Tuned In: 'Simpsons' branches out in 26th season

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It’s shaping up to be a busy fall in Springfield. Not only will “The Simpsons” feature the death of a regular character in its Sept. 28 season premiere, but also Homer and family will cross over to “Family Guy,” appearing in that show’s one-hour series premiere (also on Sept. 28). Then in November, an episode of “The Simpsons” will feature a “Futurama” crossover.

“The Simpsons,” already a mainstay in broadcast syndication, gets its first shot at cable syndication when episodes debut on FXX next month. Not bad for a television series entering its 26th season.

Reruns of “The Simpsons” will kick off on FXX with a 12-day marathon of all 552 episodes in chronological order, plus “The Simpsons Movie” (6 p.m. Aug. 29), beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 and concluding at midnight Sept. 1.

After that, “The Simpsons” will air regularly on FXX at multiple times each day along with a weekly eight-episode mini-marathon at 4 p.m. Sunday leading up to the show’s regular 8 p.m. Sunday airing on Fox.

But the bigger deal may be the creation of SimpsonsWorld.com, accessible on the Web and through the authenticated FXNow app and launching in October. FX is still working on deals with cable providers for authentication — Comcast already is signed up, Verizon’s FiOS TV is not yet — that will allow viewers access to every episode 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A demo showed the expansive power of the app, which allows access to scripts and exploration of Springfield’s characters, locations and the ability to curate playlists of favorite show clips and quotes.

“Basically with this, I think there’s no reason to do anything else,” said “Simpsons” executive producer Al Jean. “Just do this app 24 hours a day.”

Mr. Jean teased the 26th season premiere on Fox and who the victim might be in the episode titled “Clown in the Dumps.” (Uh-oh, could it be Krusty?)

“One character passes away in the show. The actor who plays the character won an Emmy for that portrayal, and it doesn't mean you couldn't see the flashback with the character in a future episode or a ghost,” Mr. Jean said.

As for the “Family Guy” crossover, it was written by the “Family Guy” writers with the blessing of Mr. Jean and “Simpsons” executive producers Jim Brooks and Matt Groening.

“They have one or two lines out of an hourlong episode that they asked us to tweak,” said “Family Guy” executive producer Rich Appel. “Other than that, they gave us free rein, and the cast was spectacular.”

(The “Family Guy” “Simpsons” episode also includes a cameo from Bob of “Bob’s Burgers.”)

So how much longer can “The Simpsons” go on? At this point Mr. Jean sees no end in sight.

“Well, we didn't get nominated for an Emmy this year,” he said. “As an obsessive compulsive, it was 19 years in a row, and I was, like, why not 24, thinking that for the rest of my life. I would say we've been so lucky to have such a great run. And, you know, I think it's going to go on for a while. The ratings are still good. We still enjoy doing it very much. The cast is still on board. So I don't know. I don't know when it will end.”

‘Fargo’ renewed

The best TV program of 2014, FX‘‍s “Fargo” miniseries, will get another season.

FX CEO John Landgraf announced writer Noah Hawley will write a new 10-episode “Fargo” miniseries featuring a new cast of characters in a different time period with a new "true crime" story.

None of the actors from the first season of “Fargo” will return. Unlike “American Horror Story,” which brings actors back in new roles year after year, Mr. Landgraf said that would not work for “Fargo.”

“‘‍Fargo’‍ demands a different level of realism no matter how unhinged and funny it is at times,” he said. “It is intended to be pretty real, and we didn’‍t feel we could reintroduce those actors as new characters.”

FX also renewed “Louie” for a seven-episode fifth season to air next spring.

NFL on CBS Thursday

CBS made a one-year deal with the NFL to air eight games on Thursday nights this fall, beginning Sept. 11 with the Steelers going against the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a deal that seems to be in the better interest of the NFL, which is trying to raise the profile of the NFL Network.

For weeks two through eight of the NFL season (and again on week 16), the games will be simulcast on NFL Network with the benefit of CBS’s on-air broadcast team. (For weeks 9-12 and 14-16, games will air on NFL Network and on local stations.)

CBS would clearly like the deal to go beyond one year, but at a CBS press conference Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke of the NFL’s goals.

“We wanted to take what we had started on the NFL Network, continue to grow the NFL Network, but really create a greater awareness of the NFL on Thursday night in a franchise that we all will be proud of,” he said. “We believe very much in the NFL Network as a strategic asset. I fully anticipate, going forward, that we’ll continue to have games on the NFL Network.”

Of course, that could derail CBS’s hopes for making a longer-term deal next year.

“It is our job to show the NFL what we can do and how great it’s going to be and how great the partnership is going to be,” said CBS president Leslie Moonves. “And we’re confident that at the end of the year, they're going to feel like CBS did a tremendous job. As Roger said, this is a building process. This is the first year. But we’re confident that after this year is over, they’ll sit down and, hopefully, give us a longer deal than that.”

A pregame show will begin at 6 p.m. on NFL Network and CBS will begin its pregame coverage at 7:30 p.m. Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher will be part of the broadcast team and unlike on Sunday games, Mr. Cowher will not be in the New York studio; he’ll travel to game locations weekly from New York, where he now makes his home.

“I’m almost having to work for a living now,” Mr. Cowher joked. “I’m looking forward to it. In the past we were only on-site for the Super Bowl.”

Mr. Cowher called the Thursday slate of games “the best they’ve ever had. Every game except one is a divisional game.”

As for his assessment of the Steelers going into a new season, Mr. Cowher sounded an optimistic note.

“I think they’ll be fine,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of speed and I think they’re developing their offensive line. The big key will be staying healthy.”

Channel surfing

Later this month PBS’s “Frontline” will air a 90-minute documentary, “Losing Iraq” (10 p.m. July 29, WQED-TV), about the political stories behind the Iraq War’s defining moments and how they may have led to the country’s current state. … “Good Morning America” weekend co-anchor Bianna Golodryga will depart for a gig with Yahoo! News. She’ll be replaced by ABC News correspondent Paula Faris. … “Teen Wolf” star Tyler Posey will host Fox’s “Teen Choice 2014” at 8 p.m. Aug. 10.

A portion of this column originally appeared online in the Tuned In Journal blog. Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Follow RobOwenTV at Twitter or on Facebook. You can reach Rob at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com.

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