DO MARGE AND HOMER SPLIT?

Herald Sun - Switched On - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW FENTON EN­TER­TAIN­MENT WRITER

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

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