Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is among the luminaries who have already recorded their voices for guest roles on “The Simpsons” this season, executive producer Al Jean disclosed this week.
Reno is featured in an episode later in the season, Jean told reporters participating in a telephone news conference conducted to promote the 24th season premiere of “The Simpsons” this weekend (Sunday night at 8/7c on Fox).
“One [guest voice] that I’m really excited about,” Jean said, answering a question about future guest-stars, “is that they have a mock trial at Springfield Elementary presided over by Janet Reno, who plays herself, and Lisa’s always trying to curry favor with her.”
He also revealed that Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski (both of NBC’s “30 Rock”) and movie actor Edward Norton are also featured in separate episodes this season. (Reported previously: Steve Carell is also appearing as a guest voice this season.)
But first things first: This weekend’s season premiere has enough guest voices for an entire season of “The Simpsons” — an episode in which the Simpson family travels to New York City for only the second time in the show’s history. (The first was in 1997, in an episode in which much of the action took place on the plaza outside the Twin Towers destroyed in the terrorist attack four years later.)
The episode also has an eerie, and completely unplanned-for, connection to singer Andy Williams, who, by sheer coincidence, passed away on the day this news conference was held. We’ll explain what we mean here, in our list of the five things to know about the “Simpsons” season premiere (which we’ve seen, thanks to Fox) and beyond:
1) When you watch the season premiere, listen closely for the voices of: Ken Burns, Don Pardo, Natalie Portman, Sarah Silverman, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Hathaway, Al Roker and, most significantly, Zooey Deschanel. She’s the one bona fide guest star here — she plays a lost love of Bart’s, Mary Spuckler, who has moved to New York (the reason the family travels to the city). But pay close attention to Al Roker’s guest-voice appearance, as himself — it’s a riot.
2) “Moonshine River”: That’s the title of the episode — a take-off on “Moon River,” the song that became Andy Williams’ signature tune. The song isn’t actually heard in the episode, but the story does have echoes of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the 1961 movie in which “Moon River” was featured. “It [is] basically a ‘Moon River’ type story with … Bart looking up this old girlfriend,” said Jean, who made the remark before the news broke that Williams had died.
3) The show opens with a dig at Mitt Romney: It’s not the clip making the rounds in which Homer Simpson is seen voting for Romney. That clip is not seen in the season premiere, or any other episode, for that matter. Instead, it was produced as a standalone clip to promote the new season, Jean said. In the opening of Sunday’s show, though, a billboard is seen in Springfield that plays off of Romney’s investment company, Bain Capital, and “McBain,” the action-movie character played in “The Simpsons” by the fictional Rainier Wolfcastle. “McBain Capital,” says the billboard, with a photo of a gun-wielding McBain. “Consider this a hostile takeover!”
4) The episode contains a joke about New York’s destroyed World Trade Center: Is it “too soon” to joke about 9/11? Watch the show and judge for yourself. The “joke” is actually a remark from Bart about his father’s two least favorite buildings, stemming from his last, disastrous visit to New York City.
5) How long can “The Simpsons” continue? Jean noted that he and the show’s cast members all agreed to take 20 percent cuts in pay to keep the show going, as part of an overall 20-percent reduction in production costs mandated by Fox. As a result, Fox committed to this coming season — No. 24 — and another season, the 25th. After that, Jean’s not sure what will happen. “Well, the pickup was definitely open-ended,” he said. “Nobody ever said we’re going to stop the show after we produce these episodes [for seasons 24 and 25]. So, you know, at the beginning [of the show’s run] I was hoping for five years, much less 25. I wouldn’t even guess where [we’ll] end up.”
The 24th season premiere of “The Simpsons” airs Sunday night (Sept. 30) at 8/7c on Fox.