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The Simpsons aim to strike Olympic gold with curling episode

Homer Simpson has tried nearly every pursuit under the sun, from astronaut to mayor to monorail conductor - not to mention his full-time gig as nuclear safety inspector.

But just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Homer will try his hand at curling, one of Canada's most popular, if misunderstood, sports.

Producers for the Fox hit The Simpsons knew they wanted to create an Olympic-themed episode. When a writer suggested curling, producers believed they'd struck comedic gold.

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"I thought it was perfect," said Al Jean, the show's head executive producer.

In the episode that will air in February, 2010, Homer and Marge join a mixed curling team. In classic Simpsons fashion, the team ends up representing the United States at the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Homer, as usual, is a deadweight on the team. But Marge is a sweeping star.

"It turns out Marge is very good because she does so much sweeping during her daily life," Mr. Jean said with a laugh.

The episode ends in a momentous victory, as team Simpson out-brooms the Swedes, earning a demonstration sport gold medal.

"This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened in curling!" a cartoon version of sports broadcaster Bob Costas declares after their triumph.

Veteran Canadian curling champion Randy Ferbey said he is glad to see curling in the prime-time limelight, especially in the United States, where it is just gaining ground.

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"I think it's wonderful," he said. "I'm sure they're going to have fun with it."

The U.S. has only 16,000 registered curlers, compared to one million in Canada, said Terry Kolesar, director of communications at USA Curling.

But the sport's popularity south of the border has been steadily growing since its designation as an official Olympic sport in 1998.

"I think that people are starting to understand the uniqueness and beauty of the game," said Jason Smith, a member of the U.S. 2010 Olympic curling team.

Ms. Kolesar said part of the sport's appeal is that it's easy enough for the average, middle-aged Joe. Make that Homer or Marge.

But are they concerned that the writers may have taken some cheap shots at curling's expense?

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"I think any publicity we can get for the sport is nothing but a good thing," Mr. Smith said.

This is not the Simpsons' first time in Canada. The family visited Toronto in 2002, and, in 2005, Homer crossed the border into Manitoba in search of cheap prescription drugs.

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