Matt Damon is the catalyst for the hilarity in “Lost Verizon.” That’s the takeoff title for KABF15– the 15th episode in the 19th season of “The Simpsons.” The cast performed their table-read of the seg on the Fox lot this morning. When Nancy Cartwright (Bart) invited my grandson, Ryan Rosenblum, and I to attend this unique part of TV-making we gratefully accepted. It was a first for me (and Ryan). In my 60 years covering Hollywood, I’d never witnessed this integral part of the biz.
On the Fox lot, Nancy drove us to her parking space in front of the small building where the reading was to take place. Hank Azaria walked in with us. Like Nancy, he plays several characters on the show. Hank also read Matt Damon’s role since he isn’t needed until later in the month for the actual recording session.
The long table in the table-read room was surrounded by chairs for the eight actors (on the left side), while the writers, producers and their assistants sat to the right. Jim Brooks, Matt Groening and Al Jean sat in the middle with the writer of the episode, John Frink and exec producer Ian Maxtone-Graham, who ran the reading. Jean “keeps the show running on time and on budget” Nancy said with a smile.
Hugging the walls around the room were chairs for the invited guests, including the two of us. Other visitors included Danish and Australian youngsters from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In the entry room, bagels, rolls and various juices were on hand for all to enjoy. Each guest was given a copy of the script to follow along with the reading. The talk was happy and spirited– until Ian tapped loudly on the table. The silence was immediate and the reading began– and continued sans stop– to the final word, final laugh–and spirited applause. Everyone agreed the episode was a hit. But ultimately the writers would make that decision and the cast would get any changes– and return on Monday to record.
We thanked Nancy for her generosity and she drove us back to our car. We can’t wait to see (next year) what the “Simpsons” team will have created out of “Lost Verizon.” I wonder what Ronald Colman would have thought– 70 years ago– of Bart Simpson and Matt Damon?