Thursday, May 29, 2014

#TBT -- Classic Simpsons -- "Who Shot Mr. Burns (Part 1)" (Season 6, Episode 25)

Episode 2F16
Original Airdate: May 21st, 1995
Writer(s): Josh Weinstein, Bill Oakley
Director: Jeffrey Lynch
Commentary by: David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Jeffrey Lynch

Synopsis

Mr. Burns becomes particularly sinister, stealing an oil reserve out from under Springfield Elementary, injuring Santa's Little Helper, and just generally wreaking havoc on the town more than usual. When Burns is shot after a town hall meeting, everyone has motive and everyone is a suspect.





Analysis

This is arguably the most well-known Simpsons episode in the entire canon, mostly because of the highly publicized contest they did to see if anyone could solve the mystery that the episode gets its name from. I'm pretty sure that little ten-year-old Derrick even entered the contest and probably guessed the same person that the vast majority of people guessed. In fact, the showrunners are quite proud of the fact that they specifically designed the episode so that most people would guess this particular character and that it worked beautifully in producing that result.

But forgetting all that for a moment, as a pure Simpsons episode, this is about as good as it gets. The direction and the writing, as always, are in peak form, and the animation is some of the best they've ever done. What really strikes me about this episode, at least visually speaking, is how beautifully colored it is, especially compared to the earlier days of the show. But the highlights, as always, are the writing and the voice acting, and, to a slightly lesser extent, the directing.

I absolutely LOVE the way the story develops and how they not only try to make you think that one particular character is the shooter but also give pretty much EVERY major character a legitimate motive for wanting Mr. Burns dead. Homer is enraged that he can't remember his name. Bart is pissed that he injured Santa's Little Helper. Grampa is steamed that the oil rig opened up a sinkhole that destroyed the old folks' home. Skinner, Lisa, Groundskeeper Willie and even Tito Puente are sour that he robbed Springfield Elementary of much-needed funding. Moe and Barney want to get him for forcing Moe's to close down due to the toxic fumes from the oil rig. And, of course, Smithers is fired for questioning his evil plot to block out the sun. All swirling around an epic cliffhanger ending. Simply dazzling.

Favorites/Fun Facts

-The idea for this episode first came from Matt Groening at a writers' retreat. His suggestion was to to "do a publicity stunt like 'Who Shot Mr. Burns.'" It's also the first ever two-part episode of The Simpsons.

-CLUE: This episode contains several instances of characters with initials containing the letters M, S, and/or W.

-According to the showrunners, only one person on the internet was actually able to solve the mystery but they have never been able to locate this person.

-Director Jeffrey Lynch didn't even know the answer to the mystery when he was directing this episode. Executive Producer David Mirkin actually called up media outlets to leak the fake endings he had written and was turned down on principle every time. All of the fake endings appear in the 138th Episode Spectacular.

-Ralph: "Miss Hoover, the floor is shaking"
Ms. Hoover: "[sigh] Ralph, remember when you thought the--"
Ralph: "NYAHHH!"


-The following is a beautifully written and BRILLIANTLY voice acted homage to a series of Federal Express commercials from this era that serves as a lovely exposition to Homer's motive for killing Mr. Burns--the fact that after all these years working for him, he still can't remember his name:
Mr. Burns: "I need to send this parcel with the profit projections to Pete Porter in Pasadena. And it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
Corporate Executive #1: "Pete Porter, pass it on."
Corporate Executive #2: "Pasadena, promptly."
Corporate Executive #3: "Package for Parcel Processing, pronto."
Mr. Smithers: "Perk up, Pendergast. Profoundly pressing package of power plant profit projections for Pete Porter in Pasadena."
Pendergast: "Priority?"
Mr. Smithers: "Precisely."
btw, who the crap is this guy and why does he--an executive in Mr. Burns's board room--have PINK HAIR?

-The Simpsons has always been so great at lampooning people in power, even with little side jokes like this:


-Principal Skinner: "I have ideas on spending this oil money"
Superintendent Chalmers: "Well, we could give every student a full college scholarship..."
Oh, mercy!

-Jimbo Burns, struggling to mount Skinner's desk:
"Me and my fourth form chums think it would be quite corking 
if you would sign over your oil well to the local energy concern."
(One of my favorite things in The Simpsons is the antiquated 
Mr. Burns/Grampa Simpson dialogue)


-"It will be like taking candy from a baby--Say, that sounds like a larf!"


-CLUE: As he and Smithers eat Homer's gift box of chocolates, Burns calls Santa's Little Helper the "Simpson Mutt" (S.M.) and then refers to Maggie Simpson (M.S.) and Marge Simpson (M.S.) by name.
*POSSIBLE CLUE?: Maggie is the first one revealed in the box of chocolates


-Burns Slant-Drilling Co. Believe it or not, this is an actual thing (though, obviously, sans the wildly structurally unsound diagonal oil derrick).


-Skinner has just informed the faculty that the oil belongs to whomever pumps it first.
Groundskeeper Willie: "What about all the expensive stuff we wanted? Can we still have it?!"
Principal Skinner: "No!"
Groundskeeper Willie: "GAHHH!"


-CLUE: "Pardon My Zinger" ad showing on TV at Moe's, says it's on Weekdays at 3pm (being shown during Mystery Science Theater [M.S.]--OK, that's a bit of a stretch but so are most of these clues).
"Man alive! There are...men alive in here..."

-CLUE: Liquor License on the wall at Moe's granted to Moe Szyslak (M.S.)--first appearance of Moe's last name (which was apparently taken from the phonebook).

-Check out the color and detail in this shot. Hell, this entire scene. Beautiful.
"Since the dawn of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing: block it out!"

-CLUE: Smithers laments that "the town's sundial will be rendered useless" if Burns blocks out the sun.


-"Take that Bowl-a-Rama! Take that convenience mart! Take that Nuclear Power Pla--eh...oh, fiddlesticks..."


-"Smithers, who is that ignoramus? Smithers, who is that lollygagger? Who is that blubberpot? Who is that
baffleweed? Lummox? Puddinghead? Beanhead? Goon? Goldbricker? Goofball? Drizzlepuss? Fumblefist?"


-"Who the devil are you?" Poor Homer. Poor, poor Homer.


-"Hey, the lamp's runnin' away!"
"So long, lamp!"

-CLUE: Grampa's "old Smith & Wesson" (S.W.)


-CLUE: At the town hall meeting, Smithers mentions that he never misses "Pardon My Zinger."

-CLUE: Burns at the town hall meeting: "Have you ever seen the sun set at 3pm?" ("Pardon My Zinger" is on at 3pm)

-CLUE: As the town hall meeting lets out, Smithers walks off in the opposite direction of where the shooting happens.

-CLUE: Burns's gun is conspicuously missing when he collapses on the sundial after being shot:


-The indelible image of this episode and the biggest CLUE of all as Burns points to W and S when he collapses--or, from his perspective, M and S:


-"Well, I couldn't possibly solve this mystery. CAN YOU?"
"Yeah, I'll give it a shot. I mean, y'know, it's my job, right?"
(ALL images contained herein belong SOLELY to Twentieth Century Fox. Please don't sue us!)

Next Week: "Who Shot Mr. Burns (Part 2)" (Season 7, Episode 1)



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