At this point in its life, I always thought of The Simpsons as more of a symbolic show to be on than anything else, in that no one really WATCHES it–you maybe you watch an episode here or there or see clips online, but hardly anyone religiously watches it week after week. It’s just there because it’s comforting knowing that it’s on because its original 10 or 11 great seasons had enough goodwill behind them that they can now float through anything.
With Harry Shearer, the voice of Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers, Mr. Burns, Otto, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Lenny, Dr. Hibbert and many others, now gone–FIRED–from the show, it’s clear that there’s no heart to the show anymore. It isn’t simply coasting by on its past glory or some duty to nostalgia, it’s a moneymaking, soulless machine that can’t even be bothered to slow its roll for the sake of one of the most important cogs in its wheel.
Isn’t a timeline for a show spanning 26 years enough? It’s been renewed for yet another two seasons just recently, but who wants to watch a bastardized version of The Simpsons with someone else filling in for the voices of Harry Shearer’s characters? That’s exactly what they plan on doing, too. Harry Shearer’s characters will all be recast and revoiced by other voice actors.
Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and Al Jean, at this point, don’t need to continue. There’s no story that The Simpsons haven’t told. For the love of god, they even had an episode in which Moe the bartender’s bar rag told its story of how it came to me. If that doesn’t point-blank tell an audience, “I’m out of ideas,” I don’t know what the fuck does.
It would be nice for The Simpsons to end with dignity, to step forward and say, “We’ve had our say in the world and helped define pop culture in the 1990s. We had a great time doing it, too. Goodbye.” It’s sad to see a once-great show suffering from a television equivalent of dementia and just… suffering. It’s dying a very undignified death right now.
For over a decade, in its heyday, no show on television, before or since, was as funny as The Simpsons and Harry Shearer was a huge, huge part of that. He voiced the lead villain and his sycophantic assistant. He voiced the annoyingly successful, overly religious neighbor. He was the town doctor and the town’s reverend. He was the coworkers who was also a close friend. He was the school’s principal. He was a voice that helped define the town of Springfield and made it a character unto itself.
Without Harry Shearer, the show is a skeleton of what it once was. If the show calls it quits, it gives us all an excuse to have a big, fat “Last episode of The Simpsons” party and remember the, literally, thousands of laughs it’s given the world. I want that to happen. I want to remember the show as being GREAT, maybe with a bit too much fluff for terrible seasons at the end of its life, but not as this greedy mechanism that’ll just continue without one of the most important cast members. That shit isn’t right and it betrays its own image.
Just be cool, guys. The show doesn’t need to go on. Curtain’s gotta come down sometime, right? I think we’ll all be fine if the show takes a well-deserved retirement.