'The Simpsons' Pulls Episode Featuring Michael Jackson From Circulation

The Simpsons is pulling one of its episodes from circulation following the airing of HBO's eye-opening documentary Leaving Neverland. The 1991 The Simpsons Michael Jackson episode "Stark Raving Dad" was considered a landmark achievement for the show as it cemented its place as a staple of the American comedy scene. The episode featured the voice of Michael Jackson, who anonymously voiced the good-natured New Jersey bricklayer Leon Kompowsky, a character who suffered from the delusion that he was the pop legend.

But amid the fallout of Leaving Neverland, the show's producers have announced that they're removing the episode entirely.

According to The Hollywood ReporterThe Simpsons Michael Jackson episode will be removed from "streaming platforms, networks re-running the show, and forthcoming physical copies such as box sets," effectively scrubbing the episode from the show's canon.

"I'm against book burning of any kind," producer Jim Brooks told the The Wall Street Journal. "But this is our book, and we're allowed to take out a chapter."

The episode removal comes amid the fallout of HBO's Leaving Neverland, a harrowing documentary which tells the stories of young men who claimed to have been sexually abused by Jackson over multiple years. The reverberations of this documentary have been widespread, with some radio stations across the globe pulling Jackson's music off the air. Now, it seems that fallout has reached Springfield.

"It feels clearly the only choice to make," Brooks told the WSJ. "The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this." Brooks, series creator Matt Groening, and long-time showrunner Al Jean reportedly came to the decision after all three men watched Leaving Neverland.

The season 3 episode follows Homer as he is sent to a mental institution after being mistaken for an anarchist. There, he befriends a massive, gentle man who believes he's Michael Jackson, until the fellow inmate admits he's a bricklayer from Paterson. Fans speculated for years that bricklayer Leon Kompowsky was actually voiced by Jackson, which Groenig eventually confirmed. Jackson didn't sing in the episode — a soundalike, Kipp Lennon of the band Venice, was used — but the singer did write the song "Happy Birthday Lisa" for the episode.

But despite the episode's place in pop culture history — "Stark Raving Dad" has been frequently named one of the best episodes of The Simpsons — Brooks suggested that this removal is a permanent decision. "This was a treasured episode," he told the WSJ. "There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn't allow them to remain."