The Simpsons Couch Gag That Was Filmed In London

M@
By M@ Last edited 12 months ago
The Simpsons Couch Gag That Was Filmed In London
A mock Homer Simpson stands in his drive

One episode of the Simpsons included a live-action sequence... and it was mostly shot in Outer London.

If you've never seen it before, watch this live-action recreation of the Simpson's opening theme. It is magnificent.

It's Springfield, but not as we know it. The recreation has some tellingly British touches. Marge drives a right-hand-drive car (a Lada, no less, once common in these parts). Meanwhile, the stand-in for Chief Wiggum is wearing a British police uniform. That's because this was an entirely British production. The near-perfect homage was shot at the end of 2005 as a clever promotional skit for Sky One, masterminded by London advertising agency Devilfish.

In this version of "reality" the Simpson family live in Orpington, south-east London (or Kent if you stubbornly adhere to the old ways). The scene where Homer gets out of his car to be almost mowed down by Marge was filmed on Lansdowne Avenue, an otherwise unremarkable residential street on the edge of Crofton Woods. This much was easily found by googling.

Other locations in the sequence require a bit of detective work. A reverse image search reveals that Homer has quite a commute each day, given that he apparently works in Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire. Didcot runs on natural gas, rather than the nuclear rods of the cartoon.

Billowing smoke from two cooling towers, as seen from above
Didcot Power Station, model for Springfield Power Plant

Meanwhile, the row of shops past which Bart skateboards are also a long way from Orpington. The telltale clue here is the side road, whose street name can just about be read as "The Run-...". The only street in London beginning with those letters is The Runway in Ruislip, and Street View confirms this as the location. The old car wash and tyres signs seen in the video are still in place.

A boy in an orange shirt skateboards through a high street. A policeman watches from a corner
Bart Simpson skateboards through South Ruislip

The other chief setting is Bart and Lisa's school. The handsome, if generic school building is a little hard to place, but is a dead ringer for the older buildings of Rooks Heath, just down the road from South Ruislip.  

In conclusion, then, the Simpsons live in Orpington, south-east London, but have daily commutes to Didcot near Oxford (Homer), and Ruislip/Eastcote in north-west London (Bart and Lisa).

A brown-brick school building
Bart and Lisa's school, which seems to be Rooks Heath in South Harrow

What started out as a Sky One advert also found its way into official Simpsons canon. The clip was re-used as the "couch gag" in the Ricky Gervais-penned episode Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife (2006). Sadly, it was only seen on the original airing, and has been switched out in streaming versions and later broadcasts.

Fans have long debated where the Simpsons' home town of Springfield is supposedly located (see my book Atlas of Imagined Places for one intriguing theory). Who'd have guessed it turns out to be in south-east England?

Last Updated 27 February 2023

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