With nearly 700 episodes under its belt, The Simpsons is one of the longest-running television series of all time. But while almost seemingly every idea possible has come to Springfield, some concepts never saw the light of day, like the never-produced episode “Simptasia”, an extended parody of Disney’s Fantasia.
But even beyond that one, there have been plenty of other ideas for episodes that the producers appreciated that never got made for a variety of reasons. But now, we’re taking a look back at some of the greatest episodes of The Simpsons that were never produced.
“Prince Comes to Springfield” would have been a sequel to the third-season episode “Stark Raving Dad.” In that episode, Homer was sent to a mental institute and befriended a large but friendly man named Leon Kompowsky. Kompowsky believed he was actually musical artist Michael Jackson. and the character was actually voiced by the singer. After briefly living with the Simpsons and helping Bart write a song for Lisa’s birthday, Leon returned to normalcy and left the house. The new episode would have been a part of the fifth season and was fully written by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk, with Conan O’Brien performing an uncredited rewrite.
The episode would have seen Leon return, this time believing he was actually Prince – voiced by Prince as Jackson had done before. Leon’s return would have seen him bring something of a sexual revolution to Springfield. Although the episode was fully written, attempts to have Prince sign on to the guest spot failed. As reported by Rolling Stone, The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean would later release snippets of the script on social media and revealed his belief that Prince “didn’t want to play second fiddle” to Michael Jackson, as he felt the script produced by The Simpsons writing team was too similar to Leon’s previous episode.
Writer Mike Reiss also spoke about the script in the commentary for the third season of the series, mentioning that Prince had actually had another draft produced by a friend. He’d even offered to create new music for the episode. The producers of the show weren’t as enthusiastic about the episode as Prince, which alienated the singer. Regardless of the exact reasoning, Leon Kompowsky never returned to Springfield – which may have been good in the long run, as “Stark Raving Dad” has been subsequently more-or-less removed from Simpsons canon due to the public controversies surrounding Michael Jackson and his legacy.
The Simpsons has courted controversy on plenty of occasions with episodes that deal with potential hot-button issues. Many of the episodes that take the family around the globe became somewhat infamous for their stereotypical portrayals of other cultures, while others have tackled subjects such as sexuality, religion and politics. But some episodes were never produced out of fear that The Simpsons wasn’t the right place to approach every serious subject. This was the case for “Homer vs. Dr. Hibbert on the Subject of Race,” which would have been a part of the seventh season. The episode was pitched by writer Greg Daniels, who thought the episode could allow the series to tackle questions about race.
This would have an interesting episode to see produced, especially since The Simpsons has been accused in the past of not being very representative of the real world. It would also presumably be a spotlight for Dr. Hibbert, who has rarely gotten the chance to be the chief subject of an episode. However, the episode never got the chance to actually be scripted, as the producers decided that The Simpsons wouldn’t be an appropriate place to tackle such a topic. However, when the idea for the episode was mentioned in a DVD commentary Daniels revealed that he didn’t even remember the pitch, and had to be reminded about it by former The Simpsons showrunner Bill Oakley.
Bill Oakley once shared a list of his favorite unproduced episodes of the series on social media, as reported by The Atlantic. “Homer Vs. Dr. Hibbert on the Issue of Race” and “Prince Comes to Springfield” were both among the top of the list, along with “Lisa the Scientopteran.” The title – which could be seen as an obvious reference to the Church of Scientology – suggests that Lisa would have tried to broaden her beliefs as she would eventually do with Buddhism and end up joining a religion that was at least a parody of the controversial organization.
Speaking about his favorite unproduced episodes during a Q&A on The Simpsons message board NoHomers, Oakley described an unnamed episode – likely referring to “Lisa the Scientopteran” – as “a hilarious and fully worked out the story by George Meyer.” There were two major reasons that the episode wasn’t produced: the potential legal ramifications of producing the episode, and the possible alienation of members of the staff and cast who would have felt “personally attacked” by the episode. The Church of Scientology is famously litigious, especially towards parodies, and one of the show’s core cast members, Nancy Cartwright — the voice of Bart and Nelson, among others — is a practicing Scientologist.
Seeking to avoid either potential fallout, the episode was scrapped. Coincidently, South Park would later produce an episode that targeted Scientology and some of it’s most famous members like Tom Cruise, titled “Trapped in the Closet.” The possibility of litigation was raised against South Park, and Issac Hayes — the voice of Chef — left the series. In the long run, it might have been better for The Simpsons to have never produced the episode – even if Oakley still remembers the script as hilarious. However, it’s possible some broad elements of the episode made their way into a separate episode by Steve O’Donnell, the ninth season episode “The Joy of Sect” – which saw almost the whole family be brainwashed by a more generalized, farcical idea of a cult.
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There are hundreds of Simpsons episodes, but some of the show's most fascinating stories never even made it to air.