Did you know that The Simpsons is still on? I know, it’s hard to believe. And honestly, it pains me to make that joke about a show that used to be one of the best on television, but whose longevity has come at the price of seriously diminishing returns. But tonight, for the first time since I sampled one of the Halloween specials and ran screaming into the night a couple of seasons back, I will be setting my DVR to record Fox’s ridiculously long-lived animated sitcom. The reason for that comes down to two names: Harlan Ellison and Stan Lee.
Yes, tonight’s Simpsons — entitled “Married to the Blob” — will feature cameos by both legendary speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison and Stan the Man himself. You can see a preview vid from The Hollywood Reporter below, with Ellison and Lee talking about their appearance in the show. For Lee it’s a return voyage, as he previously popped up in the 2002 episode “I Am Furious (Yellow).” Lee jokes, “I was here 12 years ago, and I think I impressed them so that after 12 years, they figured they had to have me back.” Both icons are playing themselves, and Ellison looks to be proving a good sport by poking fun at his often litigious reputation.
As you might expect from an episode guest starring two such notable geek celebs, “Married to the Blob” focuses on the notoriously unimpressable Comic Book Guy (voiced by Hank Azaria) and his attempts to find true love, in the form of a Japanese manga writer. Unfortunately, he’ll have to win over her dad before the two can tie the knot. Worst. Proposal. Ever.
“Married to the Blob” premieres tonight at 8/7c on Fox.
Rockne S. O’Bannon (January 12, 1955)
Even if all Rockne S. O’Bannon had accomplished in his career was to give us Farscape, that would still earn him an honored place in the science fiction pantheon. That brilliant Sci-Fi Channel series remains one of the best SF shows ever aired, and a show that inspires fanatic devotion to rival Firefly’s browncoats. Farscape might not have the instant name recognition of the Big Two (Stars Wars & Trek), but that just makes getting friends hooked on it all the more satisfying. So today, as Farscape creator Rockne S. O’Bannon celebrates a birthday, we here at GFR wish him a stupendous truly stupendous day.
Of course, even the most talented people can’t hit it out of the part every time, as evidenced by last year’s forgettable and regrettable CW series Cult, a holdover from the days of the WB that wasn’t improved by sitting on a shelf for six years. But even with the occasional swing-and-a-miss, O’Bannon has been a fixture in science fiction television for decades now, and shows no signs of settling into a quiet retirement anytime soon. His earliest TV credits were as a writer on the 1980s resurrection of The Twilight Zone — a hotbed of talented people that included Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski, the above-mentioned Harlan Ellison, Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin, Ray Bradbury, and more. From there he went on to pen the screenplay for Alien Nation, as well as helming the spinoff series and TV movies that followed. In the ‘90s he created SeaQuest DSV before eventually launching Farscape on the Sci-Fi Channel.
These days O’Bannon is still keeping busy, having developed and exec produced Syfy’s Defiance and then shifted over to an EP gig on NBC’s Revolution. In fact, his presence on that series is one of the things that keeps us coming back to that uneven and frustrating series. Here’s hoping his influence will steer the show well and true in the episodes to come.
Happy birthday, Rockne!