It was “Simpsons” writer Mike Reiss who asked about Shanter’s absence from “Marge vs. the Monorail,” a logical question, given the presence of his old “Star Trek” co-star Leonard Nimoy. The writers and producers on the commentary track then joshed briefly that Shatner came in and directed Nimoy’s scenes (which he most certainly didn’t). Producer Al Jean explained that Shatner had been invited onto “The Simpsons” numerous times, going all the way back to the show’s first season in 1989, but that he turned them down every time.
It seems that Shatner, for being a notable presence in American popular culture, wasn’t so savvy in American pop culture himself. It was more likely he was riding horses on one of his ranches, co-authoring “TekWar” novels, hanging out in his home drinking bottles of Labatt, and appearing at conventions to much notice the phenomenon like “The Simpsons.” The animated sitcom was only four years old when “Marge vs. the Monorail” aired, so it was still young and perhaps hadn’t yet made its way to Shatner.
“Futurama,” meanwhile, was actually explained to him. Shatner’s 2020 Tweet explained it plainly: “I didn’t know what the Simpson’s was and I was told Futurama was a SciFi cartoon.”
It seems, then, that when casting agents assumed Shatner’s familiarity with “The Simpsons,” they misjudged his pop awareness. The casting agents at “Futurama” were humble enough to lay out their show for Shatner, and he was happy to participate. And, golly, was he game. Shatner speak-sang “The Real Slim Shady,” and delivered self-deprecating lines of dialogue like “When I directed ‘Star Trek V,” I got a magnificent performance out of me because I respect me so much.”
Between “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” then, we got one pretty fun Shatner performance.