Tag Archives: The Simpsons

‘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.”

Hank Azaria Happy New Dad, Talks ‘Love and Other Drugs’

Hank Azaria UPI Photo John Hayes

Hank Azaria UPI Photo John Hayes

Hank Azaria’s girlfriend Katie Wright and their four-month-old baby Hal just joined him on Pittsburgh location of “Love and Other Drugs” – which couldn’t please the actor and funnyman more. 

Although his son was born prematurely, “He’s fine — a big, 10-pound baby now.  He’s very calm, very easily soothed, very mellow so far.  It is fun to have the little guy around.  He’s just starting to recognize us,” reports Azaria. 

Asked about what kind of role he’d most like to play next, the besotted new dad answers, “To be honest, I’m pretty happy to hang around and just stare at the baby for awhile.” 

MEANWHILE:  Right now, Azaria’s attention is also on “Love and Other Drugs.”  In fact, he tells us that with the health care debate raging on, he and Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal and the rest of the “Love and Other Drugs” team keep saying to each other, “We wish this movie was coming out next week.  It just has so much to say about the effect big pharma has really had on the medical profession and the health care world.  It’s greater than people think,” Hank declares.  “This really goes into what that system has created and how it works in a day-to-day way.”

As it is, the comedic drama/romance has weeks of production left to go.  Azaria is playing “a doctor of questionable ethics, who engages in some things dealing with pharmaceutical companies that you wish your doctor wouldn’t do” in the feature.  Drawn from “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy, the film’s depiction of “this whole world – the pharmaceutical world – and the Viagra story itself are all true.  The love story between Jake and Anne, that part is fiction,” he says. 

Meanwhile, the four-time Emmy winner has been recording his “The Simpsons” parts long distance as on the “Drugs” shoot goes.  The landmark animated comedy is soon to hit its 20 year milestone, and he’s looking forward to celebrating that.  “I’m sure they’ll be doing some kind of party or something with a lot of balloons.”

MAN ON THE MOVE:  Dividing his time between making and promoting the “Twilight” sequel, “New Moon,” and threequel, “Eclipse,” and his work as Dr. Fitch “Coop” Cooper on “Nurse Jackie” has put, well, nearly inhuman demands on Peter Facinelli, a.k.a. head vampire Carlyle Cullen, over the past several months. 

“Sometimes I’ve gone without sleep for like 36 hours.  It’s tedious, but we worked it all out and it’s been doable, with some flying back and forth,” says Facinelli.  “It’s exciting. I mean, I love to do what I do. I love to work.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a break in-between, yes, but you do what you need to do.”

He did two weeks of rehearsal and a week of fight training for “Eclipse,” then went into filming the movie with plans to dive directly into new season shooting on “Nurse Jackie.”  As far as his schedule, “It was great. Both sides kind of worked it out before the boards were done on both shows.  The trick is to go in early to talk about your schedule, before the boards are done.  So it’s give and take,” he says.

 Fight training came pretty easily to him.  “I’m pretty athletic.  I did that show ‘Fast Lane’ for awhile and I did 90 per cent of my own stunts, just because I like doing them.  If I don’t go home bruised, I don’t feel like I put in a good day’s work.”

The actor, also known as Jennie Garth’s hubby, certainly couldn’t be playing characters who are much farther apart.  “Someone sent me a picture of Carlyle Cullen next to a picture of Coop and they were so vastly different it made me laugh.  Sometimes I look at pictures of Carlyle and say ‘I don’t look anything like that.’  I’ve always tried to do different things.  When people ask me what I want to do next, I always say ‘Anything I haven’t done before.’”

NOT FOR KIDS:  The no-holds-barred conversation Denise Richards had with Howard Stern on his radio show last June – in which she discussed her boob jobs, types of sex she enjoyed, and ex Charlie Sheen – was so scintillating to Stern fans that the actress-reality star-Playboy pictorial subject has been dubbed a top guest of all time.  “I was very surprised by the response,” she tells us, making it clear she has no regrets.  “I would definitely do Howard Stern’s show again. You have to know what you’re getting into, and I did.  That’s why I’d never done his show before.  My publicist was saying, ‘I don’t think there’s anything you haven’t been asked at this point,’ so I decided to do it and have fun with it, and I was very honest with him,” she recounts.  “Obviously, as soon as I got done, I called my dad back in L.A. and said, ‘Do not listen to Howard Stern,’ and, you know, if you see any quotes on the internet, don’t read them.”  Obviously.

THE BIGGEST SOFTIE:  Hard-driving though “The Biggest Loser” trainer Bob Harper may be, he’s also known to hold a competitor’s hand and have a cry in an emotional moment.  He bonds with his followers and has “established lasting friendships.  I’m a touchstone for them.  If they need me for anything, they reach out.  With all the social networking possibilities these days, I definitely hear from them – ‘Bob, I’ve hit a plateau.’  You have to trust the process to stay on course.”

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster