“The Simpsons” Creator Matt Groening dismisses Apu controversy, as show surpasses “Gunsmoke” with 636th episode

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FOX(LOS ANGELES) -- This Sunday, The Simpsons clocks its 636th episode, which means it officially will surpass Gunsmoke by becoming the longest-running TV show of all time.

The achievement comes amid controversy regarding one of its oldest characters, but show creator Matt Groening thinks the flap is, to quote a Simpsons episode, "much Apu about nothing."

Comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary The Problem with Apu, which debuted on TruTV last November, criticized the cartoon’s representation of the Kwik-E-Mart owner for its negative, stereotypical depiction of South Asians -- and the fact that a white guy, Hank Azaria, voices him.

The Simpsons showrunners waited almost five months before addressing the controversy during an episode of the show in which Lisa Simpson notes, "something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect."

Azaria recently told Stephen Colbert that he'd be willing to "step aside" from the role.

So has Groening given any thought to Apu as a stereotype? "Not really," he tells the paper. "I'm proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended."

"When we first started, we were part of the downfall of civilization. Bart said he was 'an underachiever and proud of it, man.' Simpsons T-shirts were banned in grade schools. I felt that the controversy at the beginning of the show was, again, people pretending to be offended by Bart's very mild sassiness. I knew it would blow over."

The Simpsons airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox.

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