After Simpsons voice actress Doris Grau passed away in 1995, her character Lunchlady Doris remained in the show. Or so we thought! It turns out that at some point in the series Doris was silently replaced with a pod person named “Lunchlady Dora,” who just happens to look and sound exactly like her.
Out of respect for the late Phil Hartman, his characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure were completely retired from the show (well, eventually… they still made occasional background appearances until 2003). This wasn’t the case for Lunchlady Doris, who lurked silently in the background for years.
Her silence was broken in a 2009 episode, when Tress MacNeille took over the role with a pretty dead-on impression. Some viewers felt recasting the character was disrespectful to Grau. However, it turns out it was actually a “new” character, “Lunchlady Dora,” a loophole that made the move perfectly ethical. Although MacNeille was credited as Lunchlady Dora in that episode’s press release, this little change was not mentioned in the actual show until 2013, when Groundskeeper Willie casually mentioned making sweet love to Lunchlady Dora (my fanfic came true!), and a second time in last night’s episode, where Dora is mentioned in the school newspaper. AV Club writer Sean O’Neal tweeted about it, assuming it was a typo, which lead Michael Price to set the record straight and confirm it’s a “different” character:
— Michael Price (@mikepriceinla) March 31, 2014
Well, now that there’s precedent for döppelganger replacement, we can all look forward to the never-ending adventures of Mr. Kurns, Jed Flanders and Principal Skynnyr once Harry Shearer decides to quit.