Drawing up the fall season
PASADENA, Calif. - Sunday night neighbors and creative kindred
spirits, Fox's cartoon hits The Simpsons and King of the Hill also are
competitors. Both are nominated for Emmys as outstanding animated
"It's a little bit odd," says Hill executive producer and co-creator Greg
Daniels, who spent three years on The Simpsons. "But there's a couple
of people who work on both shows still, so they're very happy.
They've got like a 40% chance" of winning.
As if to demonstrate there are no hard feelings between the 9-year-old
Simpsons, the longest-running animated series in prime-time history,
and the upstart Hill, last midseason's only true breakout comedy, Hank
Hill will appear in a Simpsons cameo.
"Very, very briefly," insists newly promoted Simpsons executive
producer Mike Scully. "I don't want to oversell it, because I don't want
Mike Judge (Hill's co-creator, of Beavis and Butt-head fame) to think
I'm exploiting him. It's just one line."
Even so, it's unlikely Homer Simpson would ever rate such an honor in
Hill's more realistic Texas milieu. "In the world of King of the Hill,
The Simpsons exists only in that Bobby (the pudgy son) has a Bart
doll. They exist as a TV show," Daniels says.
Starting in August, viewers will have trouble escaping the "Simpsons
House Giveaway" promotion, in which contestants collect game pieces
in packages of certain soft drinks (Slice, Mug Root Beer, Lipton Tea
and Josta) in hopes of winning a garish replica of the Simpsons' home,
located outside Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev. A winner will be
announced during the Sept. 21 season premiere.
"When you've been on as long as we have, you don't want to take your
audience for granted and assume they're always there," Scully says.
"With syndication, we find that people are confused about where the
new episodes are. It's just a business thing of letting people know
you're still out there."
The Simpsons hits another TV landmark this season with its 200th
episode, in which Homer argues with his garbageman and decides to
run for sanitation commissioner.
"I thought it had all the elements of what The Simpsons does best:
corporate satire, political satire, a production number, a great story
with Homer, and the family is involved. It seemed to represent a lot of
what we do, so I decided to hold it until May," Scully says.
The episode will feature a "big-name movie star and a big-name rock
band," but they can't be announced yet because it hasn't been
Among the confirmed Simpsons guest stars this season:
Helen Hunt (Mad About You) last week recorded an episode in
which she plays a girlfriend for Moe the bartender, who is
voiced by Hank Azaria, Hunt's real-life boyfriend.
In a show where Krusty the Clown retires from show business,
comedians including Janeane Garofalo, Steven Wright and
Bobcat Goldthwait will appear.
Joe Namath will play himself in an episode intended, Scully says,
as "an homage to all those '60s sitcoms where an athlete would
drop in on the young kid (in this case, Bart) who's having
problems and give him some great advice to help him out and
say things like, 'Sure, sports is fun but school is great, too.' "
In this scenario, Namath's car breaks down outside the Simpson home
but is repaired before he can give Bart the advice he needs.
King of the Hill's second season will also be full of celebrity guest
voices. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman has agreed to
record a show, and an episode in the works about NASCAR racing
may feature some of that sport's big names, Daniels says.
Others to keep an ear out for include:
Burt Reynolds as an unethical rival propane salesman.
Sally Field as a fundamentalist who tries to stop the town from
Chris Rock as a Def Comedy Jam-style traffic school
Jennifer Jason Leigh in a flashback episode as an old flame of
Hank's who gives him mononucleosis.
Alternative band Green Day as a garage band called Cain and
the Stubborn Stains. "They intentionally play bad for comic
effect," Daniels says.
By Matt Roush, USA TODAY
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