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'Simpsons,' '24' eyeing merchandise push

The already dizzying array of merchandising related to “The Simpsons” is about to expand yet again, while another 20th Century Fox TV skein — critically-hailed “24”– is about to get its first big licensing push.

With the 2003 Licensing Show kicking off today in Gotham, Fox Licensing and Merchandising has lined up a slew of deals designed to increase the retail presence of both shows. New licensing partners include Vivendi Universal Games and THQ Entertainment for “The Simpsons,” and Comic Images and VIP Entertainment for “24.”

Not surprisingly, “The Simpsons” boasts a much larger list of new products, highlighted by a “Simpsons”-themed boardgame edition of “Jeopardy”; a VU-produced videogame dubbed “The Simpsons Hit & Run” for the Playstation2, XBox and Gamecube platforms; and a THQ-led wireless content service featuring “Simpsons”-themed text messaging services.

Christmas-themed merchandise includes the singing “Bah, Humbug Mr. Burns” and a “Christmas Caroling Bart” from Gemmy, which is also introducing a Krusty doll that belts out “Superfreak.” Applause is rolling out a talking Krusty the Vampire and a talking Holiday Marge (her hair lights up!)

Other new products include a Bart Chia Pet; “Simpsons” sour and mint candies; and a line of “Simpsons” medical scrubs. Really.

The new “24” merchandise, thankfully, is much more understated.

This fall, Comic Images will roll out the first-ever line of “24” trading cards. The 90 cards will feature characters from the first two seasons of the skein.

News Corp.-owned HarperEntertainment U.S. will also unveil a line of “24”-themed novels and books, while VIP has already launched an official “24” fan club.

Fox L&M exec VP Peter Byrne said the passionate nature of “24” fans should translate into strong consumer response. “The show has built an extremely loyal fan base who cannot get enough of the show,” he said.

No word yet on a Jack Bauer plush toy — though a “24” watch seems just a matter of time.

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