Last week, "The Simpsons" executive producer James L. Brooks announced that the show would be removing an episode featuring Michael Jackson following the release of "Leaving Neverland," a documentary that credibly accuses the pop icon of serial pedophilia.
Speaking with The Daily Beast, showrunner Al Jean agreed that removing the Michael Jackson episode was the proper call, saying the singer used it as means to "groom" little boys.
"It’s something I agree with completely," said Jean. "What saddens me is, if you watch that documentary—which I did, and several of us here did—and you watch that episode, honestly, it looks like the episode was used by Michael Jackson for something other than what we’d intended it. It wasn’t just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool."
The episode, "Stark Raving Dad," ran on Season 3 of the show and featured Michael Jackson as a mentally ill character named Leon Kompowsky who believes himself to be Michael Jackson. At one point, Kompowsky and Bart write a song together, "Happy Birthday Lisa," which was written by Jackson.
Al Jean said that the financial costs of cutting Jackson out of the show completely are worth it given the severity of the allegations brought against him.
"I lose a little bit of money financially, it’s not something that’s great personally to lose one of the most successful things I ever did, but I totally think it’s the right move," said Jean. "I don’t believe in going through and making judgments on every guest star and saying 'this one was bad, that one was bad,' but the episode itself has a false purpose, and that’s what I object to about it now."
When The Daily Beast asked about Michael Jackson's role in penning the song, "Happy Birthday Lisa," Al Jean did not elaborate further, noting that the episode viewed from the perspective of the documentary feels strange.
"I’d really not talk about it anymore because I don’t want to belabor it," he said. "It’s from the heart, on our part, and I think Jim [Brooks] put it really well. It’s not for any other reason that for what I just said, where if you watch the documentary and then you watch that episode, something’s amiss."
Al Jean said that an episode featuring the character Dr. Hibbert, a satire on Bill Cosby, will not be removed because Cosby did not voice the character, adding that not every guest star throughout the show's three-decade run lived a perfect life:
He was never voiced by Cosby. He wasn’t entirely a Cosby parody either, which is why I don’t think anybody looks at the character now and says “Oh, that’s Bill Cosby.” It’s a different thing. Nobody’s perfect, and other guest stars have been far from perfect, but this is the only episode where there was a point to the episode that was other than just having the guest star do a comic performance on the guest star’s part, which I didn’t realize at the time.
James L. Brooks told The Wall Street Journal last week that "Stark Raving Dad" was a "treasured episode" that was difficult to dismiss.
"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 said. "I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter."
Mashable reports that purging Jackson from the legacy of "The Simpsons" will take some time — for example, there are DVDs and streaming services — and will not happen immediately, though the process has begun.