“The Simpsons” episode featuring the voice of Michael Jackson is being pulled from rotation in the wake of the HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which features two men speaking at length about how the music icon allegedly sexually abused as them as young boys and teenagers. “Simpsons” executive producer James L. Brooks confirmed the decision to the Wall Street Journal. 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.
“It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Brooks told the Journal. “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.”
Jackson voiced a character named Leon Kompowsky in the episode, which aired September 19, 1991 as the show’s Season 3 premiere. In the episode, Jackson’s Leon claimed to be the real Michael Jackson and was taken home from a mental institution by Homer. Leon ends up helping Bart Simpson celebrate his sister Lisa’s birthday. Jackson’s voice role was originally uncredited but was later confirmed by producers.
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HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January before airing on the network in two parts on March 3 and March 4. The film has brought Jackson’s history of alleged child sex abuse back into the national spotlight. In addition to “The Simpsons” removing its Michael Jackson episode, several radio stations have also stopped playing the musician’s songs in the aftermath of the documentary.
As far as “The Simpsons,” Brooks said it will take time to completely scrub the Jackson-starring “Stark Raving Dad” from the airwaves and VOD platforms. The series is currently airing its 30th season on Fox.