It seems fairly clear that Disney+ will mainly exist to suffocate us in content. We’ve already been promised endless series based on whatever peripheral Marvel and Star Wars characters they’ve found lurking unused in cupboards, plus a Muppets series, a High School Musical series, an Ice Age series, a True Lies series, a Willow series, a Short Circuit series, a 101 Dalmatians series and something where Jeff Goldblum just sort of ambiently wanders around touching his mouth a lot as he pontificates about bicycles.
But the glut is by no means over, because now we’re being teased with something that would have been incredible had it happened in the 1990s: more Simpsons.
Buried in this weekend’s D23 clamour was the news that the Fox-Disney merger is likely to result in a Simpsons spin-off. Executive producer Matt Selman said: “I think Disney would be supportive of anything we wanted to do. Maybe a crazy limited series with a side character or a movie that we surprised you with. They’ve been really creatively supportive and this is going to afford so many new ways to do the show than just the traditional format.”
Which, on the surface, is a harrowing prospect. The Simpsons has spent the last decade and a half struggling to make a decent product even when it focuses all its efforts on a single series. By diluting its attention to multiple versions of itself, there’s a real risk the whole enterprise will be run into the ground.
Still, let’s be optimistic. If any show has the breadth of characters to support a spin-off – even more so than the respective Marvel or Star Wars universes – it’s The Simpsons. That show has dozens and dozens of vivid, remarkably fleshed-out side characters, who in the right hands with a decent wind behind them, could easily sustain a new series. Here are my top picks.
Throughout The Simpsons’ imperial phase, the show made a point of repeatedly cutting to clips of a terrible action film called McBain, in which Rainer Wolfcastle played a lunk-headed cop determined to wreak bloody vengeance on all his enemies. Years later, a fan worked out that these clips threaded together to make a complete story. The final clip promised that ‘McBain will be back in You Have the Right to Remain Dead’. I don’t like making big proclamations like this, but a full 90-minute version of You Have the Right to Remain Dead would make me sign up to Disney+ in a heartbeat.
Fat Tony is dead. After making his first appearance in season three, he finally bit the bullet in season 22’s Donnie Fatso, dying of a heart attack when it was revealed that Homer had betrayed him. But listen, if The Sopranos deserves a prequel then so does Fat Tony. Let’s learn about his formative years. Let’s see adolescent versions of Jimmy the Snitch and Johnny Tightlips. Let’s give Disney+ the prestige drama it’s been crying out for.
Krusty the Clown
Another fun Simpsons fact: in 1994, Matt Groening pitched the idea of a live-action spin-off where Krusty the Clown, played by Dan Castellaneta, would move to Los Angeles and become a disastrous talkshow host. “We had this running joke in the script that Krusty was living in a house on stilts and there were beavers gnawing their way through the stilts” revealed Groening in 1999. Surely this idea deserves to come screaming back into the now.
Comic Book Guy
The Simpsons always managed to poke fun at Fox, and it was a mutually beneficial set-up; it made The Simpsons look rebellious and Fox look cool and self-aware. Hopefully this spirit will continue and, if it does, who better to bite the hand that feeds it than Comic Book Guy? Disney+ is nerd heaven, stuffed silly with the superheroes and space pirates once beloved by a devoted marginal fringe before blossoming into the dominant reference point for all of culture. Let’s give Comic Book Guy a whole series to mock and belittle all the other Disney properties. If nothing else, it might help to stop Disney looking like such an evil monopoly.
And finally, Problematic Apu. Would Disney+ be the place to reset Apu, recasting him with a South Asian character, painting him in a more sympathetic light and moving him away from all the ugly stereotypes that have caused so much controversy over the years? Probably. Will The Simpsons go for it? Almost certainly not. But one can dream.