LeVar Burton, Mr. Cultural Touchstone. Off-Ramp for December 8, 2012

Simpsons' Creator Matt Groening on Huell Howser's retirement

Howell Huser

The Simpsons

Howell Huser — an on-screen parody of Huell Howser — made his first appearance on the Simpsons in 2005. In 2009, the real life TV host appeared on the show, this time as himself.

Just last month, public TV host Huell Howser announced his retirement. You and I know him as the man who loves California more than any other TV personality. But did you know Matt Groening--the man who created The Simpsons--is one of Huell's biggest fans? In fact, he's had Huell on the show twice. Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson talked with Groening to hear more.

Matt Groening doesn't remember when he first saw Huell Howser. But the Portland-born, proud adopted son of California says it's always been a part of his TV watching since he moved to California. "Any time I come across an episode, I have to watch," said Groening.

Groening — who has TiVoed his favorite California's Gold episodes — says his favorite Huell moment is from an obscure episode about a giant catfish. "He follows a guy who bought a tiny fish at an aquarium store, and the fish grew way too big for his tank," said Groening. "And he finally, at the end of the show, donates this fish — which grew up be kind of a giant catfish — to the Self Realization Fellowship."

Groening said was so touched by the episode, he said, he's gone repeatedly to the garden to see the fish with his own eyes. 

Behind the scenes at the Simpsons, Groening said, Huell enjoys the respect of the show's entire writing staff. In 2005, an effervescent, twang-y TV host named Howell Huser appeared on the show  and name Springfield the "Worst Town Ever." The real life Huell was so delighted by the homage, he later played himself in a 2009 episode. 

Groening is a fan of Howser because of his optimism, of course; that Howser can get genuinely and completely enthused by an artichoke festival. He loves the show's production requres minimal editing and even fewer cuts--a refeshing change. But most of all, said Groening, Huell is an irreplaceable California icon: "He's beloved. And people like to say that, 'yeah, he's beloved.' But he's even more beloved than that."

Watch Homer Simpson give a brief tribute to Huell Howser for his 25 years with KCET:


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