WASHINGTON — 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 in an interview this week.
Simon said the Fox Broadcasting Co. 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 with a bushel of cash 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 south of San Clemente.
"We don't have any Homers at our nuclear plant," said David Barron, a spokesman for San Onofre's owner, Southern California Edison, who accompanied the producers and writers.
Simon 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."
But the show will still feature jokes about what evil nuclear plant owner Montgomery Burns terms his "nuclear, nuclear family."
For example, plans call for Homer to avert a nuclear meltdown.
"He's kind of asleep at the wheel and wakes up when there's an alarm and doesn't know which button to press, so he goes eeney-meeney-miney-mo and hits a button and does avert a meltdown," Simon said. "He becomes a hero and feels guilty about it. It's not a politically charged episode."
And Homer is to begin a dinner grace: "Thank you for nuclear power, which has yet to cause a single fatality . . . at least in this country."
Simon said the producers had a practical reason for placing Homer at a power plant.
"It was really just for the joke that this boob had a position where he could possibly make a mistake and destroy the world," he said.