Following a much-publicized, lengthy controversy over representation, whitewashing, and stereotyping sparked by comedian Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, The Simpsons’ 32nd Season kicks off this Sunday with some course corrections enacted: Variety is reporting that in the season premiere, Carl Carlson will be voiced by Alex Désert (Better Things, Better Call Saul) instead of Hank Azaria.
Désert will be taking over the role of Homer’s co-worker and Lenny Leonard’s best friend at the nuclear power plant–although it’s not yet clear whether he will be permanently replacing Azaria and/or other characters as well. Reportedly, Dr. Julius Hibbert–another Black character who under a recent decision by producers would require recasting characters of color to have corresponding voice actors–appears in the episode, but does not speak.
Azaria has publicly grappled with the preceding controversy in media and late-night interviews, before finally announcing earlier this year that he will no longer voice Apu. Last year, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening said that Apu will not be written off the show.
The premiere, an episode titled “Undercover Burns” sees Mr. Burns going undercover as “Fred” at the power plant to discover what the blue-collar employees truly think of him, and after making moves to improve their working conditions and personal lives, a jealous Smithers plots to bring back the old, bitter Burns. In other words, the episode draws inspiration from the CBS reality show, Undercover Boss. The season premiere will air on FOX at 8PM ET.
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