Simpsons Character to Die Off

By Lynn Elber

© Associated Press, February 1, 2000.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Alas, poor Maude Flanders, we hardly knew her.

Maude, the wife of Homer Simpson's annoying do-good neighbor Ned Flanders, is rumored to be the character that dies in the Feb. 13 episode of ``The Simpsons.''

``We're in our 11th season and we're always looking for new ways to shake up the show a little and do something that might open up new story possibilities,'' the show's executive producer, Mike Scully, said Monday.

He wouldn't say Maude's demise is definite, adding that other possibilities include school principal Seymour Skinner and Moe the bartender, one of beer-guzzling Homer's best friends.

A dead giveaway, however, is the episode's title ``Alone Again, Natura-Diddly,'' a play on Ned's annoyingly chirpy overuse of the word ``diddly.''

What's more, Maggie Roswell, who provides Maude's voice, left the show because she tired of commuting from Denver to Los Angeles to record her lines.

The voices of Skinner and Moe are done, respectively, by series regulars Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria. The two actors also play a number of other characters on the series about Homer and Marge Simpson, their kids Bart, Lisa and Maggie and their wacky hometown.

If Maude is the one, her sacrifice might not be in vain. The episode airs during the February ``sweeps,'' a key ratings period used to help set advertising rates.

``We thought it would be interesting to show how the surviving characters cope with the death and maybe take them in a new direction,'' Scully said. ``Plus, it's sweeps. ''

The character won't be the first to die on ``The Simpsons.'' A gravestone will be shown in the upcoming death episode with the names of four others who have passed out of the series to cartoon heaven.

They include Bleeding Gums Murphy, the jazz musician who was Lisa's musical idol; family shrink Dr. Marvin Monroe; Beatrice Simmons, girlfriend to Grampa Simpson; and Frank ``Grimy'' Grimes, an unlucky co-worker of Homer's at the nuclear power plant.

``The Simpsons,'' created by Matt Groening, has been acclaimed as a brilliant, sophisticated satire on America and family life.

Since ``The Simpsons'' draws children as well as adult viewers, the show is taking the death seriously - to an extent.

``There was a lot of discussion about making sure we did deal with some of the emotional ramifications of the death and not just make it all joke, joke, joke,'' Scully said. ``But at the same time, we're a comedy, they're animated, they're not real.''

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Last updated on February 2, 2000 by Jouni Paakkinen (