The Simpsons is about to pass Gunsmoke, the US Western drama series set in Dodge City, Kansas, with the most episodes of a scripted TV series on US prime time. Gunsmoke ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, with 635 episodes.
The Simpsons marked its 600th episode in October with the Treehouse of Horror Halloween special, as part of its 28th season. Fox has just commissioned two more seasons of the animated comedy that debuted in December 1989, after originating as shorts on the Tracey Ullman Show. The 29th and 30th season of the animated comedy will bring it to a grand total of 669 episodes.
The news comes as The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, appears in Sydney for two rare public talks at the Opera House. Friday night's talk received a standing ovation from fans, after Groening revealed his favourite parts of the show, created a Simpsons drawing on stage, revealed his hidden MG initials, then gave the drawing to a fan. He also read from his Life in Hell comics and answered the eternal question of why the Simpsons are yellow.
The audience received some useful advice, including "ignore the critics and do it yourself" and "pack up your toys...everything you love so your mum doesn't throw it out".
They in turn gave Groening a standing ovation in the sold-out Opera House concert hall.
Groening will talk again on Saturday afternoon, appearing with his longtime friend and "biggest inspiration", the cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry, best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek.
While the Simpsons episode set in Australia, Bart vs. Australia, was deliberately filled with stereotypes and misconceptions, Groening did some homework before coming here to face the locals in person.
"I decided I should become acquainted with some aspects of Australia that I don't know," he said, by reading his way through an impressive shopping list of Australian literature: My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, The Harp in the South by Ruth Park and its sequel, Poor Man's Orange.
"Oh my gosh, it's fantastic," he said of The Harp in the South. "I got this beat up, used copy of both books with somebody else's name in them, but it's so good."