There was plenty of joking around during Wednesday’s TCA summer press tour panel for Fox Animation Domination Sundays and its two newest entries: Bless the Harts and Duncanville.
And yet, a giant yellow shadow loomed over the session. It was cast by the biggest animated series ever aired in primetime, a show Fox entertainment chief Charlie Collier called the “Mount Rushmore of animation”: The Simpsons.
“We’re putting you guys after The Simpsons, so you’d better bring it,” Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn quipped during the panel. Continuing in a more serious vein, he said, “One of the benefits of our platform is, we get to launch shows behind and next to some of the most acclaimed shows of all time. … We all feel the pressure of these iconic series but at the same time, speaking as a programmer, it’s a lot of fun.”
Amy Poehler, co-creator, writer and executive producer of Duncanville, said The Simpsons occupies a special place for her and her pre-teen children. The series “was one of the first shows we watched together and laughed at the same things for the same reasons,” she said, dryly adding, “They like a lot of things that I don’t think are funny.”
Ike Barinholtz, one of the voice actors on Duncanville, responded to Poehler, “You mean you don’t like unboxing videos?!”
Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are executive producers of Bless the Harts, joked that it would be a “cage match” between the new shows and The Simpsons. Lord recalled bonding with Miller after the latter had VHS tapes of the show flown to the Dartmouth College campus, whose Hanover, NH, setting lacked a Fox TV affiliate.
Asked about joining Fox’s “Animation Domination” Sunday lineup, Lord said the idiosyncrasies of the show’s characters would be a good fit there. Things on the show “feel like super-specific experiences,” he said. “They belong on a night that’s all about specificity.”
Asked about balancing their film work with TV opportunities, Miller said sides need not be taken. “The line between film and television is so blurred,” he said.
In keeping with the team approach to the Fox animated block, Poehler praised Bless the Harts creator and executive producer Emily Spivey, a frequent collaborator and longtime writer on Saturday Night Live. “Almost everything I did [on SNL] in terms of character was written by Emily,” she said, noting the two had the same first day on the NBC sketch show, September 10, 2001.
“Animation is so fun” compared with sketch or other work, she said. “Nothing is too big and everything can be really out there.”