After 23 Years, 'Simpsons' Hits 500th Episode

The TV show The Simpsons is airing its 500th episode on Sunday. In its run, the show has aired more than 170 prime-time hours and had 23 seasons with hundreds of guest stars. Melissa Block and Robert Siegel offer a look back on the long-running animated series with insight from a few of the people who know it best: the writers.

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(SOUNDBITE OF TV THEME MUSIC, "THE SIMPSONS")

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The animated series "The Simpsons" will mark a rare milestone this Sunday, its 500th episode.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's now the third-longest-running scripted primetime show in TV history, behind just "Lassie" and "Gunsmoke."

SIEGEL: That's 23 seasons.

BLOCK: Roughly 11,000 minutes, not counting the ads.

SIEGEL: And a crowd of writers.

BLOCK: So we asked a few former writers for their stories of life on "The Simpsons."

MATT WARBURTON: I was of the generation of "Simpsons'" writers where I also grew up watching it. So you get used to talking like Mr. Burns and, you know, saying, mmm, donuts.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

DAN CASTELLANETA: (as Homer Simpson) Mmm, donuts.

GREG DANIELS: Well, I got to "The Simpsons" at the end of Season 4 and the beginning of Season 5. And I pretty much felt that the glory days were over and that I had missed the boat, and then it lasted another 20 years. So...

TOM MARTIN: Lightning just struck exactly right as far as the talent and the writers and the timing, and the lack of interference from the network.

JEFF MARTIN: Some of the episodes dealing with Rupert Murdoch, where I think his entry line was: I'm Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire tyrant.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

RUPERT MURDOCH: (as Himself) And this is my skybox.

HANK AZARIA: (as Chief Clancy Wiggum) If you're Rupert Murdoch, prove it.

(SOUNDBITE OF 20TH CENTURY FOX FANFARE)

CROWD: Hi, Rupert.

CASTELLANETA: (as Homer Simpson) Uh-oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

J. MARTIN: And since it was pretty much the show that had built the network, we could get away with stuff like that.

WARBURTON: I think one of the most memorable things that happened when I was there is we had Keith Richards and Mick Jagger come in to do this rock and roll episode.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

MICK JAGGER: Hello, campers.

KEITH RICHARDS: How you doing?

CASTELLANETA: (as Homer Simpson) Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

WARBURTON: And those guys have a very interesting relationship. They came in separately and they couldn't have been more different. Like, Mick Jagger, you know, he came in all business - did his lines, got out. The next day, we knew Keith Richards was coming in. And all he asked for was a two-liter bottle of orange drink and a bottle of vodka. And he showed up and he hung out for hours.

J. MARTIN: My favorite guest star was Johnny Carson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

CASTELLANETA: (as Krusty the Clown) Johnny, what you got for us? Some jokes, a little magic?

JOHNNY CARSON: Actually, I thought I'd lift this 1987 Buick Skylark over my head.

J. MARTIN: This was the year after he'd retired. He came in and he had us in the palm of his hand. He was the most charming man I've ever met in my life.

WARBURTON: And, you know, from that to having sort of you'd walk in to work one day and Stephen Hawking was there hanging out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

DR. STEPHEN HAWKING: (as Himself) Your theory of a donut-shaped universe is intriguing, Homer.

WARBURTON: It was like living inside Wikipedia.

BILL OAKLEY: It was always been my favorite show before I even worked there. And it's, you know, it's intimidating, it's liberating and rewarding. I wouldn't want to have missed the opportunity to work for that show.

J. MARTIN: If I had never worked at "The Simpsons," I think my kids would think I was completely un-cool, instead of just mostly un-cool.

SIEGEL: That's Jeff Martin, Matt Warburton, Bill Oakley, Tom Martin and Greg Daniels, all former writers for "The Simpsons," which airs its 500th episode this Sunday.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV THEME MUSIC, "THE SIMPSONS")

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