Celebs Bound for Springfield

By Josh Grossberg
1 hour, 5 minutes ago

No one knows for sure where the hell Springfield is, but we're guessing it must be pretty close to Hollywood.

After all, look at the latest batch of celebs set for guest shots on The Simpsons this season.

William H. Macy, Lily Tomlin, Ricky Gervais, Frances McDormand, Richard Dean Anderson, Rob Reiner and Michael York will drop by during the 17th season, which kicks off Sept. 11. Also coming back for more 'toon hijinks are previous guests Alec Baldwin, Kelsey Grammer and Joe Mantegna.

The season opener, titled "Bonfire of the Manatees," will find Homer in serious trouble after allowing Springfield's notorious Mafia don , Fat Tony (voiced once again by Mantegna), to use the Simpsons' living room to shoot a "gentlemen's film" to pay off a gambling debt. Having a cow, Marge runs away from the family to find herself and ends up meeting Caleb Thorn (Baldwin), a handsome marine biologist on a quest to save the endangered manatee--and Marge from her boorish hubby. Homer must figure out how to win back her affections. Baldwin previously appeared on the show as himself in 2002's episode "Gump Roast."

Meanwhile, fans will be treated to the first episode in three years featuring villainous Sideshow Bob (Grammer). When last he popped up in Springfield, Krusty the Clown's former sidekick was released from prison into the custody of the Simpsons to help Homer catch a would-be killer. When Bob finally decided to murder long-time nemesis Bart, he ultimately couldn't because he'd grown to like the kid.

And sure to please Patty and Selma will be the arrival of Richard Dean Anderson, who will undoubtedly use some of his MacGyver know-how to help the family out of yet another jam.

Other big names lending their voices to the show include Yankees' pitcher Randy Johnson, boxing champ Joe Frazier, former basketball star Dennis Rodman and NFL legend turned Fox Sports broadcaster Terry Bradshaw. The latter two will appear as themselves in The Simpsons annual "ghoultide" special, "The Simpsons Tree House of Horror XVI" airing in its traditional post-Halloween slot on Nov. 6.

While unveiling the roster of guest stars, Fox reps and show producers didn't immediately comment on Internet reports that Christina Aguilera turned down a Simpsons slot that would have had the "Dirrty" pop tart competing in an American Idol-esque show.

The Simpsons remains one of TV's biggest franchises, consistently ranking tops in the advertiser-friendly 18-48 demo in its Sunday time slot. With the broadcast of its 350th episode last season, The Simpsons, ranking behind only Ozzie & Harriet as the longest-running comedy series in TV history.

Even though series mastermind Matt Groening has occasionally suggested the show's end might be nigh, there's no sign of stopping.

After some protracted negotiations, Fox agreed to a new four-year deal with the show's six stars, giving each a raise to $250,000 per episode and keeping The Simpsons around for a potential 20th season.

And according to Fox reps, preproduction work is under way on a Simpsons animated movie, though no timetable for its release has been announced.

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