It was announced last week that the episode of The Simpsons featuring the voice of Michael Jackson would be pulled from streaming and syndication, and showrunner Al Jean has expanded on the decision to pull the episode. In a panel at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Jean was asked about the situation, and he echoed producer James L. Brooks comments from last week that pulling the episode was the right thing to do. Jean, who wrote the episode, is also now questioning Jackson's insistence on voicing a character for the show, concerned about the possibility of the singer having an ulterior motive.
"It wasn't something that makes me happy. It's something I agree with completely. What saddens me is, if you watch that documentary-which I did, and several of us here did-and you watch that episode, honestly, it looks like the episode was used by Michael Jackson for something other than what we'd intended it. It wasn't just a comedy to him, it was something that was used as a tool. And I strongly believe that. I think it was part of what he used to groom boys. I really don't know, and I should be very careful because this is not something I know personally, but as far as what I think, that's what I think. And that makes me very, very sad."
The episode, titled Stark Raving Dad, begins with Homer Simpson being sent to an insane asylum after wearing a pink shirt to work. There, he meets an inmate who identifies himself as Michael Jackson. Though he looks nothing like the famous pop star, the prisoner is voiced by Jackson himself, and manages to convince Homer he's the real deal. The entire town of Springfield hears rumors that Jackson is in town, only to wind up disappointed upon finding out it's an inmate from the looney bin. For years, the highly-rated episode was considered one of the most beloved installments of the series, but considering the serious allegations against Jackson, it will be impossible for viewers to see it the same way.
In the closing moments of the episode, Bart Simpsons performs a birthday song for his sister with the help of "Michael Jackson." A twist at the end reveals that the man's real name is Leon Kompowsky, and he'd been intentionally speaking like Michael Jackson because using the voice made everyone around him happy. Hank Azaria voiced the character when he spoke with his regular voice. Although Jackson voiced the character during the speaking segments, it was actually impersonator Kipp Lennon who provided the singing portion. Another stipulation set by Jackson was that he go uncredited for the episode, and is credited under the pseudonym John Jay Smith.
The decision to pull "Stark Raving Dad" came just days after the new documentary Leaving Neverland had its premiere on HBO. The four-hour special explores the details of new allegations against Jackson, with two men who knew him as children claiming the singer sexually assaulted them. The reactions to the documentary are very divided, with strong opinions on both sides of the argument. While some are questioning the credibility of the accusers, others find the allegations deeply disturbing. Jackson's music is being pulled from many radio station catalogues in addition to his Simpsons episode getting axed.
"Stark Raving Dad" will never again be shown in syndication and likely pulled from any future home video releases as well. However, it is currently available on the third season DVD release of The Simpsons. Leaving Neverland is now streaming on HBO Go. Jean's words from the SXSW panel were transcribed by SlashFilm.