By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If fans of "The Simpsons" thought that, after 26 years, Fox's never-aging animated family will not have any new challenges, they are about to be mistaken.
"The Simpsons" returns to Fox on Sunday with "Every Man's Dream," in which Marge Simpson finally has enough of her bumbling husband's antics and decides to separate. Homer is then seduced by a rebellious pharmacist, voiced by "Girls" star Lena Dunham.
While avid fans will remember this is not the first time Homer and Marge have had marital problems, the show's executive producer, Al Jean, told Reuters that the writers found a new way to explore their relationship.
"We did a lot of shows about Homer and Marge being married and about the problems that come (with it), but what we haven't done is Marge saying, 'That's it, I've had it, I'm getting a separation," Jean said.
"The Simpsons," which premiered in 1989, has told the story of donut-loving nuclear plant worker Homer, long-suffering Marge, bratty son Bart, precocious daughter Lisa and her clever baby sister, Maggie. The show tapped into the changing American zeitgeist and has regularly satirized pop culture.
The upcoming season will see the villainous Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer) finally kill nemesis Bart - albeit temporarily - in the "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episode; a parody of the movie "Boyhood" featuring Bart; and Marge finally getting a long-deserved break - in jail.
Homer will cast his presidential vote in 2016, and fans of "The Simpsons Movie" will see the character Spider-Pig return.
"Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara will voice Bart's new teacher, who becomes the object of a crush by the boy. The character may become a recurring role.
"The Simpsons" almost suffered a major blow this year when actor Harry Shearer, who voices such characters as tycoon Mr. Burns and Simpson neighbor Ned Flanders, said he was leaving the show over contractual disagreements. The situation was resolved in July with Shearer returning.
Jean said he "wouldn't want to do it without the cast that we have," and the current cast - Shearer, Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith and Hank Azaria - are booked for four more seasons.
Although the show has been picked up until season 28, Jean is optimistic that Fox will keep airing it into a 30th year. After that, the future of "The Simpsons" is up in the air.
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)