TV Legends: In Which Simpsons Episode Did Matt Groening Remove His Name?

TV URBAN LEGEND: Matt Groening removed his name from an episode of The Simpsons because it was a crossover episode.

If you're at all familiar with The Simpsons, you know that at the end of the couch gag in the opening credits (every episode, the Simpsons run to their couch to watch TV in a different fashion), it cuts to their TV screen, which shows two notable credits.

Created by Matt Groening...

And developed by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Sam Simon...

However, there was one episode of the Simpsons where Groening disagreed with the concept of the episode so much that the TV showed no credit for "created by" and had this for "developed by"...

That episode was Season 6's "A Star is Burns," and it had to do with the fact that the episode was a crossover episode designed to help promote The Critic.

The Critic was a cartoon created by Mike Reiss and Al Jean, former Simpsons writers who left the series after Season 4. The show was executive produced by James L. Brooks. It landed on ABC as a midseason series in 1994 as ABC was likely thinking it had themselves the next Simpsons. However, the series, which starred Jon Lovitz as film critic Jay Sherman, was not successful at ABC and was canceled after 13 episodes.

Brooks cut a deal with Fox to bring The Critic to that network for a second season and it would air after The Simpsons, beginning in April of 1995. He wanted to promote the series, so thought of the idea of having a Simpsons episode lead into the Critic's premiere. So Jay Sherman comes to Springfield to be a judge in a film festival and Homer gets jealous of Jay's intellect and manipulates Marge (the film festival organizer) into putting him onto the panel, as well.

The episode hung a lantern on the crossover aspect of the episode, with a scene where Bart is watching TV...

Bart is watching television] Announcer: Coming up next, The Flintstones meet The Jetsons.Bart: Uh oh. I smell another cheap cartoon crossover.[Homer enters the room with Jay] Homer: Bart Simpson, meet Jay Sherman, the critic.Jay: Hello.Bart: Hey man, I really love your show. I think all kids should watch it! [turns away] Ew, I suddenly feel so dirty.

However, Matt Groening was very upset over the episode. So much so that he pulled his credit from the episode. He noted at the time, "The two reasons I am opposed to this crossover is that I don't want any credit or blame for 'The Critic' and I feel this (encroachment of another cartoon character) violates the Simpsons' universe. 'The Critic' has nothing to do with the Simpsons' world."

Since Brooks' Gracie Films technically produces the Simpsons, Brooks actually gets final say over the episodes. However, Groening decided to wait until the last moment to actually pull his credit. It angered Brooks a lot, who noted at the time, "I am furious with Matt. He's been going to everybody who wears a suit at Fox and complaining about this. When he voiced his concerns about how to draw 'The Critic' into the Simpsons' universe he was right and we agreed to his changes. Certainly he's allowed his opinion, but airing this publicly in the press is going too far. "This has been my worst fear . . . that the Matt we know privately is going public. He is a gifted, adorable, cuddly ingrate. But his behavior right now is rotten. And it's not pretty when a rich man acts like this."

Jean and Reiss were a bit upset that the controversy took away from the episode, but otherwise, they took it well. They would both return to the Simpsons before the decade ended and Jean has actually been the showrunner since 2001.

Plus, in the years since, The Simpsons has crossed over with both Family Guy....

and Futurama...

Groening's name was in the credits of those episodes, so I guess he got over his crossover aversion over the years. Though, to be fair, those crossovers were much different scenarios. They weren't being used to sell a relatively new show. Those were both other established programs. Plus, of course, Groening actually DID create Futurama, so it probably wasn't a concern for him to have people confused about his role in that show.

The legend is...


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