Shortly after Fox renewed The Simpsons for another two seasons, Harry Shearer has decided not to return to the longest-running sitcom on television. Shearer voices a slew of Simpsons characters including Mr. Burns, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Dr. Hibbert, bus driver Otto and many many more. The former Saturday Night Live player is walking away from a reported $14 million in guaranteed money. Showrunner Al Jean does not plan to kill off these major characters but will instead recast the roles “with the most talented members of the voice over community.”
Shearer was the lone hold out announced with the two-season pick-up. The 70-year-old actor has been with the show since it launched in 1989, although he only just won his first Emmy for his work last year. Shearer has been very vocal on Twitter, saying that the discontent is “because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work.” He runs a satirical syndicated radio program Le Show and has starred on stage in London. Jean insists he was “offered the same deal as the rest of the cast, but turned it down.” That deal did allow him to work on other projects. Deadline reports that the studio wanted him to commit to a schedule. Previously, Shearer has been doing voice work remotely.
20th Century Fox TV and producers of The Simpsons are open to him changing his mind, but it does not look likely. Either way, their statement insisted that the show will go on and they “wish him well.” Fans can still count on their favorite yellow-skinned dysfunctional family and the town of Springfield returning with new episodes for at least another couple of years. Some of their favorite characters’ voices, however, might have the slightest twinge of a difference.