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America's Favorite Non-prehistoric Cartoon Family - The Simpsons Thread

Johnny Unusual

Round Springfield

I've been fortunate in that I've only been to a handful of funerals. I did love the people who I lost but the grieving didn't last as long for me as the people for whom the deceased where more closely related. It was pain that didn't take too long to heal. Frankly, seeing what grieving is supposed to look like from TV, I always feel like I must be emotionally cold or unhealthily detached for not being overwhelmed with pain. I do feel confident if I lost somebody in my immediate family I would be crushed but I do worry that I'm so self-absorbed that I wouldn't give them the respect they deserve. I'd like to think that I'd do something to honor their memory but I know they've done so much that they will be remembered for being great, accomplished people. We all want to be remembered and I take comfort that the people I love will be.

In this episode, Bart gets sick after eating a prize in a box of Krusty-O's. While visiting Bart at the hospital, Lisa finds Bleeding Gums Murphy, who encourage Lisa to find creative outlets for her sadness in "Moaning Lisa". Lisa visits and reconnects with Murphy at the hospital but one day Lisa returns to find he's died. Lisa is strucken with grief over the loss of her friend and while her family tries to help her, Lisa doesn't know what to do with these feelings. After seeing Murphy's funeral where she was the only attendant, Lisa vows to let Springfield know about Murphy and his greatness. Lisa can only find one album, which turns out to be prohibitively expensive but Bart buys it for Lisa with his settlement he won from his prize-eating mishap. Lisa takes it to a jazz station with bad frequency but a freak lightning strike spreads the signal through Springfield, allowing everyone to appreciate his music. Then Lisa jams with a Murphy ghost made of cloud. Even for the elastic reality of the series at this point, its kind of a weird ending.

Round Springfield is a good episode but watching it this time out it has some notable flaws. 15 years or so ago, I had a book I loved called "Planet Simpson", a series of essays about what makes the show so great and how it reflects modern culture and its influence on it. And the guy takes time to single out the song in this episode is pretty weak sauce. Watching it again, I got to agree. "Jazzman" is a very toothless and bland song. Yeardley Smith does what she can but this is a snooze of a song and I always hate supposedly great art within fiction that is just generic. Similarly, almost all of the jazz in this episode is the limpest version of it. Usually, I have praise for Alf Clausen's work but this feels like a subpar SNL intro from the 80s.

This isn't the only issue. The other is that while Ron Taylor is great as Bleeding Gums, it is unfortunate that one of the few notable black characters on the show and THE ONLY recurring character (usually) voiced by a black man exists almost exclusively to forward the story of Lisa dealing with loss. We do get his life story of being an underappreciated talent but Bleeding Gums job is to completely support Lisa, which is good, but he doesn't get a lot beyond that. And yeah, many major Springfieldians don't get a lot of death but the weight of the death is purely on the feelings of a little white girl who just lost her biggest booster. Watching it again through that lens, Murphy is a character with a good performer and has a weight that is rare on the show with his presence but in the end he and his death are devices.

So this does strain my enjoyment a bit compared to before but it is still a good episode. In terms of being sentimental, its one of the lesser sentimental episodes of the era. But it has a lot of funny business with Bart and Smith and Taylor put the work in to both sell jokes and the emotions of a scene. After all, it always hurts to watch Lisa's heart breaks. But even though they are mostly to forward jokes, I like that as tactless as they are, Homer and Bart genuinely want to cheer up or comfort Lisa. Yeah, Bart's thing is to set up a killer butterfly gag (no pun intended but retroactively appreciated) but the set up seems a little sweet. Of course, the real sweetness is not only Bart sacrificing his own childhood glee for his sister's happiness but the very specific reason he does it: she believed him. Overall, this goes for sweet and funny but I feel like the wins are mostly in the funny column for this one.

Jokes I missed before:

"What can you give me for this AA chip."
"Barney, this is a five minute chip. Eh, its worth a Pabst."

Other great jokes:

Bears: Now with jagged metal eyes.

"Yes, why is that student lying on the floor?"
"Well, in some cases the floor-- oh, look."
I love Skinner's aborted excuses.

"Can I have my appendix out?"
"Why not? Follow me kids! Nurse, prep these children."

"We all thought it was funny."
"... That's not funny."
Great line read.

"This one's a great jazz musicians."
"Ah, they all are."

"Uh, Krusty, that wasn't a metal one, it was a regular Krusty-O."
"It's poison."
Me eating Krave.

"They'll be playing Stars and Stripes Forever, hopefully not forever."

This was me as a teenager. I... I was dealing with some stuff.

Lovejoy's half-assed eulogy is perfect in its sucktitude.

"Lady, he's putting my kids through college."
This is a man who gets Homer. We call this a symbiotic relationship.

Another stellar "Bart fantasizes about terrible things happening to him that he thinks is cool."

I love how he opens with a playfully written intro and dives headfirst into sadness.

Other notes:

Oh my God. The Klingon Chef in Deep Space Nine is Bleeding Gums Murphy!

The Simpsons and MST3k both had gags about Steve Allen's insane talent for innovating and cranking stuff out but as someone who grew up in a largely post-Steve Allen world, his significance is a bit lost on me.

Fun fact: I read that in order to relieve the overworked Simpsons staff, The Critic writers worked on this and the crossover episode. There are some jokes that ape the Simpsons style perfectly and are great (The butterfly). There are some that feel a bit more like a good Critic joke more than a Simpsons joke (the Bill Cosby bit, though the Simpsons would return to the Cosby well on their own) and some feel like a weak bit of pop culture riffing that isn't particularly funny and I'm not sure what the point is (the ghosts of James Earl Jones characters).


"Jazzman" is a cover of a real Carole King song, but it's a weird choice, not exactly one of her songs for the ages.

I love the Hill Street Blues-style version of the Simpsons theme that plays over the closing credits.

Johnny Unusual

I assumed it was an original song. Yeah, the lyrics aren't particularly strong.

The Hill Street Blues actually appears in the next episode, which is a personal favourite. I like to bring up the "garage" joke with my sister's partner, a Englishman who calls it a "gare-ij".


The Hill Street Blues actually appears in the next episode, which is a personal favourite. I like to bring up the "garage" joke with my sister's partner, a Englishman who calls it a "gare-ij".

slaps forehead

It's late, and my brain seems to have picked an element from the next episode in my mental spreadsheet of season 6. I spent a lot of time reading snpp.com around that time.


It's always time for burgers
Staff member
and some feel like a weak bit of pop culture riffing that isn't particularly funny and I'm not sure what the point is (the ghosts of James Earl Jones characters).

Yeah this one always falls flat with me but "this is CNN" and just the general vibe of taking Disney down a peg really played well I first saw the episode as a kid.


(He, him)
I know the cloud guys isn't the best joke, but knowing what I do now about The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion I did have a good laugh when Mufasa used the wrong name.


The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
I know the cloud guys isn't the best joke, but knowing what I do now about The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion I did have a good laugh when Mufasa used the wrong name.

Had no idea about Kimba until now and read all about that, crazy story


Arm Candy
Twinkle, twinkle, groovy cat,
How I wonder where you at.
I really love the way you cook,
Just like me, when I wrote this book: How To Make Love To Steve Allen. From the author of Happiness is a Naked Steve Allen, Journey to the Center of Steve Allen, and The Joy of Cooking Steve Allen.

Johnny Unusual

The Springfield Connection

While I have been aware there have been a lot of problems within the police system including corruption and abuse of power, I admit it wasn't until the past decade that I saw how deeply broken the police system is essentially the world over. It seems like becoming a cop means exposing yourself to a system of belief that perpetuates the idea that there are "warriors, victims and villains" and encourages some very tribalist behaviour. I was aware that generally cop fiction features a romanticized view of the police (I'm still a big fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a workplace comedy where "copaganda" is not uncommon) that one should take with a grain of salt but I think we live in a time where if you can't see the problems with the structure of law enforcement and that it needs to be heavily rethought from the ground up rather than tiny fixes and seminars, then you are either being willfully ignorant or these things aren't problems for you. I don't know what the future of law enforcement should look like but I know what it shouldn't: more of the same. And with that change, a change on how law enforcement will be presented on TV.

In this episode, Marge manages to knock out a three card monte cheat after chasing him into an alley and finds that she suddenly has a taste for thrill seeking. This ends up leading her to want to join the police. After graduating from police academy, Marge becomes a Springfield beat cop and Homer enjoys the perks. However, when Homer's misbehaviour gets him in trouble with his wife, he soon disapproves. Meanwhile, Marge finds herself dedicated to her work but disappointed with people's disrespect for the law and is alienated from people who see her purely as a cop. Homer and Marge later discover a counterfeit jeans ring operating out of the Simpson garage during poker night. Marge arrests the crooks, including Herman, but then quits of force after finding that the police has taken the jeans for themselves and revealed the deep-seeded corruption in the police.

In some of these episodes, they've aged very badly (Homer Badman) or very well (Homer the Vigilante) or in some cases, kind of weird (Sideshow Bob Roberts). The Springfield Connection aged better than I might have thought but also a little weirdly. This isn't a huge indictment of police culture but it is in there in amounts that was greater than I expected. The show doesn't present some aspects as huge issues but it works non-the-less: Marge doesn't join the force to make Springfield better, it is clear she does it because she has a taste for thrill-seeking, which is a terrible reason to become a cop. We see that she sees the world through a particular filter thereafter, pretty ready to draw her gun at a moments notice. On the other hand, there are parts where they definitely are judging law enforcement. Obviously, there's the general corruption of the Springfield police. But there's also Lisa asking a serious question Marge can't even begin to answer.

But as a more intimate story about Marge finding her husband doesn't respect her new job, its pretty good. Homer's jerkiness is up a pretty high level this episode, "pranking" Flanders but implying his family is dead but his treatment of Marge outside of the liquor store is particularly nasty and her arresting Homer is pretty well-deserved. In the end, Marge proves herself to be competent and is able to save Homer with a combination of her cop skills and mothering knowledge. Its a fun silly climax to the episode and while the "someday you'll appreciate having a cop in your corner" doesn't read very well today, the episode doesn't feel like a paean to the police, which helps it age a bit better.

The counterfeit jeans climax is pretty fun but I think the show also does having a sense of specificity in tone in the second act when Marge is wandering the dirty streets of Springfield. I assume it is a parody of Hill Street Blues, a show I know is very lauded but I know very little about. I guess its a cop show that is less "adventure of the week" and more "human drama" but someone can correct me on that. In terms of comedy, I think the stand-out section of the episode is Marge's tenure at the police academy, with a lot of great visual gags. I think the show's general cynicism towards authority in general allowed this episode to age a bit better. Even more recent shows, smart ones, can have problems in that regard. Again, I love Brooklyn Nine-Nine but the first season arc of Amy and Jake having a "who can arrest the most people" contest is kind of a bad look. Of course, worse is the shows that are love letters to the police, including the insanity that is Blue Bloods that bends over backwards to recontextualize arguments to make the cops the pure heroes and COPS, a show that is somehow still around and has gone from stand-up/sketch comedy punchline to a show that is rather disturbing in what it is trying to do and say. In this time of transition in pop culture and how things are presented, its nice to see something has mostly aged pretty OK into a new era.

Jokes I missed before:

"Antoine Bugleboy."

I love how stupid the name is and how stupid this guy looks.

"So long, got to catch the 501."
That's some quality villain quip.

Other great jokes:

"Hey, I told you, you don't get your gun until you tell me your name."
"I've had it up to here with your... 'RULES!'"
Approve of how he makes rules a two-syllable word.

"Women always have trouble with the wall. They can't ever seem to find the door."

"You missed the baby, you missed the blind man."
Shit, that's good social commentary.

"Attorney-dumpster confidentiality" is a good phrase.

"I hope they have Us Magazine in heaven."

"Are you really allowed to execute people in a local jail?"
"From this point on, no talking."

"All right guys, pipe down."

This is a great bit but do you hear "car hole" or "car hold"? Its funny both ways (the former is just a dumb name and the second sounds like a fake English term) but while Homer DEFINITELY says "car hole" later, I swear Moe is saying "Car Hold." I can't tell if the d is there in his voice or the animation with his mouth is tricking my brain.

"Sell the jeans and live like a queen!"

"Just taking Maggie for a stoll."

Is this a joke?:
The newstand guy named Benevenstanciano?

Other notes:

What's deviled ham? I could look it up but I always like having these food discussions.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
This episode also had the exciting continuation of the saga of Agnes and Seymours struggle over a bath pillow

Johnny Unusual

Lemon of Troy

I love my country but I've never been a "patriot". Granted, I wish I knew more about Canadian history and the history of my province. But I love the people and the local culture. But I'm not interested in talking at length on it. I don't like to be performative about it. That kind of stuff creeps me out. Last year, me and @JBear went to America to visit @Dracula, I was creeped out by just... flags everywhere. I'm not sure I got the point. Everyone knows what country they are in, right? Its weird and unnecessary branding. But maybe I'm only seeing it this way because of where I am from, where we feature fewer flags on thing. I think its unsettling, but maybe that's unfair because despite being inundated with American culture, there's simply something about it, positive or negative, that I simply don't get. America is very close and very similar but it is still a foreign country...

In this episode, Marge catches Bart defacing public property and decides to instill in him with a sense of town pride. The lesson takes and Bart starts to realize how much he loves Springfield. However, after an argument with the children of neighboring Shelbyville, Bart also finds his pride turning into a rivalry. The next day, the kids learn Shelbyville has stolen their town lemon tree and Bart and some other kids team up to find and return the lemon tree. As the kids navigate a strange new town, Homer and some parents hunt for their kids. Eventually, the parents catch up with the kids who have found the tree. The adults and kids team up and rescue the tree using their wits and bravery.

As the title implies, there's a slight connection to the Trojan War in terms of the inciting incident and the climax. This episode recognizes the stupidity of tribalism and how trivial differences are utilized to "other" others. Whenever a character brings up why their town is superior, its usually a pretty stupid or silly reason and often exposes their own failings. Objectively, the Springfieldians are more heroic simply because they've been wronged and look to put things right. Its never "both are mutually guilty" in terms of action, they are just mutually goofy boastful and obnoxious about their town pride.

However, I wouldn't say its "about" that, so much as it uses it for a fun romp of adventure and excitement. It captures kid hi jinx really well. I don't think any of the writers ever went on a mission to recapture a lemon tree, but I know a lot of kids go on "missions" that seem important to them that feel similar. The kinds of missions that involve pranks and espionage (like "finding out what the girls are talking about") and some sort of war. This is more what the episode is about, taking the kids stuff and making it a mythic adventure. We are never told what time of year this takes place in but it certainly feels like Summer. If it wasn't for the next episode, this feels like it would have been a season finale. Of course, next week certainly makes MORE sense as a finale. Can't wait to revisit that one.

And being about myth, though I think it wants to be more about the adventure, it does bring things back to the kind of stories we tell ourselves. In the end, Springfield wins but Shelbyville is spinning the story already as their own win. Milhouse and Milhouse are both convinced that one kid is copying the other. It even begins with a joke not directly connected with the plot in which Bart imagines creating his own myth. Myths are made up of lies and things we want to believe in. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, as storytelling and art is how we make sense of our world and put things in perspective. But it can often be used to justify some stupid stuff. Its pretty obvious now when the hot conspiracy theory trend of the 90s is back and more racist than ever. I love myths but I just wish people wouldn't try to conflate them with facts to justify shittiness.

Lemon of Troy remains an all-time favourite. Its incredibly quotable, is a fun ride and feels very much through the eyes of kids in a way that works well. The kids can't wait to prove themselves heroes and do amazing things (particularly Milhouse). It finally allows us to see the long-talked about Shelbyville and its presented as an alternate universe Springfield, albeit a little more rough and tumble. The Simpsons have done adventure episodes before, often making the stakes bigger than most sitcoms, even animated one. In this one, the stakes are actually small and yet it feels big simply through having the kids care about it enough that we do to. May kids continue to have adventures once the pandemic is over. But lets cool it with the tribalism.

Jokes I missed before:

I missed that the Willie equivalent called the kids "Cube gleamers".

Other great jokes:

"A part of us all, a part of us all, a part of us all."
"Wow, that does work."

"Takes one to know one."
*shocked look*

"Hey, everybody, an old man's talking."

"Did you know this tree dates back to frontier times?"
*awed murmurs*

"Oh, look, a clue. A candy bar wrapper."
This is only a joke through Database's line read.

"Yes, Bart's a tutor now. Tute on, son! Tute on!"

"OK, what's two plus two?"
"Story checks out."

"Yes, and that wig makes him look a lot like one of the Beatles."

"This whole thing is as useless as that stupid lemon shaped rock over there. Wait a minute... THERE'S A LEMON BEHIND THAT ROCK!"

"Stupider like a fox."

"Faster son, he's got a taste for meat now!"

"There's a doings a transpiring."

"Shake harder, boy!"

"Now lets all celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice."

Other notes:

Here's a difference between Canada and America... or at least my part of Canada: generally you don't see "Country Time Lemonade". I think its available in other parts of Canada but not here.

When the two Milhouse's meet... is this the inspiration for Batman v Superman?

Ghost from Spelunker

Re: Lemon of Troy

Me and my pals use these lines all the time:
"Missing Children?"
"Sounds like Springfield has a discipline problem."
"That must be why we beat at them football almost half the time."

Just the way the actor said "missing children" is priceless.

Johnny Unusual

Who Shot Mr. Burns - Part 1

When The Simpsons first aired, it was an event. The show was such a phenomena that it seemed to completely take over the public consciousness. Though the show remained popular, the clamor understandably declined in the following seasons, but the show, already critically acclaimed, was acknowledging as getting better. I always felt that the heat dying down allowed the show to be more of what it wants to be (though it is impossible to say for sure) and evolved in the best way because of it while remaining a ratings hit long after parroting of the catchphrases ended. But the show would have two more events left in it: in 2007 with the release of the Simpsons movie (and even then I feel it was more the marketing campaign of turning 7/11s into Kwik-e-marts) and even bigger with the show's first (and, until recently, only) two-parter "Who Shot Mr. Burns". Ironically, it itself was a parody of another TV phenomenon (the "Who Shot JR?" cliffhanger from Dallas) but I'd argue this was AS big, with a big contest and everyone was trying to figure it out. Even as a kid, I knew the status quo would be restored by the end of part two but I can't deny having my own theories. It seems silly in retrospect to get so invested but I was really excited by trying to figure it out and noticing the clues.

In this episode, Springfield Elementary is shocked to discover it is sitting on a lot of oil, delivering a promising future to a failing school. However, Mr. Burns decides he wants the oil for himself and creates a "There Will Be Blood"-style plan to snatch the oil for himself. Understandably, this makes enemies of a lot of people, not just the school but also Bart (after Santa's Little Helper was seriously injured by Burns' scheming), Moe (whose bar had to be closed due to its proximity to Burns' oil rig), Barney (same reason), and Grandpa (whose drilling has destroyed the old age home), to name a few. Even Homer is angry at Burns for not remembering his name. Burns, meanwhile, intoxicated by his increased wealth and power, creates a giant device to block out the sun, guaranteeing people will need his power at full force 24/7. At this point, even Smithers feels compelled to stand up to Burns and gets fired for it. At a town hall meeting, everyone is angry at Burns but Burns arrives to reveal his plot to block out the sun and brags that no one has the guts to stop him. Later that evening, Mr. Burns is shot, his assailant unseen and everyone in town is a subject.

This episode is very much a parody of Dallas' most famous story, though really I don't remember a thing about that show except sometimes my grandmother watched it. But while it is probably taking all its cues about the jerkiness of the Dallas lead combined with Burns' villainy, I do think there are things going on here. One is not subtle: the rich are jerks. And it is very over the top, I feel like we've seen the depth of bald-faced evil of the rich is pretty much the same as Burns. With no real enemies who can beat him in the legal sphere, Burns feels confident enough to not have to worry about PR and putting a friendly face on his evil. I mean, he wasn't subtle about it before, but I feel like we live in a time where our own societal villains are coming right out and saying "Hi, we are evil." The only difference being, shockingly, that turning against the villains isn't somehow completely unanimous. We live in a gamed system and if one side has seemingly no hope of winning within the written rules, than what reason does the other side have to hide its hand. Smithers definitely knows that Burns is evil and cruel but I do buy that he would turn on him simply because without any rules or obstacles, even the piddling ones the rich can easily deal with, its pretty hard to romanticize the ugliness of it.

The other aspect is actually something that reminds me of Stephen King talking about the creation of the Dead Zone. For him, the inspiration for that was not "what if you could see the future" but "could a political assassination ever be justified". Feeling that America is a country born out of and living by the gun, he wanted to examine if an extreme act could ever be used for good. Stephen King, in many ways, is a "meat and potatoes" writer but its easy to forget that despite being an airport favourite of the masses, he has the best horror inclination to want to go into uncomfortable places. In this episode, we see that while Burns is an evil unto himself, the evil of guns is permeating Springfield. Now, I suspect this is more based on plot funsies to set up anyone as the killer. After all, the episode DISTINCTLY about guns was controversial in the writer's room because despite a largely left leaning show, many of the writers were pro-gun. But I think pretty much everyone in the writers room recognized that there was a sense of dark inevitability that had to be driven home before the deed was finally done. Despite the fact that it is a very silly episode, it also includes this strikingly haunting image.

Its a surprisingly moody image in this episode and I applaud its appearance.

Despite directing us to a broken system, this episode doesn't feel like its trying to say anything particularly deep about this stuff. Instead, they are tools to set up a fun mystery. And it is. Who Shot Mr. Burns is dense with set up and plot and instead of it squeezing out jokes or even drama (though mostly jokes), it is dense with them too. This feels like an incredibly tight episode with tons of jokes but isn't overstuffed and things have time to breath. Its amazing to compare this with later seasons where it doesn't feel like it has time for anything and each episode is its own cliffnotes to itself. I remember reading that they had an actual mystery writer help consult and then tossed most of his ideas out but as is, the clues they leave us are just enough to make as ask actual questions. But I'll discuss that more tomorrow.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:
"Hmm... sounded large when I ordered it. I can't make hide nor hair of these metric booby traps."

"What's that say under your hand there."
"Oh, it's an unrelated article."
"An unrelated article. Within the banner headline."

Reminder: this is all one actor.

"It is unfeasible to raise the dead, Bart, and even if the three stooges were alive, I doubt they'd want to hang around with you."
"Oh, yeah, I guess they'd probably want to be with their families or something."

"Man alive there are... men alive in here."

"Since the dawn of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun..."

"Sorry, grandpa but for a second it looked like Dad had melted."

"Hey, the lamp's runnin' away."
"That's my dog, man."
"So long, lamp."

"Also it has been brought to my attention that a number of you are stroking guns. Therefore I will step aside and open up the floor."

"...and my friend's collection of old sunbathing magazines."
"You bastard!"

Other notes:

Great walk.

I like how despite everything, Burns seems to have only fond memories of non-Homer Simpsons, even his treacherous heir.

Do we all agree that the oil well outline is intentionally shaped like America? Or is it a coincidence?

There's a line from Groundskeeper Willie about being too superstitious to work in a cemetery. This feels like a clue that never panned out.

The first of what looked to be an attempted running gag... a character wanting to hear from another character. In this episode, Flanders wants to hear from Sideshow Mel and in a later episode Mel wants to hear from Lionel Hutz. The gag never really continues, which is OK because I don't think it quite lands but I always felt proud for noticing.

I can't wait to watch the follow up tomorrow. Can you?


Red Silvers

Pokemon Red w/ 1 Nidoran
I remember they went all out before the season premier of the second half, taking over the timeslots normally used by COPS and America's Most Wanted to hype up speculation and such.

Johnny Unusual

Who Shot Mr. Burns - Part 2

Answers are not always as fun as the mystery. Its like anticipation: getting presents on Christmas morning is great but the waiting was more powerful. Knowing is cool but wondering fuels the imagination. If you create a mystery and are forced to create a resolution, it can be difficult, even if you know what the solution is. Its not just about having a solution, its about turning the answer into part of the story with moving pieces and all. And in a good mystery, it can't just be a series of facts. You must get pieces out to the audience so they too are going for a ride. Give them things that allow them to try to get ahead of the story. This is why I don't care for Scooby-Doo: in most incarnations, clues show up but I've never found them clever, satisfying or feel like the clues can be put in an order that make me feel like I should have figured it out earlier. My point: people complain about the ending to this one, but I think it legitimately works for me more each time I see it.

In this episode, Mr. Burns survives being shot but no one knows who the killer is. Smithers begins to suspect he did it while in a drunken stupor but after an investigation, it is revealed that Smithers merely shot Jasper's wooden leg. Lisa decides to help with the investigation and puts together a list of suspects for the police. But each suspect seems to have an alibi or at least sings a great song. The police then decide to check Burns' suit and find DNA evidence... Simpson DNA! Suddenly, Burns bolts upright and says "Homer Simpson" and Homer is immediately arrested. Even more damning, when the police come to arrest him, they find a gun under his car seat with matching fingerprints. Homer escapes arrest and Lisa continues to investigate, coming to the solution at the crime scene. The police corner Homer in Mr. Burns' hospital room where Homer is desperately trying to make Burns take back his confession. But Burns, who in actuality had ONLY been able to say the words "Homer Simpson" since waking up from his coma, reveals his shooter: Maggie Simpson. It turns out Burns tried to take literal candy from that baby, but during the struggle, Burns guns dropped out of his holster and into Maggie's hands, where it went off.

Seriously, while I'm sure they are some holes that can be poked, I actually really like the presentation of this mystery. First of all, there are lots of stuff going but the actual mystery isn't convoluted and in all honesty, not that ludicrous by mystery standards, even for a comedy. Of course, the first episode gave a lot of clues that work here, but they also intentionally made it unsolvable from that point simply by giving a lot of characters WS and MS named (note this story is where we first get Moe's last name). So in terms of the contest, its a partial cheat: Even as a kid it was easy to tell Burns was shot with his own gun so it stands to reason the shooter wasn't one of the gun owners and WS was a clue but there's nothing to link Maggie to the crime directly. But after the episode airs, thanks to the nature of the one-sided conversation Burns has, I really can't imagine another solution that would actually work for me. Within the episode itself, it still manages to have a bunch of clues that fit well-enough that even if it is a narrowed down guessing game, it is a good one and it makes sense in terms of upholding the status quo.

This episode is also an absolute delight besides. Even if you don't like the solution, I would have a hard time believing it ruined the episode for you, unless you were into the mystery so deeply, you forget what kind of show the Simpsons is, where they at this point can mock their own inconsistencies. Of course, the show certainly did want you to be invested and take you for a ride but the mechanics of the story are only a small part. The other is that it is a blast as comedy and a delight as adventure. There are a ton of references to popular mystery movies and TV shows (The Fugitive, Twin Peaks, Basic Instinct) but it never feels hackneyed, instead more as springboards for pretty good gags. Its a mystery that isn't just a parody, it feels like a love letter to the mystery genre, with clues and reveals as jokes.

I think its smart for this to be, again until very recently, the only two-parter episode of the show. I feel like if each season they ended on a cliffhanger TNG style, it would have been diminishing returns. The show would have some huge guest stars and notable episodes but I feel like its good that the show kept things to three capital "E" events: the unintended phenomenon of the first season, Who Shot Mr. Burns and the Movie. Even the return of Homer's mom, a very strong episode with a big guest star and a important canonical reveal, didn't quite feel as big. But I feel like if the show kept trying to push these big events, it might have lost track of its strengths... well, it would have EARLIER, at any rate. In my estimation, Who Shot Mr. Burns endures because while it recognized audiences wanted to know the answers, it also knew the comic potential of figuring out the funniest and most character specific ways to show its dead ends, red herrings and clues.

Jokes I missed before:

I missed this being a callback...

"He's getting a pretty good sound out of that guy."

Other Great Jokes:

I think generally the Dallas "last season was all a dream" reference is played out but shit this is a hilarious one.

"Dozens of people are gunned down in Springfield everyday but until now none of them were important."

"He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to alive."


"Yeah, that's right, Smingers did it. Now where's my hat? I'm going to the outhouse."
"We don't have an outhouse."

"Father, I'm not a catholic. Well, I tried to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade."

"OK, Colossus, you're free to go, but stay away from Death Mountain."
"But all my stuff is there."

"This sidewalk's for regular walkin', not for your fancy walkin'"

"Who shot who in the what now?"

"And with the prime suspect cleared and found completely innocent, we must ask ourselves, who could possibly be as bloodthirsty as Waylon Smithers."

"I never thought I could shoot down a German plane... but last year I proved myself wrong."

"Nancy Drew says that all you need to solve a mystery is an inquisitive temperament and two good friends and I've for an inquisitive temperament."

"I hope all the suspects are this much fun."
*smash cut to Skinner*

"I got it from Space Invaders in 1977."
"Oh, yeah, that was a pretty addictive video game."
"Video game?"

"You blame me for everything around here: Who put slippers in the dishwasher? Who threw a cane at the TV? Who fell into the China hutch."

"If you've ever handled a penny, the government's got your DNA. Why do you think we still keep them in circulation."
Somehow, this is a more acceptable answer to me than the truth.

This is both a great gag AND it moves the plot along quickly.

"That's what they all say. They all say d'oh."

"When I took your father's name, I took everything that came with it, including DNA."

"No jury in the world is going to convict a baby... maybe Texas."

Other Notes:
I just really like this animation.

I also love that while the sundial clue fits, Burns was never giving a clue.

This might be my favourite Simpsons song. Its not particularly funny, it just slaps.


A most radical pontiff
When this first played my mom predicted they would pull a Dallas and when they started the fake-out she was quite smug. The look on her face as it morphed into speedway squad was priceless.


Arm Candy
In the months following the broadcast of Part One, there was widespread debate among fans of the series as to who shot Mr. Burns. Fox offered a contest to tie in with the mystery where callers who dialed 1-800-COLLECT were eligible and they then guessed who the culprit was. It ran from August 13 to September 10 and was one of the first contests to tie together elements of television and the Internet. Fox launched a new website, Springfield.com, devoted to the mystery which got over 500,000 hits during the summer of 1995. The winner would be animated on an episode of the show. Due to contest regulations, a winner had to be selected out of a random sample of entries, whether the entries contained correct responses or not. The sample did not contain any correct answers, and so a winner (who had the wrong answer) was chosen at random. However, the winner, Fayla Gibson of Washington D.C., did not watch the show and opted to accept a cash prize in lieu of being animated.
I always wondered how that contest turned out.


(He, him)
That is a pretty crooked way to run a contest. =/

Anyway, never forget this is the episode that "killed off" Marvin Monroe. Not that you'd even know it since that last part of the line got cut from syndication.

Johnny Unusual

Radioactive Man

I'd be lying if despite pretty much every major story warning people that fame kind of sucks (except Entourage, where the lesson is "its great and gets you pussy, dawg. OH YEAH! OH YEAH!"), I still would like to be famous. I feel like I would want to be beloved and respected. Which is weird because while I also like affection, it can make me feels skittish. I think I know objectively that I wouldn't like it as much as I desire it. But I still desire it. Yes, when I was teaching, I was generally getting EXACTLY from what I want from real fame: respect and love. And yet, more seems desirable. But either it wouldn't be enough no matter how much I get AND/OR my own fame would alienate me. And here's the other stupid truth about me: I still fantasize about getting "discovered" in some capacity just by existing. Like, I'm hanging around and someone goes "Hey, there's something about you." And THEN I finally start applying myself. Its dumb and immature but I would be lying if I didn't say it is still somewhere in my heart.

In this episode, a film of the comic book Radioactive Man begins filming in Springfield and is holding open auditions for the title hero's sidekick Fallout Boy. Bart auditions and despite it going well, Bart is rejected based on his height. Instead, Milhouse is chosen, leaving Bart jealous. But Milhouse didn't want to audition and immediately doesn't like the fame. Bart tries to reconcile his jealousy by supporting his friend but Milhouse hates the process of movie making and his fame and eventually is driven to run away from the set. Milhouse goes missing and Bart eventually finds him and he and Mickey Rooney try to convince him but Milhouse proves to be unyielding. The production shuts down and the filmmakers return to Hollywood.

Many Milhouse stories are about Milhouse dealing with his position as "Bart's sidekick" a role he often likes. though many episodes are about him moving away from it. Despite the crux of the episode being about Milhouse not wanting to be in the spotlight, this feels less like a conventional Milhouse narrative, because while he and Bart's relationship is key to the story, Milhouse isn't defining himself in his relationship to Bart. And though Milhouse is often cowardly, this also feels like an unconventional "character finds their spine" episode. See, Milhouse is dealing with a ton of pressure from his parents and the studio that he doesn't want. His big moment is saying "I don't want this" but though he does get a speech, it doesn't climax with that (though close). Instead, its about Milhouse, in a non-dramatic way, simply saying "No." when Bart wants him to continue. Milhouse makes the decision that tons of child stars probably wish they made: just saying no.

Quick note: this is more Milhouse's episode but I like the use of Bart. He's disappointed but I feel like because he's a kid, I buy it that he both genuinely tries to wish Milhouse well but also wants to bask in the surplus fame and perks of his friend. I think his speech to Milhouse, silly and cynical as it is, comes from a place where he's both trying to do what he thinks is right for his friend but also still wants to keep riding his gravy train.

Aside from taking on the nature of fame, the episode is also a parody of Hollywood excess, with a production where everything seems to go wrong, thanks to the director and producer's wrongheadedness and the town gouging the Hell out of the company. There's a knowing wink in here because more likely the case is that while a town like Springfield would benefit financially from a big production, these things can have other costs. The best example of this is Homer proclaiming that they get $50 a day for the movie to be shot in their house and immediately the company begins tearing shit down. Seriously, this reflects the reality I've heard that while you might be well paid, companies might do shit without asking that can be compensated financially but also might ruin things. Have something antique or just perfect you can't just rebuy? You might risk losing it. The episode ends with a silly bit in which Mickey Rooney (who kills it) admonishes Springfield's slick small town ways and them fleecing naïve movie folk.

Watching this one, I recognized immediately that there was something weird about the episode. I know it was basically that the show had a different look, which I attributed to a new animation company the show needed to use. Its not bad, but there is something that didn't work as well that I couldn't put my finger on. Doing research, it seems that it was the first episode to be digitally colored and it looks polished yet sort of subtly off. I guess people on the show didn't like it either: they would try it once more on the only clips show that can actually be considered a "classic" and then not again until season 12. I feel the episodes they chose for their attempt at digital coloring were the right ones, as both are comedies about artifice and showbiz, so if you are going to experiment with a slightly inorganic looking process, may as well use it with a topic about phoniness. Again, its weird but it didn't ruin my enjoyment of a classic episode in any way, a fine follow up after the big two-parter.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:

"I keep telling you, he's 72 years old and he's dead."

The henchman stumbling to their feet to dance is what makes this.

"They don't need a big ad or even correct spelling."

"Marge, do you have other men in this house? Radioactive men?"

"Which one were you? The ugly one? Were you the ugly one?"

I like how everyone is satisfied with Moe's comment in regards to his murder.

"And now is the winter of our discontent."
"Oh, no! Run!"

"What's for lunch tomorrow."
"Chicken necks?"

"It wouldn't be fair to the children who filled out their application forms in full."

"That's as fast as Grandpa's shrinking."

"Milhouse, baby! Lionel Hutz, you're new agent, bodyguard, unauthorized biographer and drug dealer... keeper awayer."

The puffy directing pants joke is serviceable but I LOVE Quimby following it up with "I'm sorry."

"I've said jiminy jillikers so many times the words have lost all meaning."

"My eyes! The goggles do nothing!"

Was this a specific parody of the "editing techniques" of Forrest Gump?

"But will they just find Milhouse or will they find him and kill him?"
"Well, they'll... when they find him, they'll... hum mum mum mum."
"Excuse me, you didn't answer me, you just trailed off."
"I did trail off there, didn't I?"

The biggest box office draw from 1939-1940. Spanning two decades.

Other notes:

I don't know what "Nick" is but it's a guy smoking a cigarette with a hole through his torso, so I'm guessing a Vertigo book.

Apparently, Mickey Rooney was super game for playing his role. This makes me happy.

I'm curious if you found this episode as weird looking as I did? I can totally see if either you didn't notice anything or it didn't bother you.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
I did notice the episode looking slightly off, but it's really only especially noticable on the heels of other episodes NOT looking slightly off

Also, I absolutely love the SLick Small Town is Admonished for Fleecing Movie Producers ending.