File this under alt.nerd.obsessive. Last night, UCLA hosted many-a-nerd's dream dinner table — eight erudite and mostly bespectacled writers from The Simpsons. “One thing you notice about this table is the diversity,” said Michael Price sarcastically to guffaws from an audience of students and alums from UCLA School of Theater Film and Television.
Topics ranged from audience fatigue, to inner-workings of the writer's room, to their own relevance in a world of proliferating media options. “People have more options now, and that's tragic,” quipped Bill Odenkirk, noting that the TV show about a family that watches TV may seem bizarre when most families are now individually plugged into iPads, laptops, and smartphones, instead of — or even when — plopping themselves together in front of a single TV set.
We all have that one friend who is quickest to point out the lack of edginess in current Simpsons episodes. (That same friend who would have stepped over his own mother to be near that table last night. You know…That Guy.) We learned after an hour of quips, one-liners, and serious discussions about family bonds, that the writers are still edgy, it's just that the show has become the standard. Chuck Sheetz, UCLA professor and frequent Simpsons director, made the point that “The Simpsons succeeded in moving the center of popular culture to an edgy and quirky place.” So, let That Guy know — he's the problem, not the Simpsons.
For those of you looking for IMDB-worthy tidbits from last night's nerdery, you'll be shocked to learn that only Lyle Lovett has ever turned them down for a guest spot (even Stephen Hawking lent his “voice” to the show). Also, neither Marge nor Homer will ever cheat — outside of fan-fiction, that is. Homer's stupidity will always have its limits. And Bart's stranglings will never be premeditated.
A quick Q&A after the panel was followed by a rush to the beer (no Duff, sadly) and donuts. Mmmm donuts.