As far as early Simpsons episodes go, “Stark Raving Dad” is a landmark moment. Funny, fast-moving, and sentimental—sometimes nearly to a fault—it helped crystallize the show’s status as America’s premiere comedy series as it made the turn into its third season, an ascension underlined by the “anonymous” presence of its primary guest star: Pop legend Michael Jackson, voicing (but not singing for, as the story goes) gentle New Jersey bricklayer Leon Kompowsky, a man laboring under the delusion that he’s pop legend Michael Jackson.
Now, our culture’s apparently unending attempts to come to terms with Jackson’s life and legacy—currently exemplified in the lash, backlash, and counter backlash surrounding HBO’s Leaving Neverland, which tells the story of the young men who’ve continued to state that Jackson sexually abused them over multiple years—has reached Springfield at last. Following in the wake of radio stations pulling Jackson’s music off the air as the allegations against him have resurfaced, the show’s producers have said that they apparently intend to scrub the 1991 episode from the show’s legacy.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, the decision to remove the episode from Simpsons canon is apparently wide-ranging, affecting “streaming platforms, networks re-running the show, and forthcoming physical copies such as box sets.” James L. Brooks told The Wall Street Journal tonight that “It feels clearly the only choice to make. The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this.” Brooks reportedly made the decision with creator Matt Groening and long-time showrunner Al Jean, after all three men watched Leaving Neverland. Brooks’ tone, meanwhile, suggests that this decision isn’t a temporary one, or at least not one that’ll be easy for the show to go back in the near-future: “This was a treasured episode,” he told the WSJ. “There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain.”