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TV Legends Revealed: Which ‘Simpsons’ Character Nearly Had a Live-Action Spinoff?

simpsonscast

TV URBAN LEGEND: There was nearly a live-action spinoff of “The Simpsons.”

During its eighth season in 1997, “The Simpsons” aired an episode called “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase,” which made fun of the way that popular shows often go out of their way to create spinoffs, whether or not they made any sense (like how “Empty Nest” spun out of “The Golden Girls” despite no one from “Empty Nest” ever previously appearing on the popular comedy). Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner and Grandpa Simpson each gets a shot at his own show, as well as a “Simpsons Variety Hour.” What’s interesting is that, despite making fun of the concept, “The Simpsons” actually did try to spin off a character from the series. Furthermore, the spinoff 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 series’ run, “The Simpsons” co-creator Matt Groening worked out a pitch for a live-action spinoff in which popular supporting character Krusty the Clown (played by Dan Castellaneta) would move to Los Angeles and land 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”).

krusty

Early on, however, Groening realized there were problems in translating a character with an animated sensibility to a live-action series. He recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1999:

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, and Groening decided to move on from the project. Soon afterward, he began work on a project that became “Futurama” (imagine, if Krusty had succeeded, “Futurama” might never have existed).

Another abandoned “Simpsons” spinoff was inspired by an episode from Season 7, “22 Short Films About Springfield,” which told various stories about a day in the life of the other characters who live in the town. The “Simpsons” staff proposed an anthology spinoff that would have been called “Tales of Springfield,” “Springfield Stories” or just plain ol’ “Springfield,” but Groening ultimately decided there wasn’t enough manpower to produce two series.

“The Simpsons” producer and former showrunner Josh Weinstein lamented the failed spinoff to Digital Spy, saying, “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 is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly and Matt Groening for the information!

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television and check here for more legends about specifically The Simpsons!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

Comments

  • http://ask.fm/chookiemunster Esteban Valles

    Wow, I would like to watch a 15min Itchy and Scratchy episodes… <3

  • Benjamin J

    They’ve also mentioned they wanted to do a live action Troy McClure movie or TV show, which Phil Hartman was fully on board to star in.

  • cmkeller

    There was an old Time Magazine article which said that Ned Flanders was getting his own spinoff show. I don’t know how much truth there was to that (if it was being considered, or if it was just a totally false rumor), but it was definitely mentioned.

  • Chaz

    I read that at one time they were considering wrapping up the show as it is now and creating a show that focused each week on various citizens of Springfield. The Simpsons would still appear in ancillary roles, but the need to generate scripts that required the family’s direct involvement with a side character wouldn’t be there.

    Personally, had they done that around say Season 12 or later, I think it would have been a better idea and would have created a better second half of the show’s life. We’d get to know townspeople better without having to have 5 “what Lisa is outraged about” episodes in a season.

  • Chaz

    Agreed. I secretly have hoped they’d really do an Itchy and Scratchy movie.

  • Andrew Falconer

    There are no beavers living near Los Angeles. If Krusty was living near Vancouver, British Columbia the joke would make sense.

  • Tavon

    Actually the three main characters from Empty Nest visited the Golden Girls quite often

  • The Dread Pirate Steve #812

    After the show debuted though, wasn’t it?

  • Hadrian Mosley

    thatsthejoke.jpg

  • SpankyHamm

    Just do a single season where every episode features one of the ancillary characters with the Simpson family only being in bits and pieces.

    South Park has done a good job of doing episodes with Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny being only minor characters in an episode, and it really helped the series. It created more fully fleshed out characters (Butters, Randy, Timmy, Jimmy) so that they could be used in bigger roles in future episodes.

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