We recently heard that Fox had extended the run of The Simpsons for two more seasons - pushing the iconic and long-running animated sitcom into its 27th and 28th seasons. However, it seems that during the negotiating process they also lost one of their most important voice actors - Harry Shearer.
Shearer, who is also well-known for his role as Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap, is perhaps the most important voice actor who has worked on The Simpsons. Although he does not voice any of the titular characters, he does provide the dialogue for a large swath of the citizens of Springfield - including many major supporting characters.
According to tweets revealed by Shearer, it seems he left the show in order to pursue other opportunities, although rumors abound it had more to do with merchandising payments. He tweeted:
Over the 26 years that The Simpsons has been on the air, Shearer has provided the voices of over 175 characters. It seems bizarre to imagine the show without him, but can you comprehend The Simpsons without any of the following characters?
According to The Simpsons producer Al Jean, Shearer's Simpson characters will not be leaving the show with him. Instead, they hope to recast the roles with a new voice actor. Jean told USA Today:
We're going to keep the characters. Everybody wants Mr. Burns and Flanders to still be in this universe. We're going to get the best voice-over talent available and that will probably yield some new characters, as well.
Although it is being widely reported that Shearer has left, there does also seem to be a slight chance he could return. In comments made to The Hollywood Reporter, Jean seemed to suggest everything was not yet final:
He said he wanted to do other projects, which makes no sense because we've always let the cast do all the other projects they want — they have great free time. So I don't really know what he's up to [or] what he's thinking. I hope he comes back. The other misinformation that has been spread is that it would jeopardize these two seasons we're doing up until 625 episodes. That's for sure a pick-up from the network, and everybody else is pay-or-play — so we'll make those episodes. If he chooses not to come back, we'll recast. We will not kill his characters; that's one way to go. I'm sure there will be plusses and minuses with that and, at the moment, I'm hoping he comes back. But if he doesn't in a reasonable time, we'll have to do the other options.
However, with viewing figures slipping, and widespread disillusionment with the more recent seasons of The Simpsons, do you think the show can survive longterm without the input of Harry Shearer? Whatever happens, it certainly looks like it's an end of an era.
Can The Simpsons continue without Harry Shearer?