It has run for 26 series, is watched around the world and has spawned a movie, merchandise and numerous catchphrases. So what is the secret to The Simpsons’ success – and why don’t more people copy it?
“Aside from the writing, a little-known fact is that there was no network interference in the show whatsoever, and that is unique,” says Simpsons voice artist Harry Shearer, speaking in the new issue of Radio Times magazine.
“The Simpsons was directed entirely creatively, rather than by managers. You would think that successful model would be replicated, yet no other show on a commercial network has taken on that position of ultimate freedom.”
Shearer is referring to US networks rather than necessarily UK broadcasters, where interference from TV execs can sometimes be less intense. And when it comes to comedy he says there are are other differences between the countries, too.
“In America, our comedy people, with some notable exceptions, have really out-sized egos. But in Britain, the guys just do the work and don’t proclaim themselves in the same way, and their work is great. “
Along with BBC2’s “appointment to watch” series Episodes – a British/American co-production – Shearer’s list of comedy favourites also features UK double acts Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield and Armstrong and Miller.
“I do find myself pining for another series of Harry and Paul,” admits Shearer. “I absolutely adored [Whitehouse’s solo BBC2 comedy] Nurse. I loved Armstrong and Miller. Sketch comedy in the States has not been at that level for a while.”
Read the full interview with Harry Shearer in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale from Tuesday 25th August