By Josh Grossberg
A Simpsons toon is coming out of the closet. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Speaking during a weekend panel at San Diego's Comic-Con convention, show producers dropped a bomb: An upcoming Simpsons story line will focus on what happens when Springfield legalizes gay marriage.
"We have a show where, to raise money, Springfield legalizes gay marriage," producer Al Jean told comic book fans. "Homer becomes a minister by going on the Internet and filling out a form. A longtime character comes out of the closet, but I'm not saying who."
And with that, Simpsons aficionados got their gaydar on and began winnowing down the list of potential suspects.
The early favorite appears to be billionaire Monty Burns' ever-devoted sidekick, Waylon Smithers, who--aside from being a yes-man--has been known to collect Malibu Stacy dolls, lives in the gay part of town (where Homer once shacked up with two gay guys), has a Mr. Burns screensaver and dreams of a naked Mr. Burns jumping out of a birthday cake.
But that might be too easy. According to online fan scuttlebutt, there are other characters who might be secretly having a gay old time in Springfield, including Homer's regular-guy cohorts at the nuclear plant, Carl and Lenny, as well as Moe the bartender, the Reverend Lovejoy, Principal Skinner and Comic Book Guy. Of course, the producers didn't rule out a lesbian wedding, either.
"It's Homer!" said a joking Simpsons creator Matt Groening to conventiongoers.
The gay marriage-themed episode is scheduled to air in January.
While the coming-out comments generated the most interest, the show's brain trust also outlined some other upcoming plots. For instance, Springfield residents will also have a cow over corrupt Mayor Quimby and seek to recall him from office--a riff on California recall election in which Arnold Schwarzenegger defeated then Governor Gray Davis. No word whether The Simpsons' Ah-nuld look-alike, Rainier Wolfcastle, will be leading the effort to replace Quimby.
Meanwhile, celebs expected to lend their voices to the show next season include Kim Cattrall, Ray Romano, James Caan and rapper 50 Cent.
Groening also addressed the long-talked about Simpsons animated movie. He said that plans are still underway, but work on a big screen version won't begin until the tube series takes its final bow.
That could be awhile.
Now heading into its 16th season, The Simpsons is still posting solid ratings and consistently ranks number one in its Sunday time slot for adults 18-49, the category coveted by advertisers. It has also become the longest running comedy series on the tube and has spawned a billion-dollar franchise for Fox, which after some protracted negotiations, agreed to a new four-year deal with the show's six stars that gave each of them a whopping pay raise to $250,000 per episode.
Plenty of d'oh, indeed.