Update: Simpsons fans rejoice, Harry Shearer returns! Entertainment Weekly reported today that the voice of Montgomery Burns, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy and others, who tweeted his departure from the show in May, has signed a new deal to return to the series’ 27th and 28th seasons, after all. As Mr. Burns would say, this news is Exxxcellllent.
ORIGINAL STORY HERE:
The sad word is now out that legendary comedian Harry Shearer will not be returning for the 27th and 28th seasons of The Simpsons, where he is the voice of all-time great characters Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and more. The reasons are not completely clear, but according to tweets from Shearer, and comments from showrunner Al Jean to The New York Times, the departure stems from a contract dispute, likely over Shearer’s freedom to pursue other projects (which, historically, have been VERY IMPORTANT). Fast Company reached out to Shearer’s representative, but we’re told he’s not commenting at the moment beyond his tweets.
It’s a blow to fans of the show, whether they’re still watching it weekly or stopped a decade ago, but 26 years is a long time to do anything (and probably enough time for other voice talent to have nailed the part–Jean told The Times that Shearer’s characters will go on with other actors). Instead of focusing on the bad, we’re going to remember the good–and also the singular monstrosity of billionaire tyrant Mr. Burns–with just a few of many favorite clips from Shearer’s tenure.
The two-parter that ended season 6 and began season 7–“Who Shot Mr. Burns?”–is lousy with classic moments, but Montgomery Burns goes all in on the over-the-top evil: He literally blocks the sun with a giant metal disk, and steals a lollipop from Maggie Simpson, which nearly ends his life. In what might be the best line of the story arc, Burns’ long-suffering assistant Waylon Smithers, also voiced by Shearer, tells Dr. Colossus, “When he planned to steal our sunlight, he crossed that line between everyday villainy and cartoonish super-villainy.” Watch clips here and here.
Speaking of Smithers, the poor guy has a hard life. Not only must he aid and defend the world’s worst human 24/7, he also has to live with a burning unrequited love for that same monster. In the 1995 season 7 clip show “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular,” TV host Troy McClure answers (fake) viewer questions including “What is the real deal with Mr. Burns’ assistant Smithers? You know what I’m talking about.” McClure shows an incredible montage of Smithers’s deepest fantasies and restrained lust for Burns, after which the host says, “as you can see, the real deal with Waylon Smithers is that he’s Mr. Burns’s assistant. He’s in his early forties, is unmarried, and currently resides in Springfield. Thanks for writing!”
There are few people that Homer hates more than his constantly chipper evangelical Christian neighbor Ned Flanders, primarily because Flanders is a genuinely good person. The character known for his okely dokelies and pushbroom ‘stache is Shearer’s masterpiece, the height of hilarious, annoying, and poignant at once. But of the hours upon hours of extraordinary Flanders moments, these might be the greatest eight seconds.