Fri, 02/17/2012

A Whistleblower in Springfield: "The Simpsons" 500th Episode

It started as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. It's now the winner of 27 primetime Emmys, has been licensed in more than 100 countries, been syndicated domestically for 18 years, is the longest-running American sitcom in television history, and beat out Gunsmoke to become the longest-running primetime, scripted series. Oh, and no one on the show has aged in 23 years. Talk about mind-blowing.

Matt Groening's The Simpsons celebrates a landmark achievement in television this Sunday night. The show will air its 500th episode, "At Long Last Leave," in which the Simpsons are evicted from Springfield. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will guest star as himself and musician Alison Krauss will provide a special theme song to celebrate the milestone. In a lead up to Sunday's episode, Groening received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this past Tuesday, and FOX sponsored a marathon screening of the series on February 8th in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for longest continuous television viewing. Simpsons superfans Jeremiah Franco and Carin Shreve indeed reset the record by watching 86 hours and 37 minutes of The Simpsons and earning $10,500 from FOX in the process.

How did The Simpsons skyrocket from short reels to record setters? In his 2003 Archive Interview, Executive Producer James L. Brooks discusses The Simpsons rise from bumpers on The Tracey Ullman Show to the stand-alone, half-hour program that debuted on December 17, 1989:

Bart was quickly the breakout character of the show, and Nancy Cartwright shares how she voices his plethora of memorable catchphrases:

Not to be outdone, Homer has a pretty memorable catchphrase of his own. Dan Castellaneta on the origins of "d'oh!":

Tune in Sunday at 8pm EST/PST on FOX to see what gems Bart, Homer and the rest of The Simpsons will deliver in their 500th episode. Think leaving Springfield leads to life in hell, or will the Simpsons finally get the love they deserve from their hometown?

- Adrienne Faillace