By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Wikileaks comes to
Springfield as controversial figure Julian Assange joins the
cast of "The Simpsons" for their milestone 500th episode on
Sunday, which will see America's famous animated family being
banished from their hometown.
Wikileaks founder Assange, who is currently under house
arrest Britain and fighting extradition to Sweden for
questioning over alleged sex crimes, recorded his cameo on "The
Simpsons" over the phone from a secret location after the
casting director tracked him down and asked him to guest star.
"Obviously he's a controversial figure and that was
discussed before we agreed to let him do it. But it's a funny
cameo and it makes no judgments about the larger case about
him," Al Jean, executive producer of "The Simpsons", told
reporters in a conference call.
Assange is the latest big name to be added to the show's
prominent guest-list, which has included a Who's Who of pop
culture voices including Elizabeth Taylor, astronaut Buzz
Aldrin, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and former British prime
minister Tony Blair.
In the trailers for the upcoming milestone episode,
Springfield's Mayor Quimby is seen announcing the results of a
vote to get rid of "Springfield's un-ending nightmare, The
Simpsons," as the family get kicked out of town.
Producers have not revealed other details or how Assange is
worked into the plot.
"There's a lot of little touches marking the milestone in
the way we like to celebrate and mock something, and then
there's a really nice emotional story about the family finding
out how their neighbors really feel about them and it's not good
and they have to deal with that," said Jean.
TWO DECADES OF "D'OHS"
Created by Matt Groening for Fox Television, "The Simpsons"
first aired in 1989 and is the longest-running American sitcom
in history. It is watched by an average 7.7 million U.S. viewers
this season, and is broadcast in more than 100 countries and 50
The tales of donut-loving father Homer J. Simpson and his
dysfunctional family, wife Marge and children Bart, Lisa and
Maggie, have become a staple of American culture, winning 27
Emmy awards, earning a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and
even coining a new word as Homer's expression "D'Oh" entered the
Oxford English Dictionary in 2011.
"Part of (the show's popularity) is because the world hates
America, so we really cashed in on that," joked Jean.
"More seriously, it's about a family, and no matter where
you go, people have a family and usually a family that doesn't
work perfectly, so it relates very well to anyone who looks at
it," he added.
The 500th episode came close to not being made after Fox in
October threatened to end the show in contract renewal
The issue was resolved and the show was renewed for two more
seasons. But Jean said producers were prepared to end the series
for good with the "Holidays of Future Passed," episode that
aired in December 2011. It saw the family 30 years in the
future, with Bart and Lisa discussing their own parenthood
"I personally wouldn't want to do the show without the
people that we have. They're obviously integral to it and we've
done so many episodes, I can't conceive of it. Had they not
signed, we would have stopped the show," said Jean.
"The Simpsons" 500th episode will air in the U.S. on Feb.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.