Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: There was nearly a live-action spin-off of The Simpsons.
In 1997, during the eighth season of the long-running cartoon series, The Simpsons, there was an episode called “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase.” The episode made fun of the way that popular shows would often go out of their way to come up with spin-offs from their show, whether they made sense or not (like how Empty Nest spun out of The Golden Girls despite no one from Empty Nest ever actually appearing on The Golden Girls prior to the spin-off). Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner and Grandpa Simpson each get a shot at their own shows, as well as a Simpsons Variety Hour.
What’s interesting is that despite the show making fun of the concept, The Simpsons actually DID try to spin-off a character from the series. Furthermore, the spin-off would have been a LIVE ACTION series! Which character was it? Why did it fall through? Read on to find out!
In 1994, roughly five seasons into The Simpsons‘ run, Matt Groening worked out a pitch for a live action spin-off of the show that would star Krusty the Clown.
Originally intended to be Homer Simpson in disguise, Krusty had developed into one of the most popular supporting characters on the series. The concept for the show would be that Krusty (played by Dan Castellaneta, the actor who did both Krusty and Homer’s voice on the show) would move to Los Angeles and get his own talk show.
Groening wrote the pilot script with prolific TV screenwriter and producer, Michael Weithorn (at the time best known for his work on Family Ties, but now best known for co-creating The King of Queens).
Early on, however, Groening realized that there were problems in translating a character with an animated sensibility to a live action series. He recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1999:
I wrote a pilot script in which Krusty moves to L.A. and gets his own talk show. We had this running joke in the script that Krusty was living in a house on stilts and there were beavers gnawing their way through the stilts. But somebody at the network pointed out how expensive it was to hire trained beavers – and an equally prohibitive cost would be to get mechanical beavers – so I said, ‘If we animated this, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.’
So the project ultimately changed to an animated series. However, the contract negotiations stalled, so ultimately Groening decided to move on from the project. Soon afterwards, he began working on a project that became Futurama, so imagine, if Krusty had succeeded, there likely would not have been a Futurama series!
Another squelched Simpsons spin-off was inspired by another episode from Season 7 of the show, “22 Short Films About Springfield,” which told various stories about a day in the life of the other characters who live in the same city as the Simpsons. The Simpsons staff than proposed an anthology spin-off that would have been called Tales of Springfield, Springfield Stories or just plain ol’ Sprinfield, but Groening ultimately decided that there was not enough manpower to produce two separate series about Springfield, so it never came to fruition. Simpsons producer and former showrunner Josh Weinstein lamented the failed spin-off to Digital Spy a while back, “It would be a chance to tell full stories about these other characters, but that never happened. I think it could’ve been great, but everyone was so busy at the time.”
The legend as…
Thanks to Entertainment Weekly and Matt Groening for the information!
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