TV URBAN LEGEND: The staff of The Simpsons got a measure of revenge on Justin Timberlake after he took issue with the dialogue they wrote for his guest appearance.
Since leaving his popular boy band 'N Sync in 2002, Justin Timberlake has exceeded most everyone's expectations for his career. First he became a world-famous solo recording artist, releasing four hit albums, along with eight top 10 singles on the Billboard charts and three No. 1 singles (including the quadruple-platinum selling "SexyBack"). As if that weren’t enough, he then became a bit of a movie star, releasing a number of films (including a strong performance in the 2010 hit film The Social Network as Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster). And as if that weren’t enough, he has also become an acclaimed comedic actor, winning two Emmy Awards for his performances hosting Saturday Night Live in 2009 and 2011.
One of the best aspects of Timberlake's performances on the show, and likely what endears himself to so many people, is how willing he is to make a fool of himself on national television. However, while that’s where Timberlake is today, that wasn’t necessarily always the case. In 2001, a 19-year-old Timberlake ran afoul of the writers of The Simpsons when guest starring on the animated series, and their "revenge" on him is pretty hilarious. Read on to see what they did!
If you want to feel old, just realize that "New Kids on the Blecch," the 14th episode of The Simpsons' Season 12 came out more than 12 years ago! The episode, which has a U.S. Navy officer secretly forming a boy band around Bart and his friends in an attempt to brainwash kids into wanting to join the Navy, has gained a bit of a bad reputation in the years since its release as helping to popularize a specific type of Simpsons episode that’s become more prevalent over the past decade or so: one geared toward the celebrity guest stars more than anything else. The episode itself, though, is quite good. In "New Kids on the Blecch," the members of 'N Sync (Timberlake, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone and Lance Bass) appear twice, first to welcome Bart's new group, the Party Posse, to the boy band world via a gift basket and later to try to help the Party Posse stop their producer/Navy lieutenant from destroying MAD Magazine's headquarters in New York City to prevent the release of a satirical takedown of the Party Posse. (In a post-9/11 world, the scenes of a Manhattan skyscraper being destroyed seem pretty off. For a while, the destruction of MAD Magazine's skyscraper was actually edited out of re-runs.)
During production of the episode, Timberlake suffered a death in his family and had to have his own recording sessions separate from the rest of the group. When it came time for him to perform his lines, the young singer took issue with some of his dialogue. Specifically, he felt his character saying "Word" didn’t feel authentic, as it wasn’t a phrase he himself used. Ultimately, though, he relented and made the line delivery. According to Simpsons staff writer Matt Selman, though, the writing staff took umbrage with Timberlake's concerns and decided to have a little fun with the singer. During the first appearance of the band in the episode, the same line reading of "Word" was edited on to the end of every other line of dialogue Timberlake had, making it a recurring gag. Here's Timberlake doing the line:
The closing credits of the episode shows footage of the band recording their lines, and the very last bit is, of course, Timberlake saying "word" during his recording session.
Obviously this was all in good fun, but it’s still a pretty humorous example of why you might not want to make any waves when guest starring on a show.
The legend is ...
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!