Since its inception in 1989, “The Simpsons” has gone on to become the longest running scripted primetime series in American television history.
During the last three decades, it has picked up scores of accolades including 31 Emmy Awards (for excellence in primetime television programming), 30 Annie Awards (for excellence in the medium of animation), and one Peabody Award (for distinguished public service achievement in radio, television, and the World Wide Web media).
Originally conceived for the Tracey Ulman Show by cartoonist Matt Groening (who initially made his mark with his “Life in Hell” comic strip in the old Los Angeles Reader alternative newspaper), “The Simpsons” utilizes a fictitious working class family to explore and parody cultural and societal issues.
Along the way, it has informed and become an intricate part of American culture, and contributed such utterances as “D’oh,” “don’t have a cow, man,” and “eat my shorts” to the lexicon of the national vocabulary. In addition to character merchandising rights (via board games, clothing, and promotional advertising) in excess of a billion dollars, the series has spawned a major motion picture, an amusement park ride at Universal Studios in California and in Florida, and video games.
Now, in it’s 28th season of broadcasting as the archetype of the half-hour sitcom formula, “The Simpsons” is about to air its first ever hour-long episode, in a nod to hip hop and rap culture (1995 did feature a two-part detective episode titled “Who Shot Mr. Burns”).
Titled “The Great Phatsby,” it will feature such seminal figures as Snoop Dogg, Common, RZA, in cameo roles, along with acclaimed actress Taraji P. Henson, and comedian Keegan-Michael Key of Key and Peele.
As the title suggests, the script is a riff on the 1925 classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby,” with the plot transposed from its Long Island, NY, setting to “The Simpsons” middle American hamlet of Springfield. Briefly, the synopsis has the town’s wealthiest citizen and resident villain, Charles Montgomery Burns (or simply “Mr. Burns”) become involved with a rap mogul named Jay G at Burns’ summer mansion in the Springfield “Hamptons.”
Family patriarch Homer Simpson assumes the role of narrator, (in place of Nick Carraway in the novel) who chronicles the trajectory of the friendship as Jay G uses the allure of his “bling-bling” lifestyle to drain Mr. Burns’ wealth, driving him into bankruptcy.
Henson portrays an animated variation of her “Empire” character Cookie (under the name “Praline”) who is the ex-wife of Jay G. She, along with Burns, Homer, and a rapper (voiced by Key) whose career was ruined by the music magnate, set out to exact revenge. Also on hand from the Empire credit list is music producer James David Washington, aka Jim Beanz, who contributed several original songs for the program.
“The Great Phatsby” serves as the premiere of the 28th season of this landmark series, and will air locally on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m., on the Fox Network. Check out a preview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVTrb4UxQUk&feature=youtu.be.
As a tribute to the continued relevance of this series, “The Simpsons” was recently renewed for a record 29th and 30th season, ensuring a run through the 2018-2019 broadcast years.