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Streaming’s oddest couplings: ‘Simpsons’ on Disney+ — say what?

Chuck Barney
Mercury News

You know that old saying in baseball — “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard”? The ever-growing world of TV streaming is sort of like that.

Where, exactly, can you find your favorite shows and movies?

Sometimes it’s obvious: If you want a classic animated film like “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Lion King,” you’d go to Disney+, of course.

And if you want to revisit “The Sopranos” or “The Wire,” you’d head over to HBO Max.

Bart and Santa's Little Helper in "The Simpsons."

But often, some shows wind up on streaming sites that make you go “Huh?” To wit: Why are certain seasons of the dating reality series “The Bachelor” — which airs on ABC, a network controlled by Disney — on HBO Max?

It’s baffling enough trying to figure out which streaming sites to subscribe to, but these weird mismatches can make the task even more difficult — and leave your head spinning.

Here are a few of the weirdest:

“The Simpsons” is on Disney+

How did this happen? Why are Homer, Marge and family hanging out with Mickey and Minnie? The irreverent gang from Springfield, after all, grew up on the Fox network and new episodes continue to air there.

It helps to follow the money. Last year Disney, looking to acquire more content for its impending streaming service, paid $71.3 billion for the major entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox. “The Simpsons” were part of that megadeal.

So don’t be surprised if someday you see Bart in mouse ears.

“The Big Bang Theory” is on HBO Max

For years, this CBS sitcom reigned as prime time’s No. 1 sitcom. With its in-studio format, laugh track and broad appeal, it certainly doesn’t share much in common with HBO’s edgier — and more niche — comedies like “Veep,” “Silicon Valley” and “Insecure.”

So shouldn’t it be on the CBS All Access streaming site?

You would think so, but HBO Max, which is backed by WarnerMedia, paid big bucks to acquire “Big Bang,” which was produced by Warner Bros. Television. Interestingly enough, HBO Max also has the rights to “Friends,” another Warner show.

And now “Big Bang” and “Friends” rank among the most popular series on HBO Max.

“Downton Abbey” is on Peacock

When you think of NBC (Peacock) dramas, modern-day sagas like “Manifest,” “New Amsterdam,” “The Blacklist” and the “Law & Order” franchise might leap to mind.

But believe it or not, Peacock is also home to the beloved British period drama that became one of the biggest hits ever for PBS. ... Blimey!

Michelle Dockery starred as often acerbic Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey.”

Again, follow the money. Way back in 2008, NBCUniversal acquired Carnival Films, the London-based production company responsible for bringing the Crawleys to prime time. Little did they know then that “Downton” would be the crown jewel of that deal.

The good news is that all six seasons of “Downton Abbey” can be streamed for free on Peacock’s ad-supported tier.

“American Horror Story” is on Hulu

Are you still with us? By now you know that Disney bought 21st Century Fox and with that purchase came FX, the cable network known for dark and edgy content, including “American Horror Story.”

Clearly, that stuff is not a great fit with family-friendly Disney+.

So Disney, which also controls Hulu, recently set aside an entire hub on that site — called FX on Hulu — for more than 40 FX shows, including all nine seasons of producer Ryan Murphy’s squeamish “AHS.”

“The Office” is on Netflix — for now

For nine seasons, the beloved Dunder Mifflin gang made their home at NBC. In recent years, it has gained a whole new legion of fans as one of the most popular shows on Netflix, still the big giant of streaming platforms.

But now that NBCUniversal is busy getting Peacock off the ground, it understandably wants its big hit back.

And so “The Office” will leave Netflix at the end of 2020 and jump to Peacock, where it will reside with other past and present NBC sitcoms like “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Will & Grace,” “Cheers,” “Frasier” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

“Seinfeld” is on Hulu — for now

“Seinfeld” is also a former NBC sitcom — a huge part of the network’s “Must-See TV” days. So it should be coming to Peacock, too, right?

Wrong.

“Seinfeld” is the property of Sony Pictures Television, which distributes the series and last year Netflix won a fierce bidding war for the show about nothing. Hulu has the rights to “Seinfeld” until June 2021, after which it will jump to Netflix.

Are there other streaming partnerships that have you shaking your head? Share them with us as we continue to try to figure this thing out.