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The Simpsons' Krusty The Clown Series You Never Got To See

The Simpsons has been on the air for longer than many of you reading this have been alive, and with that kind of history, there's bound to be volumes of forgotten lore. Creator Matt Groening is no one-trick pony; he also created Futurama, which is equally (if not more) highly regarded than The Simpsons, and the Netflix series Disenchanted, both of which bear his distinct animation style.

But if Groening had gotten his way, The Simpsons would have received a proper spin-off or two (beyond the classic season 8 episode "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase," that is). Looper recently dug up an interview with Groening from all the way back in 1999, in which he filled in Entertainment Weekly on the details of the Simpsons offshoot that came the closest to fruition: a live-action — that's right, live-action — series centered on Herschel Krustofsky, AKA Krusty the Clown.

Krusty has been one of The Simpsons' most reliable supporting characters, with his terrible habits and irresponsible nature often serving as the catalyst for Bart and/or Lisa to get drawn into some zany scheme to help him out. Interestingly, the character was designed to bear a strong resemblance to Homer Simpson for an unexpected reason: it was the Simpsons writers' original plan to reveal that Homer and Krusty were actually the same person. This idea was eventually dropped for the simple fact that it would have been too complicated to pull off, but now that you know it, good luck unseeing it. 

Krusty is even voiced by Dan Castellaneta, who also performs the voice of Homer (as well as Grandpa Simpson, Sideshow Mel, Barney Gumble, and a host of others). Groening's idea for the Krusty series, which he began kicking around in 1994, would have put Castellenata front and center in the lead role. If it had come to pass, it would have constituted an unprecedented feat: spinning off a live-action series from an animated one.

"I thought it would be so cool to do a live-action spin-off from a cartoon," Groening remarked. "I wrote a pilot script in which Krusty moves to L.A. and gets his own talk show. We had this running joke in the script that Krusty was living in a house on stilts, and there were beavers gnawing their way through the stilts."

Amazingly, Groening explained that the odd running gag — which seems like it should have been fairly easy to just dispense with — became a major sticking point in the show's development. "Somebody at the network pointed out how expensive it was to hire trained beavers — and an equally prohibitive cost would be to get mechanical beavers — so I said, 'If we animated this, we wouldn't be having this discussion.'"

Groening must have really had his heart set on including the beaver gag, because at that point, the series' concept indeed shifted from live-action to animation. Unfortunately, contract negotiations with Fox hit a wall, and Groening was forced to scrap the idea altogether. There's a silver lining to the story, however: it was shortly after the Krusty series died its unceremonious death that the creator began developing Futurama. Let's be frank: if there exists an alternate universe in which Krusty the Clown got picked up and ran for 16 seasons, but the blindingly brilliant Futurama never existed, we wouldn't want to so much as visit.

The Krusty spin-off wasn't the only one to ever be considered. Former Simpsons showrunner Josh Weinstein revealed to Digital Spy that the classic seventh-season episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" nearly spawned a spin-off of its own, which might have been titled simply Springfield. Much as the Simpsons episode did, the series would have focused on smaller ancillary characters in the Simpsons' hometown, giving minor yet beloved Springfield residents (Disco Stu, anyone?) their time in the spotlight. 

"We felt at that time — around season 7 — that we all knew the family so well, so let's start exploring all these great side-characters," Weinstein remembered. "["22 Short Films About Springfield"] was a great episode and that actually spurred an idea that never came to reality... It would be a chance to tell full stories about these other characters, but that never happened. I think it could've been great, but everyone was so busy at the time."

Yet more Simpsons spin-offs have been discussed over the years, mainly in the feature film arena. The fourth-season episode "Kamp Krusty" was suggested by producer James L. Brooks as a possible candidate for adaptation to the big screen in the early '90s, but his suggestion was shot down by then-showrunner Al Jean for two reasons. First, "Kamp Krusty" was that season's premiere, and the production staff had no time to prep a substitute should it be pulled. Second, Jean found the episode to be too light on content to be seriously considered for a feature film treatment. (On the DVD commentary for "Kamp Krusty," Jean remembers asking Brooks, "If we can't make 18 minutes out of this episode, how are we supposed to make 80?")

Groening has also long expressed his desire to produce a Simpsons parody of the Disney animated classic Fantasia (which would have been titled Simpstasia, of course.) But perhaps the most intriguing project that might have been: a live-action feature centered on Troy McClure, who you may remember from such public service videos as Designated Drivers: The Lifesaving Nerds and such educational films as Lead Paint: Delicious but Deadly.

Before his untimely death in 1998, McClure's voice actor — the legendary Phil Hartman — had lobbied hard to star in such a feature, and Groening and the entire Simpsons writing staff were fully on board. Hartman's passing put a definitive end to the plan, and out of respect for his legacy, the character of McClure — as well as bumbling attorney Lionel Hutz, also voiced by Hartman — were retired.

It's kind of sad to think about these lost opportunities for Simpsons-based hilarity, but it's not like the series' fans will ever be hurting; the show will run for at least 32 seasons, and every one of its hundreds of episodes will have a home on streamer Disney+, probably until the end of time. Heck, we even squeezed 2007's The Simpsons Movie out of the show's overworked staff — an underrated flick, if you ask us, and one that needs a sequel.