Tag Archives: Kristin Wiig

‘The Simpsons’ Season 25 Hits a ‘Homerland’ — a Talk with Al Jean

simpsons“The Simpsons” is celebrating its 25th season — launching Sept. 29 — with special episodes, a second ride at Universal’s Orlando theme park (part of the Springfield attraction that just opened there this past spring) and anniversary celebrations. 

It’s only right. 

“There hasn’t been a primetime show that’s scripted that’s gone 25 years before.  We’re thinking that’s like a real accomplishment,” says “Simpsons” exec producer Al Jean.  Yup, that it certainly is – in addition to the series’ 27 Emmys, its Peabody award and numerous other honors.

Among the must-see episodes on the way – the Halloween episode “opens with a really special opening directed by Guillermo del Toro,” reports Jean.  “And the rest of the Halloween episode is really terrific.”  More guest director episodes are in the works for Spring.   There’s also a “crossover with ‘Futurama.’  We’ve been trying to do it for a while.  It’s very exciting to all of us.”

al jeanThe crossover of the two Matt Groening-created shows will “probably air like the finale of this year, or maybe the premiere of next year.  It’s great to have the two universes together.”
But how?  “We’ve got a way,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s a great year — 25 years and we’re very excited.   We started December 1989,” adds Jean, one of “The Simpsons” original writers as well as its showrunner since Season 13.  “A lot of things have changed.” 
As for criticism in more recent years that the show quality has declined, Jean, a “Simpsons” writer from the beginning, comments that “We never stop trying as hard as we can.  It’s hard to, you know, do fresh episodes when you’ve already done 500, but we really take the time to try to think of things we haven’t done before.”
The 25th Season opener is called “Homerland” – a takeoff of Showtime’s “Homeland,” featuring the voice of Kristin Wiig.
With all the excitement over the 25th year, is the team also looking beyond, to the 26th, 27th and beyond?  What’s the outlook?
“Right now we’re in our last year of our current [contract],” says Jean.  “I think it’s extremely likely that we’ll do two more years. Our ratings are great.  Our reruns in the summer do as well as the reality shows that they put on, and our reruns don’t cost them anything.  During the year, we hold down 8 pm Sunday for Fox — we go out from our lead-in, often doubling it.   And in my view, I would say there are at least two more years to this show, very likely more.” 
He points out that Fox entertainment chairman “Kevin Reilly said something very similar at TCA.”   
The cast members to whom we’ve spoken still seem enthused as well. 
“Oh, yeah.  If I was them , I wouldn’t want to stop either,” says Jean.  “They’re terrific.  It’s a terrific show.  Why stop?”
Jean says he can’t name his favorite episodes.  “It’s like asking which of your 550 children is your favorite.  I mean, there’s so many that had meaning for me in different ways.”  But he can talk about which episodes have drawn the biggest reaction through the years. 
“The premiere — the Christmas show — means a lot to me; it turned out to be a phenomenon and I worked a lot on that show.  It meant the world.   Another one was when we did the episode with all the baseball players, ‘Homer at the Bat.’  It was amazing to meet them and now – you know I love baseball – it’s kind of regarded as a classic of sports television.  The one where we did a ‘Behind the Music’ with Mike Scully running the show that was great; it won an Emmy.  I wrote one which won an Emmy, a ‘Flowers for Algernon,’ that meant a lot to me.  We had one called ‘The Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind’ — like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ – which was a brilliant show that also won an Emmy.  The milestone episodes — 500 .  The movie.  To me, it’s amazing to have reached all those and still to be going.”
Will there be another “The Simpsons” movie?
“We talk about it, but you know, it’s not going to happen this year or next year or anything like that,” says Jean.    
And of course, we must broach the topic of the most recent “Simpsons” controversy – the flap over the show becoming a Lego blocks line that caused a mini uproar among some Lego purists.
“It’s funny that some Lego fans are like, ‘Oh my God. This is outrageous.’  And we were like, ‘Well, there are Harry Potter Legos and Harry Potter movies are PG 13.’  I’m glad we can still arouse Ire,” says Jean, sounding, in fact, quite satisfied.  “That made me happy.”

Can Females Succeed in Raunchy Comedy?

Kristin Wiig, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey Universal photo

Can women pull off doing a raunchy big-screen comedy?  Kristin Wiig’s “Brides Maids” was previewed at the recent SXSW Film Fest to a chorus of agitated reviews, horrible to ecstatic, and attendee applause.  Sounds like the kind of response that’s greeted other comedies with gross-out moments that sell lots of tickets despite critical loathing.

“I hope that other studios will start taking a gamble on funny girls, because we’re interesting,” declares the movie’s Wendi McLendon-Covey. “There are a whole lot of girls out there who aren’t afraid of making themselves look stupid, who aren’t vain, who can do what the boys are doing.”  She adds, “We’re always seeing the same funny boys in the same types of movies, the manboy movies.  Okay, but girls are funny, too.”

Some of those manboy comedies are, of course, the work of moviemaker Judd Apatow, who happens to be producing “Brides Maids,” which was cowritten by Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and directed by Paul Feig (“Freaks and Geeks,” “the Office”).  It has Wiig, as a put-upon maid of honor, teamed with Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, McLendon-Covey, and Jon Hamm as a hateful boyfriend.  The flick (the late Jill Clayburgh’s last) is due for May 13 release from Universal.

McLendon-Covey reports that when she and her castmates first got together for a table read of the script it was 2007.  The delay in getting it before the camera “might have been because of the reticence to finance anything female-driven that wasn’t ‘Sex in the City,'” she surmises.

“Brides Maids,” she stresses, “is not a chick flick.  There is no shoe shopping montage, none of that.”  And there were no cat fights on set.  “People ask me that, but no.  What’s to fight about?  A bunch of nerdy girls who like to be funny, supporting each other.”

McLendon-Covey plays a character named Rita who is “very, um, damaged and thinks she’s so much smarter than her life.  I love playing the weirdos.  She’s a fly in the ointment, the one telling the bride, ‘You’re making a big mistake.'”

With “Brides Maids” on the way, the “Reno 911” alumna says she’s gone out for a few pilots, but nothing that has her excited.  “I hate to say this, but when I read for pilots a lot of times I can’t tell one from another.  I’m happy with my nice little recurring gig on ‘Rules of Engagement.'”