"Simpsons" creator joins the Netflix wave


Next month, Matt Groening's "The Simpsons" starts its 30th season on Fox. Before that, however, Groening's "Disenchantment" starts its first year on Netflix. The show starts Aug. 17; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

LOS ANGELES -- For
30 years, Matt Groening's world has been at the core of the Fox
network.

His “Simpsons”
arrived when Fox barely existed. Bart was featured in promos for the
network; he was everything Fox wanted to be – young, clever,
audacious ... and just different.

And he's stayed.
“'The Simpsons is so much a part of the brand,” said Dana Walden,
the Fox programming chief. “There's been such an incredible halo
effect of that show.”

Now Groening is
ready to debut his new series, “Disenchantment” ... not on Fox,
but on Netflix.

Hey, join the crowd.
“We've signed deals with Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy ... and former
President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama,” said Cindy
Holland, the network programming chief. She also mentioned projects
ranging from Spike Lee to Jason Bateman.

Rhimes (“Grey's
Anatomy”) has been the top producer for ABC ... Murphy (“The
People v. O.J. Simpson) has been top for FX ... and Groening is the
symbol of Fox. Now he has a second home.

“I've always loved
fantasy storytelling, since I was a kid .... I keep sketchbooks and
they're full of characters,” he said. “I started drawing other
fantastic creatures that we couldn't do on 'The Simpsons.'”

So he molded them
into a show – a sort of fairy tale for grown-ups that's far from
“The Simpsons” turf. It centers on a princess and her opposite
friends.

“Bean is such an
anti-stereotypical princess,” said Abbi Jacobson, who voices her.
“She's flawed, she gets (messed) up and still has heart. And she
has Luci next to her, who's bad, Elfo next to her who's the good, and
... they're trying to find themselves.”

In their Netflix
home, they have some clear advantages, starting with time.

“On 'The Simpsons'
and 'Futurama,' we were constantly having to cut moments or jokes or
scenes to get down to 21 minutes,” said Josh Weinstein, a producer
on those shows and on the new one. “Now we have complete freedom.
(Episodes) vary from a 35-minute pilot down to 25 minutes and 30
seconds.”

That offers the
freedom to be leisurely, Groening said. “We think in terms of five
seconds. Like, 'Oh my gosh, we can take five seconds to have an
establishing shot.'”

But before
celebrating the rush to Netflix, two things should be noted:

-- The time crunch
on “Simpsons” wasn't such a bad thing. “One of the reasons why
'The Simpsons' is what it is,” Groening said, “is because of the
time constraints. Very high-velocity comedy that got faster and
faster ... became the 'Simpsons' style.”

-- And the whoosh of
attention came partly because Fox reached virtually every home. If
“Simpsons” had debuted on Netflix, Bart might never have become
an icon.

But he did, stirring
new generations ... including some of the “Disenchantment”
actors. Eric Andre, who voices Luci, was 5 when he started watching
“The Simpson.”

Groening and
Weinstein “shaped my world view with 'The Simpsons,' which was the
first piece of (craziness) on television,” Andre said. “These are
like my comedy fathers. My two dads.”

Jacobson figures she
was 8 or 9 when she became a “Simpsons” fan. “My brother and I
were obsessed with it,” she said. “I definitely feel like a lot
went over our heads, but in a great way. I love it.”

That can help comedy
evolve, Weinstein said. His own humor might have emerged from the
shallow depths of Scooby-Doo, but theirs started higher.

“They grew up
watching 'The Simpsons,'” he said. “So (they've) evolved past us.
They're actually funnier than we are.” And now they have extra
channels to use that humor on.

--
“Disenechantment,” debuts Aug. 17 on Netflix

-- Among the series
reaching Netflix this month: “All About the Washingtons,” a
comedy, debuted Aug. 10, with Rev Run and family. Coming are “The
Innocents” (teen shapeshifters) on Aug. 24 and the second season of
the acclaimed “Ozark” on Aug. 31.