Thursday, May 14, 2015


Harry Shearer is reportedly leaving the Simpsons cast, and while it's possible this is just a negotiating bluff and an agreement could still be worked out, it seems pretty final.  Shearer has always been the member of the 'big six' voice actors who has been most ardent about the actors getting a fair share of the show's huge profits, so it's perhaps not a shock he's the one walking away first.

If this indeed a done deal and Shearer is no longer part of the Simpsons, then this might be the excuse I need to stop watching the show.  I'm one of the few and proud* diehards who has actually kept watching all these years, long after the end of the golden age.**  Things got really hairy from around seasons 12-17, but the show has rebounded since then to deliver a pretty acceptable ratio of 6-7 episodes per season that are as good as ever, 6-7 stinkers and the rest decent ways to spend 21 minutes.  And man, it's still THE SIMPSONS.  It's the show that has been a cornerstone of my sense of humour, my vocabulary and basically my life for 25 years.  After sticking it out this long, I figured I'd be in it until the very end.

* = well, maybe not THAT proud considering I've been looking for a reason to quit

** = seasons nine and 10 are both mostly great, though each year has a handful of mediocre shows that break up the "every episode is a masterpiece" vibe of the previous six years.  I guess you could technically say this counts as the end of the era, though I'd personally say it's halfway through S11 that the show really just plummets off a cliff.  I can even point to a specific endpoint --- basically everything after "The Mansion Family" is lousy, beginning with the legendarily terrible "Saddlesore Galactica" episode.  (Two big exceptions: "Behind The Laughter" and "Last Tap Dance In Springfield" are terrific.)

Now, however, there's a loophole.  Shearer wasn't the sole reason for the show's success, yet he was inarguably a huge piece of the puzzle.  I have no interest in listening to some half-assed replacement voice actor try to imitate all of Shearer's roles.  The show also can't just write Shearer's characters out, since how the hell would Springfield function without Mr. Burns, Smithers, Skinner, Lenny, Kent Brockman, Flanders, Dr. Hibbert, McBain, Eddie the cop, Otto or Reverend Lovejoy?

Without all of the big six voice actors on board, I feel like this is truly the end of an era for the show.  It just won't be the same without Shearer, and with him gone, I wonder if any of the others will consider stepping away when their new two-year contracts are up.  Beyond that, maybe Matt Groening and the producers might consider this as an omen that it's time to finally start wrapping The Simpsons up.

After years of watching the show with 51% interest and 49% out of obligation, I'll take my cue from Shearer and walk away.  If nothing else, hopefully Shearer can be convinced to return for the series finale, however the hell that episode could possibly play out.  What in the world would be the appropriate way to end The Simpsons?

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