|Country of origin United States|
Original network Fox
|No. of episodes 24|
|Original release September 19, 1991 (1991-09-19) – August 27, 1992 (1992-08-27)|
The Simpsons' third season originally aired on the Fox network between September 19, 1991 and August 27, 1992. The showrunners for the third production season were Al Jean and Mike Reiss who executive produced 22 episodes for the season, while two other episodes were produced by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon. An additional episode, "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", aired on August 27, 1992 after the official end of the third season and is included on the Season 3 DVD set. Season three won six Primetime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Voice-Over Performance" and also received a nomination for "Outstanding Animated Program" for the episode "Radio Bart". The complete season was released on DVD in Region 1 on August 26, 2003, Region 2 on October 6, 2003, and in Region 4 on October 22, 2003.
Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had written for The Simpsons since the start of the show, took over as showrunners this season. Their first episode as showrunners was "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" and they felt a lot of pressure about running the show. They also ran the following season and Jean would return as executive producer in season 13. There were two episodes, "Kamp Krusty" and "A Streetcar Named Marge", that were produced at the same time, but aired during season four as holdover episodes. Two episodes that aired during this season, "Stark Raving Dad" and "When Flanders Failed", were executive produced during the previous season by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Sam Simon.
Carlos Baeza and Jeffrey Lynch received their first directing credits this season. Alan Smart, an assistant director and layout artist, would receive his only directing credit. One-time writers from this season include Robert Cohen, Howard Gewirtz, Ken Levine and David Isaacs. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, who would later become executive producers, became a part of the writing staff to replace Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky both of whom had decided to leave the next season. The current arrangement of the theme song was introduced during this season.
A crossover episode with the live-action sitcom Thirtysomething, titled "Thirtysimpsons", was written by David Stern for this season, but was never produced because "never seemed to work". The crossover would involve Homer meeting a group of Yuppies and hanging out with them.
The season premiere episode was "Stark Raving Dad", which guest starred Michael Jackson as the speaking voice of Leon Kompowsky. One of Jackson's conditions for guest starring was that he voiced himself under a pseudonym. While he recorded the voice work for the character, all of his singing was performed by Kipp Lennon, because Jackson wanted to play a joke on his brothers. Michael Jackson's lines were recorded at a second session by Brooks. The January 30, 1992 rerun of the episode featured a brief alternate opening, which was written in response to a comment made by then-President of the United States George H. W. Bush. On January 27, 1992 Bush made a speech during his re-election campaign where he said, "We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons." The writers decided that they wanted to respond by adding a response to the next broadcast of The Simpsons, which was a rerun of "Stark Raving Dad" on January 30. The broadcast included a new tongue-in-cheek opening where they watch Bush's speech. Bart replies, "Hey, we're just like the Waltons. We're praying for an end to the Depression, too".
"Homer at the Bat" is the first episode in the series to feature a large supporting cast of guest stars. The idea was suggested by Sam Simon, who wanted an episode filled with real Major League Baseball players. They did manage to get nine players who agreed to guest star and they were recorded over a period of six months. Several new characters were introduced this season, including Lunchlady Doris, Fat Tony, Legs and Louie, Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, Lurleen Lumpkin, and Kirk and Luann Van Houten.
This season's production run (8F) was the last to be animated by Klasky Csupo, before the show's producers Gracie Films opted to switch domestic production of the series to Film Roman. Sharon Bernstein of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Gracie executives had been unhappy with the producer Csupo had assigned to The Simpsons and said the company also hoped to obtain better wages and working conditions for animators at Film Roman." Klasky Csupo co-founder Gábor Csupó had been "asked [by Gracie Films] if they could bring in their own producer [to oversee the animation production]," but declined, stating "they wanted to tell me how to run my business."
The season was critically acclaimed and remains popular among the show's fanbase. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly published a list of its 25 favorite episodes and placed "Homer at the Bat", "Flaming Moe's" and "Radio Bart" at 15th, 16th and 20th positions, respectively. IGN.com made a list of the best guest appearances in the show's history, and placed Aerosmith at 24, Spinal Tap at 18, the "Homer at the Bat" baseball players at 17, Jon Lovitz at eight, and Michael Jackson at number five. IGN would later name "Flaming Moe's" the best episode of the third season. Chris Turner, the author of the book Planet Simpson, believes that the third season marks the beginning of "the Golden Age" of The Simpsons and pinpoints "Homer at the Bat" as the first episode of the era.
1992 was The Simpsons' most successful year at the Primetime Emmy Awards, with the series receiving six Emmys, all for "Outstanding Voice-Over Performance", a category which is juried rather than competitive. The recipients were: Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson in "Separate Vocations"; Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson in "Lisa's Pony"; Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson in "I Married Marge"; Jackie Mason as Rabbi Hyman Krustofski in "Like Father, Like Clown"; Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson in "Lisa the Greek"; and Marcia Wallace as Edna Krabappel in "Bart the Lover". Mason is the only irregular guest star from the show to win an Emmy. The series received three other Emmy nominations: for "Outstanding Animated Program" with the episode "Radio Bart"; for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore)" (Alf Clausen) and "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special" (Brad Brock, Peter Cole, Anthony D'Amico, Gary Gegan), both for the episode "Treehouse of Horror II".
The series also won an Annie Award for Best Animated Television Production, an Environmental Media Award nomination for "Best Television Episodic Comedy" for the episode "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington", and a People's Choice Award nomination for "Favorite Series Among Young People".
The DVD boxset for season three was released by 20th Century Fox in the United States and Canada on August 26, 2003, eleven years after it had completed broadcast on television. As well as every episode from the season, the DVD release features bonus material including commentaries for every episode.