Simpsons has long wrought laughs
from bizarre subjects, but it's latest episode
is truly dead funny. BROOKE WILLIAMSON reports.
can call Homer Simpson anything:
a moron, a genius, an anarchist,
a pillar of society shirking behind
the picket fence, a philosopher,
a fool, a baby, a booby and blubbering,
drivelling dribbler. But a killer?
Now you can. After a decade of prime-time,
high rating TV, there's a funeral
and Homer's neighbor Maude, wife
of the "okily-dokily",
Bible-loving Ned Flanders, is put
to rest. And it's all Homer's failt. "D'oh!"
Screening tomorrow on Ten, it's one
of the more shocking (but incredibly funny) plot lines to come out of the show
(which some critics have regarded stale) in the past few years.
"It was a pretty shocking development,
to say the least," says the show's consultant, Antonia Coffman, from Los
Angeles. Maude's voice, actor Maggie Roswell, left the show after a pay dispute
with the show's producers.
"But it just happened to be an
opportunity to take the characters and do something different and have them deal
with the death.
"It was also a great opportunity
to write some great story-lines for Ned Flanders to be single again.
"Ned has his two boys, Rod and
Todd, and he has to help them cope with their mother's death. He also has to
doeal with Homer, who's trying to set him up with babes."
Homer Simpson has become an icon of
pop culture, along with his family and the many weird and wonderful inhabitants
Coffman, along with a core group of
people who have been with the show since it's inception, has lived and breathed The
Simpsons for the past 13 years. She says she still pinches herself to make
sure she's not just imagining her good fortune.
"It's just such an amazing show," she
says. "We're constantly amazed at how long it has kept going and how many
of us have actually hung in there.
"But how could you leave? How
could you go off and work at something that might not work out?
"We all say it's like working
on a piece of history and the odds of ever working on something of this calibre
again, in any of our careers, will be rare."
Coffman's generic title underscores
the huge role she plays in the success of the animated series. She serves as
creator Matt Groening's "right-hand man", manages the copyrighting
of all things Simpsons and complies all The Simpsons books.
"It's funny but Matt says I know
where all the bodies are buried," Coffman says. "But when a show has
been around this long, and when it is as huge as The Simpsons is, it's
certainly helpful to have been through so much."
Coffman, who has a background in publicity
and promotions, started on The Tracey Ullman Show in the mid-1980's, when
Groening's early incarnations of The Simpsons were shown as fillers during
She moved full-time to The Simpsons before
is debuted on United States television in 1990, and now also works with Groening
on his other cartoon, Channel 7's Futurama.
"In the past few years, most of
Matt's time has been spent on Futurama, so working so closely with him
I have to be across both shows," Coffman says. "Matt still comes to The
Simpsons' table reads but that's about it. He leaves it to the team, or what
he calls 'the well-oiled machine', and trusts the writers because they are so
Coffman says it is getting increasingly
hard for the writers to come up with fresh ideas for the world's favorite dysfunctional
"It is getting tougher for the
writers, because it is hard after 250 episodes to not repeat yourself," she
"But they manage to keep it in
check, they just get fresher ideas and a few new writers, and they just keep
producing great stuff because they're brilliant, they really are."
And Coffman also has a response for
those fans who have criticised the show on its web site. "Our head writer,
Mike Scully, has noticed the same people writing in again and again and he gets
frustrated by it," she says.
"I've told him to stop, because
there's always a handful of doubters compared to the multitudes of those who
obviously keep us going."
The Simpsons screens
on Ten at 7:30pm on Thursdays and
Sundays, and at varying times on
Foxtel and Austars FOX8, including
6pm and 7pm weekdays.