Was The Simpsons Matt Groening’s Last-Minute Plan-B Pitch To Fox?
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Was The Simpsons Matt Groening’s Last-Minute Plan-B Pitch To Fox?

The documentary also interviews Ken Estin, one of the executive producers on “The Tracey Ullman Show,” who recalls the inception of “The Simpsons” a little differently. “The Tracey Ullman Show” was where “The Simpsons” had started their life, appearing as an amusing animated break in between the show’s live-action sketches. 

Estin had hired Groening to make a 60-second “Life in Hell” short as an interstitial on the show, and was sent off to write one (1) joke. Groening never turned in the joke. It wasn’t until Estin called an intermediary that he learned Groening’s mindset. While Groening would retain creative control of “Life in Hell,” he would have to share merchandising rights, which was how he was making the bulk of his income at the time. “He’s keeping it to himself and he’s not going to share it with anybody,” Estin said. When he didn’t turn in anything, Groening was fired. 

Future “Simpsons” honchos James L. Brooks and Richard Sakai, however, eventually chimed in, saying that they would take anything Groening put out. It didn’t have to be “Life in Hell.” Estin says that it was then, after he had already known he got to keep “Life in Hell,” that Groening finally pitched “The Simpsons.” Whether or not he came up with the characters on the spot can remain speculation. A few days later, the first rudimentary scripts were written.

Groening himself, meanwhile, has never come clean on the matter.