When The Simpsons was good, it was very good.
The first few seasons produced a number of memorable episodes, from Phil Hartman’s turn as Lyle Lanley in ‘Marge vs The Monorail’ to Albert Brooks’ iconic character Hank Scorpio in ‘You Only Move Twice’.
In fact, the show was so good during the ‘golden era’ that episodes had to cut scenes which would, on their own, be head and shoulders above anything in recent seasons.
It’s rare we find out about such scenes in any great depth, but former showrunner Josh Weinstein has shared the entirety of a segment cut from ‘22 Short Films About Springfield’, an episode perhaps best known for its ‘steamed hams’ storyline involving Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers.
The Season 7 episode ultimately featured 18 ‘short films’, or 19 if you include the segment which Professor Frink attempts to introduce as the closing credits roll.
However, Weinstein, whose last episode aired in Season 9 and who is now an executive producer on The Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s upcoming show Disenchantment, has revealed there was one scene which didn’t quite make the final version.
It involved Lionel Hutz, one of the fan-favourite characters portrayed by Hartman before the actor’s untimely death in 1998.
Hutz does appear briefly in the episode, but earlier drafts gave the lawyer his own mini-storyline.
Weinstein hasn’t specifically explained why the scene was cut. It could be that it painted Hutz as more cynical than incompetent, but equally there’s every chance it missed out purely because the rest of the episode was so strong.
Hartman’s voice wasn’t completely absent, either – he voiced the chairman of the hospital review board before whom Dr Nick Riviera appears.
It is, of course, not the first time this year a deleted scene from The Simpsons has come to light,
A few months ago, we learned of a scene involving Kirk van Houten which was as funny as it was bleak, but which ultimately didn’t make it into the episode ‘A Milhouse Divided’.
It’s fairly uncontroversial to say The Simpsons has been going downhill for some time, and the departure of composer Alf Clausen may ultimately accelerate the decline, but it’s nice to remember the good old days from time to time.