With over 550 episodes and 26 seasons under its belt, The Simpsons is, without question, a global institution. The show has become known for its reliability and consistency over the decades, despite increasingly loud calls for its retirement. However, that boat is about to be rocked in a major way starting next season.
FOX recently officially renewed The Simpsons for seasons 27 and 28, so it seemed safe to assume that the longtime voice cast would be remaining onboard. However, in an unexpected development, voice actor Harry Shearer has left the series over an inability to come to terms with FOX over a new contract. This, of course, now leaves many of the show’s existing characters (including, Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns) in a state of limbo.
Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted, and passed. The show will go on and we wish him well. Maggie took it hard. We do not plan to kill off characters like Burns and Flanders but will recast with the finest voiceover talent available.
Shearer, to date, has been the voice behind Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Seymour Skinner, Dr. Hibbter, Lenny Leonard, Otto and Rev. Lovejoy, among others. Needless to say, recasting for his particular character set is going to be a challenge when so many of these Springfield residents are as important as they are. It’s a near certainty that there won’t just be one person behind the mic to take over them all.
Every few years now The Simpsons goes into a strange limbo where, because it’s the phenomenon that it is, it simply can’t be cancelled. That limbo is where the series’ contract negotiations happen, almost always ending on a positive note.
However, while the core family has remained as is, it’s easy to forget how vital a guy like Shearer is to the series. It's also quite amazing to think about how many of the series’ character come from the mind of a singular source. It's not uncommon for animated series to go to its existing cast to come up with new voices for the show, but the longevity of The Simpsons forced that ideal to be taken to the next level… and now, it looks like it’s something that may have bitten FOX and the show's production team in their donut filled rear-ends.
The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8pm on Fox.