The Simpsons has been going strong for more than 30 seasons. Amazingly, there has never been a spin-off from the long-running animated series. But at the height of the show's popularity in the mid-90s, one almost happened. Or, at the very least, it was discussed by those in control of the show. And it would have come about as a result of one of the show's most famous episodes. The episode that gave us Steamed Hams.
Recently, members of the creative team from The Simpsons were interviewed to memorialize the episode titled 22 Short Films About Springfield for its 25th anniversary. Specifically, to discuss the legacy of Steamed Hams, which has become one of the most well-known bits in the show's history. It turns out, long before the internet took Skinner and Chalmers' famed bit and turned it into internet gold, creator Matt Groening wanted to use this episode as a springboard for a spin-off series. Showrunner Al Jean, former writer/showrunner Bill Oakley and former writer/showrunner Josh Weinstein said the following.
Al Jean: I believe Matt [Groening] wanted to use the episode as the basis of a spinoff for the secondary characters in the show, but we weren't able to get that off the ground.
Bill Oakley: It was going to be called "Springfield." And it wasn't going to be just about the minor characters, there would be other things that were outside the normal Springfield universe. And the episodes would be free-form.
Josh Weinstein: Each episode would have been a side character not involving the Simpsons. We never knew exactly why, but I think at the time [executive producer] James [L. Brooks] didn't go for it.
22 Short Films About Springfield aired during season 7. This was arguably at a time when the show was at its peak of perceived quality and popularity. It's tough to imagine Fox not being interested in a spin-off. Though it seems, based on what is being recalled here, that James L. Brooks wasn't into the idea. In any event, this exists alongside every other intriguing project that never got made in Hollywood and now lives in the land of "What if?"
At the time, it certainly would have been difficult to anticipate that The Simpsons would run for an astonishing 34 seasons. Since Fox recently renewed the show, it will go on for at least that long. That being the case, many of these characters not related to the Simpson family have certainly had more screen time over the years than anyone could have imagined back in 1996. Any ideas that could have been utilized in a spin-off may have bled into the show naturally by now.
A spin-off is still in the cards though. Back in August 2019 at D23, shortly after the Disney/Fox merger went into effect, it was revealed that Disney was discussing ideas for a possible spin-off. The specific ideas weren't discussed at the time and we haven't heard anything about it since. This news comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter.