The creators of Fox's iconic animated show "The Simpsons" indicated that they plan to shake things up in season 27, making the longtime marriage of Homer and Marge Simpson fall apart over the issue of narcolepsy. However, this development does not appear to be permanent.
In an interview with Debra Birnbaum of Variety, executive producer Al Jean talked about the various twists and turns season 27 of "The Simpsons" could take. He first reflected on the longevity of the animated series.
"Now we'll get to 625 episodes. That's amazing," Jean said. "I'm really, really happy to get there. If it goes further, that's even better. We have two-year options with Fox after that."
Jean added that the show's original goal was "to get to 100 episodes," which then increased to 200. Birnbaum asked Jean on how the creators of "The Simpsons" kept the show fresh and timely.
"We just had this thing a year ago where we did a World Cup parody," Jean said. "We were reading about the corruption in Greece. We had a FIFA executive get arrested, and now this week it's gone online and gotten half a million views. There are things that happen in the world."
Jean pointed out that although the show's creators couldn't "do daily humor like 'The Daily Show,'" he observed that "there's always insane stuff going in the world that you can't imagine."
"I still think back, the Vice President shot a guy in the face - and the guy apologized," Jean recalled. "That happened! If we put it in a show people would go, 'That's ridiculous!'"
Birnbaum asked the show's executive producer if they felt handcuffed by their production schedule. Jean responded by citing various examples on how they reacted to developing news stories.
"When Scotland was having its referendum, we filmed a small bit with Groundskeeper Willie where he was for Scotland and got 'Aye or Die' tattooed on his chest. We have a good range," Jean said. "The chalkboards are always up to the minute. And on the very sad side, if someone's passed away, we can do an in memoriam."
Birnbaum then asked Jean on what fans of the show could expect in the upcoming season.
"In the premiere, it's discovered after all the years Homer has narcolepsy and it's an incredible strain on the marriage," Jean said. "Homer and Marge legally separate, and Homer falls in love with his pharmacist, who's voiced by Lena Dunham. We'll have cameos from the other women from 'Girls.'"
To dispel any grumblings from fans that "The Simpsons" has lost its way, the show's official Twitter account sent out a picture of Bart writing a certain phrase on the school's blackboard.
"Homer and Marge are not breaking up," Bart wrote.
Jean also spilled out that Lisa Simpson will meet a homeless woman "who turns out to be an incredible singer" in a future episode.
"The woman's voiced by Kate McKinnon, but the singing is done by Natalie Maines," Jean quipped.
Jean added that "Spider Pig" and Sideshow Bob will make appearances, teasing that Bob will "do something he's wanted to do for 25 years." In addition, there will be an episode based on the critically-acclaimed film "Boyhood."
"It's a flashback/flashforward about Bart," Jean said. "We go to various points in his life and his life to come, which I think came out really well."
Birnbaum then turned the focus on producer and co-creator Sam Simon, who passed away in March. Jean elaborated on his legacy, noting that he learned how to run the show through Simon.
"He's a huge part of what made 'The Simpsons' a success," Jean said. "As for the philanthropic stuff, there's even more to it than people know. He was a very generous man, and it's still being felt. I've never seen someone who passed away who still seemed so alive."
Birnbaum asked Jean on what he learned in the process of creating the show.
"You never know what's going to happen," Jean said. "You air a show and what people react to is not what you expect. What you learn is you have to be constantly prepared to moderate your course because you're in an environment where feedback is constant."
Birnbaum then questioned Jean on why the show has taken on so many tones throughout the years.
"The centrality of it is it's about a family. Everyone comes from a family of some kind," Jean said. "Everyone has a father and a mother even if they're not always present. That makes it a show that everyone could relate to it immediately, and the supporting characters flesh it out great. And it's timeless because it's animated."
In her final question, Birnbaum wondered if another "Simpsons" movie would be produced in the future. Jean responded by noting how it "was such a time-intensive operation."
"I would rather end the show whenever that happens before doing another movie," Jean said. "It's unlikely there'll be another 'Simpsons' feature while the show is being produced."
Season 27 of "The Simpsons" will begin airing on Fox in the United States on Sep. 27, 2015.