The Voice Of Mr. Burns And Ned Flanders Is Leaving The Simpsons

Harry Shearer Simpsons

The Simpsons has apparently suffered one of its most significant creative losses in the more than two decades its been on the air with the news that Harry Shearer, who voices some of the shows most iconic characters, is leaving the show:

It is not looking like an okely-dokely day in the town of Springfield: Harry Shearer, an Emmy Award-winning cast member of “The Simpsons,” who provides the voices of characters like the irritatingly upbeat neighbor Ned Flanders, the billionaire tyrant Mr. Burns and his faithful manservant, Smithers, has indicated that he is parting ways with this long-running Fox animated series.

Mr. Shearer, who has been a part of the “Simpsons” cast since it made its debut in 1989, wrote in a series of Twitter posts published overnight that his involvement with the show was coming to an end. He wrote that he had been told by a lawyer for James L. Brooks, a “Simpsons” executive producer, that the “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”

Mr. Shearer wrote that this occurred “because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work.” He added, “Of course, I wish him the very best.”

In another tweet, Mr. Shearer said, “Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.”

Al Jean, the “Simpsons” showrunner, said in an email, “Harry Shearer was offered the same deal the rest of the cast accepted, and passed. The show will go on and we wish him well. Maggie took it hard.”

Press representatives for Fox and “The Simpsons” did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday morning.

Fox announced earlier this month that it had picked up “The Simpsons” for two more years – the show’s 27th and 28th seasons, which would bring it to more than 600 episodes.

While Shearer did not provide the voice for any of the show’s core characters, his departure would seem to leave a significant hole in the show that would be difficult to fill unless producers decided to find someone else to voice those characters. It’s possible, of course, that the break between Shearer and the producers isn’t as bad as it appears and that they’ll be able to fix this, but that’s certainly not what one gathers from the press reports. In any case, because the show has become such a cultural icon this departure is getting quite a great deal of media attention. In all honesty though, I pretty much agree with those who say that the show peaked years ago and has basically been going through the motions ever since then. I’m a fan from way back, but at this point whether or not I catch an episode on Sundays isn’t really much of a priority anymore. The show still gets pretty decent ratings, though, and it makes a ton of money in syndication, so it’s understandable why Fox would want to keep it on the air as long as possible. With Shearer, and more importantly the characters he played gone, though, one wonders what the point is now.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture, Quick Takes, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    I’ve long thought it was time to end the show. This is just another reason.

  2. Other reports are suggesting that Shearer may not be “gone gone” yet and that this is more a negotiating tactic.

  3. Pinky says:

    It’d be interesting if they had the guts to retool it. That’s not the kind of thing that network executives like to do, especially with this show, since the homogeneity of the product allows them to just keep adding new episodes. But new neighbors, a new job, et cetera? Some people who have been just hanging on to the show would drop it. But it could also reenergize the show. There’s a line, now an old one, that The Simpsons have already done every gag. If you can’t repeat a bit from The Simpsons, you can’t do anything. But if anyone’s got that problem it’s the writers on The Simpsons themselves. It’s impossible for them to break new ground. The ironic thing is that the best analysis of this whole phenomenon comes from the Poochie episode of The Simpsons.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    That was my thought as well. Now, if they’d lost core characters it would be tough, but a new take on a supporting character like Mr. Burns? Maybe update the whole nuclear power thing and go more Silicon Valley? That would improve the show. It would be a gift.

  5. Tillman says:

    In all honesty though, I pretty much agree with those who say that the show peaked years ago and has basically been going through the motions ever since then.

    Alright, it’s time for the debate to end all debates. Screw all this political claptrap we dither over every day, this is the debate that will separate the wheat from the chaff. Not any of this bullshit about civil rights or proper economic policy, no. No! This is it, right here.

    When did the Simpsons peak?! Which run of seasons were the best?! Unlike our puerile partisan political posturing, this is the topic on which Man will ultimately be judged. The one thing an alien species will want to know upon encountering us is not the extent of our philosophy or the beauty of our art, but on which season of The Simpsons was the best?!

    My gut feeling is Season 6, but that’s without any mindful review of the oeuvre.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    I can toss off a mini-essay on Middle East policy in five minutes. But this is serious. This requires reflection.

  7. Grewgills says:
  8. Pinky says:

    To me, the show crashed after they lost their first cast member – you may remember him from such TV shows as Saturday Night Live and Newsradio.

  9. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: Can we really fault happenstance on a show though? It’s not like anyone knew his wife was going to kill him.

    Eh. Troy McClure has always been missed. As well as the beauty that was NewsRadio.

  10. Paul Hooson says:

    What a blow! Harry Shearer is super-talented! – Immensely talented entertainers like Harry Shearer make me proud to be a Jew! – I won’t name who, but another top producer of THE SIMPSONS is a customer of mine for a book business I also own, who looks for books for inspiration for jokes, so I have a small role in creative inspiration for the show.