Cult Classic Roles On
by Elissa Doherty
Who would have thought a family of animated, disfunctional yellow people would take the world by storm?

Fifteen years after The Simpsons first aired, the perpetually funny characters are watched by more than 60 million people worldwide with catch crys like "D'oh!" embedded in our varnacular.

But creating a classic cartoon and cultural icon that maintains its appeal after 350 episodes is no easy feat.

It is understood that one episode takes about nine months to produce - from script to screen. The sitcom's popularity has enticed everyone from music legend Paul McCartney to British PM Tony Blair to make "appearances" - and now even creator Matt Groening.

In a new episode to air in Australia on September 8 called My Big Fat Geek Wedding, Groening plays himself signing autographs for fans at a science fiction convention. He is identified not as the creator of The Simpsons, but the author of one of his other shows, Futurama.

"The writers wrote me in and it's very odd. It's easy for me to draw other people and animate them, but to see myself drawn was difficult," Groening says. "That was the first and last time. I don't think you'll see me again, unless I have my own spin off," he laughs.

Groening's family inadvertently became cult figures after he named characters after his father Homer, mother Marge, and sister Lisa - much to their surprise. But he jokes his son, who he named after Homer refrained from using his real name to avoid being a "moving target".

"My son is about as old as The Simpsons is. I thought that by naming a cartoon character after my father Homer, I could make it up to him by naming my son after him," he said. "But my son, who generally uses another name in daily life, is proud of the name. Whenever he has to go on stage for graduation or to accept an award he uses the Homer name."

The show, which provides a social commentary on everything from capitalism to homosexuality and religion, was borne out of Groening's love of the sitcoms in the late 50s and early 60s.

He said one of the reasons The Simpsons was "refreshing" was because they were based on old shows. "I've always been a fan of sitcoms. I was a huge fan of shows none of you would remember - Ozzie and Harriet, Life of Riley, Sergeant Bilco. I stopped watching television in the 1970s, I had other things to do. So when I finally turned my attention to doing a show, I based all of my ideas on these old shows I watched when I was a little kid."

The new Simpsons series starts on Ten on Wednesday at 7:30pm

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Disclaimer: This article is from the August 29, 2004 edition of tvguide from the Sunday Mail newspaper in Adelaide, South Australia. It has been posted here for general information purposes and no profit is being made from this article. Visit The Advertiser/Sunday Mail website here.


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