As a show that has been on the air for more than 30 years, The Simpsons is noteworthy for maintaining its core cast for that entire stretch. Not that the entire ensemble has stuck around, with several actors and actresses having sadly passed away over the decades (while certain characters have been sidelined for other reasons). One such treasured Simpsons vet was Marcia Wallace, who memorably voiced the constantly put-upon teacher Mrs. Edna Krabappel before her death in 2013. While The Simpsons hadn't ever found a way to bid the classic character a proper tribute during that season, the farewell finally came in the Season 32 winter premiere.
Having previously paid homage to Marcia Wallace – who received guest billing in this episode – in the touching chalkboard gag that also appeared in Sunday night's episode, "Dairy Queen," The Simpsons gave Mrs. Krabappel a new chance to shine as Bart's unwitting educational cheerleader. After Bart stumbles upon his former teacher's diary, he read a little too deeply into some of her entries, believing her written kindness to be about him. For what it's worth, that bit of misguided confidence made Bart a better student, as well as a more genial person, but he eventually learned the truth.
In reality, Edna had been writing her loving diary entries about her cat, which Lisa had to show Bart in a most pull-the-bandaid-off kind of way. (Let's all agree it might have been slightly disturbing if she actually had written all that about Bart in particular.) After Bart moped about it while up in his treehouse, he was visited by neighborino Ned Flanders, who shared the touching story in which Marcia Wallace's re-used dialogue could be heard.
At one point, Ned was thinking about packing up and leaving Springfield with Edna. During a family meeting, both Rod and Todd agreed with Ned that it was the right choice to leave Springfield, what with all the scary ladybugs and Homer constant presence. However, Edna was the one who convinced them all to stay with an inspirational argument that she needed to stay in Springfield in order to make a difference in the lives of wayward kids such as Bart Simpson. It was a little too shoehorned to feel like an instant classic heartwarming moment, but the episode worked overall.
The Simpsons' longtime showrunner and executive producer Al Jean spoke with Variety about how the creative team worked the episode out so that Marcia Wallace's dialogue could be used again after all these years. The producers got in touch with the actress' estate and cleared the usage, as well as compensated them for the material. Below, Jean explains exactly why they wanted to honor Mrs. Krabappel with this episode.
I didn’t know she was that ill until very close to when it happened. So we never got the chance to give sort of a proper goodbye to her in the show, and this is a small attempt to do that. And, you know, she was so beloved by everybody that worked on The Simpsons, that we just sort of wanted to give her one last moment on the show in her memory. It’s just that, it’s nothing more, but, we thought she was the best. . . . We just wanted to sort of send the character off properly, in a way that I think isn’t trying to be exploitive.
As a fan of classic TV that got to know Marcia Wallace's work on The Simpsons around the same time in childhood when I watched her genius at work on The Bob Newhart Show. So what better screenshot from the episode can there be than Edna Krabappel settling in to enjoy Wallace's performance as the aces receptionist Carol.
Even though it's been eight years since the cancer-surviving Marcia Wallace died of pneumonia and sepsis in October 2013, her excellent work can be found across 20+ seasons of The Simpsons and then some. Until we meet again, Mrs. Krabappel.