Two Classic Episodes Of The Simpsons Faced Intervention From Fox

Unlike live-action productions, animation offers the opportunity to make changes and revise scenes without disrupting the entire production. You can draw over a frame or re-dub it without having to gather the entire cast and crew for a reshoot. Sometimes this can translate to a lot of studio notes hoping for changes that adhere to strange or strict regulations, as we've been exploring elsewhere on /Film.

One major exception to this is the gargantuan pop culture icon "The Simpsons." There is a clause in the contract for the show that stated Fox executives could not go to table reads or force notes on the writers. This has allowed the animated sitcom to survive for three decades and over 700 episodes while making fun of everything, including religion, politics, sports and the Fox network itself multiple times. 

And yet, "The Simpsons" hasn't been completely immune to studio interference, as there were two instances where Fox tried to excise certain jokes entirely. 

The studio notes died on the way back to their home planet

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter for an oral history of the iconic "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" episode of "The Simpsons," former co-showrunner Bill Oakley revealed that there were two times Fox tried to interfere with the show. The first time was in the season 7 episode "Marge Be Not Proud," which follows Bart as he tries to regain his mother's trust after he steals a video game Marge refuses to buy for him. The episode guest stars Lawrence Tierney, and according to Oakley, the network was against a joke Tierney delivers that goes "If I wanted smoke blown up my ass, I'd be at home with a pack of cigarettes and a short length of hose." Oakley said:

"We refused to remove it. So they took the master videotape and removed it for the initial broadcast. [Producer James L.] Brooks read them the Riot Act." 

Needless to say, the episode made it to air, joke and all. The second time this happened was in the season 7 episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming," where Sideshow Bob threatens to detonate an atomic bomb to rid Springfield of television. While that was perfectly fine, Oakley says the network was against a small cameo appearance:

"We had [21st Century Fox founder] Rupert Murdoch in prison with Sideshow Bob. Someone at Fox worried and went to Murdoch. And he said, 'I would be honored to be in prison on The Simpsons.'"

Luckily, the writers prevailed on both occasions and "The Simpsons" has continued to make fun of everyone ever since. Rupert Murdoch is still not in prison. 

"The Simpsons" is streaming on Disney+. Season 34 premieres on September 25, 2022.