A little more than a week ago The Simpsons was renewed for two more seasons at FOX, which will allow the beloved animated series to extend its record as the longest-running scripted prime time show ever to at least season 28. Now, it seems the show will be carrying on without one of its mainstays.
Harry Shearer, the legendary comedian who’s been a voice actor on The Simpsons since it began in 1989, tweeted last night that he’s been informed by executive producer James L. Brooks that the series will go on without him, apparently because of a disagreement over other work.
from James L. Brooks’ lawyer: “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”. (½)— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work.— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)
Shearer, who’s also known for This Is Spinal Tap and his long-running radio program Le Show, did not voice a member of the Simpson family, but he did play a rather large portion of the Springfield population, including Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Rainier Wolfcastle, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner, and Waylon Smithers. Losing him is a major blow to the show, and to fans who’ve loved the consistency of having the same voice cast around for 26 years.
Nevertheless, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has confirmed in a statement to The New York Times that Shearer is indeed done on the show, and that his characters will be recast.
“Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted, and passed,” Jean said. “The show will go on and we wish him well. Maggie took it hard. "We do not plan to kill off characters like Burns and Flanders but will recast with the finest voiceover talent available.”
There’s no doubt that FOX will want to keep The Simpsons machine rolling, and there’s not even any doubt that there are voice actors out there who can do a perfect Ned Flanders and would be happy to take Shearer’s job, but this is still a blow. After more than a quarter century, one of the Big Six Simpsons cast members (Shearer, Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, and Hank Azaria) won’t be there.
UPDATE: This saga might not be over yet. Brooks has put an offer to talk on the table.
Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.— james l. brooks (@canyonjim) May 14, 2015
It feels like we all need some cheering up now… Here, have a little Mr. Plow. Everyone loves Mr. Plow.