Negotiations with Harry Shearer appear to have hit a wee bit of a snag, as the longtime Simpsons cast member has apparently announced he's leaving the show.
Shearer made the announcement on Twitter late last night, quoting an imaginary press release from James L. Brooks's Lawyer, for some reason. Take a look:
from James L. Brooks' lawyer: "show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.". (1/2)— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
This because I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 14, 2015
Then he seized the opportunity to plug his new comedy song about cops. Hey, why not?
Shearer, the voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Waylon Smithers, Scratchy, Dr. Hibbert, Lenny, Kang, Otto, Rainier Wolfcastle, Jasper, Eddie, God, Mr. Largo, Herman, Sanjay, KBBL's Bill, and, of course, Damn Sandwich Took A Bite Out Of Me Guy, has been notoriously candid about his displeasure with the show for years, often describing himself as a "turd in a punchbowl." In one notable incident, he criticized the deteriorating quality of the show, telling a British interviewer "I rate the last three seasons as among the worst." This earned a public rebuke from executive producer Al Jean, who said he was ungrateful for the millions of dollars he was making "for what can generously be described as a few hours work a week." Shearer was later forced to write a "humiliating" apology to the show's cast and crew. Sounds like a chill, tension-free workplace! No wonder he telecommutes.
During a previous round of negotiations in 2011, Shearer "[threw] a monkey wrench" in the proceedings by asking for "a small share of the eventual profits," which he failed to get. Could this all just be some sort of Hail Mary, last-ditch negotiation tactic? Who knows!
Meanwhile, Al Jean is trying to project calm by assuring everyone the Simpsons franchise is an unstoppable juggernaut that will outlive us all:
Don't worry kids, we're going to go to the animal pound and get a new Harry Shearer, and you're going to love him even more than the old one and everything's going to be juuuust fine, I promise..!
It remains to be seen what Jean and the other writers will do with all of Shearer's characters. I've narrowed their choices down to eight unthinkable options:
- Recast the roles. With the right replacements, no one will be able to tell the diddley-ifference. Is Gilbert Gottfried available?
- Make them all mysteriously mute, or have them communicate exclusively through emoji. Now that's what I call contemporary satire!!!
- Kill 'em all off and make my joke episode a reality. I will graciously accept PayPal.
- Awkwardly write around around the characters. Homer gets some wacky new bosses! The Flanderses move away! Carl only hangs out with Disco Stu! Chalmers becomes the principal and also Bart's teacher! The Simpsons convert to Judaism and start attending a synagogue! Oh wait, the rabbi's gone too. Shit!
- Have the next two seasons just be slideshows of Simpsons Comics.
- Pull another Lunchlady Dora. Say hello to Mr. Burneds!
- Just never have the Simpsons leave their house or turn on the television ever again. Now every episode's a bottle episode!
- Shearer is still contracted for two more Simpsons movies... who says they can't be split into 45 different parts and aired on television over the course of two years?
Doing the honorable thing and ending the show is not an option. Team Simpsons is fully committed to beating some long-forgotten cowboy show's episode count, regardless of how many cast members or characters they have to lose along the way.