The Simpsons - Who Shot Mr. Burns Pitch

One of the most famous episodes of The Simpsons is the two-part mystery episode “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” that aired in 1995 as part of both the sixth and seventh season of the animated comedy series. Taking cues from the famous Dallas cliffhanger episode about who shot J.R. Ewing, the mystery was created in the season finale of the sixth season and wouldn’t be solved until the season premiere of the season seven.

It was quite the television event, with fans looking for clues and trying to figure out who shot Springfield’s maligned millionaire. While we all know that the culprit ridiculously turned out to be none other than Maggie Simpson, the original pitch for the episode had a variety of threads that could have been followed to reveal someone else behind the crime. A hard copy of the Who Shot Mr. Burns pitch has emerged online and provides some new details on where the episode could have gone.

The Original Who Shot Mr. Burns Pitch

The Simpsons writer and producer Josh Weinstein posted this page of the pitch for the episode (via Uproxx):

As you can see, the foundation for the episode is roughly the same as what we saw in the episode (including the Twin Peaks references), but the possibility of suspects is a little more open. We know Barney Gumble was floated as the possible shooter after being driven mad by the prospect of Moe’s Tavern being demolished. That also made Moe more of a suspect, too. But there were also Marge’s sisters, Patty and Selma, who were almost set up as suspects after finding out that Mr. Burns was having an affair with both of them.

However, as Weinstein points out in the tweet, these were merely possible paths for the episode to take. Because on the next page, the idea of having Maggie Simpson be the shooter was introduced, and we know that’s where the episode ultimately went when Mr. Burns tried to steal Maggie’s lollipop. That’s probably for the better, since any of the other threads feel a little too dark for The Simpsons. But that’s not the only difference in early versions of this two-part episode.

Back in December, Josh Weinstein posted this deleted scene on Twitter:

It’s more of a funny gag than a moment that changes the trajectory of the episode’s narrative. And it’s perfectly Homer Simpson.

What Happened to Episodes Like This?

Television just doesn’t make episodes like this anymore. Perhaps it’s because it’s so hard to keep secrets now that everyone has cameras on their phones and a rampant social media presence. We have such easy access to information and stories spread quickly online. Could a storyline like this even happen in today’s somehow simultaneously spoiler-hungry and spoiler-sensitive culture?

Perhaps the closest we’ve come to having mysteries like this on television was when the ABC series LOST was at the height of popularity, offering up dozens of mysteries that fans were desperately trying to solve. But otherwise, these kinds of novelty television episodes don’t really happen much anymore.

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