The Simpsons left viewers on a cliffhanger in 1995, channeling their own version of the 1980s show Dallas' Who Shot J.R.? episode with Who Shot Mr. Burns? Throughout the summer of 1995, fans of The Simpsons speculated about who in Springfield could have had the motive to shoot Mr. Burns, which was a lot of people. In the end, it was discovered that Maggie Simpson had attempted to murder Montgomery Burns, but it wasn't always that way, according to writer Josh Weinstein.
Josh Weinstein took to social media over the weekend to post a picture of the original script from the Who Shot Mr. Burns? cliffhanger. Originally, it was thought that Barney Gumble could have done it after the destruction of Moe's Tavern and then quickly on the next page, it went to Patty and Selma. Additionally, The Simpsons writers even thought of a Twin Peaks style ending. Weinstein had this to say.
"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."
The Simpsons writers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein pitched their original idea for the two-part episode in 1994. The pitch begins by saying, "This is very rough. The story has to basically be about Mr. Burns making six mortal enemies." It's not clear if that's sarcasm, because it seems that it would be pretty easy to come up with six enemies of Mr. Burns. Originally, Burns was going to buy a block of Springfield and have it demolished, which is where the Barney story would have come into play. Barney was still a drunk at that time and would have been pretty distraught over the loss of his home away from home.
When Josh Weinstein and Bill Oakley had to figure out who would pull the trigger, they thought of using a complete stranger, but later felt that it would be "too cheap." The notes read, "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 recently arrived into town." Ultimately, the writing duo decided that they needed a real character from the series to "sacrifice."
The script and notes are a fascinating peek into the world of The Simpsons and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making an episode. After Josh Weinstein and Bill Oakley couldn't figure out what to do, they passed the script along to other writers. Weinstein posted another page that said, "There are 5 more pages of people's suggestions, including Maggie." In the end, they decided to go with Maggie because there wasn't much you could do to a baby in the legal system. Sure, Barney would have made for an interesting plotline in jail for a few years, but they made a satisfying choice. You can read the rest of the script pages and notes via Josh Weinstein's Twitter account.
Summary of our pitch for "Who Shot Mr. Burns" from the June '94 story conference notes.— Josh Weinstein (@Joshstrangehill) March 11, 2018
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
This is the summary after our pitch (you can see it's page 16 of a document that summarized all the writers' pitches.) Our actual pitch had more details & rough story but after a pitch, everyone jumps in with ideas & there are 5 more pages of people's suggestions including Maggie pic.twitter.com/WMfG6dP0HJ— Josh Weinstein (@Joshstrangehill) March 12, 2018