‘The Simpsons’ Almost Made Barney Gumble Mr. Burns’ Shooter
It’s been almost 23 years since The Simpsons left viewers in a tizzy over “Who Shot Mr. Burns,” and every fan now knows the culprit. That said, Simpsons writer Josh Weinstein now shares an early look at the first pitch, which might have featured Barney – or even Selma – as the shooter.
It was back in 1995 that The Simpsons famously parodied both Dallas and Twin Peaks with the two-part installment; ultimately revealing that Maggie Simpson shot Mr. Burns with his own gun. The twist is deep enough in pop culture that The Simpsons itself has taken potshots at it, so how did it start? Weinstein dug deep to share a pitch outline from the 1994 story conference, in which a culprit hadn’t yet been decided. Weinstein and writer Bill Oakley felt a character would have to be “sacrificed” or jailed for the crime, and their first thought had Barney Gumble shooting Mr. Burns over the destruction of Moe’s Tavern:
Should the tweet disappear, here’s what Weinstein and Oakley wrote:
Season end Cliffhanger.
Who shot Mr. Burns? This is very rough. The story has to basically be about Mr. Burns making six mortal enemies. Obviously Homer, maybe Bart, and possibly other major characters like Apu, Barney, etc. Perhaps he fires Smithers.
Usually the way these things happen is there is some big business deal brewing. We thought it could be a big real estate thing where Burns is going to buy this block of downtown area and demolish it to build some crazy Burns new thing, and it includes Moe’s Bar, and maybe the Kwik-E-Mart and maybe Patty and Selma’s apartment.
At some point Smithers feels that he’s gone too far and he fires Smithers as well.
At the end of the show Burns is shot. TO BE CONTINUED …
The way we imagined the second half is that it would be a cheat if it wasn’t somebody good. We want to do a parody of all these horrible things like “it’s a dream … ” A “Twin Peaks”-type thing, someone you’ve never seen before. A drifter who just recently arrived into town. Or we identify the spirit of another drifter.
But in the end we have to decide a character we’re willing to sacrifice. It could be Barney, who has been driven to madness by the imminent destruction of Moe’s bar.
Maybe he could be sent to jail for a short period of time for attempted murder.
We could have it be somebody else but it would really be satisfying if it were not some cheap-out guy like Burns’ brother who suddenly appeared at the last minute.
Selma, having a secret affair with Burns. Or Patty. Or he’s going with Patty and Selma and the two of them find out.
Much of the original pitch found its way into the final episode, which saw Moe’s shuttered over the fumes from Burns’ oil-drilling. Then-showrunner David Mirkin also wrote and recorded several alternate endings, while a scene of Barney as the gunman was among those animated and shown during “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular.”
It’s hard to imagine how The Simpsons might have changed with Barney as the gunman, but they’ve had weirder twists over the years.
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