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Harry Shearer Quits ‘The Simpsons’

UPDATE: Executive producer Al Jean detailed Harry Shearer’s departure, as well as plans for the future of his characters in a statement to the New York Times.:”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. We do not plan to kill off characters like Burns and Flanders but will recast with the finest voiceover talent available.”

Well, I guess that’s the only thing they really can do, other than somehow simultaneously kill off every character he voiced, which would be absurd. Or just write storylines that don’t involve any of them, which would further limit the new storyline capabilities of a show that’s almost 30 years old. Either way, I’m still sad to see Shearer go. The show hasn’t been up to its old standards, but it’s been steadily improving in recent years, in my opinion. Part of me just wants to see the show end before it loses any other cast members, but another part of me can’t really imagine a world without The Simpsons. Here’s hoping the show can find some truly great voice talent to carry on Shearer’s roles.

Harry Shearer Quits 'The Simpsons'

Credit: IFC / FOX

Just after FOX renewed the show for two more seasons, actor Harry Shearer has quit The Simpsons. The reason? Apparently, there was a dispute regarding Shearer wanting the freedom to do other work alongside his role on The Simpsons. It’s a dispute that could not be resolved, so FOX and Shearer have parted ways.

For those unfamiliar with The Simpsons, Shearer has been absolutely crucial to the success of the show. He voices Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, Rev. Lovejoy, Otto, Lenny, Dr. Hibbert, Kent Brockman, Rainier Wolfcastle, and countless other minor characters. You could make the argument that he’s the most essential performer outside of the Simpson family (although some would say Hank Azaria is more crucial).

Shearer announced his departure through a lawyer on Twitter:

This is far from the only time Shearer has had a dispute with FOX. As it turns out, he was the lone holdout among the cast when the network has trying to negotiate for the two-season renewal. Ultimately, FOX went ahead and renewed the show anyway, despite negotiations still hanging in limbo. Shearer reportedly hated FOX’s press release for the renewal, as it didn’t mention the names of any of the actors.

Honestly, I can’t say I blame Shearer. The man has total financial security from 26 seasons of a show that has no apparent end in sight. Why stick around at a job you hate, particularly if the passion is no longer there? He’s 71-years-old, and I imagine he’d like to have the opportunity to do other things with his life, at this point.

That said, Homer Simpson would likely have counselled him differently:

Ultimately, while I don’t begrudge Shearer his choice, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss him. Here’s hoping for all the best to a guy who’s delivered some of my favorite television moments. Best of luck in whatever comes next, Mr. Shearer.

But what do you think of the news? Should FOX bend over backwards to keep him? Or can the show continue without him? Should they hire a sound-alike, or would that be a bridge too far?

Sound off in the comments!

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