Harry Shearer had to wait for 17 years after his cast mates from "The Simpsons" won the first Emmys awarded for voice-over performances before he finally earned a nomination last year. While Shearer has voiced dozens of characters — including many of the most popular ones, like Montgomery Burns and Mr. Smithers — since the series' debut in 1989, he was snubbed by the Emmy nominating panel time and again. Then when he finally made it into the race, he lost to Dan Castellaneta who gives voice to Homer Simpson.
Like last year, this year's nominees for voice-over performance were determined by a combined panel from the animation peer group and from the performers peer group who have voice-over credits. The winner will be decided by a non-preferential ratings score system.
Among those who edged Shearer out were two other "Simpson" regulars — Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta — as well as guest star Anne Hathaway who voiced Princess Penelope on one episode. 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 the voices of Apu and Moe Syzlak. Dan Castellaneta won his first and third Emmys in 1992 and 2004 for a variety of voices, while his second and fourth wins in 1993 and 2009 were just for Homer Simpson. This year, he contends for voicing Homer and Grampa Simpson.
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). Kelsey Grammer won in 2006 for the recurring character of Sideshow Bob.
This year's other nominees in the category are: H. Jon Benjamin as suave spy Sterling Archer on "Archer"; Seth Green for three roles on "Robot Chicken"; and Dave Foley as Santa's helper Wayne on "Prep and Landing."
"The Simpsons" has won 25 Emmys over its two-decade run: 13 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. The other nominees: "Alien Earths," "Prep & Landing," "The Ricky Gervais Show" and last year's champ "South Park."
"The Simpsons" has piled up numerous other accolades over the years including the prestigious Peabody in 1997. Among its other kudos are 27 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 33 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: "The Simpsons" montage. Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.