“The Simpsons” begins its 24th season on FOX Sunday (Sept. 30), and the episode might evoke some nostalgia in long-time fans.
It’s called “Moonshine River,” and it involves Bart tracking down his lost love Mary Spuckler (Zooey Deschanel, reprising her role from Season 19’s “Apocalypse Cow”). Viewers will see several of Bart’s other girlfriends — and hear the voices of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Hathaway and others — and his search for Mary will take the family to New York for the first time since the great Season 9 episode “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.”
There will be a couple callbacks to that episode, executive producer Al Jean says, but for the most part the show wanted to cover different ground in returning to the Big Apple.
“The Khlav Kalash vendor makes a reappearance in this, and we see how much better he’s doing,” Jean says. “Since we did such a memorable New York episode, we wanted to do it only if we had a new story line. And it was basically doing a ‘Moon River’-type story with Zooey Deschanel and Bart looking up this old girlfriend.”
Jean says the episode hits some new Manhattan locations, including the High Line, and other places he hasn’t seen often on film before. “If we repeated something it would be to say, here’s what happened to that person,” he says. “Or if we don’t repeat it, in general with the show, we’re trying to cover new ground.”
So it appears that Homer’s history with the parking enforcement cops has been forgotten. “There is a funny thing where he gets his pocket picked,” Jean notes, “and he says, ‘I thought there was no more crime in this city, Giuliani.'”
Following Sunday’s episode is the 23rd “Treehouse of Horror,” the annual anthology of horror, science-fiction and generally odd tales that have nothing to do with the day-to-day life of Springfield. Jean says “Treehouse” offers a bit of a respite from the burden the “Simpsons” writers have not to repeat themselves.
“[With] ‘Treehouse,’ because it’s such a thriving genre, I think [it’s] a little easier to come up with ideas for,” he says. “Plus you don’t have to come up with a full story line. Thirdly, you’re often just saying, ‘I’m going to hop on the shoulders of this original great story that people are familiar with.’ Coming up with ideas and new story lines is definitely the hardest thing that we can do, and the most difficult aspect of the job now. But I would say with the ‘Treehouse,’ it’s actually easier.”
Jean also offered up a tease for next year’s “Treehouse of Horror,” which the show’s voice actors recently recorded. “It included a very violent world resembling Dr. Seuss’s and also the movie ‘Freaks,'” Jean says. So look for that in October 2013.
“The Simpsons” premieres at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX.