During his 27-year tenure as the bumbling patriarch of Fox’s animated series The Simpsons, Homer Simpson has achieved many impossible things, from space travel and becoming a superhero to destroying Springfield and winning a Pulitzer Prize.
But one thing he has yet to do is appear live on air. Until now.
At the end of the 595th episode entitled Simprovised, which is set to air on May 15 in the US, Homer will answer fan phone calls live on air during both the East Coast and West Coast airings, the first time an animated show has ever attempted the feat.
“He’s going to take questions for three minutes, talk about events of the day – I’m sure Donald Trump is going to say something stupid, so the material’s already written,” said Al Jean, executive producer of The Simpsons. The animation magic comes courtesy of motion capture technology, which will track the head and arm movements of actor Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, and immediately animate them for broadcast across the US and several international markets.
A seven-second delay will prevent pranksters from asking inappropriate questions live on air, Jean said.
Since its 1989 premiere on Twenty-First Century Fox Inc’s Fox Broadcasting, The Simpsons has become the longest-running sitcom and primetime scripted series in US history. The family’s members – Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – are globally recognised figures of popular culture.
The show’s 27th season, which will conclude on May 22, has tackled marital strife between Homer and Marge, Lisa’s quest to go to Mars, and done a parody of the 2014 film Boyhood in which Bart grows from childhood to adulthood.
The show often playfully and poignantly satirises American culture. One episode in 2000 depicted Lisa as US president 30 years in the future, after a Trump presidency decimated America’s economy – a topic that could be revisited during Homer’s live segment, Jean said.
“There’s no question that people are going to talk about the election and about voting, and Trump is clearly the topic that sucks up all the oxygen,” Jean said.
Asked if Homer Live may be perceived as a gimmick to draw more viewers, Jean said The Simpsons has long attempted different types of animated storytelling.
“We did a 3D animated Homer years ago, people loved that, was that a gimmick? I guess, but it was great,” Jean said.
“We’re confident of our success, we’re not trying to stay on the air by doing things we don’t believe in.” – Reuters/Piya Sinha-Roy