While the recent HBO documentary Leaving Neverland has caused a conflict of opinions over whether Michael Jackson was in fact guilty of alleged child abuse, one thing it definitely has done is call to question whether accusations can have a direct impact on how people should regard his past works. It was widely reported after the documentary first aired that several radio stations across the world had removed the artist’s songs from their playlists and it now appears that The Simpson’s are following suit, with executive producer James L. Brooks confirming his decision to the Wall Street Journal that a classic episode of the long running animation series featuring Jackson will also be given the same treatment.
The episode, “Stark Raving Dad,” will be taken out of syndication and removed from FXX’s Simpsons World on-demand service and future reissues of the show’s DVD sets.
Explaining the decision Brooks had this to say; “It feels clearly the only choice to make. The guys I work with — where we spend our lives arguing over jokes — were of one mind on this… 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.”
When asked for additional comment by Variety, fellow producer Al Jean said, “I agree with Jim, nothing else to add.” Brooks concluded by saying, “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
The episode which was the premiere of season three featured Jackson, who voiced a character named Leon Kompowsky and originally aired on September 19h, 1991. In the episode, Jackson’s Leon claimed to be the real Michael Jackson who first meets Homer Simpson in a mental institution. Leon and Homer strike up a friendship which eventually ends up with Leon visiting the family’s home and helping Bart Simpson to write a special birthday song to celebrate his sister Lisa’s birthday. Jackson’s voice role was originally uncredited but was later confirmed by producers, after the singer was originally credited as John Jay Smith.
Ironically Jackson never actually sang the song as this was actually performed by a Jackson tribute singer named Kipp Lennon who mimicked Jackson’s voice on all of the episode’s songs. As for the episode’s complete removal from The Simpsons, Brooks said it will take time to completely scrub “Stark Raving Dad” from the airwaves and VOD platforms. The series is currently airing its 30th season on Fox.
Leaving Neverland, which aired in the UK on Channel 4 this week (who also co-produced it with HBO) has caused much debate and is available to view now on 4 On Demand.