A recent episode of “The Simpsons” featured a storyline for guest-star Joan Rivers that cut close to the bone.
The episode – which premiered on Fox Dec. 4 and just became available for viewing here – told a story about a top comedy talent headlining a network TV show and the show’s headstrong producer, with whom the comedian has a close personal relationship. In the episode, the producer — played by Rivers — threw her weight around so much on the set that network execs ordered the comedian, Krusty the Clown, to fire her, or else they would.
The story, no doubt devised with Rivers’ approval and probably with her input, mirrored her own personal history — with Fox, no less — back in 1987. That’s when she starred in a late-night show on the then-fledgling network – “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” — while her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, acted as executive producer. When Fox execs ordered her to fire Edgar, she refused and they were both canned. Three months later, he committed suicide — the worst tragedy of Rivers’ life.
And yet, here she was on “The Simpsons” spoofing her own tragic history — something only a comedian of her stature and experience would attempt.
Besides the Krusty storyline, the episode crammed a ton of TV history into one half-hour, spoofing a number of classic shows, including “The Honeymooners” and its blustery main character, Ralph Kramden (the late Jackie Gleason).
This entire, incredibly rich episode was like a television history lesson, and it ought to put to rest, at least for now, rumblings from some critics lately that “The Simpsons” ought to be put out to pasture.
All we can say to that is this: Not yet, Fox — not yet.