Writer David Silverman has just given fans a behind-the-scenes look
1995 – it was a very good year. Oasis released ‘(Whats the Story) Morning Glory’, Toy Story launched Pixar as the world-beating force it is today and, somewhere quiet and remote, the minds behind The Simpsons – then firmly in its prime – were holed up in a writers’ retreat, cooking up an absolute bloody treat for us all.
How do we do know this? Because writer David Silverman, who’s worked on the show since 1987 and directed 2007’s The Simpsons Movie, has dug out an old notebook from that time and shared some choice pages on Twitter. It’s a fascinating look into what could have been, and reveals a few tantalising secrets. Such as…
1. Scratchy was nearly Smithers’ cat
Yeah – Scratchy of The Itchy & Scratchy Show fame. The cat, who appears semi-regularly in the show-with-a-show beloved of Lisa and Bart, was almost cast as a house pet owned by Smithers, the character infatuated with Mr. Burns. Considering Scratchy is an all-round bad bugger, that could have been something of a disaster for poor old Smithers.
2. Frank Grimes was waiting in the wings for two years
When he shared the images on Twitter, Silverman wrote: “Notice my first drawings of Grimey.” Beleaguered Grimes didn’t appear on anyone’s telly box until the 1997 episode ‘Homer’s Enemy’ – in which he raged that Homer, less qualified and diligent than himself, had somehow achieved a much more comfortable and meaningful existence – which means he collected dust for 24 months. Poor old Grimey, that guy could never catch a break, could he?
3. Lisa the Simpson waited even longer
As Silverman noted on Twitter: “Some ideas sit on the shelf.“ This was the case with the episode Lisa the Simpson, which eventually aired in 1998 as part of the show’s series, though the initial sketches appear in these 1995 notebooks. The episode sees Lisa fear that her intelligence will dissipate over time, though it’s clear this idea aged like a fine wine.
4. Bart nearly got thumped a good’un
The sketch below, part of a military school-based idea that presumably became the 1997 episode The Secret War of Lisa Simpson, looks more like a scene from the ultra-violent Itchy & Scratchy show than the generally wholesome Simpsons. That dude’s got a mean right hook, eh?
5. The Love-matic Grandpa changed names
David Silverman revealed the first etchings of The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase, a 1997 episode that sends-up successful TV series’ tendency to spin characters off into their own shows. Thus Chief Wiggum becomes the dynamic Chief Wiggum PI, while Grandpa stars in The Love-matic Grandpa, originally – we learn here – named Smithers & Co. Got any more notebooks, David?