Simpsons season 27: Al Jean talks Homer and Marge's separation, and more: Interview | EW.com
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TV | Fall TV Preview 2015

Simpsons exec producer Al Jean on Homer and Marge's separation, Smithers' new love, and Spider-Pig's return

(Fox)

We really can’t say this enough: Homer and Marge are not getting a divorce. But they will experience a new form of marital strife when they legally separate in the animated comedy’s season 27 premiere on Sept. 27 with “Every Man’s Dream.” We rang up Simpsons executive producer Al Jean to hear more about the trouble at Homer’s home, a new love interest for Smithers (take that, Burns!), the future of the franchise, and much more. Your highlights begin now:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: On Homer and Marge getting legally separated, not divorced:
AL JEAN: I never said they were getting divorced. I never used that word. And the next thing I know, it’s crazy headlines. I wasn’t trying to trick people … Cartoon characters can fall down cliffs or blow each other’s heads off, but they cannot get divorced. [Laughs]

On the plot of the premiere:
Marge has had it with Homer for everything that he’s done. We just said: In real life, wouldn’t you have had it with him? And a therapist says to her, “It’s never going to change.”

On what is special about their marital strife in this episode, as opposed to, you know, all the previous ones:
It’s different than any that we’ve done, but I don’t want to describe it. People go, “Well, why can’t you describe it?” When you see the episode, you’ll know why it’s different, but I can’t say until you see it. But they’re not permanently divorced.

On Lena Dunham voicing a pharmacist named Candace in the episode that becomes Homer’s love interest:
Homer discovers that he has narcolepsy and he gets a prescription and they become interested in each other. She is forward and funny and interested in people who have big bags of prescription drugs.

On what Candace sees in Homer:
He’s a guy who’s sweet but vulnerable, going through something bad.

On Kristen Bell voicing Lisa’s rich new friend:
She plays this daughter of an internet billionaire and Homer becomes best friends with the father, who’s wonderful and really cool. Lisa doesn’t really like the girl after a while, but Homer wants to keep the friendship going because he enjoys the perks.

On Sofia Vergara playing Mrs. Berrera, Bart’s hot new teacher that he (and Principal Skinner) fall for:
She’s the first teacher that Bart’s ever had with a tat. She’s more forgiving of Bart than Mrs. Krabappel was. She pays special attention to him … We thought it’d be interesting if both Bart and Skinner have a crush on the same woman. She feels Skinner is a wounded soul that she wants to take care of. She is a vet like Skinner, and that’s his attraction.”

On the possibility that Mrs. Berrera might become a more permanent fixture on the show:
She’s not a substitute teacher, although we’re just testing the waters. We have a situation where Bart doesn’t have a regular teacher, so she may come back or she may not, if she wants to. She was really funny and we were really glad to have her. And as she said, “I’m just 100 yards away on the Fox lot [where Modern Family also films].

On Smithers branching out from Burns in more ways than one:
We have a show where Smithers realizes he’s never going to get what he wants from Burns so he quits and falls in love with somebody else. The someone else is a character that Hank [Azaria] has done on the show before, Julio, who is a little like his character from The Birdcage.

On a Boyhood-themed episode:
We see Bart at various points in his life. It’s the first show we’ve done that’s a flashback and a flash-forward.

On another sighting of Plopper, a.k.a. Spider-Pig:
Half of the episode is a Maggie short where she befriends the animals on the roof and features the return of Spider-Pig. We animated it a little differently; it’s a really beautiful show … As usual he does whatever a Spider-Pig does, which in this case means helping Maggie rescue a friendly possum from Cletus’ kitchen. Then he trots off to wherever he’s needed most, or wherever there’s a comfy pile of slops, whichever he sees first.

On SNL’s Kate McKinnon and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks sharing a role:
Lisa meets a homeless woman who is voiced both by Kate McKinnnon and Natalie Maines, who does the singing. It turns out she’s got an incredible voice and Lisa tries to help her get a music career going. She’s like the opposite of Bleeding Gums Murphy. But there’s a flip. It’s not the same progression.

On cellist Yo-Yo Ma lending his musical talents to an episode:
Burns gets a gift for Marge’s mother’s birthday and it’s Yo-Yo Ma. We have him playing the music that you hear in that scene. And he says, “I used to play cello on the subway, but Mr. Burns says the meanest things I’ve ever heard.”

On Harry Shearer settling his contract dispute with the producers and signing on for two more seasons, like all of the other original cast members:
I’m very glad he’s back. He’s really talented … He said it wasn’t a publicity stunt, which is true. I’m glad it’s over.

On the possibility of another crossover episode, like last season’s “Simpsorama,” which featured the Futurama characters:
Futurama had a great ending of its own and I thought we didn’t detract from that. We did a good crossover. We did the Critic one years ago and the X-Files one. It has to be something where it really fits. I like Bob’s Burgers but I go, “Well, we did Futurama, so that would be a similar sort of thing.” If there’s another show like Homeland or 24 on the horizon — those I thought worked out well. The essence to them is you do it while people are really excited that you are doing it, rather than continuing to do it while people get sick of it.

On the status of another movie:
There’s no talk of a movie [right now] … A new film would require a great idea and a cast deal and a script, and we don’t have any of those three things just yet. It’s not like I’m saying never, but you have to have all three.

On the future of the show, which was renewed in May for two more seasons:
We’ll for sure do 625 episodes [which runs through season 28]. Beyond that, I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended — but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it continued. The cast is signed through season 30, so if Fox chose to do two more after episode 625, they could easily do it.

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