Al Jean, executive producer and show runner for Fox's long, long, long-running "The Simpsons," says the death that is coming to Springfield in the upcoming 26th season premiere will be permanent.
"When we kill [a character], they stay dead," Jean said. That said, he did say the death was a bit "overhyped."
Earlier this year, "Family Guy," which airs with "The Simpsons" on Fox Sunday nights, took the shocking move of killing the family dog, Brian, before bringing him back a few weeks later.
Whoever dies in the episode, "Clown in the Dumps," which airs Sept. 28, will stay dead. But he or she could always come back in dreams or visions. You never know.
"We gave [the episode] that title for a reason," Jean said in a recent call with reporters. "Some people have guessed it correctly and some people are really, really off."
The episode, which guest stars David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Silverman and Jeff Ross, will be about Krusty the Clown retiring from showbiz after getting offended at a celebrity roast in his honor.
Will Krusty, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, be the one to meet the Grim Reaper? Jean isn't saying.
But he did share that you probably won't be seeing many flash forwards or flashbacks in any upcoming "Simpsons" episodes. Like many animated series, time stands still for the "Simpsons" characters. Bart and Lisa are still in elementary school and Maggie is still a baby. But way back in 1991, writers established that Homer and Marge Simpson met while they were high school students in 1974.
Jean recalls one writer warning them, "You'll be sorry." At the time, Jean felt it would be fine. After all, how much longer would the show really last? Two decades later, he's learned his lesson.
He's got a different policy these days: "The future is the future and the past is the past," Jean says. "We will not do another show where we advance the timeline."
He did tease several upcoming episodes from the new season, which will include an appearance by the characters from "Futurama," also co-created by Matt Groening, a trip to the home planet of recurring aliens Kang and Kodos, and the annual Halloween episode, which will feature segments inspired by Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange" and Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" comic book. There will also be a segment where the Simpsons meet the earlier versions of themselves from "The Tracey Ullman Show."
"It's more ambitious than I described," Jean said.
As for how much longer the show has in it, Jean had no idea.
"At least two more years," he said. "Probably four, maybe more. Nobody has talked to us about wrapping it up."
Jean also said not to hold your breath for a TV broadcast of the show's recent three-night Hollywood Bowl special event.
"Everyone [involved] was doing it as a favor," Jean said of the live show, which included performances by Conan O'Brien, Jon Lovitz and several members of the cast, including Hank Azaria, Yeardley Smith and Nancy Cartwright. "We would have to make a deal with everyone to release it."
However, he did say several people recorded the show on their cellphones and that those videos are widely available on YouTube.
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