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‘Simpsons,’ ‘Hill’ HD Upgrade on Hold

Feb 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Despite a recent HD airing of “King of the Hill” that excited fans, Fox has no immediate plans to upgrade the production of its Sunday night animated comedies due to an aspect ratio dispute with producers.
On Jan. 28, Fox aired an episode of “Hill” in HD, but the show was still formatted in the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio of the standard-definition regular series. The airing caused a debate among fans online, who argued about whether the episode was really in HD or not—and, if so, whether “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” would be the next HD converts.
The next week, Feb. 4, Fox pulled the comedies off the schedule to avoid competition with the Super Bowl. Last Sunday, the comedy lineup returned with new episodes — but all were in standard definition, causing further confusion.
Though a Fox spokesman had no comment regarding the mysterious airing, sources confirmed that “King” was indeed in high definition. The rest of the current-season episodes are scheduled to air in standard definition, however, with no firm plans to convert the popular animated block to HD.
Producers and the network agree that the shows should—and will—eventually be upgraded to the format once the aspect ratio issue is settled.
Producers are fond of 4:3, which allows them to retain their current background and direction compositions. One source said that of all the various TV genres that have upgraded to HD—news, sports, dramas, reality—switching to a 16:9 frame is most “creatively disruptive” to animation.
The network favors the wider 16:9 that’s traditionally associated with HDTV and fills the screen of an HD set. Fox is concerned that continuing in 4:3 will impact DVD and syndication sales as HDTVs become the norm, akin to trying to sell black-and-white programs after the advent of color TV.
Either way, fans will have to wait a while for any new HD episodes. The animated series have a production cycle up to 42 weeks long.
Fox has a long history negotiating aspect ratio issues. The studio introduced the first popular widescreen cinema format, called CinemaScope, in 1953 to help its theatrical films compete with television.

73 Comments

  1. And yet, tonights episode of The Simpsons was broadcast in HD. Shows what you know. 🙂

  2. Oh, my bad. This was apparently exactly two years old news. *ahem*

  3. Seems silly that they have held off on moving to 16:9 for so long. It seems that the US is the only place still making stuff in 4:3 – half of the crap daytime shows out of the states seem to be stuck in the pre-90’s aspect ratio.

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