‘The Simpsons’ Spin-Offs That Never Happened
It’s kind of nuts that The Simpsons has been on the air for what feels like thousands of years and spawned countless imitators, some of which have turned into prolific franchises of their own, and yet, it’s never gotten an official spin-off. If this show was churning out spin-offs at the same rate as All in the Family or CSI, half of the characters on TV would have yellow skin by now. This is especially weird when you consider that The Simpsons itself grew out of The Tracey Ullman Show — do they not believe in paying it forward?
As it turns out, the lack of a Simpsons-verse isn’t due to a lack of trying. Here’s every proposed Simpsons spin-off that we know of and why it failed…
A Show About Krusty the Clown as a Single Dad
In the early 1990s, once it became clear that this Simpsons thing had legs, Matt Groening approached then showrunners Al Jean and Mike Reiss and asked them to come up with ideas for a show about Krusty the Clown. One of those ideas was about Krusty as a divorced dad living in New York City. Characters would have included his nerdy kid, his “crappy makeup lady” and his Ted Turner-type boss. If that sounds familiar, congratulations on being one of the 20 people who watched The Critic.
As you might have guessed, Groening turned down the idea, while Jean and Reiss ended up turning it into a completely different show with absolutely no connection to The Simpsons — except for that one time it did connect to The Simpsons, against Groening's wishes.
But Groening only turned them down because he had what he considered a better idea...
A Live-Action Krusty the Clown ‘Reality Show’
Dead set on putting more Krusty out in the world, Groening eventually co-wrote a pilot script in which the “jolly” clown moves to L.A. to become a talk show host. The twist is that this would have been a live-action series with Krusty’s (and Homer’s) voice actor, Dan Castellaneta, still playing him. What’s more, according to Reiss, the show would have had a “reality” aspect in which Castellaneta would have been sent out into the real world in Krusty makeup to shoot segments about stuff like working on a tuna boat, going to bartending school or delivering a baby.
Groening worked on the show for several months, but the main difficulty seemed to be that he kept coming up with jokes that were better suited for animation. One running gag consisted of Krusty living in a house with stilts that were constantly being gnawed on by beavers, but then the network pointed out how expensive it would be to do that with real beavers or animatronic ones (did they forget about the existence of puppets?). When negotiations stalled, Groening abandoned the project and decided it would be easier to just do a cartoon set in the far future.
A ‘Tales From Springfield’ Anthology Series
The Simpsons’ writers enjoyed working on the classic “22 Short Films About Springfield” episode so much that they started talking about a spin-off with the same premise: Random stories about random Springfield inhabitants. According to the episode’s DVD commentary, there would have been a recurring segment about Homer as a teenager, although we personally would have rather seen one about the continuing adventures of Principal Skinner and Superintendent Gary “Super Nintendo” Chalmers. It’s a crime that this banger of a theme song was only used once:
Former showrunner Bill Oakley has said that the episodes would have been “free-form,” with situations and characters not directly related to the Simpsons universe. Although he liked the idea, Groening ultimately decided they didn’t have enough people to produce two shows and shelved the project. The writers still sounded hopeful that it could happen one day when they recorded the episode commentaries, but considering that was back in the mid-2000s, perhaps it’s time to give up.
A ‘Fantasia’ Parody, ‘Simpstasia’
Per the commentary for the episode “A Streetcar Named Marge,” one of Groening’s early ideas for a Simpsons’ film was a parody of Disney’s Fantasia called, of course, Simpstasia. Like that movie, this one would have included no dialogue (except, we’re assuming, for the occasional “D’oh!”) and instead relied on music and physical comedy to tell a story. So it would have been a two-hour Itchy and Scratchy short, basically.
Apparently, the writers weren’t thrilled about the idea of writing a feature-length script with little or no dialogue, so the concept never went past being a weird suggestion from their boss. Perhaps they would be easier to motivate now that they have access to actual Disney characters and, more importantly, actual Disney money. They did end up including various Fantasia-inspired jokes over the years, like that Itchy and Scratchy cartoon above or swole devil Flanders below.
A Live-Action Troy McClure Movie Starring Phil Hartman
Out of all the projects in this list, the only one that can never and should never happen is the live-action movie based on has-been B-movie actor Troy McClure because there’s just no point without his voice actor, Phil Hartman. Before his death in 1998, Hartman had said he was “looking forward” to the McClure movie, which he’d been pitching to Fox with the enthusiastic support of the Simpsons crew. If you doubt that Hartman could have pulled it off, please watch the instructional video below (or literally anything else he ever did, actually, because he was awesome).
According to former showrunner Josh Weinstein, they considered basing the movie’s plot on “A Fish Called Selma,” the episode that fleshed out McClure’s character (and revealed his fish fetish). Importantly, it was also the episode that included McClure’s performance in Stop the Planet of the Apes. I Want to Get Off!, which might be the best musical number in the series.
Sadly, Hartman’s untimely passing led to the retirement of his characters and made the movie impossible. We guess they could try to make it happen anyway via deepfakes and AIs, but we all agree we’d burn Disney to the ground if they even consider that, right?