New 'Simpsons' deal extends Homer's odyssey for at least two years

Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 18 January 2003 01:00

Lovers of dysfunctional America not satisfied with what they see at the White House can relax – Homer Simpson and his family of oddballs are here to stay. Or at the least, they're here for the next couple of years.

Fox Television has signed a deal with The Simpsons' creators to keep the show for at least another two years, it was announced yesterday. Renewing the show until May 2005 will mean it will have enjoyed 16 seasons and will make it the longest-running comedy in American television history.

"Watch out, Gunsmoke you're next," said Al Jean, the show's executive producer, in a swipe at the drama series that ran for a record 20 years.

Taking the show through to 2005 would bring the number of episodes to about 360, edging past The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a distinctly wholesome and non-dysfunctional 1950s family show which has until now held the title of longest-running television comedy.

Gail Berman, president of Fox Entertainment, claimed modestly that The Simpsons "could be the most extraordinary television show, maybe even in the history of the medium". She added: "In its 14th season, the show is doing some of its funniest episodes and best numbers." Despite having spent more than 14 years on air, The Simpsons remains the most popular Sunday night television programme in America and has been nominated for this year's Golden Globe awards, taking place on Sunday.

Fans of the show say The Simpsons' subversiveness has brought a fresh feel to the world of television comedy. Set in "Springfield" – in which state, it is never made clear – The Simpsons portrays a family in whose lives things rarely go to plan. The central character, Homer Simpson, may be the world's first cartoon anti-hero, while his wife, Marge, and children, Bart, Lisa and Maggie contribute to a world of haplessness and political incorrectness. The first full-length episode of the show, created by Matt Groening, appeared in 1989. Before that, The Simpsons had appeared as a series of short sketches on the Tracey Ullman show. Since then, the series has grown from having a cult following to becoming utterly mainstream.

While the series has won many plaudits as well as a number of industry awards, this is the first year that The Simpsons has been nominated for a Golden Globe.

"We are excited to be on an awards show that people will actually see for once," said Mr Jean. "When a show has been on for a long time, much less 14 years, it's hard to get people's attention. This does represent a genuine breakthrough for us to compete."

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