Saturday, March 9, 2019

Why this episode of The Simpsons is going away forever and FOX is removing it everywhere and from everything - unless you already have a copy.

A classic episode of The Simpsons is being removed from broadcast, streaming and even DVD - anywhere it exists - with viewers who will never see it again unless you've already downloaded it or have it on a video or DVD box set, and here's why.

The production company of The Simpsons, in their own decision, is removing a 1991 episode of the long-running series that was broadcast on M-Net (DStv 101, then jumping to VUZU (DStv 166) and FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201), that features a guest appearance by singer Michael Jackson.

In the third season The Simpsons episode entitled "Stark Raving Dad", Michael Jackson voiced the character of Leon Kompowsky who is a patient in a mental institution, who believes that he is Michael Jackson, and where Homer also ends up temporarily after Bart takes his dad's mental stability test.

When Leon calls and Bart answers and he says "I'm Michael Jackson. It's true. I'm with your father in a mental institution," that is really Michael Jackson speaking.

The episode also contains the song, "Happy Birthday Lisa", that Michael Jackson wrote specifically for this episode of The Simpsons.

When the episode was originally shown, people didn't know that Michael Jackson had lent his voice because his involvement was uncredited until years later, with the name John Jay Smith appearing in the credit list instead.

The pulling of The Simpsons episode comes after the controversial HBO documentary film series, Leaving Neverland, distributed globally by the Kew Media Group, was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival and this past week on HBO in the United States.

It tells the story of two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck - now in their 30s - who describes in horrific detail how they were allegedly sexually abused by Michael Jackson from the ages of 7 and 10.

Kew Media Distribution already sold Finding Neverland to 130 countries and territories including the United Kingdom, the Middle East and New Zealand. TVwithThinus asked M-Net last week if it had acquired it and the pay-TV channel said it doesn't have it yet but would look into it.

About the scrubbing of The Simpsons episode, the longtime executive producer, James L. Brooks told The Wall Street Journal that "It feels clearly the only choice to make".

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and producer Al Jean were in agreement with James L. Brooks to forever bury the specific episode, with Brooks telling the newspaper that "This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn't allow them to remain."

He said it was important to remove the episode because "the documentary gave evidence of monstrous behaviour" and that the episode must be removed "to show compassion for Michael Jackson's alleged victims".

Removing The Simpsons episode from all broadcast, syndication, streaming, DVD and other platforms will take time but James L. Brooks said that "the process has started".