- - Monday, February 20, 2012

‘Simpsons’ marks 500th with Assange appearance

“The Simpsons” reached its landmark 500th episode Sunday, with an appearance from controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Members of America’s most famous dysfunctional cartoon family have played out their lives before a worldwide audience for more than two decades. The series has become the longest-running comedy in U.S. television history and in its 23rd season is currently the longest-running prime-time scripted show, Agence France-Presse reports.

In the 500th show, Homer and Marge discover Springfield residents are holding a secret meeting to kick them out of town, for all the trouble they’ve caused over the years.

After being sent into exile, the Simpsons arrange to meet with Mr. Assange in a bid to clear their names.

The show’s executive producer, Al Jean, acknowledged last month that Mr. Assange, who leaked massive amounts of sensitive diplomatic and military documents, was a controversial figure.

“There was discussion internally whether or not to have him on the show, but ultimately we went ahead and did it,” Mr. Jean said in Entertainment Weekly.

He added “there’s nothing we did that has anything to do with the legal situation that he’s in.”

Mr. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault, and he fears extradition to the United States for possible prosecution for the leaks.

“We wanted to make sure it was satirical, and he was willing to do that,” Mr. Jean added.

“Thanks for 500 shows,” the show said in a note attached to the end of Sunday’s episode. “All we ask is that you go out and get some fresh air before logging on the Internet and saying how much this sucked.”

“The Simpsons” has a history of including high-profile guest appearances, from Hollywood stars and musicians to politicians - including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair - and famously elusive figures such as novelist Thomas Pynchon and British graffiti artist Banksy.

Over the past 20 years, it has entered into the national and global consciousness as an icon of television entertainment.

It’s success has surprised even creator Matt Groening, the creative spark behind the family that lives in the shadow of a nuclear reactor, in a fictional town called Springfield.

“Audiences were ready again for a prime-time animated TV show,” he told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday on the eve of the 500th episode.

“We were the first out of the gate and, using a very conservative template of a family sitcom, found a way to tell jokes in many different styles,” he said.

“It’s really crazy that something so quirky is so popular, but whatever that mix is, it works.”

Lindsay Lohan to host ‘Saturday Night Live’ March 3

Lindsay Lohan’s comeback trail is leading her to “Saturday Night Live.”

NBC said the troubled actress, whose career in recent years has been upstaged by legal and personal problems, will serve as guest host of “SNL” on March 3, the Associated Press reports. The network said Sunday that the musical guest that night will be Jack White.

It will be Miss Lohan’s fourth turn as host of the late-night comedy show. She hosted in 2004, 2005 and 2006, before her career faltered. In recent years, she has mostly been in the public eye in connection with her multiple arrests and episodes of substance abuse. In December, she appeared in Playboy magazine in a mostly nude pictorial.

‘Colbert Report’ to resume production on original shows

After the show abruptly went dark last week, “The Colbert Report” was to resume production on Monday, a representative from the show confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter.

Tapings on Wednesday and Thursday were canceled at the last minute, with ticket holders invited to reapply for a future taping. Some fans were already lining up at the show’s Manhattan studio — and some were even in their seats — when Comedy Central sent an email Wednesday alerting ticket holders to the cancellation.

Stephen Colbert did not release an official reason for the sudden cancellation of tapings, but reports surfaced that said it was due to his 91-year-old mother’s ailing health. Comedy Central would only say that the tapings were canceled due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

On Friday, Mr. Colbert tweeted to his fans: “My family and I would like to thank everyone who has offered their thoughts and prayers. We are grateful and touched by your concern.”

This week’s guests include Robert Kagan, author of “The World America Made” on Tuesday and Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

‘Glee’ cast to forgo summer concert tour

There will not be a “Glee” concert tour this year.

After spending its past two summers on the road as part of “Glee Live! In Concert!,” the cast will instead receive a 2½-month hiatus, the Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.

“We currently have no plans of touring the cast this summer,” a spokesman for “Glee” studio 20th Century Fox Television said. Considering the series has yet to officially garner a fourth-season renewal, plans for future tours are unclear as the series takes things one year at a time.

In lieu of a full tour, “Glee” producers are eyeing a one-off benefit concert event that likely would take place in the fall at the Hollywood Bowl and serve as a fundraiser for its arts education charity “Glee” Give a Note. The goal is to raise $10 million this year. Negotiations for such an event have not begun.

Sources say “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy was instrumental in getting the cast - which often works 16-hour days filming scenes, recording songs and in dance rehearsals for the musical dramedy - the summer off.

Last year’s tour - which stopped in arenas across the U.S., Canada, England and Ireland - was the 16th-most-successful concert of 2011, grossing more than $40 million and finishing just behind Justin Bieber. All 40 dates sold out with total attendance topping 485,000, according to Billboard.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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