This week in 1987, The Simpsons debuted in the form of a series of shorts on the young Fox network’s The Tracey Ullman Show. Following a 1989 Christmas special, The Simpsons is still running. Here are some facts about the series on this, its 31st birthday.
Disrespect for authority figures
A big part of Bart Simpson’s character is his unabashed disrespect for authority figures, particularly his father who he disrespectfully refers to by his first name. The only adult Bart seems to like is his idol, local celebrity Krusty the Clown. Creator Matt Groening nearly added another level to Bart’s misplaced adoration—he almost had Krusty the Clown and Homer be the same person, with Bart not being able to recognize (or respect) his own father.
The spinoff that almost happened
The Simpsons is a spinoff itself, but it’s never produced any spinoff. Well, it almost did. In the mid-1990s, Groening wrote a pilot script for a live-action Krusty the Clown series. It fell apart because of stilts. Fox executives said it would be too hard and expensive to film a central element of the show: Krusty moved from Springfield to Los Angeles and lived on a house atop stilts…which beavers kept gnawing on. It would’ve cost too much for either mechanical beavers or trained beavers.
Bart’s best friend—or the kid he pushes around that worships him—is a whiny nerd named Milhouse. He was initially created for a Simpsons themed Butterfinger commercial. The plot called for a friend for Bart to trade lunches with, and Groening used a character from an un-produced school-based cartoon he’d once worked on. Later he was added to the show and named after Richard Milhous Nixon, because Groening thought that would be funny.
The ‘lost episode’, almost starring Prince
There’s a “lost episode” of The Simpsons. Music legend Prince agreed to guest star in an installment where Homer meets a man who believes he’s The Purple One. At the last minute, and after the script had been written, Prince backed out.
How old is Mr. Burns?
Just how old is Mr. Burns, proprietor of the Springfield Nuclear Power plant? Well, he answers the phone “Ahoy-ahoy,” which is how Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, wanted people to say. Bell proposed that in the 1870s.
The tie to Donald Trump
On one of The Simpsons’ many “flash forward” episodes that shows what will become of the family in the future, Lisa Simpson becomes president of the United State. Her predecessor: Donald Trump. The episode aired in 2000, long before Trump’s political ambitions.
Episode 636 airs April 29
On April 29, episode number 636 of The Simpsons will air. What’s special about that, beyond it being an exceptionally high number? With that, The Simpsons will officially become the longest-running scripted show in American TV history. The previous record holder: CBS’s western Gunsmoke, which aired 635 episodes from 1955 to 1975.