpsons”

Now that I’m back from Los Angeles and have begun to recover from the nasty ear infection and sore throat which gripped me almost immediately after getting off the plane in Virginia, I’m finally able to get back to writing up the remainder of the panels I attended during the TCA Press Tour. Sorry for the delay, but I just naturally presumed you were more concerned about my health than in getting these updates. (And if I’m wrong, I don’t want to know about it.)

When we last left the tour, I had finished up my coverage of upcoming PBS programming and the various new and returning cable series, so now it’s time to move onward to the broadcast networks. We’ll start with Fox, which started their day off in a very fun way by offering up a “Simpsons” breakfast, complete with Bart, Lisa, Homer, and Marge – who was holding Maggie – wandering around and greeting us all.

Also on hand were a couple of real people involved with the show, most notably producer Al Jean, who was able to spare me a few minutes to provide a few tidbits about what we can expect from the show, which is now entering an almost-inconceivable 20th year on the air.

At the July tour, I’d talked to Matt Groening, and he’d told me how excited he was at the idea of trying to get the guys from the band Fallout Boy onto the show, since they were kind enough to pay tribute to one of the show’s characters with their name. Jean was excited to tell me that, indeed, the band would be on the January 25th episode of “The Simpsons,” albeit in a non-animated fashion.

“It’s a little different appearance,” Jean said. “They perform the end title music, so we didn’t go, like, ‘Oh, here they are in animation!’ They just perform for forty seconds. But it was really cool that we got them to do it. Emily Blunt is in the episode as well, and for the first time, we have a four-act format. It’s a little sad that it’s going down this way, but people are always tuning in after the main titles because they say, ‘Oh, we’ve seen them.’ So now we’re pretty much starting right at the beginning. We still have a little bit of a main title, but with other shows, it starts right at the beginning, and then you have four acts, so we’re having to do that, too.”

As for other guest stars, Anne Hathaway will actually be appearing in two episodes – one in the spring, one in the fall – and Seth Rogen wrote and appears in the episode that will serve as the season premiere in the fall.

“What happens is that Comic Book Guy creates a comic called EveryMan, a character who gets powers from touching comic books,” said Jean. “Like, he gets Iron Man’s power by touching an ‘Iron Man’ comic. And Seth is the personal trainer assigned to get Homer in shape to play this superhero in the movie version of the comic book. We’ll also have Jonah Hill in a later episode where Bart meets a kid who’s basically the Bart of ten years ago, but this guy, who’s 20, is still acting like Bart…which is pretty pathetic…and Jonah does the voice of the guy. We’re also going to be going to Ireland in a later episode, and we’ll have a cameo from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, from ‘Once.’ Colm Meaney also does a larger voice in that one.”

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the possibility of another “Simpsons” movie, don’t wonder too hard. It’ll be awhile.

“We talk about it every once in awhile,” admitted Jean. “But it’s pretty much the same opinion: the first one was an amazing amount of work, especially to do it at the same time that we were doing the show, and if we did another one, it was so wonderful to have it come out, we’d only want to do it if it was as good as that. And in my opinion, we did the movie, we did the ride (for Universal Studios), and then we shut down for the strike, and…y’know, we’re really just doing the show as well as we can right now, and that’s our one priority. But if we started feeling ambitious again, then maybe we’d approach another movie.”

  

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