With all due respect to series creators Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon, themselves titans of comedy, the fate of The Simpsons forever shifted in 1991, when duo Al Jean and Mike Reiss took the reins.
The Harvard pals, who’d served in the show’s writers’ room since its inception, assumed the role of showrunner in Season 3, and, with classic episodes like “Flaming Moe’s” and “Homer at the Bat,” it’s since been recognized by Springfield historians as the start of the animated sitcom’s so-called “Golden Age.” Jean and Reiss would remain showrunners through Season 4, and then, following a brief stint helming The Critic, Jean returned to The Simpsons in Season 10, and then resumed running the show in Season 13—and has continued ever since.
Of course, the premiere episode of Season 3, “Stark Raving Dad,” recently made headlines when the show’s chief creative team—including Jean, who co-wrote and produced the episode with Reiss—decided to pull it after seeing the documentary Leaving Neverland, wherein James Safechuck and Wade Robson recounted, in graphic detail, the child sexual abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of music legend Michael Jackson. Jackson provided guest vocals in the episode, playing the character of Leon Kompowsky, a burly, institutionalized man claiming he’s the pop star. The episode was penned specifically for Jackson, a fan of the show, with the icon demanding that a scene be included wherein he and Bart Simpson create a song together. In light of the documentary, the lyrics of that song seem troubling, to say the least.
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