There will be no more three-eyed fish on "The Simpsons," whose producers say they're cooling their nuclear industry jokes after touring a real power plant.
But don't have a meltdown, Simpsons fans.The prime-time cartoon show will continue to rib the industry in its third season next year, but in a more responsible way, Executive Producer Sam Simon said.
Simon said the Fox program had been guilty of "cheap shots."
The U.S. Council for Energy Awareness, a nuclear industry group, told Simon in a February letter that the show "offended a lot of people in the energy industry."
"At a time when we should be concerned about where we'll get enough electricity to fuel our economy later in this decade, you are confusing and frightening your viewers by portraying nuclear power plant personnel as bungling idiots," the letter said.
Top "idiot" on the council's list was Homer, father of the Simpson family and an employee of the fictitious Springfield nuclear plant. Homer seems to care less about safety than about having enough tartar sauce for his fish sticks.
In various episodes, Homer gives away the plant's blueprints to a foreign exchange student, his boss tries to bribe a plant inspector and three-eyed "Blinky" is found swimming near the plant.
"I agree with you that in real life Homer Simpson would not be employed at a nuclear power plant. On the other hand, he probably wouldn't be employed anywhere," Simon said in a Feb. 5 letter to Carl Goldstein, a vice president of the energy group.
Simon suggested that he and other Fox executives tour a real nuclear power plant. In April, the group converged on the San Onofre plant in San Clemente, Calif., 40 miles south of Fox's Los Angeles offices.
"We don't have any Homers at our nuclear plant," said David Barron, a spokesman for San Onofre's owner, Southern California Edison.
Simon said the tour showed that "The Simpsons" had been right - and wrong - about nuclear power.
Although they did little initial research, he said the "Simpsons" creators seemed to accurately represent worker conditions - the cafeterias, lunch pails and radiation warning signs. The writers placed Homer in a "sector" to illustrate an impersonal bureaucracy, then discovered some plants actually used that term.
But Simon also said the tour also "changed a lot of people's minds. I think the facts are pretty powerful that it's a clean and safe and important source of energy. While some of the shows were in the works before, we really backed off that as a source of comedy. No more three-eyed fish."
The U.S. nuclear power industry has been sensitive about its image since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.