Celebrating The Simpsons' retired characters
From Mrs Krabappel to Troy McClure, James salutes a selection of Springfield's finest departed citizens...
Contains plot details for The Simpsons seasons one to twenty-five.
During 2014, The Simpsons is celebrating the big quarter of a century benchmark and airing its 25th season. Not half bad for a couple of brief sketches originally airing as part of The Tracy Ullman Show. With such a large ensemble cast and hundreds of characters to animate you don’t last quarter of a century without losing a few along the way. Actors dying, leaving for personal reasons, awkward pay disputes and unknown circumstances are all responsible.
The Simpsons has stuck to a rule of retiring characters after an actor’s death, mainly out of respect but also to ensure the voice acting talent is top notch. After the sad death of Marcia Wallace in 2013, best known as the voice of Bart’s schoolteacher Edna Krabappel, the character will be retired in this season. Many of the characters previously removed have been retired under strange circumstances so here is a history of, an In Memoriam, for those we’ve lost on the longest-running sitcom of all time.
Lionel Hutz & Troy McClure (Phil Hartman)
Both were iconic characters who left a lasting legacy on the show, and both were voiced by Phil Hartman. Hutz is the incompetent lawyer everyone in Springfield appears to use. Troy McClure is most famous for his catchphrase, “Hi, I’m Troy McClure, you may remember me from...”. McClure was present between seasons two-ten and involved in a variety of roles, a B-movie actor who had fallen on hard times. Both of Hartman’s characters briefly married Selma Bouvier.
The story of the two characters ends in retirement after a very sad and potentially the most dramatic turn of events behind the scenes in the show's history. Phil Hartman was killed at the age of 49 on the 28th of May, 1998. Out of respect for those concerned, we won't go into the sad details of Hartman's death here. Suffice to say, the actor is sorely missed.
As were Hartman's characters in The Simpsons. Both McClure and Hutz were retired in his memory in 1998 episode Bart the Mother and Hartman’s last appearance also received a dedication to his memory. Hartman’s legacy lives on through The Simpsons as Hutz sometimes appears as a non-speaking background character. Matt Groening, the show’s creator and also head of Futurama, later named the show's protagonist, Philip J Fry, in Hartman's honour.
Wife of Ned, mother of Rod and Todd, Godmother to Lisa and The Simpsons neighbour-rino sadly left the show in Season eleven. Maude was a devout Christian - much like her husband - homemaker on Evergreen Terrace and sometime owner of the Leftorium. She was killed at the Springfield Speedway after being knocked off a height by a shirt cannon brought on by Homer himself. He’s not such a good guy after all, is he?
Voice artist for Maude was Maggie Roswell who voices characters Helen Lovejoy, Miss Hoover and Luann Van Houten with some other minor characters. Roswell left after a pay dispute in season ten and Maude was retired whilst acting duties for the other characters fell to a number of backups. Roswell then returned to the show after a settlement with Fox for Season fourteen but by that time Maude was dead and gone. Maude has been wheeled out a few times since though, usually as a ghost in the Treehouse of Horror episodes.
Frank “Grimey” Grimes
Appearing in just one episode yet every Simpsons viewer remembering him, that’s the sign of an effective character. Frank Grimes appeared in Season eight’s Homer’s Enemy in which he plays the title character. Grimey had to earn everything he had the hard way and was so inspiring Mr Burns decided to employ him in Sector 7G after a short TV feature.
Homer’s buffoonery eventually sends Grimes into a rage which ends in the infamous line. “What’s this? Extremely high voltage. Well, I don’t need safety gloves, cause I’m Homer Simp-!” Grimes certainly left his legacy on the show, appearing in a number of in memoriams and inspiring the the introduction of Frank Grimes Jr. Hank Azaria did a great job voicing Grimes and his relations but sadly the character has not yet been fully resurrected. You never know, Treehouse of Horror means anything can happen.
After Marcia Wallace’s death, Executive Producer Al Jean confirmed that the character will be retired within Season twenty-five. It’s unsure how it will happen as she’s only just moved into Evergreen Terrace with her new husband, Mr Ned “Diddly” Flanders. Jean said: "I was tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of the brilliant and gracious Marcia Wallace. She was beloved by all at "The Simpsons" and we intend to retire her irreplaceable character.
How do you think Edna will leave the show? How will it affect Ned and the Flanders children? Even more interesting could be the way it will affect Bart, Edna’s on-again-off-again student, enemy and best-friend. Also who will take over the teaching of the tenth grade at Springfield Elementary? How will one-time boyfriend Principal Skinner take the news?
So many questions, and not long to find out as Season twenty-five finishes sometime around May.
Another character we know and love is destined to leave the series in the next year or so, and it won’t be a half arsed Brian Griffin one either. Al Jean told The Sun News: “I’ll give you a clue that the actor playing the character won an Emmy for playing that character, but I won’t say who it is.” So who does that leave?
Nine voice actors on the show have won an Emmy making the list pretty much endless. Characters include: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Grampa, Krusty, Barney, Willie, Mayor Quimby, Sideshow Mel, Itchy, Gil, Apu, Chief Wiggum, Moe, Rabbi Krustofski, Sideshow Bow and Anne Hathaway’s turn as Princess Penelope. Plus there are many, many more to choose from. It’ll be sad to see anyone go but Springfield isn’t shy of killing off characters. Place your bets now.
Special mentions also go out for the entire Snowball legacy, The Winfields who moved to Florida, Mona Simpson and of course, the original, Fat Tony.