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TV Legends Revealed: Which ‘Simpsons’ Character Nearly Had a Live-Action Spinoff?

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment

TV URBAN LEGEND: There was nearly a live-action spinoff of “The Simpsons.”

During its eighth season in 1997, “The Simpsons” aired an episode called “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase,” which made fun of the way that popular shows often go out of their way to create spinoffs, whether or not they made any sense (like how “Empty Nest” spun out of “The Golden Girls” despite no one from “Empty Nest” ever previously appearing on the popular comedy). Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner and Grandpa Simpson each gets a shot at his own show, as well as a “Simpsons Variety Hour.” What’s interesting is that, despite making fun of the concept, “The Simpsons” actually did try to spin off a character from the series. Furthermore, the spinoff would have been a live-action series!

Which character was it? Why did it fall through? Read on to find out!

In 1994, roughly five seasons into the series’ run, “The Simpsons” co-creator Matt Groening worked out a pitch for a live-action spinoff in which popular supporting character Krusty the Clown (played by Dan Castellaneta) would move to Los Angeles and land his own talk show. Groening wrote the pilot script with prolific TV screenwriter and producer Michael Weithorn (at the time best known for his work on “Family Ties”).


Early on, however, Groening realized there were problems in translating a character with an animated sensibility to a live-action series. He recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1999:

We had this running joke in the script that Krusty was living in a house on stilts and there were beavers gnawing their way through the stilts. But somebody at the network pointed out how expensive it was to hire trained beavers – and an equally prohibitive cost would be to get mechanical beavers – so I said, “If we animated this, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

So the project ultimately changed to an animated series. However, the contract negotiations stalled, and Groening decided to move on from the project. Soon afterward, he began work on a project that became “Futurama” (imagine, if Krusty had succeeded, “Futurama” might never have existed).

Another abandoned “Simpsons” spinoff was inspired by an episode from Season 7, “22 Short Films About Springfield,” which told various stories about a day in the life of the other characters who live in the town. The “Simpsons” staff proposed an anthology spinoff that would have been called “Tales of Springfield,” “Springfield Stories” or just plain ol’ “Springfield,” but Groening ultimately decided there wasn’t enough manpower to produce two series.

“The Simpsons” producer and former showrunner Josh Weinstein lamented the failed spinoff to Digital Spy, saying, “It would be a chance to tell full stories about these other characters, but that never happened. I think it could’ve been great, but everyone was so busy at the time.”

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly and Matt Groening for the information!

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television and check here for more legends about specifically The Simpsons!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.