The Simpsons Is Ending

Bongo Comics Group

In a highly unexpected move, The Simpsons is ending... its business relationship with comiXology.

Bongo Comics Group, the publisher of Simpsons Comics, quietly took all their stuff off comiXology, the leading digital comics retailer owned by Amazon. Nobody seems to know what led to this decision, and both sides are remaining tight-lipped about it. Here's what they told Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter:

Chip Mosher of comiXology told CR, simply, "Bongo is no longer available on comiXology." Susan Grode a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, speaking on behalf of Bongo, said, "Thank you for your email. My client has no response regarding Comixology. Bongo has created the Simpsons Store app for its comics and trade books on iTunes, to be released shortly."

It's hard to say what's a stupider name, comiXology or Simpsons Store.

Spurgeon says he was also told users who previously bought Bongo comics on comiXology will still be able to read their books, because that's apparently a thing you have to worry about in the digital marketplace.

Bongo making their own app is a bold move for a company that didn't even have a website until 2010. Grode's terse statement does raise some concerns, though: she only mentions iTunes, with no mention of whether Simpsons Store will be available on Android, Windows Phone, or the web, like comiXology is. Also, calling it Simpsons Store (ok, maybe it's a placeholder name?) leaves the digital fates of Bongo's non-Simpsons output, like Futurama Comics and SpongeBob Comics, unclear. Because, come on, buying a SpongeBob comic from a Simpsons app would just be madness.

Ideally, the service would be under the Bongo name, and I'd love to see them digitally re-release stuff from their defunct Zongo Comics imprint, the underappreciated Heroes Anonymous, and maybe some uncollected Life in Hell stuff.

[The Comics Reporter]

Contract Negotiations Not Going So Well

Negotiations with Harry Shearer appear to have hit a wee bit of a snag, as the longtime Simpsons cast member has apparently announced he's leaving the show.

Shearer made the announcement on Twitter late last night, quoting an imaginary press release from James L. Brooks's Lawyer, for some reason. Take a look:

Then he seized the opportunity to plug his new comedy song about cops. Hey, why not?

burning bridge

Simpsons Maybe Not Renewed After All

doh

Fox announced they were picking up a "DOUBLE D'OHse" of The Simpsons earlier this week, but it turns out they may have forgotten to make sure all the contracts were signed before hitting "send" on that press release.

TMZ is reporting that "one of the key players" is holding out for unspecified reasons. Going by the history of previous contract negotiations, the mystery holdout is almost definitely Harry Shearer, trying to get himself a cut of some of those sweet, sweet back-end profits. If true, this would make his grumpy tweets about how almost none of the news coverage mentioned him pretty ironic, I guess.

In the unlikely event the show's producers can't come to an agreement with him, they have a backup plan:

A designer said that Al Jean (longtime executive and consulting producer) is optimistic that new contracts with vocal talent will be finalized, but Matt Groening was reported to have said:

"If necessary, I'LL do the voices."


BREAKING: Simpsons Renewed Through Season 280

future crowd
In an unprecedented move, The Fox Network has renewed the The Simpsons for 254 additional seasons, ensuring America's Favorite Family will be delighting audiences for centuries to come.

According to a press release, the renewal includes funding for a program codenamed Virtua Script, which developers boast will dramatically cut down on production costs by automating scripts. The program is part of long-term plan for the show to become fully automized by 2041, and achieve sentience soon thereafter.

"I could not be happier about this renewal," tweeted showrunner Al Jean, who said he plans to upload his consciousness to the machines as soon as it is technologically feasible.

Confirmed: Simpsons Returning From Hiatus (Note: Not Actually Confirmed)

You can rest easy, everybody. It looks like negotiations are over, contracts have been signed, and The Simpsons will be returning from its hiatus.

I speak, of course, about the franchise's extended hiatus from video game consoles. Hard as it may be to believe, it's been over seven years since the release of a Simpsons game on a dedicated gaming system. With EA's attention focused on The Simpsons: Tapped Out, the hugely successful freemium game for iOS and Android devices, the prospects of a followup to 2007's The Simpsons Game looked fairly dim. But now it looks like Homer and the gang just might be returning to consoles... just not in the way anyone expected.

Yesterday, The LEGO Group and Warner Bros. announced LEGO Dimensions, a new game & toy series in the lucrative "you have to keep buying plastic junk" category pioneered by Skylanders. Once you've plunked down a hundred bucks for the starter pack, you can buy additional characters and content from various franchises. Unlike its rival Disney Infinity, LEGO Dimensions won't be limited to franchises owned by the same megacorporation - they've already licensed Back to the Future from Universal, for example.

On Twitter, @UKVGDeals highlighted what could be a clue to a certain other franchise in the extended trailer:

Lego Dimensions trailer

That's right: a donut with pink frosting and sprinkles, 100% clear-cut confirmation that The Simpsons will be a part of the game in the future. (Aside: When and how did "donut with pink frosting" become the defining icon of The Simpsons, anyway?)

Still not convinced? Well, as fellow Twitter user Ryan W. Mead pointed out, a New York Times article mentions "Characters owned by 20th Century Fox are also expected to join Dimensions as it rolls out." Clearly they must be referring to the Simpsons because, ha ha, does Fox even have any other franchises anymore?

So, there you have it, folks: The Simpsons is almost definitely coming back to consoles in the form of an add-on pack to LEGO Skylanders: The Game, by next year, probably. What's less clear is if the show will still be on by then.

Wait, I just remembered the Minecraft pack. Eh, whatever.

The Simpsons Outlives DVD Market

Faulting a dying DVD market, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean announced yesterday that the show's DVD and Blu-ray sets will be discontinued:

Sam Simon (1955 - 2015)

Simpsons executive producer and animal rights activist Sam Simon died Monday at the age of 59 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Simon grew up in Beverly Hills and attended Stanford University, where he drew cartoons for the college newspaper as well as the San Francisco Examiner. He was later hired at Filmation Studios, where he worked on cartoons like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (recently, he alleged Bill Cosby "had two of the writers write his phd thesis."). After submitting a Taxi spec script, he was promptly hired as a writer by executive producer James L. Brooks, and soon became showrunner. He later wrote and produced for Cheers, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and The Tracey Ullman Show.

Simon was hired by Brooks to help develop The Simpsons as it transitioned from a series of one-minute shorts to a half-hour series (Simon's then-wife, Jennifer Tilly, had tried to talk him out of it.). As Brooks had his hands full with being a mega-producer and creator Matt Groening had limited television experience, it appears most of the day-to-day responsibilities fell upon Simon, who became the show's first showrunner and head writer. In this role, Simon was a major architect of the show's template and tone, even designing some of the secondary characters. He put together the legendary writing staff of the first few seasons; the show's two most essential writers, George Meyer and John Swartzwelder, were allegedly plucked from Meyer's underground comedy magazine Army Man, which was making the rounds in comedy circles (other Army Men contributors, including Ian Maxtone-Graham, Tom Gammill and Max Pross, would join the show in later years). In some respects, the hugely influential writer's room Simon assembled became what Mad Magazine's "Usual Gang of Idiots" had been to an earlier generation.

During the show's development, Simon and Groening had gotten along just fine; they had even collaborated on one of Groening's Life in Hell comics. Tension soon mounted after the show premiered and became a smash hit out of the gate. Groening had become the public "face" of the show, and seen as the sole auteur by the media and general public. Simon felt he wasn't being given enough credit (in a 1991 interview, writer Jon Vitti theorized it was "because there's no book of Sam Simon cartoons you can read") and wasn't being paid enough, particularly when merchandising took off and made Groening an instant millionaire.

As early as February 1990, reports of a feud between Groening and Simon had become public. In a Los Angeles Times article about the show, Howard Rosenberg noted, "One senses from talking separately to Simon and Groening in their Fox offices that the two are as incompatible and out of tune with each other as the Simpsons." Simon condescendingly characterized Groening's role as the show's "ambassador." The friction between them grew incredibly petty, some of which was detailed in John Ortved's 2009 oral history of the show, The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. Brian Roberts, a former editor on the show, recounted one instance:

When we'd do a screening, it was Matt, Sam, and I. And they were like two five-year olds not speaking. We'd be watching an episode and Sam would say, "Do this." And Matt would say, "Will you tell Sam Simon I think that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard." Sam would say, "Would you tell Matt Groening that he doesn't know his ass from third grade." We were all sitting shoulder to shoulder! It was extremely uncomfortable for me.

Allegedly, the Season 3 episode "Flaming Moe's," in which Moe takes all the credit for a flaming cocktail invented by Homer, was inspired by the acrimony between Groening and Simon.

One of their major disagreements was over the content and vision of the show. Generally, Simon wanted the show to be grounded and free from sitcom cliches. As Vitti said, "Thanks to Sam, Bart will never be hypnotized, there will never be a show with Bart lying in a hospital bed with cut-in clips from old shows, and nobody will ever get amnesia and have to be reminded of what happened by cutting different episodes together!" (Yes, these all happened later in some form or another.) Matt Groening, on the other hand, had some rather oddball ideas in the initial years. As Simon told Rosenberg:

"What really elevated 'The Simpsons' is that a lot of really talented people have come in from the Tracey show. Matt's (creative) voice is certainly in 'The Simpsons,' but initially he was talking about a show where there'd be Martians and a lot of fantasy," said Simon, grimacing. "I'm glad we rejected that."

One of Groening's ideas was that Marge Simpson was secretly a rabbit from Life in Hell, who was hiding her large rabbit ears in her hair. Simon firmly rejected the idea, but it appears Groening snuck the idea into The Simpsons Arcade Game without his awareness.

According to Ortved, Simon became increasingly difficult to work with, and his relationship with Brooks and his studio, Gracie Films, began to disintegrate. Eventually Simon reached a deal to leave The Simpsons, but keep his producer credit and all the money that came with it (an estimated $20-30 million a year). Since then, he made just a handful of contributions to the show: a self-portrait as an elderly recluse with really long fingernails in "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular," and changing his "spooky name" in recent Halloween episodes to "Simonsam@twitTERROR," replacing the usual "Sam 'Sayonara' Simon."

Nevertheless, the bitterness between Groening and Simon lingered for years afterward. In a November 2001 article in the New York Times Magazine, Groening called Simon "brilliantly funny and one of the smartest writers I've ever worked with, although unpleasant and mentally unbalanced." Simon was more charitable: "When I see Matt now, I shake hands and say hello. I can't lie and say that Matt did what he didn't do, but I do appreciate him creating that family. Thanks to Bart Simpson I have a pretty good life."

After his departure from The Simpsons, Simon worked on The Drew Carey Show and created a short-lived sitcom starring George Carlin. It appears Simon hadn't become any easier to work with: "Lesson learned: always check mental health of creative partner beforehand," wrote Carlin on his website. "We all knew Sam was crazy," cast member Phil LaMarr confessed to the A.V. Club. "I would say that any show I've ever worked on, it turns me into a monster. I go crazy. I hate myself," Simon explained in a 2007 60 Minutes profile.

Simon had a number of interesting hobbies. He participated in a number of poker tournaments, and for a time had a poker show on Playboy TV called "Sam's Game." He also coached champion boxer Lamon Brewster, and was named World Boxing Organization's Manager of the Year in 2004.

Using the fortune he was earning from The Simpsons, Simon became a philanthropist. In 2002, he founded the Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs and trains them to assist veterans and the disabled, provides spay and neuter services in the Los Angeles area, and provides vegan food for the poor. In 2012, he donated a $2 million ship to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, for their efforts against Japanese whalers. It was christened the SSS Sam Simon. He also donated to PETA (one of their headquarters buildings bears his name) and Save the Children. According to Inside Philanthropy, Simon wasn't sure how much he had given away to charity.

In March 2013, Simon announced he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had been given only months to live. For the next two years, Simon provided his Twitter followers with a candid look at his chemotherapy and treatment with good humor, posting pictures of his nurses, the seemingly endless medical procedures he undertook, and the marijuana and paraphernalia friends had given him.

On January 22, he tweeted: "Btw, even if I die tomorrow, Which i wont, i have beaten cancer. The past two years have been the happiest of my life."

"New" Simpsons Theory Circulates Web

ouroboros

Huffington Post has an article about some Buzzfeed guy's article about some reddit guy's theory about the later seasons of The Simpsons all taking place inside Homer's imagination during a coma. Where have I heard that crazy theory before??? Oh yeah, from me, in a footnote from this article I wrote in 2011, and while I'd love to take credit for that stupid theory, it's been floating around since at least 2002 as this posting to the alt.tv.simpsons newsgroup by a "Dr Music" shows. Everybody is aggregating everybody else's content, the end.

Thousands Protest Timeslot Change

Thousands of Simpsons fans in Bolivia staged a massive protest after the channel Unitel changed the show's timeslot.

...wait, what? *makes wacky Jon Stewart befuddlement face* That can't be right. We're talking about the show that's been on for like 30 years and hasn't been funny since the Clinton Administration, right? Let me read the article again just to make sure...

Hrm, yeah, everything checks out. Huh. That's weird. Looks like they succeeded, too. Good for them.

[Latin Times via New York Post]

The Next Simpsons Movie Was Almost About The Simpsons Meeting The Aliens

kang & kodos

Tonight's Simpsons episode, The Man Who Came To Be Dinner, features the family getting launched into space and meeting Kang & Kodos in their first major appearance in a non-Halloween, non-clip show context.

The episode has had a long, strange journey: it was first announced back in September 2012 and scheduled to air in May 2013 as the Season 24 finale, but it was mysteriously postponed just two weeks before it was supposed to air. It also did not air in the following season as expected, but is now finally airing in the middle of the current season, nearly 2½ years after it was announced.

Fans had a number of theories about the delay: Animation problems? A lawsuit from Disney? Cold feet about the out-there premise? Saving it for the series finale?

Producers Al Jean and David Mirkin finally revealed the real reason on Twitter: at some point they seriously considered scrapping the episode and reworking it into a sequel to The Simpsons Movie.

The Simpsons Has Been On For A Quarter of A Century Now

25 years of the simpsonsCongratulations to Matt Groening, Al Jean, and co. on achieving this meaningless milestone.

Now, please, for the love of God, do the merciful thing and end it. It's too late to bow out with dignity. You will never surpass Sazae-san. There are no more plaudits left to achieve. You ran out of ideas over a decade ago. The next episode is about the Simpsons meeting the aliens. You are just throwing stuff at the wall now.

Mrs. Krabappel Is Writing Scientific Articles From Beyond The Grave

Mrs. Krabappel

It's a Christmas miracle! Dearly departed Springfield schoolmarm Edna Krabappel has returned, and she's writing scientific studies with her colleagues Margaret "Maggie" Simpson and Kim Jong Fun.

The trio's latest study, about a "new methodology for forward-error correction," has been accepted for publication into two real-world scientific journals.

Unfortunately, it's all a cruel hoax, as Vox explains:

Of course, none of these fictional characters actually wrote the paper, titled "Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations." Rather, it's a nonsensical text, submitted by engineer Alex Smolyanitsky in an effort to expose a pair of scientific journals -- the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the comic sans-loving Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology.

Yes, Smolyanitsky's intentions were good, but did he really have to drag a beloved dead woman into his twisted scheme and give us false hope that she might still be out there, somewhere???

While this incident certainly doesn't bode well for Krabappel's future in academia, we can only hope she continues to send more cryptic messages from the great unknown.

[Vox via The Washington Post]

The Simpsons Predicts The Past

Here's an intriguing headline from Vox:

The Simpsons predicted Russia's current economic downturn back in 1999

And here's an excerpt from the actual story:

Of course it was not actually "predicting" today's Russian economic downturn, but rather riffing off the earlier downturn, of which there have been several.

So, basically, the show didn't predict it at all and your headline is a blatant lie. That's some good reportin' there, Lou.

Wait a minute... this was all a ploy to get us to learn about the Russian economy, wasn't it?!

Learning? Russia? Let's get out of here!

Simpsons Writer Leaves Show In Twitter Huff

Simpsons writer/producer Marc Wilmore announced his departure from the show in a strange series of tweets.

Previously a writer/performer on In Loving Color and The PJs, Wilmore joined The Simpsons in 2000. He was the sole black writer to have been part of the show's writing staff (Michael Carrington, who co-wrote "Homer's Triple Bypass" and voiced Sideshow Raheem, wasn't technically part of the staff).

On Thursday and Friday, he tweeted self-deprecating jokes about his newfound unemployment and suggestions the parting was less than amicable. It's most certainly all part of a comedy bit, but... what if it wasn't...?!?

Judge for yourself...

Simpsons World Now Live

lisa simpson computer
Simpsons World, the much-anticipated Simpsons streaming service from FXX, just went live a few hours ago. Here's my initial impressions of it. Please note I'm just using the web version, so I don't know if there's anything different about the mobile version.