Did you know The Simpsons is still going on? The show is coming to the end of its 26th season, the finale of which will be the 574th aired episode.
Did you know The Simpsons recently renewed for another two years? Seasons 27 and 28 were picked up earlier this month.
And did you know that Harry Shearer, one of the six main voice actors and the person behind Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Dr. Hibbert and literally dozens of other recurring and one-off characters, just announced that will he be leaving the show? He won’t be joining the rest of the cast for seasons 27 and 28, and longtime showrunner Al Jean has already confirmed to CNN Money that his characters will now be voiced by “the most talented members of the voiceover community.” Whether anyone will be able to tell the diddly difference remains to be seen.
The Simpsons has lost voice actors before — Phil Hartman died between the show’s ninth and tenth seasons, and Marcia Wallace passed away in 2013 — but in both cases, their characters were quietly and respectfully retired. Voice actress Maggie Roswell left for a handful of seasons, but later returned (albeit not before one of her characters was killed off). Shearer’s departure leaves a much bigger hole in the show’s universe, so a quiet retirement is apparently out of the question for most of his characters.
Of course, for many, many people, Shearer’s absence from the voice cast will be moot. The Simpsonsgolden era (which ran for several years somewhere between seasons two and ten, depending on who you ask) is so far behind that even people on the internet are tired of debating whether it’s still good. It showed some brief signs of life in the 2007 film and the season or two immediately following it, but for most of the past 15 years or so it has been content with its not-unpleasant but undeniably dull and maddeningly inconsistent grind .
Shearer has long been critical of the decline in the quality of the show since its heyday, and his own official statements implying that his departure is about having “the freedom to do other work”. Other sources say his break from the show is mainly about the money. Each of the show’s six voice actors is paid a flat rate per episode (about $300,000 in 2011, though that number may have changed since then), but Shearer has spoken out about wanting a share of all of the show’s current and future profits. show, including that of syndication deals and merchandising. Fox has never been willing to concede on the issue.
Last year, the whole of The Simpsonsrun aired on FXX, an offshoot of the Fox network. Streaming rights to the series cost about $900 million, or about $1.5 million to $1.6 million per episode. It’s easy to see why Shearer wants a part of that, and the magnitude and cultural impact of that The Simpsons means it will still generate that kind of money years after it ends (if it ever ends). That’s certainly true of other ’90s mega sitcoms Friends (which Netflix bought for about $500,000 per episode) and Seinfeld (which Hulu got for about $700,000 per episode).