Harry Shearer to leave The Simpsons

So come on, which one’s your favourite? Mr Burns? Smithers? Flanders? Well, as of the 27th season of The Simpsons, if they’re still in the show they won’t be voiced by Harry Shearer.

AB

The founding cast member and bass player in Spinal Tap tweeted today that he was leaving the animated adventures of America’s best-known family; news backed up by an email received by CNN Money from showrunner Al Jean.

 

James L Brooks, one of the programme’s all-time head honchos has appealed to Shearer to keep in touch regarding a deal which he turned down, reportedly worth $14 million.

But at this point, I’d be astonished if it’s money – or not enough of it – that’s motivating the actor to move on. Throughout the series’ nearly 30 years on air, there’s plenty of cash to go around that recording studio.

Shearer tweeted “the freedom to do other work” as a driving force in his decision, which nobody can be blamed for seeking, after such an extraordinarily lengthy run as one of the most famous voice actors in the business.

But that hasn’t been a problem either for Shearer; he’s been working for both stage and screen in the UK, most notably as Richard Nixon ‘performing’ the contents of his secret White House tapes in Nixon’s The One for Sky Arts.

So what of the characters he has left behind? We all have our favourites – and it’s shocking to me that the vast majority of news reports have led with Mr Burns – but mine is Principal Skinner by a great distance. Other vastly underrated characters voiced by Shearer include Lenny and Jasper – if only for his ‘that’s a paddlin’’ speech from ‘The PTA Disbands’.

 

I’m glad that writing out a blog post gives me the space to avoid knee-jerk reactions that tweeting and Facebooking don’t, because on the latter social network today I had an extreme knee-jerk reaction along the lines of “okay, can they just STOP making this now?” The old ‘it isn’t as good as it used to be’ argument rages on, and I’m actually firmly of the opinion myself that, at season 26, The Simpsons is now twice as old as it should ever have been.

Recasting the characters though? A new voice for Flanders, Skinner and Burns? Yeah, I’m sticking with my jerky knees on this one. That’s going to be an extremely tough sell to anyone, diehard fan or not.

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