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Al Jean: “We’re actually working on a script where a character will pass away”

Simpsons Al Jean

Screenwriter and Executive Producer, Al Jean, said althoughThe Simpsons have reached 25 seasons, this season is one of the best. In an interview, Jean told fans what they can expect this year.

Q: Congrats on 25 seasons. Do you guys have any concerns about running out of material?

Jean: No, actually. I think that the upcoming season’s one of our best ever. There are a lot of things happening that reinvigorate us. It’s the best job to have, that’s why we all want to keep it going.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your experience as executive producer versus show runner?

Jean: Usually a show runner is an executive producer, but there are more executive producers than that. Show runner – it’s funny, the term wasn’t in existence, really, when the show started, but has come into vogue and it just means, basically, whatever happens that goes wrong is your fault. You’re in charge of making sure the show goes from idea to execution and appears on the air and works.

Q: Just curious, in all of your experience, what have you not been able to do that you wish you could have done? And what do you hope to do that pushes beyond what you have done in the past?

Jean: Well, I’ll tell you one thing that we didn’t do that we wished we’d thought of which was Pixar would parody outtakes at the end of their movies, we thought oh, there’s a brilliant comedy animated gag that we didn’t do. I guess we’ve always said we couldn’t ever get a president on the show, so we finally used the voice of Teddy Roosevelt, and that sort of filled that gap.

It’s a pretty small list of things we’ve wanted to do where we’ve been told no. It’s a pretty long list of amazing things that we couldn’t believe we got to do. Now you can go to a Simpsons live action land in Universal Florida. It’s crazy, just the number – there’s a play on Broadway, that we didn’t write but that’s inspired by an old episode. 

Q: Any hints about what you might try to do this season that you haven’t done before?

Jean: There’s a few things. There are some extremely ambitious episodes that appear towards the end of the year that are unlike anything that we’ve done before. One of them, I can say, there’s a Futurama/Simpsons crossover, which we just read with the cast of Futurama. It went great. We look for that to be the finale next year, in May.

Q: Why did you want to use the Homeland thing for the season premiere?

Jean: It was actually an idea pitched by one of our writers, Stephanie Gillis. The fact that Homer worked at a nuclear plant lent itself to him being somebody that could be turned by nefarious forces to try to do something terrible. And the fact that you just add and “R” to Homeland and you get “Homerland” really made it good.

I think it’s a great episode. You know, there is just such a distinctive – I think the show Homeland is great, and I think the Claire Danes character is just so fascinating, we thought it would be great to satirize her in the show.

Q: The last big, main character death was Maude Flanders. Do you guys ever think of possibly killing off any of the other characters at all? Or will there be any more death in the coming seasons?

Jean: We’re actually working on a script where a character will pass away. I’ll give a clue that the actor playing the character won an Emmy for playing that character, but I won’t say who it is.

Q: I was just interested in the celebrity voices that you get on the show. Just wondering how you choose them and whether you have a favorite over the years?

Jean: I couldn’t possibly say. Of my favorites, Phil Hartman was brilliant. Kelsey Grammar and John Lovitz have been on many times and were fabulous every time.

In terms of getting them – the premiere, Kristin Wigg is just hilarious. I loved her on SNL and Bridesmaids. You’re amazed when you approach someone that’s that funny and they go, The Simpsons? I’d love to do it. You get that 99% of the time.

We have Zach Galifianakis coming up this season. Elizabeth Moss. It’s amazing the very top of the list people that you get because you’re with The Simpsons.

Q: Can you tell us what else will be coming up this season? I know we have death, I know we have some interesting stuff, but what else can you tell us to expect?

Jean: Well, we have a show – the Elizabeth Moss show I mentioned, Homer is stuck on an elevator with a pregnant woman and he delivers her baby because she’s giving birth right then. She’s grateful and she doesn’t have a husband, so she names the baby Homer Jr., and Homer actually bonds with this baby better than his own children and Marge gets really mad.

We have a show coming up where Comic Book Guy gets married. The wedding is performed by Stan Lee, and we have Stan Lee playing himself, and Harlan Ellison playing himself in that episode. What was funny was that they both wanted to be funnier than the other. They were both great; it was really exciting for me, as a nerd.

We have a show where Mr. Burns gives everyone, basically, Google Glass as a Christmas gift because then he can spy on them. Homer gives his to Marge and finds that Homer can see what Marge is doing all day and discovers a shocking secret. That’s our Valentine’s episode.

Watch The Simpsons on Sundays at 8 p.m. on FOX. 

Photo Courtesy of FOX. 

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Monica Gleberman began writing in 2000. She has been published on CNN and in the Suffolk Times, Examiner, The Daily Collegian, Demand Studios, Patch, and The Tattoo.

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