Fox network execs are aware of the problem with Apu, but they’re not planning to tell The Simpsons creative team how to handle it. Speaking to reporters at the TV Critics Association summer press tour Thursday, Fox TV Group chair/CEO Dana Walden said the network “has had the conversation” with exec producer James L. Brooks regarding the recent wave of criticism of the show’s handling of the Apu character. “We’ve basically left it up to them” to decide how to move forward, Walden said. “They’ve treated the characters with so much respect. We trust them to handle it in a way that would be best for their show. Ultimately, we all decided that this is their decision.”
While it might be surprising a network exec would sound so hands-off, The Simpsons historically has operated with near-complete creative freedom, right down to contractual clauses limiting or preventing the network from giving notes to the producers. (There’s a reason The Simpsons has so freely taken shots at Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, as well as Fox News, over the years.) Still, Walden said she thinks the social-media criticism of Apu, and the show’s handling of complaints about it, is valuable. “It was good information for the creators to receive,” she said.