This week’s podcast: end near for The Simpsons?

Could it be true? The Simpsons coming to an end?
Scott Thompson starts this week’s CHML radio rant off with this question. Told him I had a tour this summer–along with several other reporte4rs on the TCA press tour–of the animation studio north of Los Angeles where the Simpsons are produced. Executive producer Al Jean led the tour, which included peeks over the shoulders of lead animators working on digital screens.
It was great to get that insight, but I wondered at the time, why now, 23 seasons in, are we getting to look behind the curtain.

Simpsons studio tour: an animator works on Season 23

I asked Jean if the cast was heading for another contract renewal juncture. He admitted that they were, after this season. The six main voice actors, including Nancy Cartwright (Bart) earn a reported $400,000 per episode, or US$8 million a year. “They’ve done very well off the show,” says Jean. “I hope they do more.”
The current season will bring the series to 515 episodes. The 500th episode has a tongue-in-cheek premise: “The townsfolk of Springfield hold a town meeting and decided to vote the family out of town,” says Jean. Why? “They’re sick of the Simpsons.”
Hopefully that’s not the case at Fox. The series is still the No. 1 show on Global Sunday nights and still among the Top-10 shows in all of television on both sides of the border among viewers 18-to-34.
Meanwhile, the voice cast isn’t getting any younger. Harry Shearer, who does Mr. Burns, Waylan Smithers, Ned Flanders, Rev. Lovejoy and many others, is 67. He’ll soon be as old as Mr. Burns, so you can’t blame a guy for wanting to cash in while he can.
It is a good gig, though. Shearer lives in New Orleans and files his voice overs from a studio built right into his house. Like me, he doesn’t even have to wear pants to work.

I’m supporting Quimby in the Ontario provincial election

The salary question was a touchy one when I raised it with Shearer a few years ago when he was in Toronto. He pointed out he still makes less from the series than Jennifer Tilly, the ex-wife of Simpsons co-developer Sam Simon. Simon is still listed on every opening credits of the series as one of three men who developed the series (the others being Matt Groening and James Brooks) even though he’s had nothing to do with the series since 1993 (apparently he had some falling out with Groening) Shearer thinks if the show is still making that much money, he deserves at least as much as Tilly and Simon. Hard to argue with that.
My guess is these kids will all find a way to play nice long enough to nudge this thing to Year 25. Hank Azaria (the voice of Moe the Bartender, Chief Wiggums and others) just saw his NBC series, Free Agents, get canceled so he needs the work. Scott and I yammer on about it and you can listen in here.
MEANWHILE, things that make you go hmmm: Fox announced today that they are renewing summer hit So You Think You Can Dance for a ninth season. CTV pulled the plug on So You Think You Can Dance Canada last month after four seasons. Hmmm.
TONIGHT: Part Two of George Harrison: Living in the Material World (HBO/HBO Canada 9 p.m.) looks at the post-Beatles days. Part One was Fab.

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