Simpsons loyalists will remember that Krusty the Clown's original sidekick, Sideshow Bob (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), was replaced by Sideshow Mel early in the show's history. (You remember: Bob framed Krusty for an armed robbery at the Kwick-E-Mart and was sent away, resurfacing occasionally to attempt to kill Bart.)

Television's longest running cartoon didn't miss Bob much, but it might be devastated by the latest replacement Fox has in mind--almost the entire cast.

With the exception of the already-signed Julie Kavner (matriarch Marge), all the Simpsons voice talent is still locked in negotiations, trying to get huge $100,000-plus-per-episode deals for the 10th season. (Each episode requires two half-days of work a week.)

And with the drop-dead production date looming, Daily Variety says that Fox is considering replacing Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe the bartender, et. al) and Harry Shearer (neighbor Ned Flanders, et. al) if they don't ink new contracts ASAP.

Of course, if Fox is serious about the voice swap (the whole thing might just be a hardball negotiating ploy), the network risks alienating many hardcore fans and disrupting the program's consistency for syndication.

As Bart would say: That bites, man.

Then again, Variety quotes a TV analyst who insists it would be possible for the show to go on successfully sans the original actors.

"Some people will say the show's not the same, the voices are different," says Bill Croasdale, president of national broadcast at the media buying firm Western International Media.

"But I've got to believe the people at Fox are smart enough to get voices that closely approach the originals. There are enough mimics out there."

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