LYNN ELBER Bart Simpson is acting like himself, which is to say naughty.
He also sounds like the Bart we know, with that familiar mischievous
lilt. But Bart's voice is coming out of a petite blonde wearing
a fluffy, bright-pink wrap.
Homer has morphed into a lanky fellow and Marge's towering blue
hair is brown and tastefully cropped. The event is a "table read,"
when the cast of The Simpsons gathers with a roomful of writers,
producers, and guests and use their imaginations to conjure the
animated family with the distinctive mustard hue.
It is just one of the steps towards crafting an episode of this
television phenomenon, now in its 16th season. Irreverent, witty,
and willing to take on anything from politics to religion to family
values, The Simpsons has provided a rare bit of spice for the oatmeal-bland
bowl that is TV broadcasting.
The table read is held in a trailer at the 20th Century Fox studio
in Los Angeles, where the series is produced. Actors, producers
and writers sit at a huge table littered with water bottles and
Invitation-only visitors ring the table. Noticably absent are the
network executives who often haunt rehearsals for shows, but The
Simpsons has a rare stipulation, won by executive producer James
L. Brooks, limiting Fox ececutive meddling.
"It's sort of the hottest ticket on the lot," says Yeardley Smith,
who voices Lisa Simpson.
This is the first time this script has been performed after months
of writing and revision. The assembled performers include Smith,
Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer, Krusty the clown, and Grandpa
Also seated at the table is blonde Nancy Cartwright (Bart) in her
pink wrap, Julie Kavner (Marge) and Harry Shearer, who does an
array of voices including Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns.
Each 21 minute episode takes about nine months to create, including
the animation work done in the US and South Korea. The actors move
through their lines and most of the jokes draw guffaws from the
One person seated at the table rarely smiles. This shaggy-haired
figure is a tough customer to win over. It's the series creator
and executive producer, Matt Groening. "He's not an easy laugh,
so when you get a laugh out of him you feel like 'Yes!' It's a
big deal," Smith says of Groening, who follows the script carefully,
taking notes for the show's writers.
Among his suggestions: omit a giggle from baby Maggie in one scene
and beef up another in which Marge finds herself without a partner
for her new bike built for two.
"It's a fairly well-oiled machine," Smith says. No matter what
else changes, though, the characters stay the same. Says
Smith: "It's about a bratty boy and a sensitive, intellectual girl,
a dumb but well-meaning husband and a wife who's sweet and
knows a little better than him."
article is from the June 5,
2005 edition of Sunday Mail TVguide
in Adelaide, South Australia. It
here for general information purposes
and no profit is being made from
this article. Visit The Advertiser/Sunday
Mail website here.