Homer Simpson Lives!

Reports of the imminent demise of Homer Simpson and his beloved but dysfunctional cartoon family are grossly exaggerated.

That's according to the creator of the television show, cartoonist Matt Groening.

Not only are Bart, Homer and the gang from Springfield not down for the count, says Groening, fans can look forward to having "The Simpsons" to kick around for years and years to come despite what the headlines of the British press might be saying. "D'oh!" as Homer might exclaim.

Groening strongly denied a British newspaper report that he was planning to wind up the series shortly because it was getting harder and harder to find funny things to say.

Cowabunga, dude! That's not the case at all.

"I was misquoted and misunderstood. I don't want anyone to think I am predicting the demise of the Simpsons. They will live on with new adventures for years to come. As long as there are things to make fun of we will be around," said Groening, in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

The London Financial Times kicked off an international fuss when it quoted Groening on Tuesday as saying: "I think we are closer to winding it up ... Although what happens generally if we win the Emmy for best animation show is that that gives us another couple of years to run it into the ground.

"It becomes increasingly difficult as the years go by to keep on not only surprising the audience, but surprising
ourselves."

Groening said these were comments that he often made before but were taken out of context and misunderstood.

"I am always asked how much longer can this go on. I just said that given the fact the we just finished our 300th
episode, I would guess we are closer to the end of our life than the beginning. At the end of our 100th episode (one of our writers) said we were halfway home. Now we think the show will last, our ratings are better than ever."

Groening has earned millions for media baron Rupert Murdoch's Fox network since the series featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie first entered the lives of television viewers in 1989. In fact, he predicted that the Simpsons "will continue to make Rupert Murdoch even richer."

He added that he was not bored or unhappy with the program.

"After 300 episodes it is more difficult to remain true to the characters. We are trying to top ourselves after all those great shows and the shows are as good now as they have ever been."

TV Guide Magazine recently placed the animated show eighth on its list of the 50 greatest television shows of all time.

And it retains its ability to cause upset. When a recent episode depicted Rio de Janeiro as teeming with rats, monkeys and street crime, Brazilian tourist officials were outraged and the show's executive producer was forced to apologize.

By Arthur Spiegelman