While ''Simpsons '' creator Matt Groening continues to draw raves for his new Fox sci-fi series, ''Futurama,'' you should know that, technically speaking, it wasn't his first attempt at a sequel. Back in 1994, he spent several months working on a ''Simpsons'' spin-off centered around the curmudgeony Krusty The Clown -- with one unusual twist: The show would not be animated. "I thought it would be so cool to do a live-action spin-off from a cartoon," says Groening of the project, which was to star Dan Castellaneta (who voices Homer). "I wrote a pilot script in which Krusty moves to L.A. and gets his own talk show. 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. But somebody at the network pointed out how expensive it was to hire trained beavers -- and an equally prohibitive cost would be to get mechanical beavers -- so I said, 'If we animated this, we wouldn't be having this discussion.'"
Ultimately, when contract negotiations for an animated version of the show stalled, Groening decided to shelve the project and, soon after, he began developing his current Year 3000-set sitcom. But don't abandon all teal-haired hope; there could be some clowning around in the future. He hints: "I still think 'Krusty' would be a great series... or maybe we'll just do it as an episode of 'The Simpsons.'"