DO MARGE AND HOMER SPLIT?
Simpsons showrunner Al Jean says that not only would the long-running series have survived the loss of voice actor Harry Shearer — they actually made more than a third of the current season without him.
Shearer, the voice behind Mr Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and Kent Brockman, walked earlier this year in a standoff over contract negotiations.
Jean isn’t entirely sure why: there was never any question of offering him more money than the other five main cast, and the voice actor’s concern about “the freedom to do other work” didn’t square with the fact he could record his dialogue over the internet.
“We would have had to replace him if he didn’t sign,” he says. “There was never even a time where there was a choice whether or not to do the show.”
In the end eight episodes were recorded without Shearer. After he relented, they were able to go back and add his characters and voices to the finished programs. “It’s funny because I don’t think if you watch the shows you’ll even notice any absence,” he says.
When Jean joined the show as a writer in 1989 the internet didn’t exist, and word processors were a fancy new technology. Despite lasting 27 seasons so far, fans are still passionate: there was outrage over reports Marge and Homer were getting a divorce in the first of the new episodes.
“We never said that!” Jean says. “It was misquoted by CNN and the backlash was astounding. It was kind of touching that it meant so much to so many people.”
Other episodes feature Sideshow Bob finally killing Bart (a Halloween episode so it doesn’t count), a homage to the film Boyhood called Barthood, and Sofia Vergara shows up as Bart’s new teacher.
“He has a crush on her and so does Skinner so they have a rivalry going,” he says. Vergara may even return. “She works about a block away.”
THE SIMPSONS, TONIGHT, ELEVEN, 8.30PM