Unfair and unbalanced, maybe. But it was sure fun.
After tweaking Fox News not once but twice in the last two weeks, the brain trust behind The Simpsons are backing off the good-natured satirical jabs at its sister network that have provoked the ire of resident FNC curmudgeon Bill O'Reilly, among others.
But don't blame Rupert Murdoch.
After poking fun at its corporate handlers earlier this season with the infamous Banksy-animated opening depicting 20th Century Fox as a third world sweatshop, The Simpsons took on Fox News two weekends ago by flashing the biting helicopter slogan "Fox News: Not Racist, But #1 With Racists" in an episode titled "The Fool Monty."
That didn't amuse O'Reilly, who labeled the producers "pinheads" on his nightly talk show.
During last Sunday's broadcast, The Simpsons crew couldn't help but answer with yet another helicopter quip, this time a banner reading "Unsuitable for Viewers Under 75."
However while the gag ran on TV here in the States, it was left out of the episode when it aired abroad as well as online on Fox.com and Hulu.com, replaced with a joke about Homer and King Kong. That prompted rumors that corporate parent News Corp. may have issued an edict from on high to cease-and-desist.
According to Simpsons mastermind Al Jean such conspiracy talk however is just that—talk—and the reason that the joke was missing from foreign versions as well as the Web was simply due to the fact that it had been included so late in the production process.
"There's a lot of masters that go out," the producer told the New York Times, "so to save money we just put it in the one master that's for the U.S. and Canada. More money that will then go to Fox News and undoubtedly to Bill O'Reilly."
Jean added that neither he nor any other producer had ever been told by Murdoch and his cronies to dial back the jibes because both are cash cows.
"Both ends of it benefit the ultimate News Corp. agenda," he said. "We're happy to have a little feud with Bill O'Reilly. That's a very entertaining thing for us."