A new documentary details how The Simpsons nearly didnt get made
Icons Unearthed: The Simpsons trailer
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The Simpsons has been on TV since 1989 and enters its 34th season this year. It’s a global, pop cultural phenomenon which has become a well-loved TV staple among several generations. However, new documentary series Icons Unearthed: The Simpsons sheds light on how the show was never supposed to have been made in the first place with The Simpsons only making it onto screens in an incidental deal.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, the documentary’s director Brian Volk-Weiss opened up about how The Simpsons wasn’t even on the radar of the executives at television network Fox television.
He said The Simpsons got the greenlight for “incidental reasons” rather than the fact people want the series.
Moreover, no one really knew what The Simpsons was the time it was commissioned for its first series.
The Simpsons started off life as a series of short idents on comedienne Tracy Ullman’s self-titled sketch show on Fox.
Television network Fox is a firm fixture on screens now but back in the 1980s they had just launched, going up against big three veteran broadcasters ABC, CBS and NBC and trying to forge their own identity.
Fox became the unruly younger sibling of these TV channels and plumped for more subversive content such as Married… with Children, serving as an antithesis to the more clean-cut Cosby Show.
The Tracy Ullman Show was the second original programme made by Fox but The Simpsons has gone on to out-live its parent series.
In a bid to make an impact on the TV industry, Fox drafted in the Oscar-winning director and producer James L. Brooks, who was also the founder of production company Gracie Films which makes The Simpsons now.
Volk-Weiss is also the director behind The Toys That Made Us, Behind the Attraction, The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek, Icons Unearthed: Star Wars, which look at the rise of other successful franchises and their journey to mainstream popularity.
He said about the inception of The Simpsons: “In the first episode of the [documentary] – we show and this is one of my favourite things that I learned from the whole series – is that the series The Simpsons it didn’t greenlit because everybody loved The Simpsons, it got greenlit because James L. Brooks was renegotiating his [film] deal with the Features side of Fox and they couldn’t get the deal done.
“Finally, James – who wanted to do the deal – said to his lawyer, ‘How about this? Tell them if they green light 13 episodes of The Simpsons, I’ll close the deal on their terms for the movies.
“His lawyer was like, ‘What the hell is The Simpsons?’ [The Simpsons creator Matt] Groening is like, ‘It doesn’t matter. Just tell Fox, they’ll know what you mean.’”
The director added: “Of course, Fox is like, ‘What the hell is The Simpsons?’ Like nobody wanted it.” Either way, the deal was done and 30-odd years later, The Simpsons continues to air new episodes on its new home Disney Plus.
The streaming platform recently renewed it for seasons 33 and 34 and the show continues to be one of the most popular titles on the service.
Reflecting on whether the programme would have got the green light in this day and age, he said: “I think Simpsons would absolutely get made now for the exact same reason it got made when it originally got made. It had nothing to do with The Simpsons.”
Adding how The Simpsons and other successful franchises were “afterthoughts that just worked better” with the animated series now “one of the most successful [pieces of intellectual property] of all time”.
Volk-Weiss also addressed whether The Simpsons could one day get cancelled: “I think in the streaming age, it just got picked up for another two seasons and Disney+ is about three years old at this point.
“This is again purely my own opinion, but what I think that means is Disney had enough time to know if Simpsons was working on Disney+. They concluded that it was and it in the best interests of the company to make more.”
The director continued: “Do I think it will run forever? Absolutely not. Do I think it will run for at least another five to 10 years? Absolutely.”
Additionally, he quashed suggestions The Simpsons may have jumped the shark – the term given to shows going past their sell-by date, saying it may have for “some people” who may have been watching for a while with the writers continually reinventing the series for newer generations.
Icons Unearthed: The Simpsons is available to watch on Freevee via Amazon Prime Video
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