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‘Simpsons’ Character To Die Off

February 1, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A character on the ``The Simpsons″ is going to kick the cartoon bucket this month during the February sweeps period.

Maude Flanders, wife of do-good Simpson family neighbor Ned Flanders, is rumored to be the character that dies in the Feb. 13 episode, although the makers of the Fox animated series refused to confirm her passing.

Executive producer Mike Scully said Maude is among the possibilities. The others are school principal Seymour Skinner and Mo the bartender, a man close to beer-guzzling dad Homer Simpson’s heart.

``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,″ Scully said Monday.

The episode’s title, ``Alone Again, Natura-Diddly,″ is a dead giveaway. Ned Flanders, Maude’s husband, is known for his annoyingly chirpy overuse of the word ``diddly.″

The odds are further stacked against poor Maude. Meggie Roswell, the woman who provided the character’s voice, left the show because she tired of commuting from Denver to Los Angeles to record her lines.

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

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

If Maude is the one to go, her sacrifice would 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.

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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