LOS ANGELES -- What do Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy and Linda Ronstadt have in common?
They'll all make guest appearances on "The Simpsons" this season, says Al Jean, who has ascended to executive producer on the animated Fox comedy series.
Besides appropriately nutty visitations from the likes of Mr. Hope and Mr. Nimoy, Mr. Jean revealed a couple of other "Simpsons" developments during a brief interview this week.
Bart actually gets a girlfriend in one episode, with "Roseanne" star Sara Gilbert supplying the gal pal's voice, Mr. Jean said.
Also, baby Maggie talks for the first time, though Mr. Jean declined to identify her debut blurt.
In another episode, Marge Simpson takes a job at the Springfield nuclear plant where Homer works. And in a bit of merry prankster parody, "The Simpsons" will offer a satiric send-up of "Saturday Night Live."
With "The Simpsons" the anchor of Fox's Thursday night lineup, the network has ordered 25 episodes this season.
"It's extremely difficult to do that many," Mr. Jean said. "We're working all year."
By comparison, Nickelodeon's cult sensation "The Ren & Stimpy Show" is producing only 13 new episodes for the upcoming fall season. Animation just takes longer, so the pressure to meet deadlines can become rather intense.
Meanwhile, a friendly little rivalry seems to be brewing between television's two most creative and inspired cartoon shows.
Both "The Simpsons" and "Ren & Stimpy" are vying for an Emmy in the animation category, an award won for the last two years by Bart's cockeyed family.
"They're maybe a little more outrageous than we are," Mr. Jean said.
Penn Jillette, the mouthy, raucous half of the comic magician duo Penn and Teller, credits the Three Stooges as his primal childhood artistic influence.
Mr. Jillette spoke of his fondness for Larry, Curly and Moe during a press conference to promote "Behind the Scenes," a new PBS series aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds that will explore the creative and artistic process.
"The Three Stooges taught me the most important lesson a kid could learn, which is the difference between fantasy and reality," Mr. Jillette said. "They taught about a kind of friendship that lived outside of society.
"And they also taught me by the age of 4 or 6 that you could do wonderful violence in art, and it didn't have to spill into life at all. Which has been an important crusade of ours. I've never hit anyone in my life, nor has Teller. And yet we do violent art."
Public television station WGBH ("Frontline," "Masterpiece Theatre") in Boston has been given the go-ahead to develop two new PBS series. "The People's Century" is a 26-part examination of the major events and epochal changes that shaped the 20th century, from movies to satellite television and from the women's suffrage movement to the pill, with a heavy focus on the empowerment of ordinary people.
"The Rock 'n' Roll Project" is the other WGBH series in the works for PBS. It is a roots-intensive, 10-hour history of rock music that will examine how rock's "many tributaries -- soul, blues, punk, reggae and rap -- converge and connect."