Inside Television: The Simpsons Guy - the TV crossover we've all been waiting for?


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The Independent Culture

This week Fox confirmed the TV event we've all been waiting for - ‘The Simpsons Guy’, a crossover episode featuring characters from both The Simpsons and Family Guy is due to air in September. That is the TV event we’ve all been waiting for, right?

The crossover show can be piquant treat for TV gormands, but it’s also be just a cheap way for a TV channel to use up leftover ingredients. Detectives in the various iterations of CSI are often to be found helping out on each other’s cases, the captains from different Star Trek series are forever leaping through black holes into each other’s realities and The Simpsons itself isn’t new to the ratings-boosting gimmick.

A Futurama/ Simpson’s episode is also scheduled for later this year and back in 1995 there was controversial collaboration with another Fox animation, The Critic. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening took his name of the finished episode, saying he feared it would be perceived as “nothing more than a pathetic attempt to...advertise The Critic at the expense of the integrity of The Simpsons“. 

Well, yes. Far more satisfying to fans, are those which expanded the universe of the shows by making sense of connections - like when Fraiser’s old drinking buddies from Cheers would make the trip over to Seattle. If Patsy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous were visiting the States, it makes intuitive sense that they’d end up downing cocktails in the ladies loo with Roseanne Conner and her sister Jackie, as happened in a 1997 Roseanne crossover. When their hostess eventually passed out drunk, Patsy was unimpressed: “To be blunt, darling, you’re about three rounds behind us.” GB 1, USA 0.

There another opportunity for cultural comparisons in the 2010 episode of ‘East Street’, a Children in Need special featuring characters from both London-set EastEnders and Manchester-set Coronation Street. On that occasion it turned out North and South had much in common. Barmaids Kat Slater and Liz McDonald shared pint-pulling duties in matching leopard print minis, while Gail McIntyre and Denise Fox compared notes on their murderous ex-husbands: “But did he actually drive you into the canal? Mine did.”

None of these individual episodes can compare, however, to TV’s unchallenged crossover king; Detective John Munch, as played by Richard Belzer. This cultured, sarcastic officer of the law originated in the police procedural Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993 before joining an entirely different cop show, Law and Order: SVU in 1999. Detective Munch has also popped up in The Wire, The X Files and Arrested Development and in a 2010 episode of BBC cop show Luther, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) mentions Munch as his liaison “in New York’s Special Victims Unit”.  If Groening wants to make ‘The Simpson’s Guy’ a crossover that’s credible, he could do worse than write in the hardest working cop in showbusiness.

A TV match made in heaven

I pity people who live in countries where Sarah Lancashire isn’t a stalwart of television drama. The fools don’t even know what they’re missing. Lancashire-born Lancashire made her name as squeaky-voiced barmaid and aspiring model Raquel in Coronation Street, a role so iconic it could easily have been career-defining. Since 1996, however, she’s proved her versatility in a string of short-running series and one-off TV movies. Yet, until she formed a creative partnership with writer Sally Wainwright, we still didn’t know quite what she was capable of.

As viewers of BBC One’s Happy Valley can attest Wainwright’s dialogue never sounded better than when spoken by Lancashire, and Lancashire’s best work is founded on Wainwright’s scripts. It’s Scorsese and De Niro. It’s Herzog and Kinski. Only, y’know, in a Tuesday night BBC drama.


Happy Valley, BBC iPlayer

If you haven’t already become deeply enmeshed in this nerve-shredding series, now’s the time. Detective Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) is a character to both sympathise with and admire. If she can’t sort out the trouble in this Yorkshire town, no one can. Gripping plot twists and darkly humorous dialogue are supplied by Last Tango in Halifax writer, Sally Wainwright.

People Just Do Nothing, BBC iPlayer

This mockumentary about pirate radio station, Kurupt FM is the first iPlayer-originated comedy to be shown in full online before its broadcast on BBC Three. A sign of things to come, then, for the channel and, luckily, it’s pretty good. Think Phone Shop meets Spinal Tap.

24 Hours To Go Broke, Dave on Demand

The format of this new show - two wealthy comedians fritter away money in a poverty-striken foreign city - should be offensive, and it is. But it can’t be denied that 24 Hours To Go Broke also works well as an entertaining and informative travel show. In this first episode we learnt that David Baddiel’s 2010 comedy film The Infidel was a big hit in Armenia. Who knew?

F**k, That’s Delicious

International youth conglomerate VICE, have just launched Munchies, a new digital video channel dedicated to food content. One of the early highlights is this 10-minute show presented by Action Bronson. Mr Bronson is a rapper, a former chef and, most importantly, a big, fat bloke, so when he shouts “[expletive], that’s delicious!” about a slice of pizza, you know you can trust him.