David Mirkin ('The Simpsons')
Published Aug 24 2009, 16:08 BST | By Dan French
Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have become a permanent fixture on TV screens around the world since The Simpsons
premiered in 1989. About to enter into its landmark 21st season, the animated comedy series now holds the title of longest-running series in primetime US television history. With new episodes about to drop in the UK, we called up one of the crazy genii behind everyone's favourite family - David Mirkin
- to see what he makes of the show's success.You've had some big guests on the show over the years. Who's left on your list?
"It's tough. There are so many great actors that would be great to work with - Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp... I actually did a tiny bit of work on an animated project with him. He has a great voice! Any great actor out there really. I don't believe we've ever had Kate Winslet, and I would love to do Kate!"The series has mocked Michael Jackson over the years. Are there any plans to reference him - or his death - in upcoming episodes?
"We wouldn't make a plan to do that. Michael was a guest on the show and he was lovely to deal with. It's not something we'd jump on right at the moment. It's the kind of thing where his upbringing identifies who he was in a way that he wasn't in control of - it's tragic. And we ought to take tragic things and twist them around, but it would be time before anything like that happens. You have to be sensitive."How did fans react to The Simpsons Movie a few years ago?
"It was great - we were so thrilled with that response because writing that film was supposed to take us two years, but it took us four! It was a challenge for our stamina! So it was a relief that it was received as well as it was by the fans. And more importantly, that it made as much money as it did!"Despite the challenges, is it something you'd consider doing again?
"We would. We're in therapy to get over the last one and once that therapy is completed, we will sit down and do it again. But don't expect it to arrive as quickly as the last one!"Do you think the show would survive if one of the main voice actors decided to leave?
"They're integral and important to the show. It's so important to have every single one of them. I would hate to ever see one leave because it's so iconic. That said, I'm practising all the voices myself just in case!"If anyone did leave, would you consider killing the character off?
"That would be a possibility. You can have the breaking story - next year, there'll be no Homer! We don't need him, right? If we had to get rid of someone, that's the one, right?"It's quite rare on the show that changes are made that stick beyond one episode. A couple of exceptions which spring to mind are when Marge's sister was made a lesbian, or when Ned's wife died. Are there any more planned changes like that?
"There's nothing that I can reveal. We can bring Ned's wife back though - no one would notice! I think we've actually had her come back in flashbacks and stuff like that. It's actually Paul McCartney who was responsible for another permanent change. When I asked him to do the vegetarian episode, he agreed but made me promise to keep Lisa as a vegetarian - and I was happy to comply with that because I'm a vegetarian too! Every time I see him, he always checks - and he's always surrounded by nine or ten lawyers, so it's quite frightening!"Matt Groening said that he doesn't see an ending in sight for the show. Do you agree?
"I pray for an end! I would like to meet another human being who doesn't work on the show! And maybe say 'hi' to a girl. It's all up to the fans - as long as they're telling us that they're happy, they like it and they want more, our feeling is that we will endeavour to give them new stuff. It's a challenge after 500 episodes to keep it fresh and keep it new, and we spend an enormous amount of time trying to do just that. I think the secret is that The Simpsons
does all different kinds of stuff. One week it's romantic comedy, then it's science fiction, then it's an action adventure, and then it's a kids' story with Bart - there are so many different genres, plus 60 different speaking roles and guest voices on top of that."Do you think there's a similar animated show that could rival the long run that The Simpsons has had?
"I say this with the greatest respect, but all other animated shows ever are crap! I have to say, some shows we don't appreciate too much, but there are some that are brilliant. South Park
has a very long run and it's still brilliantly funny and inventive. I see that running for a long time, but I'm very sure that it could never come anywhere near us - I'm pretty comfortable in that!"What about Futurama?
"It would be hard for it to catch up with us because of how much it costs, but Futurama
is a show that can't get killed! it's a show that keeps coming back from the dead and no matter how many letters I write, it keeps coming back!"The Simpsons returns with new episodes Sunday, September 6 at 6pm on Sky1.