It's official: Burns is back. Harry Shearer, who voices numerous characters on The Simpsons, ranging from the evil Mr. Burns to the pious Ned Flanders, will not be leaving the long-running cartoon after all. EW reports that Fox has reached a deal with the iconic voice actor, bringing him back on board for potentially four more seasons. Cartoon crisis averted.
Shearer previously confirmed his departure on Twitter after reportedly turning down a $14 million, 2-year deal, so it seemed that The Simpsons would have to find a way to move on after 26 years with the actor and his characters. With Shearer's return looking dubious, executive producer Al Jean told CNNMoney that the show would replace him if necessary, leading to off-brand versions of Principal Skinner, and utterings of "excellent" that just couldn't ring true. But Jean made it clear that the producers didn't want it to come to that, and luckily for fans, the studio did not give up. Seven weeks after Shearer's goodbye tweet, he's signed a new deal that guarantees the actor $300,000 an episode, according to EW.
The series' five other major players have reportedly agreed to the same contract, meaning Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria are all sticking around for the foreseeable future. The series has been renewed through the 28th season so far, but the core voice actors' agreement includes a network option for the 29th and 30th seasons. The current season (the 27th) is already in production, so it'll be interesting to see how they manage to add Shearer in this late in the game.
The return of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and many more is better late than never, no doubt. Season 27's Sept. 27 premiere suddenly seems that much less troubling.