'Simpsons' exec producer Al Jean: 'I completely understand' if reruns with nuclear jokes are pulled


Image Credit: FOX

Japan’s nuclear power plant crisis is no laughing matter in Springfield: Networks in several European countries are reportedly reviewing episodes of The Simpsons for any “unsuitable” references to nuclear disaster. An Austrian network has apparently pulled two eps, 1992’s “Marge Gets a Job” and 2005’s “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister,” which include jokes about radiation poisoning and nuclear meltdowns, respectively. Al Jean — exec producer of the animated Fox comedy featuring inept family man/nuclear power plant worker Homer Simpson — tells EW that he can appreciate the concern. “We have 480 episodes, and if there are a few that they don’t want to air for awhile in light of the terrible thing going on, I completely understand that,” says Jean, citing the previous example of the 1997 episode “Homer Versus the City of New York” that was pulled after 9/11 because it included key scenes at the World Trade Center. “We would never make light of what’s happening in Japan.”

Twentieth Television, the syndication division of Fox Television, has provided U.S. stations that air The Simpsons in syndication with a list of episodes that contain potentially sensitive material given the unfolding disaster in Japan, so those stations can decide whether or not to pull them. (This isn’t an uncommon practice in such situations.) Jean assures that no upcoming Simpsons episodes “even approach” the subject. “Some of them are workplace shows, but they are just about Homer being at work,” he says. “They’re not about nuclear power.” And in case you were wondering, there are no plans to have Homer leave his job at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. “He’s still going to work there,” says Jean. “We have a rich universe in which we can do a million things and not touch on that.”

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Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • James

    this is a complete overreaction.

    • Quirky

      I agree. I can see Japan pulling the shows but Europe?

  • Rachel

    Good for him for understanding!

    • paul

      It’s right to pull these episodes.

      However, I hope they’re ready to completely HUMILIATE the NEXT city that is so FREAKING STUPID as to try to use nuclear power.

      It’s like trying to suck the teat of a wounded Tryranasaurus Rex!!!

  • LOL

    I still hope the 3-eyed fish gets on the air.

    • FB Mastermix

      Blinky !!!

  • A

    I just don’t get people’s over-sensitive nature. I could have watched “Homer vs. the City of New York” the day after 9/11 and I wouldn’t have overreacted. And I’m from New York, if that makes any difference.

    • bulldog

      “And I’m from New York, if that makes any difference.”

      I know this is hard for New Yorkers to understand, but it really doesn’t make any difference.

      • Flip

        Jealous much?

      • A

        You don’t have to be all snarky about it, bulldog. Personally, I agree with you that it makes no difference. And I wasn’t even going to mention it. But I had this feeling that someone would have replied to me and said something along the lines of “well you’re not from New York so you don’t understand.” And if I were to retort back afterward that I am from New York, then that other person probably wouldn’t have believed me. So I figured I’d just point it out off the top.

      • @A

        Don’t worry I understand why you mentioned it. bulldog probably has an inferiority complex and is from Boston or Seattle or something like that.

      • derka

        New Yorkers are more annoying than anything else, however they’re not quite as obnoxious as Texans.

    • Darien

      I dunno… when I catch a glimpse of the towers in a passing scene on TV, or in a movie, it does take my breath away a little bit, in that moment. An iconic image like that – where one flash is enough to evoke things in people – is perhaps a little different than the general concept of a nuclear plant meltdown. If networks and producers wish to be mindful of what’s going on out there in the world when they make programming decisions, I guess I don’t really see the harm.

    • Bobby’s Robot

      I live in NYC too (downtown) and actually worked across the street from the Twin Towers. It would have been difficult to see that episode in the days after. As time went by, and it was aired again, I could appreciate again. Nothing is being banned, they’re just putting a little distance between a tragic situation.

  • sam

    i fugghin love the simpsons

  • ThisIstheEnd

    Hey, put your heads in the sand and forget the reality of the dangers of nuclear power. Banning a TV show will fix everything.I remember when the Washington Bullets changed their name to the Wizards and no one was killed buy guns again.

    • Ted Striker

      LOL, awesome.

      Though, how is Wizards less violent than Bullets? I mean shooting fireballs out of a magic wand at people is at least as bad.

      I thought instead of shunning the violence, the team should have embraced it. The Washington WMDs, the Washington Smart Bombs, the Washington Rumsfelds… enough said.

      • dan

        Some prefer to frequent the LA Skeeter games. Skeet Skeet Skeet!

  • Mike

    To all of those saying that this an overly PC move and people should have thicker skins, here’s a question for you: Why potentially offend if you don’t have to?

    Obviously, this might be a subject that hits close to home for some right now, so if you can avoid offending them, then why not?

    • Meli

      And I think that’s what Al Jean was responding to–out of all the episodes they’ve produced over 20 years, if there are only a couple of them where it might not be appropriate to air right now, but would be okay in the future, then temporarily pull them. No big deal.

  • deedeedragons

    I’m guessing that one where we find out what happened to Smithers father won’t see the light of day then.

    • Rocco

      I forgot that Smithers had a father. I thought he came forth from some magical closet that he quickly returned to.

  • psb1962

    omg..this is soooo stoopid!!

    • dan

      I really hope that “stoopid” was an attempt to be ironic.

  • Katie

    While I think it’s commendable that the producers are this accommodating, I hope people realize that even on the show, nuclear power isn’t glorified at all, and its dangers and drawbacks are made pretty abundantly clear throughout.

  • Matt

    This is why America is the joke of the rest of the world

    • Joe

      Well I guess whatever country you’re from isn’t so awesome, either, since you apparently can’t read. EUROPEAN countries are pulling the episodes – See? It’s right there in the first sentence.

  • Steven

    It’s time for the new “town” donkeys!

  • Michael

    Why not give Homer a new job it might make the show cool again

    • Kim

      Have you not been watching the show for the past 20 years? He’s had over 100 jobs!

  • Meli

    Yeah, that’s okay and I appreciate the producers of The Simpsons understanding right now jokes about nuclear meltdowns may be too sensitive. But when Good Morning America’s nuclear power/physicist expert goes on TV this morning and says, ‘You have to wonder if Homer Simpson is in charge’ as a comment on the ineptitude of the Japanese authorities in handling the situation, I hope the producers of Simpsons understand the show still has social relevance and some touching on the subject may be a bit necessary.

  • Bob

    Those are quite a few episodes. Homer causing a meltdown is pretty common. How about the one where he causes a reaction in a simulation, forcing him to get his college degree? Written by Conan O’Brian. And the Halloween ep where Flanders has a vision of Homer destroying the town.
    And how about when the Simpsons’ go to Japan. No nuclear jokes there, but I’m trying to remember if there was antyhing insensitive.

    • Andy

      If I’m thinking of the right episode, that episode has one of my favorite jokes. They pass a toy store called Toys ‘L’ Us

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