Showrunner Al Jean Talks THE SIMPSONS Marathon on FXX, Running Original Versions of the Episodes, the Show’s Evolution, the FUTURAMA Crossover, and More

     August 17, 2014


Starting on August 21st, every episode of The Simpsons will air in a 12-day marathon on FXX.  Whether you’re a fan who wants to relive the experience from the beginning, or you’ve never had the chance to check out the show before, you can experience every laugh, every guest appearance, and every classic moment.

During this recent interview to promote the upcoming marathon, executive producer/showrunner Al Jean talked about what it’s like to be involved with a show for so many years that they can have a 12-day marathon, that it’s not medically advisable to stay up to watch the entire marathon while it’s airing, that they’ll be running the original version of the episodes, as opposed to the shorter syndicated version, whether they’d ever do a movie sequel, how the show has evolved over the past 25 years, that there’s still a real life to the series, where The Simpsons fits into the television landscape as a whole, and pulling off The Simpsons/Futurama cross-over episode that will air in November on Fox.  Check out what he had to say after the jump. 

the-simpsons-2Question:  How does it feel to be personally involved with this for so many years that you can have a 12-day marathon? 

AL JEAN:  Everything that happens with the show, at this point, is beyond my comprehension.  Driving along, I see the marathon advertisements on the sides of buses.  The fact that it’s longer than a week, of all the same show, has been fantastic to me.  The interest that there seems to be, not just in the marathon, but in the little details of the show.  And the upcoming app is fantastic.

I’m not sure that it’s physically possible for any human being to stay up and watch the entire marathon.

JEAN:  Don’t tell anybody.  Actually, medically, I think I would strongly urge you get some sleep.

What advice would you give to people who make an attempt to at least stay up for the first two or three days, to watch the early seasons?

JEAN:  Well, I binge watch stuff, too.  If I’m behind on a series like 24, I watch a bunch in a row.  I would say that medical doctors have said that you can’t go more than two days without sleeping.  We, at The Simpsons, do not want anyone killing themselves over watching the show.  I think you should definitely record them and watch later, but I do think you might see a lot of different things and be surprised by what you see, if you watch at different points.  We’re going to be live tweeting, not continuously, but every time there’s an episode I wrote or there’s a show that I ran, I’ll try to get in on them.  We’re asking guest stars who did the show, if they’d like to tweet with the writers.  So, we hope to have a discussion going on for the whole way, and throw in interesting things that people may not have heard.

the-simpsons-homer-margeWhat version of the episodes will you be running for the marathon, the shorter syndicated version or the original version?

JEAN:  As I understand it, they are the original version.  They’re expanded to HD, except on the app where you can get the original 4X3.  And if something isn’t in the marathon, it should be on the website.

You’re also going to be airing The Simpsons movie during the marathon.  Are there any preparations for a sequel?

JEAN:  No, it’s just swamped right now, between this marathon, doing three shows at the Hollywood Bowl in September and just doing the new season of the show.  So, to be quite honest, there is no movie in the works, at the moment.  But we would definitely be interested in doing one, if we could come up with something that we really believed in.  We wouldn’t just do a sequel for the sake of doing a sequel, if there’s no need.

Do you have a period of the show that you’re really looking forward to revisiting?

JEAN:  Anytime that I see any episode, I always look at it and go, “Oh, we screwed that up.  That could be better.”  I never look at them as perfectly finished.  My daughter actually watches The Simpsons today, not because I make her, but because she wants to, so I’ve been seeing a lot of them from different eras.  I have a particular love for when we started with digital coloring, around season 14, 15 and 16.  I think those shows were really great.  We did one with George Clinton that was really cool.  He was a great guy.

How do you think the show has evolved, over the past 25 years?

JEAN:  Honestly, in my opinion, animation wise and with the storytelling, it got more complicated.  When I was running it around Season 4, we added a certain number of rewrites to the animatic process, so it got denser, although it was always a really funny show.  I don’t think it’s really changed that much, in its basic process, from Season 2, or even the beginning.  We’re always just trying to write a show about family, we’re trying to make it reflect the times that we live in, and we have this great cast that, fortunately, has not changed.  So, we don’t approach it any differently.  I can’t say how it looks to somebody on the outside, but I’m really sitting and doing the same thing that I did 20 years ago.

Lego-The-Simpsons-episodeHow long do you think the series has in it?  Do you see another 25 years?

JEAN:  It seems like saying another 25 years is a little bit humorous, but to be realistic, our ratings are really good.  If I was looking at it from a network point of view, I would say, “Gee, let’s get a deal for two years with an option for two more.”  If you look at the demos, which are very young, this show looks like it has a lot of room to run.

How important do you think The Simpsons is, in historical view with television as a whole?

JEAN:  It’s the most important thing that ever happened.  In television, there are a lot of things that we influence.  I look at shows that I thought were great, like 30 Rock, and I think that their pasting and inter-cutting was influenced by us, the way that we were influenced by Monty Python.  I think we’re part of a great tradition.  There are a lot of things that made us what we are, and I think there are a lot of things that we helped influence.

What was it like to pull of The Simpsons/Futurama cross-over that you have airing in November?  How did you guys manage to get everybody into the episode?

JEAN:  We’ve talked about different cross-overs, at different points, and actually did one with the show The Critic, years ago.  But I always felt that Futurama would be great because of the animation style.  It really works well.  And I’ve seen the color come back and it does look perfect.  I obviously went to Matt Groening first and asked him what he thought, and he said, “Great!”  We consulted with David Cohen of Futurama through the process, and he was really helpful.  Working with the casts was the highlight for me.  At the read, plus our star cast, we had Billy West, Maurice LaMarche and John DiMaggio.  It was the greatest voice-over read that I could imagine, with just really funny, brilliant people.  Getting them all in one room might have been the very best part of it.

So, what state is Springfield in?  Matt Groening is from Portland, so is it supposed to be in Oregon?

JEAN:  Well, I won’t say that The Simpsons are in Oregon, but I can definitively say The Simpsons mural will be in Oregon.  They are dedicating it later this month, and Yeardley Smith, who plays Lisa, will be there.  The mock-up is going to be beautiful.  So, the answer to the question is that there is no answer.  But there’s no question that Oregon has had a huge influence.  Elements of the show are named after places in Oregon.

The Simpsons 12-day marathon starts on August 21st on FXX.



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