A number of television networks have temporarily stopped airing episodes of The Simpsons that poke fun of nuclear meltdowns.
German channel ProSieben, Swiss broadcaster SF and Austria's ORF have temporarily banned certain episodes of the long-running Fox series, which follows the lives of the Simpson family in Springfield.
Canadian channel OMNI Television has also pulled nuclear-related episodes off the air, the Toronto Star reported Monday, and the Comedy Network told the newspaper it has no plans to air two particular episodes any time soon.
'I think that is a topic for satire.' —Al Jean, Simpsons producer
The show's opening credits include a sequence in which bumbling father Homer, who works at the local nuclear power plant, drives home with a fuel rod in his pocket.
Jokes about a nuclear meltdown are common in the show.
Thus far, two episodes have been shelved:
- Episode 66, Marge Gets a Job, in which nuclear pioneers Marie and Pierre Curie die of radiation poisoning.
- Episode 346, On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister, in which jokes about a nuclear meltdown feature prominently.
Other episodes are reportedly also being considered for a temporary ban.
It would be inappropriate for the network to air the jokes at a time when nuclear fears are high following the earthquake and tsunami that hobbled Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, a spokesman for ORF said Monday.
Despite the ban, it's unlikely that the move will end up in the satirical show having fewer nuclear-related jokes in the long run.
"There is something that taps into people's view of big business, and in particular, nuclear power, which is giving profit-minded people complete control over life and death," Al Jean, one of the show's long-serving producers, said recently. "It is a scary thought, and I think that is a topic for satire."
In the show, the plant is owned by the greedy, conniving C. Montgomery Burns.
"Burns may be representative of some people in the nuclear industry — not just nuclear, but all industries — who seem like they're more interested in getting the money rather than doing what's safe," Jean said. "I think that's what resonates in the public."
Last week, European leaders pledged to put all reactors on the continent through a stress test to see if they are in good enough shape to withstand the multiple calamities that befell the Japanese plant. If any fail, they will be shuttered immediately, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed.
The Simpson family first appeared in sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, one year after the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine.