The Simpsons: Who Shot Mr. Burns? Episode Could Have Been WAY Different

The two-part “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” episode of The Simpsons is one of the long-running show’s best-known and most-talked about. Part 1, the final episode of Season 6, ended on an epic cliffhanger where Mr. Burns lay shot on a sun-dial. The audience had to wait four months for the Season 7 premiere to find out who indeed shot Mr. Burns. Many Springfield characters had their own motivations for shooting Mr. Burns, but few could have guessed that it would be baby Maggie who was revealed to have shot the wealthy, curmudgeonly nuclear powerplant owner.

Now, Who Shot Mr. Burns? co-writer Josh Weinstein has shared the summary of the team’s pitch notes for the episode that he wrote alongside Bill Oakley. The document dates back to June 1994, which is 11 months before the episode aired in May 1995.

In the notes, you can see a “very rough” general outline of the episode–and it offers some really interesting insight into what the writers were thinking about. First, one of early ideas was for Mr. Burns to buy a huge plot of land in Springfield for one of his new business endeavours, destroying places like Moe’s Tavern in the process. Ultimately, they went a different way, with Burns creating a dome that blocks out the sun so Springfield residents are forced to buy power from his energy plant.

The writers wanted to be ensure they did not “cheat” the audience with a reveal of the shooter that didn’t live up to the hype. They considered a reveal where it was all a dream or something bizarre like out of Twin Peaks, or someone who stumbled into Springfield by chance and commits the act. They also considered making Barney the shooter and sending him to jail for a period of time for attempted murder.

“We could have it be somebody else but it would really be satisfying it were not some cheap-out guy like Burns’ brother who suddenly appeared at the last minute,” the notes says. The writers also apparently considered having Selma or Patty be the shooters.

In the end, viewers learned that it was Maggie who shot Mr. Burns, by accident, after Mr. Burns was trying to take candy from her. The writers peppered in clues to this, which was precisely the plan. “If I was a kid, I’d really like it if there were actual clues,” reads a line from the notes. To hype up the mystery, Fox produced commercials that ran over the summer between Parts 1 and 2 (see above).

This is a good deal of information about a previously mysterious subject, but it would be cool to learn more about how the episode was conceived and written. Thankfully, Weinstein said he’ll post more “snippets” of behind-the-scenes goodness in time, though he may save the bulk of it for a book.

The 29th season of The Simpsons is running now. You can watch new episodes on Sunday nights on Fox. A second Simpsons movie is being considered but no official announcements have been made. In other news, a fake word that The Simpsons made up is now in the dictionary.

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