The Simpsons reaches its 500th episode on Sunday. As the opening credits of the episode describes it, it's "the most meaningless milestone of all!" That's not true of course; 500 episodes is a rather big deal for any show. What does Groening think of the milestone? Talking to The Los Angeles Times, he shared the writers' perspective on the show's benchmark episode.
"The one thing we pay attention to, we do keep track of our place against shows like 'Gunsmoke' and 'Lassie.' When we passed 'Ozzy and Harriet' it made us the longest-running sitcom. Now it's us and 'Lassie' is 588 and 'Gunsmoke' is 633 or something," Groening said, remarking that it was a long shot that the show would match Gunsmoke's record. "But you know, I don’t think back when 'Gunsmoke' did its 500th episode, I don’t think they made any kind of deal out of it."
And what of the 500th episode's special guest star, WikiLeaks figurehead Julian Assange? "I only talked to him over the phone and directed him via satellite," Groening recounted. "It's really getting into the land of James Bond."
Of course, The Simpsons has been a huge influence on television comedy, and Groening is the first to admit that. "You even watch live-action shows like '30 Rock' and those shows have been influenced by our pacing and style," he shared, referring to the show's shift to a faster pace in its early years.
Groening also confirmed that the show would return for at least two more seasons. "We're going to do 559 episodes but that's not necessarily the end," he said. You can read the full interview here.
The 500th episode, titled "At Last Long Leave," sees the Simpsons banished from Springfield by townspeople who are tired of putting up with their antics. The episode airs Sunday, February 19 on FOX as part of the channel's Animation Domination programming block.