George W. Bush may want to make a last-minute campaign stop in Springfield, USA. This Sunday's season premiere of The Simpsons (8 pm, Fox) contains a blink-and-you-miss-it pro-

Al Gore reference. During Bart's trademark chalkboard sequence in the show's opening, the proud underachiever writes: "I will not plant subliminal messagores."

Simpsons executive producer Mike Scully makes no apologies for the blatant display of political partisanship. "To be honest, the staff does lean toward Al Gore," he tells TV Guide Online. "I don't want to speak for everyone who works for The Simpsons, but there are many people on the writing staff who can't believe that this election is as close as it is."

What effect Bart's endorsement has on the undecided vote remains to be seen, but Scully admits that the timing of the plug was carefully thought out. "We were in the writers room trying to come up with a chalkboard joke for the show. Realizing that it would air two nights before the election, we thought it should be politically oriented," he says. "We had several great ones pitched — that I will not share with you — that were unairable. Ultimately, we liked this one."

In addition to playing up Gore, Scully explains that he liked how the "subliminal" joke takes aim at the Republican's now-infamous anti-Gore television spot in which the word "rats" was flashed across the screen. "And then Bush did his subliminable message quote," notes Scully, "so we wanted to do something on the subliminal message idea." Calls to the Bush and Gore camps were not returned at press time.

Conspiracy theorists, however, are likely to suggest that nepotism played a role: Al Gore's daughter, Kristen Gore, is a writer for Fox's Futurama — which just happens to be helmed by Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Scully denies that the family connection played any part in the decision. "I didn't check with Matt on it," he insists, "and I never met his daughter, so that really had nothing to do with it.

"It also has nothing to do with the fact that [former President] George Bush Sr. once blamed The Simpsons for what's wrong with America," Scully adds with a hearty laugh. "It has absolutely nothing to do with that... That's for sure."