“If somebody’s in here, you’re in for some serious ass forkin’!” – Farmer
Author Archive for
“Is Mom gonna have another baby, Dad?” – Lisa Simpson
“Maybe.” – Homer Simpson
Apologies for the lack of Compare & Contrast, Reading Digest, and general radio silence around these parts the last couple of days. My Dad went in for a long planned surgery yesterday (which went fine), but between that, work, and the Shearer kerfuffle, regular blogging fell down a hole without even the benefit of Leonard’s carcass to land on.
In terms of actual Simpsons news, there have been two developments of note. The first is Shearer related, though it needs to be kept in context. Good ol’ CNN Money reports:
For all “The Simpsons” fans concerned that a Mr. Burns voiced by Harry Shearer has spent his last days in Springfield, the voice actor has two words for you: “stay tuned.”
This was the response Shearer had Friday when asked by CNN Money if there was a possibility that he could return.
Shearer had no other comment, other than to reference a tweet from “Simpsons” producer James L. Brooks. On Thursday afternoon, Brooks wrote, “Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.”
Does this mean anything? Short answer, yes with an if: if Shearer or FOX found the uproar over his departure (I even heard a segment about it on BBC World Service) so disruptive that one of them caved on some previously stuck negotiating point, then maybe he’ll be back.
Long answer, no with a but: but this is third hand information glimpsed through the notoriously dirty lens of CNN. It implies that they’re still talking, but that’s all it does. It doesn’t change the fact that Shearer’s only public statement to date was that he seemed to be done. Of course, even that is open to interpretation since all he really did was quote a letter from a lawyer and thank people for their support. Jean was (publicly, at least) taking it seriously, but even that could be posturing.
So, what do we actually know? As always in these situations: very little. Shearer saying “stay tuned” certainly moves the needle a little bit back towards “he isn’t leaving”, but since it was never even close to definitively pointed at “he’s gone”, that doesn’t say much. Until we get either a) a definitive statement that Shearer has signed and is returning, or b) an announcement of new voice actors for some or all of his characters, we can’t know for sure. Whatever happens, the substantive conversations will take place well out of public view, so it’s best to treat all non-definitive news as suspect until proven otherwise.
The second piece of news, which was absent from every single renewal article I came across, is from an interview Jean gave with The Hollywood Reporter:
Do you think this opens the door for other cast? I know that they’ve signed for two more seasons but given the show’s track record do you think that there’s concern?
It’s a really different issue. They are signed for a four-year contract [with] two-year options on Fox.
So at this point Fox has options for seasons 29 and 30?
It turns out that there will be no negotiations due in October of 2016, because the most recent renewal wasn’t just for two more production runs, it was for two more production runs with a FOX option for two more after that.
In addition to being further evidence of the incompetence and incuriosity of the entertainment press (a network option for two more years isn’t a minor detail), this overlooked nugget means that, if FOX wants it, the show will be on until 2019 at the least. Assuming twenty-two episode production runs for the option, that would bring the show to 669 episodes. As a reminder of how long Zombie Simpsons has been on, “Behind the Laughter” (the Season 11 finale) was episode #248.
Whether or not Harry Shearer will be there for all that, I have no idea.
“If I’d spent my life listening to Dismal Doras like you, I wouldn’t be worth two-hundred-million dollars today.” – C.M. Burns
“But according to your most recent biography, you only have one-hundred-million dollars today.” – Lisa Simpson
“I’ve ha-, . . . I’ve . . . ” – C.M. Burns
“Um, actually, sir, it’s, uh, considerably less than that.” – Mr. Smithers
A nice, headline grabbing number, preferably with a dollar sign next to it, is a well known pageview booster. So let this be my usual renewal related reminder that there is no creditable public information on what the current or past salaries of the Simpsons voice actors are/were. Back before the 2011 renewal, the widely cited figure was $400,000 per episode. After that it came down somewhat to $300,000 (though I saw it mentioned as low as $200,000). Now, thanks to the feckless morons at CNN Money (a backwater in an already grossly negligent and irresponsible news outfit), the current deal is being touted at $7,000,000 per year, or $318,182 per episode:
What is their source for that eye catching number? You’ll be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to learn it’s an anonymous source:
The actor was offered a guaranteed $14 million for two years of work, according to someone with direct knowledge of the matter.
Okay, sometimes people don’t want to go on record, and that’s okay. That factual information reaches the public is supposed to be the important part, right? Well, here’s the kicker:
“To me, the deal he rejected would be the dream of a lifetime for the rest of the world,” the source said.
That’s not information. That’s spin. Moreover, it almost certainly marks this source as someone at FOX since s/he’s painting Shearer as walking away from “the dream of a lifetime for the rest of the world”, that ungrateful bastard.
Shearer himself has said in the past that the reported salary numbers are inaccurate, and I’m far more inclined to believe him than some nameless insider who feeds bullshit like that to CNN Money. Remember, Shearer and the rest of the cast are forbidden from discussing what they’re actually paid, so FOX and their anonymous flacks have a free hand to inflate the numbers and paint the cast as greedy jackasses, and CNN Money is only too happy to help them do it.
Shoddy information coming from CNN is nothing new, of course. The real problem is that people repeat these numbers so many times that they seem credible even when transparent horseshit like the above link is the only basis for it. It’s happening already:
So, pretty please, with sugar on top, remember that you don’t know how much money the Simpsons voice actors make. I don’t know how much the Simpsons voice actors make. And the business/entertainment press for damn sure doesn’t know how much the Simpsons voice actors make.
“Nobody’s mentioned me, have they?” – Principal Skinner
“I thought I heard someone say your name in the cafeteria, but they might have been saying ‘skim milk’.” – Bart Simpson
The internet is full of reports that Harry Shearer will not be doing voices for the recently announced two season renewal. This being the internet, the certitude of the headlines ran a bit ahead of the actual information. Here are the facts:
1. Over the last couple of days, TMZ (I know, gross) reported that Shearer was not on board with the most recent renewal.
from James L. Brooks’ lawyer: “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”. (1/2)
This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)
Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.
Shearer subsequently turned down a couple of media interview requests.
Jean was very active, replying to people and generally doing his job as the public face of the show.
4. A couple of hours later, James L. Brooks replied (also on Twitter):
Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.
5. After speaking with a couple of media outlets, Jean did a quick interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he said that they were still hoping to work things out, but that if Shearer was out the door, they would recast his parts, probably with multiple people. As to the question of why, he gave a round-about answer (bold italics are mine):
What is that period of time? Weeks? Well, it’s pretty vague because we have seven holdover [episodes] that Harry did in the fall, so there’s a big period of time. Obviously, we just want to know what he wants. We’ve rededicated ourselves this season to making the show better and not just saying, ‘Okay, we’re just happy for the pickup.’ We really care about it and everybody’s coming to more [table reads] and doing more on the show, so if he’d like to be a part of that, we’d love him. And if not, we’d like to know and then we’ll go another way.
Would you describe yourself as hopeful then that this could be resolved? I have no idea. I didn’t know he was going to tweet last night. That was very surprising. And the tweets were confusing because he had an offer. It wasn’t like we didn’t offer him a substantial thing. No. 2, he mentioned that he wanted to do outside projects. Everybody on the show does lots of outside projects. He actually gets to record on the phone and do the [table] reads on the phone. So we’ve never kept him from doing that stuff. So that’s one confusion I had. For the last several years, he’s done reads on the phone. He doesn’t always participate. We’ve excused him for several and he records, as long as it’s done in time, when it’s convenient for him. So it’s not a scheduling thing and he says it’s not a money thing, so I’m not sure what he’s thinking.
So, all the sturm und drang aside, all that appears to have happened is that, through a couple of unexpected tweets, Shearer broke off a negotiation and dropped a big, steaming PR shitpile in the collective lap of Jean, Brooks, and FOX.
What does all this mean? Well, it could end up meaning nothing. This isn’t the first time Shearer has been unhappy in public during negotiations for renewal. In the linked interview, Jean was deliberately cagey about how long they could go on without Shearer, but based on what we know about production schedules, it could easily be months before they’d actually need him to record new episodes. If they announce new cast members, that’d probably mean it’s a done deal, but I’d guess we’re a ways away from that.
There are, however, a couple of circumstantial pieces of evidence that this isn’t a public negotiating ploy on Shearer’s part and does indeed mean he’s leaving the show. The first and biggest is that the other five main cast members have already signed. Jean makes it clear in that interview that Shearer has been given the same offer the rest of them already took, so even just negotiating with him at this point would upset a deal that already took them months longer than usual to reach.
There’s also the fact that Shearer has never actually called it quits before. He’s needled the show and ragged on FOX, but to my knowledge he’s never said he was done.
Finally, there are Jean’s highlighted comments above. If it’s true that they’ve “rededicated” themselves and want more active participation from people, Shearer might not want the hassle. He’s been content to (literally) phone it in these last few years, but he values his time a lot more than a few extra million bucks he may never spend anyway, so why bother? He knows damn well the show is a shadow of itself, and if everyone’s just there for the money and he doesn’t need the money . . . well, that may be all she wrote.
Whatever his specific reasons, at the moment the safest assumption is that Harry Shearer will not be a member of the cast for the UABF production run. If that holds, the last episode with his voice will be broadcast next season, probably in November or December. We’ll see what happens, but unlike the renewal that always seemed like it was going to get done, this is uncharted territory.
“That tree’s been in Springfield since the time of our forefathers. Give it back, or we’ll bust in there and take it.” – Homer Simpson
“Bust in here and take it? You must be stupider than you look.” – Shelbyville Homer
“Stupider like a fox!” – Homer Simpson
Happy 20th Anniversary to “Lemon of Troy”! Original airdate 14 May 1995.