Archive for the 'Rumor Control' Category

16
May
15

Rumor Control: Shearer Negotiations Still Open

I Married Marge16

“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?

Yes.

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.

14
May
15

Please Stop With the $14 Million Number

The Old Man and the Lisa17

“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:

‘Simpsons’ Mr. Burns walking away from $14 million deal

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:

14milliondollarbullshit

And it’s not just Simpsons or entertainment related outlets that unquestioningly repeat this.  The Chicago Tribune already picked it up, and I even saw it on freaking Slashdot.

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.

14
May
15

Rumor Control: Harry Shearer (Possibly/Probably) Leaving Zombie Simpsons

Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song15

“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.

2.  Late last night (though since I think he’s in Britain it might have been morning for him), Shearer tweeted the following:

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.

3.  That was followed a couple of hours later by Jean tweeting:

.@TheSimpsons #everysimpsonsever The show will go on, made by people who love it and see in it the most wonderful vehicle for satire ever.

@simpsonswiki @TheSimpsons recast if Harry does not return. No yellow wedding.

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.

05
May
15

Zombie Simpsons Renewed For Forty-Four More Episodes

Like Father, Like Clown14

♫”If this old clown was found dead in his bed tomorrow/
I’d be in heaven, still doing this show!”♫ – Krusty the Klown

This here blog has been live on the internet for six years and change.  In that time we’ve seen four renewal announcements, including last night’s.  Here are the details:

– two more full production runs of 22 episodes each

– will take the show through Season 28 and give it the first seven episodes of a Season 29(!)

– new guaranteed episode total of 625(!!)

– the next time to look for a renewal announcement will be October-ish of 2016

– the next deadline for a renewal announcement will be May-ish of 2017

Having read through a whole bunch of news reports on this, /Film easily wins the prize for best lead:

In TV years, The Simpsons is already the equivalent of the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the series isn’t giving up its post any time soon.

They also took the time to say what everyone’s thinking:

And, let’s face it, you probably only watch the new episodes when Fox breaks out a splashy couch gag by a high-profile artist (yep, welovethose) or when the show makes a big change by killing off a character or featuring a surprising gimmick or guest star. But after more than twenty years, the roster of guests with the power to surprise is pretty small.

The Simpsons is in an unusual position in that the current episodes seem more like reminders for prior seasons and merchandise than the other way around.

As for the next renewal announcement, rubbercat.net/simpsons has it covered.

17
Apr
15

Epic Agreement (And Show Still on Hiatus)

Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish12

“Holy moly, nine-thirty!  Hello, Marge, sorry I didn’t call, but it’s been a madhouse down here.  Yeah, these twelve hour days are killing me.” – Homer Simpson

My apologies, but there won’t be a Reading Digest this week.  I am eyeballs deep in my stupid real job.  However, there are two things I’d like to note.

First, the radio silence regarding the show being on hiatus continues.  I checked a few staff Twitter accounts and haven’t seen peep outside of Jean responding to someone from No Homers that the negotiations are ongoing.  (Sadly, Isabel Vega has deleted her Twitter account after her tweets kept popping up here and elsewhere in Simpsons fandom.  Sorry, Isabel!  Really didn’t want to get you in trouble or anything.)  One of the last tweets from Vega was that increasing numbers of staff are being told not to come in and that people around the office are worried:

That moment when a director goes around saying good-bye to the remaining crew saying “See you next season, if there is one…” #TheSimpsons

So we’re about where we were last week: nobody’s saying squat.  That is probably for the best, since swirling rumors and ill sourced media speculation don’t have any bearing on the negotiations but do get a lot of people agitated for no reason.  My money continues to be on the show getting renewed.

Second, and far more fun, is this fantastic article (that mentions Zombie Simpsons by name) about the unrivaled cultural legacy of the show:

The Simpsons – the Shakespeare of our time?

We’re automatically programmed to know that Dickens was the greatest writer of his day. It’s reasonable to assume that in the 19th century he was just really, really popular. Nobody in that age would have guessed that they would be teaching his work in primary schools a century down the line. The reason they do so is because it was the most accurate satire of Victorian England, much like The Simpsons to the modern West.

I highly recommend the whole thing.

07
Apr
15

Zombie Simpsons Renewal Goes to Overtime

Burns' Heir13

“Hey, you know we’re getting into golden time?” – Estonian Actor
“Yes, well just get it right or you’ll all be back doing ‘Come Blow Your Horn’ at the Westport dinner theater!” – C.M. Burns

Six months ago, we got word from Al Jean himself that the current TABF production run was indeed a full twenty-two episode order.  The most recent episode was TABF10, which means that they have twelve more episodes to broadcast under the current contract.

Last night, commenter Mr. Incognito e-mailed me to let me know that Erika Isabel Vega, who’s been with the show since 2006, tweeted this yesterday:

VegaTweet

Today’s a good day for contract/renewal news. We’re past the ultimatum & it’s the start of a week. Who will report first? #TheSimpsons

 

What’s this ultimatum?  Going back a couple of days, we find this exchange between her and Matthew Schofield, who’s been with the show since 1999:

VegaTweet1

No joke-I just got an email for our mtg on the last episode on contract. If we don’t get renewed this will be the final one. #TheSimpsons / @eiVega you need to calm down / @Mr_Schofield Hahaha…I honestly think I’m more calm than most of the crew. I do think we’ll be renewed. I’m just more dramatic online. ;)

 

What does that mean?  It means that we’ve reached the deadline I mentioned six months ago when I noted that the renewal notice was overdue.  Production is at its contractual end, and, since there’s no way to keep that quiet in this day and age, we are officially into overtime on whether or not Zombie Simpsons will be renewed for a full Season 27.

[Please note that sites like IGN and TV By the Numbers list the show as “renewed” because one way or another there is going to be a Season 27.  The current contract will still have episodes (probably seven of them) left on it after the Season 26 finale.  What we’re talking about is a renewal beyond the current TABF production run.]

In a tweet from last week, Vega noted that she and the rest of the staff usually find out about renewals through the news media, so she’s as in the dark as the rest of us.  Just to be thorough, I poked around a few other Simpsons staff Twitter accounts, including Jean and Brooks, and didn’t see anything.  (Although Jean did say that Hugh Jass from Flaming Moe’s was originally going to be Hugh G. Rection, heh.)

So, is there going to be a full Season 27?  As always with renewal, it’s safest to bet on “Yes”.  These negotiations have gone down to the wire several times over the (sigh) decades, and they always find a way to pull through because everyone involved keeps making money that way.  Yes, the ratings get lower every year, but that’s true for network teevee in general; and for all its many (many) problems, Zombie Simpsons is still strong among the youthful demographics that advertisers pay top dollar to reach.  (Those unoriginal AAA video games and Liam Neeson movies aren’t going to sell themselves, you know.)

All this means is that, one way or another, we should be getting word very soon.  As has been true for years now, there are only a few possible scenarios:

1.  The talks fail, they halt production, and Season 27 will be a short one.

2.  There is a partial renewal that brings the show a full Season 27 but not a full production run and it ends in May of next year.

3.  There is a full renewal for one (or more) 22 episode production run(s), and we go through this again.

If there is a renewal announcement this week (or sometime soon), the important thing to note (which most of the entertainment press will ignore because they are awful at their jobs) is how many episodes.  That’s the difference between #2 and #3 above.

Whatever happens, I just hope it’s definitive.  It’s annoying as hell when half-sourced rumors start ricocheting around the internet and I have to sort through them.

One final note, people like Vega and Schofield make the show go.  As I’ve said before, most of the folks who work on it aren’t rich or famous, and neither, for that matter, are they the reason it became Zombie Simpsons.  If there is any anger at FOX or elsewhere over this post, please direct it at me and not them.  They didn’t do anything wrong; it’s their bosses who are screwing things up, not them.

17
Oct
14

Renewal Announcement Overdue [Updated]

Homer vs Patty & Selma14

“Sweet, trusting Marge, I can’t let you down.  I’ll get some money somehow. . . . Hello, Vegas?  Gimme a hundred bucks on red. . . . D’oh!  Alright, I’ll send you a check.” – Homer Simpson

It’s now officially mid-October and there has been no announcement from FOX or anyone else about next season.  For most shows, that wouldn’t be an issue, but for Zombie Simpsons, which is wildly asynchronous with the rest of network television’s renew/cancel announcements, it’s very odd.  Thanks to the show’s ancient pedigree and very long production schedule, the last couple of renewal announcements have come in early or mid-October.  Well . . . it’s that time of year and we haven’t heard anything.

Complicating matters is the general laziness of the entertainment press.  Last year we got the renewal announcement for Season 26 on October 4th.  But that’s all we got.  Unlike previous renewals, which bragged about the new episode total, all the press release said was that the show would be around for Season 26.  And while plenty of sites reported “Simpsons renewed” none that I was able to find (then or now) contained an episode total.  (Even The New York Times just wrote up the press release and didn’t ask any questions.)

The episode total is more important than the season number because, as I’ve said before, how the show ends is determined by the production runs, not the broadcast runs.  For several years now, FOX has been ordering 22-episode production runs.  The “SABF” run comprised most of Season 25, and its first few episodes have spilled into Season 26.  Sometime soon, the “TABF” run will start being broadcast and will make up most of Season 26.  This is all entirely normal.

However, since the copy and paste brigade that passes for entertainment journalism didn’t give us an episode total, it’s at least possible that instead of ordering a full 22-episode production run last year, FOX only ordered a shortened run that will end this spring instead of spilling over into next fall.  If that’s the case, then we could see the end of the show in 2015.

Now, I don’t think that is the case and I don’t want to start any rumors that the show is finally going to end.  Quite frankly, the opposite is more likely.  Odds are that last year they ordered a full 22-episode TABF run, no reporters bothered to ask them for a total, and that the show is already de-facto renewed for at least a partial Season 27.

But the reason this time of year is important is because of the extraordinarily long lead time needed to create an episode.  The show can’t wrap the finale the week before it’s broadcast and just send everyone home.  Instead, the production will gradually shut down months ahead of time as new scripts stop being ordered and the final episodes wind their way through the animation process.  In the age of Twitter and friends, there’s no way you could keep that secret, even for a little while.

So, we have a couple of interesting pieces of information:

1.  It’s mid-October and there’s been no renewal announcement.
2.  There was no confirmation that the TABF production run is a full 22-episodes.  (At least that Google and I could find, anyway.)
3.  The long production time of the show means that it’ll shut down months before the last broadcast.

Where does that leave us?  It means that sometime in the next month or so we’ll either get a renewal announcement, a cancellation announcement, or another rumor heavy cluster fuck (a la 2011) about whether or not the show will stagger forward for another year or more.  My money is on a renewal announcement (best predictor of future behavior being past behavior, and all that), but we are in a situation where it’s at least possible that we might hear otherwise in the near future.

Keep watching the skis.

[Update 2:08pm Eastern: Word from Caesar himself in comments: “TABF = full 22 order”.  Still looking for a renewal notice, but there will definitely be at least a partial Season 27.]




E-Mail

deadhomersociety (at) gmail

Run a Simpsons site or Twitter account? Let us know!

Twitter Updates

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Useful Legal Tidbit

Even though it’s obvious to anyone with a functional frontal lobe and a shred of morality, we feel the need to include this disclaimer. This website (which openly advocates for the cancellation of a beloved television series) is in no way, shape or form affiliated with the FOX Network, the News Corporation, subsidiaries thereof, or any of Rupert Murdoch’s wives or children. “The Simpsons” is (unfortunately) the intellectual property of FOX. We and our crack team of one (1) lawyer believe that everything on this site falls under the definition of Fair Use and is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. No revenue is generated from this endeavor; we’re here because we love “The Simpsons”. And besides, you can’t like, own a potato, man, it’s one of Mother Earth’s creatures.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 466 other followers