In the wake of the HBO documentary series Leaving Neverland, The Simpsons producers decided to pull the episode "Stark Raving Dad," which featured the family forming a friendship with a character voiced by Michael Jackson.
Leaving Neverland includes allegations of sexual assault by Jackson against minors, prompting a stark examination of the late singer's legacy. Producer James L. Brooks told the Wall Street Journal that pulling the episode was a logical decision in the wake of the allegations.
“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” said Brooks, adding that executive producers Al Jean and Matt Groening agreed. “The guys I work with — where we spend our lives arguing over jokes — were of one mind on this."
Variety reached out to Jean, who confirmed his alignment: "I agree with Jim, nothing else to add."
"This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain," Brooks told the WSJ. "I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter."
The Simpsons episode was popular among fans partly because of the intrigue surrounding Jackson's involvement. The role was uncredited, and the storyline surrounded a man in a mental hospital who insisted that he was indeed Michael Jackson despite looking nothing like the pop superstar. It became something of an urban legend until Groening confirmed Jackson recorded the dialogue in a recent interview. Jackson did not sing on the show because of contracts with his record label, but he didn't mind going uncredited.
"Stark Raving Dad" featured Homer meeting the Michael Jackson impersonator in the mental hospital, and he takes his new friend home when he gets out. The character strikes a bond with the children and helps Bart write a birthday song for his sister Lisa. The character admitted that he was not Jackson at the end of the episode and left the family's lives, further adding to the mystery.
Brooks said they will remove the episode from FXX's "Simpsons World" streaming section and from future home video releases, as well as taking it out of rotation for syndication. But the producer stressed that it will take time to make it happen.
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