Seventeen years after his castmates from "The Simpsons" won the first Emmys awarded for voice-over performances, Harry Shearer has finally earned a nomination. While Harry Shearer has voiced dozens of characters – including many of the most popular ones like Montgomery Burns and Mr. Smithers – on this series since its debut in 1989, he has been snubbed by the Emmy nominating panel time and again.
This year's nominees for voice-over performance were determined by a combined panel of judges from the animation peer group and those from the performers peer group who have voice-over credits. The winner will be decided by a non-preferential ratings score system.
Among those Harry Shearer has to beat to take home his first Emmy are two of his castmates from "The Simpsons" – Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta – who already have three Emmys apiece. While Hank Azaria won his first Emmy in 1998 for just the voice of Apu, his second and third wins in 2001 and 2003 were for numerous characters. This year he contends for only the voice of Moe Syzlak. Dan Castellaneta won his first and third Emmys in 1992 and 2004 for a variety of voices while his second win in 1993 was just for Homer Simpson. This year, he once again contends for only voicing Homer.
When Castellaneta won in 1992, he was just one of six voice-over artists on "The Simpsons" so honored. The other winners were series regulars Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) as well as guest voices Jackie Mason (Rabbi Krustofsky) and Marcia Wallace (Mrs. Krabappel). The most recent voice-over Emmy win for "The Simpsons" was by Kelsey Grammer in 2006 for the recurring character of Sideshow Bob.
This year's other nominees in the voice-over category this year are: Seth McFarlane for patriarch Peter Griffin on "Family Guy" (he won for voicing baby Stewie in 2000); Seth Green for five roles on "Robot Chicken"; and Ron Rifkin for his narration of the PBS "American Masters" documentary "Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About."
"The Simpsons" has won 24 Emmys over its two-decade run: those 12 for voice-over, 10 for top animated program under one hour, and two for top song. At the height of the show's popularity, the producers opted out of the animated Emmy race and tried their luck at nabbing a nod for comedy series. However, unlike that modern stone age family "The Flintstones" which contended for best comedy series in 1961, "The Simpsons" could not break into the big leagues.
Following two failed attempts to land a comedy series nods in 1993 and 1994, the show went back to reign supreme among animated programs, winning eight more of those races. "The Simpsons" is nominated again this year as best animated program under one hour. However, after yesterday's breakthrough into the comedy race by "Family Guy" – a four-time loser in the animated race – the producers of "The Simpsons" must be rethinking that strategy,
"The Simpsons" has piled up numerous other accolades over the years including the prestigious Peabody in 1997. Among its other kudos are 26 Annie Awards, including 12 in a row as best animated series. Since the WGA introduced an animated series category in 2003, "The Simpsons" has dominated earning 28 nominations and winning the award every year since 2004. Not surprisingly, the ratings hit has done well in popular vote contests winning at both the Kids and Teen Choice awards as well as with the People's Choice.
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television