In the summer of 1995, a mystery dominated many conversations as people debated the answer to a simple question: Who shot Mr. Burns?
The cliffhanger finale to The Simpsons has since gone down in pop culture history as a major moment for the long-running animated series, and though the revelation was satisfying, the writers almost went in a different direction.
Former executive producer and writer on The Simpsons Josh Weinstein recently revealed the original pitch documents for the two-part event, revealing the original inspiration for the mystery as well as the initial plan for the shooter.
Summary of our pitch for "Who Shot Mr. Burns" from the June '94 story conference notes.
Neat to see how this developed (we thought it could be Barney but on the very next page -so within minutes of discussing it- someone suggests Maggie) And Patty & Selma could've been suspects. pic.twitter.com/8O3mOdY7vr— Josh Weinstein (@Joshstrangehill) March 11, 2018
The passage that reveals their rough idea reads:
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.
Barney, and many other people, were set up to be revealed as the killer when the show returned later in the fall, though it was later changed to Maggie. The clever set-up also made it so nothing ever really changed in the long-running series, which has been one of the major guidelines in its two-plus decades on the air.
The decision to not go with Barney was probably a good one, as Maggie was literally the only character who could have attempted to murder Mr. Burns without repercussion. Though they did do that "alternate ending" in which Smithers was revealed as the would-be killer and receives a 5 percent pay cut for his crime.
Keeping Barney around was probably for the best, as his inclusion resulted in some amazing episodes and storylines down the road. His being forced to be a designated driver, or joining NASA, and even the multiple episodes where he sobers up all provided memorable moments.
It's also interesting to see the Twin Peaks references, which played a huge part in the series. The humorous scene in the red room with Lisa holding the burning playing card was most notable, though there were many other references throughout the years.
The Simpsons remains an institution on Sunday nights, and it's awesome to see these behind-the-scenes notes about how it all came together.
ComicBook.com & Warner Bros Home Entertainment are teaming up to bring one lucky Justice League fan the prize pack of a lifetime! Click here for the chance to win a big-screen TV, a copy of the movie and more!