In the 25 years The Simpsons has been on the air, nobody has aged or graduated the fourth grade, and no matter what kind of chaos goes down in a given episode, things are restored to normal so that the family can sit down on their couch again int he beginning of the next episode. So when a voice actor for the show dies, as the voice of Mrs. Krabappel Marcia Wallace did on October 25, it is jarring. But The Simpsons writers deal with it beautifully anyway.
Above is the chalkboard gag from last night's episode, in which Bart seems struck silent for once at the board he usually covers with words; he's a pretty simply animated character, but the slumped shoulders and frown say so much about real human mourning. The episode also ended with a nod to Wallace and Mrs. Krabappel, as captured in gif form by Uproxx.
Wallace was the voice of teacher Mrs. Krabappel from the very beginning of the show, and she won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for her work on the show. Last night, in place of a scheduled American Dad re-run, FOX had planned to re-air the episode that earned her the award, season three's "Bart the Lover," but replaced it with Season 22's "The Ned-liest Catch," in which Mrs. Krabappel is suspended from school and starts dating Ned Flanders. You can preview the episode and rent it in full below:
Marcia Wallace is not the first Simpsons voice actor to pass away-- when Phil Hartman was murdered in 1998, his characters Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz were both retired from the show, and the final episode in which he appeared was dedicated to him. Since Wallace's death a little over a week ago members of the Simpsons cast have reached out with a variety of touching tributes. Here's series producer Al Jean:
And Yeardley Smith, who provides the voice of Lisa Simpson:
Cheers to the hilarious, kind, fab Marcia Wallace, who has taken her leave of us. Heaven is now a much funnier place b/c of you, Marcia. Xx— Yeardley Smith (@YeardleySmith) October 26, 2013
The Simpsons, which is already renewed for a remarkable 26th season, has been promising to kill off a major character this season, though as Jean promised above that has nothing to do with Wallace's death.