"The Simpsons" to clinch television record

Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:59pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fox said on Thursday it has ordered two more seasons of animated comedy "The Simpsons," ensuring the show that started in 1989 will surpass "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running prime-time U.S. television series.

"The Simpsons" will start its 21st season in the fall, after last year tying the longevity record of "Gunsmoke," which ended in 1975 after 20 seasons. Its second season in the two-year deal will come in 2010.

The cops and courts show "Law & Order" on network NBC has run for 19 prime-time seasons, starting in 1990.

"The Simpsons" has won 24 Emmy Awards and was already the longest running animated series on prime-time television in the United States. It was created by cartoon artist Matt Groening.

The Simpsons are a family of five made up of dull-witted father Homer, good-intentioned mom Marge and kids Bart and Lisa and Maggie, who all live in a town called Springfield that serves as a microcosm of the United States.

It has featured the voice work of major celebrities in guest starring roles, from Paul McCartney to Elizabeth Taylor, and it casts a comedic glance at weighty issues, including racial discrimination, world affairs and religion.

In 2007, "The Simpsons Movie" hit theaters and went on to make more than $527 million worldwide.

"Gunsmoke," a western about straight-shooting lawman Matt Dillon, began in 1955 during TV's black and white era, and later switched to color. Sam Peckinpah, who went on to make the 1969 western classic "The Wild Bunch," was among the many directors on "Gunsmoke," which starred James Arness as Dillon.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant)

<p>Homer and Bart Simpson characters of the television programme The Simpsons pose for film crews at the UK premiere of The Simpsons Movie at the O2, formally known as the Millennium Dome in London July 25, 2007. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>