Many fans might be tempted to put their binge-watching endurance skills to the ultimate test when FXX, the new cable TV home of The Simpsons, begins the mother of all marathons Thursday.But Al Jean, the show’s longtime executive producer and showrunner, is encouraging everyone to watch responsibly.“We at The Simpsons do not want anyone killing themselves watching the show,” he says.At 9 a.m., the network begins what it claims will be the longest-running marathon in television history, in which every episode of The Simpsons will be televised in chronological order.Given that the iconic animated comedy has been around for 25 seasons, dating to 1989, that’s a whopping 552 half-hours, plus the feature film of 2007 (which will air after episode 400). With episodes of The Simpsons running around the clock, this Homeric feat will take 12 days.That’s far beyond anyone’s ability to stay awake, no matter how captivating the subversive humor might be.“I binge-watch stuff, too,” Jean says. “If I’m behind on a series like 24, I watch a bunch in a row. But doctors say you shouldn’t go more than about two days without sleeping. So medically I would strongly urge you to get some sleep.“If you really must watch everything, I think you should record some of the episodes and watch later.”Now that Jean has issued the obligatory cover-your-behind disclaimer, here’s one of the reasons superfans won’t want to miss a minute, especially if they choose to make it a two-screen experience:“We’re going to be live-tweeting throughout,” Jean says. “Every time there’s an episode I wrote, I’ll try to get in on them. We’ve invited former writers and we’re asking guest stars who did the show if they’d like to tweet with the writers.“So we hope to have a discussion going on for the whole way and throw in interesting things people may not have heard.”Beyond what will be happening on the TV screen, FXX also is planning to launch “Simpsons World,” which promises to provide the ultimate Simpsons digital experience, in the coming months.The site (simpsonsworld.com) will give viewers instant on-demand access to every episode and will allow fans to connect with each other in a way they never have before.“When the app is fully up and running, which probably won’t be until early next year, you can get clips, you can send clips to your friends, you can take an assortment of clips and re-edit them,” Jean says.The executive producer, one of the original members of the writing staff and in charge since 1998, says it’s mind-boggling that the show will have so extensive a Web presence.“After all, we predate the Internet,” he says.Chronicling the misadventures of a not-so-typical middle class American family (Homer the dim-bulb breadwinner, Marge the housewife, bratty son Bart, brainy daughter Lisa and Maggie the baby), The Simpsons is the longest-running scripted show in television history.Named the “Best Show of the 20th Century” by Time magazine and the “Greatest American Sitcom” by Entertainment Weekly, it has won 31 Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.It also has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and been immortalized with five U.S. postal stamps designed by series creator Matt Groening. Homer’s exasperated catchphrase — “D’oh!” — became an official word in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001.“Everything that happens with this show at this point is beyond my comprehension,” Jean says.Those watching the early days of the marathon will notice almost immediate adjustments in the animation between Seasons 1 and 2 and denser, more complex storylines beginning around Season 4.Otherwise, the focus of the show today is fundamentally the same as it has always been.“We’re always just trying to write a show about family and trying to make it reflect the times that we live in, so we don’t approach it any differently,” Jean says. “The great thing about a family, wherever you are in that family, you have something to relate to, from the school experience to getting older.”After all these years of doing the show, mind you, Jean tends to relate to the “getting older” aspect more and more. “That’s why we’re doing 21 Grandpa episodes next season,” he jokes.Given that the characters don’t age and that family dynamics don’t change, there’s no knowing how much longer the show can continue to stay relevant.“It seems like saying another 25 years is hubris,” Jean says. “But to be realistic, our ratings are really good and the demos are very young. This show still has a lot of room to run.”
The Simpsons Marathon
• Begins 9 a.m. Thursday
10 classic ‘Simpsons’ episodes
1. “Cape Feare” (1993): Sideshow Bob escapes from prison to kill Bart. Unforgettable moment: Bob steps on a rake and gets smacked in the face, then again and again and again and again.
2. “Bart the Daredevil” (1990): Bart plans to jump Springfield Gorge on his skateboard, but it’s Homer who plunges to the bottom in a painfully funny sequence.
3. “Treehouse of Horror V” (1994): The best of the annual Halloween trilogies, opening with a send-up of The Shining and closing with a Soylent Green-esque school cafeteria nightmare.
4. “Marge Vs. the Monorail” (1993): Springfield residents invest in an unnecessary monorail. Unforgettable moment: In a send-up to The Music Man, salesman Lyle Lanley casts his musical spell over the town.
5. “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” (1997): A new character, a dog with attitude, is added to bolster the sagging ratings of The Itchy & Scratchy Show — and Homer voices the character.
6. “Bart Gets an ‘F’ ” (1990): While everybody else is enjoying a “snow day,” Bart crams for an exam so he won’t have to repeat the fourth grade.
7. “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” (1995): Mr. Burns plans to make a tuxedo out of Santa’s Little Helper’s puppies. Unforgettable moment: Mr. Burns’ musical rendition of See My Vest.
8. “Mr. Plow” (1992): Homer and Barney start rival snow plow companies. Unforgettably bad commercial jingle: “Call Mr. Plow, that’s my name, that name again is Mr. Plow!”
9. “A Fish Called Selma” (1996): Washed-up actor Troy McClure romances Marge’s sister. Unforgettable moment: Troy in the Charlton Heston role in the musical Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off.
10. “Who Shot Mr. Burns” (two-parter, 1994-95 season finale and 1995-96 premiere): Patterned after the classic “Who Shot J.R.?” Dallas episode.
— David Martindale