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Recap / The Simpsons S6 E18: "A Star Is Burns"

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Episode - 2F31
First Aired - 3/5/1995
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In this crossover with The Critic note  (and the only episode that doesn't have Matt Groening's name in the executive producer credits), Marge suggests that Springfield hosts a film festival to combat news that the town is the most anti-intellectual city in the United States (so anti-intellectual, in fact, that they burn people at the stake for believing in science) and Jay Sherman flies down to Springfield to be one of the judges — and Homer, out of jealousy, urges Marge to be on the film jury as well. Meanwhile, Mr. Burns uses the film festival as an opportunity to boost his massive ego.


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This episode contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: It's Bart that goes out of his way to praise Jay's show as something everyone should watch (though doing so admittedly makes him feel dirty). Nancy Cartwright voiced Jay's sister, Margo (a role originally for Margaret Cho, but the higher-ups thought she wasn't a good fit).
  • Actually a Good Idea: When Marge steps up at the town hall, the audience is grumbling because they didn't like any of her past ideas. This changes when she suggests that Springfield hold a film festival and that the public can even enter their own homemade movies in it. The audience quickly unanimously approves of the idea. Of course, Marge had other suggestions, but other townspeople told her not to push her luck.
  • Adaptation Deviation: A somewhat unusual crossover-related example for Jay Sherman. In his show, while he is highly accomplished (he has a doctorate in film and two Pulitzer Prizes), he is often very disrespected and ignored. He is seen as extremely gross, pathetic, and unlikable, and with a few exceptions, most women find him hideous, and his relationship with his ex-wife is... frosty, to say the least. In this crossover, however, he is considered even more talented and successful (with five Golden Globes, a People's Choice Award, and an Emmy), but is highly lauded and embraced. Also, Marge, Patty, and Selma are extremely drawn to him and want to hear all of what he has to say. Homer feels so threatened by Jay's charm and intelligence he defeatedly allows Marge to sleep with him because he could never compete. This is something that would have NEVER happened in The Critic. Then again, Springfield is not New York, and the family has been shown to be Country Mice when dealing with New York, although Bart is the only one who doesn't like him, initially, due to being a film critic, which is a despised occupation in Jay's show.
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  • Always a Bigger Fish: How Homer views Jay — he even tells Marge she can go ahead and marry him for being a better Homer.
  • Amateur Film-Making Plot: To increase Springfield's popularity, Marge suggests that Springfield hosts a film festival, and famed critic Jay Sherman is invited to be a judge. Out of jealousy, Homer urges Marge to be on the film jury as well. Mr. Burns uses the film festival as an opportunity to boost his massive ego, and has Steven Spielberg's non-union Mexican counterpart "Señor Spielbergo" direct his film, A Burns For All Seasons. The other entries at the film festival include Hans Moleman's aptly-named Man Getting Hit By Football film, which Homer finds hilarious, and Barney Gumble's artistic introspective film about alcoholism, titled Pukahontas, which Marge and Jay foresee to be the eventual winner.
  • Anachronism Stew: Burns' film features a plastic bottle during Ben Hur's time.
  • As Himself: Mr. Burns didn't intend to act in his own movie, but when things didn't work out...
    Mr. Burns: Oh, it's hopeless. I'll have to play myself.
  • Berserk Button: Do not speak awful things about MacGyver in front of Patty & Selma.
    (Jay's hanging off a rain gutter by his underwear, is missing all his other clothes and making a disoriented groaning noise)
    Bart: (chuckles) You badmouthed MacGyver, didn't you?
  • Brick Joke: When Jay demonstrates that he has a more impressive burp than Homer...
    Lisa: Wow! How many Pulitzer Prize winners can do that?
    Jay: Just me and Eudora Welty.
    (later in the episode, during the voting for the best movie of the festival)
    Krusty: Now let's get going. I've got a date with Eudora Welty.
    (Krusty's and Mayor Quimby's hair get blown by a burp similar to Jay's)
    Krusty: Coming, Eudora!note 
  • Burn the Witch!: An example of how backward Springfield is culturally — Grampa heads up a mob preparing to burn Principal Skinner at the stake for claiming that the Earth revolves around the sun.
    Grampa: (gets his picture taken) You've stolen my soul!
  • Burping Contest: Homer won first prize at one and tries to use this to stand up against Jay, who has won the Pulitzer Prize. Jay proves himself to be at least as good a burper (if not better), and explains that only he and Eudora Welty can claim both that talent and a Pulitzer among their achievements.
  • Caustic Critic / Compassionate Critic: Jay Sherman. The former when criticizing big budget movies as usual, and when seeing some of the independent films. ("This is not America's Funniest Home Videos", after watching the movie about Moleman getting hit in the groin). However, he honestly enjoyed Barney's moving film about his alcoholism, and was annoyed when Homer and two other judges voted for Moleman, and Burns' movie respectively.
  • Character Overlap: Averted. ONLY Jay Sherman crosses over from his show to visit the Simpsons. All other characters in the show, such as Doris, Jeremy Hawke, Duke Philips, Alice, or any members of Jay's family, do not appear, nor are they even mentioned. This was likely done not to overcomplicate the plot and keep the crossover as unobtrusive as possible, as well as to prevent the need to come up with new, Simpsonized character designs for them. Also, unlike the future Family Guy and Futurama crossovers, the Critic was not a long-beloved show whose Simpsons crossover was ever really desired.
  • Character Shilling: Burns' film, of course, which at one point casts him in the role of Jesus.
    Ben Hur: You truly are the King of Kings.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Burns attempts to win the film festival via bribery. Due to Homer's decision to vote for Barney's movie, Burns still loses. We see six months later he tried the same thing at the Academy Awards, and in his own words "bribed everyone in Hollywood" and he still lost.
  • Chirping Crickets: Parodied. After Homer tries and fails to top a joke told by Jay, a tumbleweed rolls through the Simpson's living room.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Mr. Burns gets a good one when he's trying to get a biopic of himself made:
    Burns: All right, Spielbergo, I want you to do for me what Spielberg did for Schindler.
    Spielbergo: But, ¡Schindler es bueno! ¡Burns es diablo!
    Burns: Oh, pish tosh! Oskar Schindler and I are like two peas in a pod! We're both factory owners, we both made [artillery] shells for the Nazis - but mine worked, dammit!
  • Crazy-Prepared: When Barney receives his truckful of Duff Beer and tells the men presenting the prize to hook it up to his veins, they do so without missing a beat.
  • Crossover: The first for The Simpsons, and the only one intended to boost interest in the show it was crossing over with (one that had, in its first season, established The Simpsons as a fictional show in its universe). This was not by choice for the showrunners; Matt Groening was unhappy enough with the whole business that this is the only episode that does not credit him onscreen as executive producer.
    Jay: If you ever want to appear on my show—
    Bart: No, we're not gonna do that.
    • This episode was one of two produced by the writing team of The Critic for Season 6 as part of the deal that brought the show to FOX (the other being "'Round Springfield").
  • Delayed Reaction: Rainer Wolfcastle accosts Jay on the street long after their interview is over, having just realized he's been insulted. Jay distracts Wolfcastle by telling him his shoes are untied and grabs a taxi. Hours later, Wolfcastle realizes he's wearing loafers (which are basically like slippers). It could take many more hours for him to realize Jay distracted him to get away.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Pukahontas.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?:
    Jay: How can you vote for Burns' movie?
    Krusty: Let's just say it moved me...to a bigger house! Oops, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Jay Sherman learns what happens when he talks trash about MacGyver in front of Patty and Selma, though it was actually Homer.
    Bart: You badmouthed MacGyver, didn't you?
    • Rainier tries to kill Jay for making himself look bad in the interview. His movie involves two hours of him doing incredibly crappy stand-up comedy and killing anybody who tries to heckle him with military-grade weaponry, including tossing a grenade into the crowd.
    • Skinner once said that the Earth revolves around the Sun (regular school science). He's almost burnt at the stake for it (and Heaven only knows what Grandpa Simpson did to the man who took a picture of the event, thinking that he had stolen his soul).
  • Don't Explain the Joke: McBain does precisely that. He doesn't take it well when when hecklers call him out on it.
    McBain: That's the joke.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Homer realizes that Marge doesn't think he's smart enough to be a judge for the film festival. Not that him being slow to pick up on it does him any favors.
  • Epic Fail:
    • One scene of Mr. Burns' film has him falling from his horse and being dragged by it. It ends with Mr. Burns being dragged with a cactus. He comments that it was the best take among twenty takes.
    • Homer's audition for Mr. Burns' movie. All he had to do was say one single word, and he screws it up.
      Homer: Exactly! Heh, heh...D'OH!
    • Six months later, Mr. Burns he entered a movie at the Academy Awards, and despite the fact that he "bribed everyone in Hollywood," he still lost.
  • Epic Movie: A Burns for All Seasons is intended as this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • At the beginning of the episode, Mayor Quimby explains how backwards the town is, and he's utterly disgusted (although what breaks the camel's back for him is that a porn film award has backed down from taking place on Springfield).
    • Despite being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, Mr. Burns wasn't too keen on having his cinematic counterpart being played by the super-criminal Hannibal Lecter. He's also thoroughly embarrassed that his Vanity Project has a scene that even after twenty takes still had a(an incredibly absurd) blooper.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Man Getting Hit by Football is about a man getting hit by a football.
  • Exact Words: Rainier Wolfcastle's latest "McBain" movie is classified as an action comedy. It is two hours of the character doing nothing but stand-up comedy and killing anybody who tries to heckle him with extreme prejudice.
  • Fat Slob: Bart's submission to the film festival (one of a series, apparently) is The Eternal Struggle, a home movie of Homer trying to pull on his pants.
    Homer: (Angrish) Relaxed fit, my aunt fanny! Stupid denim! (stops) Ohhh, the belt is buckled. (chuckles and unbuttons them, then goes right back to struggling)
  • Ghost in the Machine: When the voting gets deadlocked, Homer claims that his mind is going a mile a minute. His mind is represented by monkeys picking fleas off each other. After some encouraging words from Jay, Homer announces that he has some serious thinking to do. The same monkeys are then shown doing calculus on a blackboard.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: "¡Schindler es bueno! ¡Burns es diablo!" ("Schindler is (when it should be "was") good! Burns is (the) devil!")
  • Groin Attack: The infamous "Man Getting Hit by Football" short film (directed by and starring Hans Moleman). Homer, upon seeing it, says "The contest is over, give that man the $10,000!", even though it was pointed out that this wasn't America's Funniest Home Videos. Homer replies, laughing the whole time, "but... the ball... his groin... it works on so many levels! (beat) Play it again."
    • Homer is apparently the only one who finds it funny. Yet at the end of the episode, Homer's comedic taste is vindicated when a remake of the film starring George C. Scott wins the Best Actor Oscar.
    George: Aaahh! My groin!
    Nelson: Ha ha!
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: This awkward conversation between Homer and Marge.
    Homer: Marge, do you respect my intelligence?
    Marge: (beat) Yes.
    Homer: Okay. (goes to bed, gets up) Wait a minute... why did it take you so long to say "yes"?
    Marge: (beat) No reason.
    Homer: Okay. (goes to bed, gets up) Wait a minute... are you humoring me?
    Marge: (beat, then guilty) Yes.
    Homer: Okay. (goes to bed, gets up) Wait a minute... that's bad!
  • Hidden Depths: Barney Gumble, town drunk extreme, is capable of making a tear-jerking and highly artistic documentary of the misery his life has become. When he discovers that the first prize is a truckful of Duff beer, he begs for it to be given to him intravenously.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: A Burns for All Seasons is Mr. Burns doing this for himself.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: A quick gag has Burns admitting not only to have been a Nazi collaborator, but a direct industrial rival to Oskar Schindler himself.
  • Homage: Moe Better Booze is this to Cabaret's "The Money Song", while A Burns for All Seasons (its name a reference to A Man for All Seasons) shamelessly recasts Mr. Burns as such characters as E.T. and Jesus Christ (!) as portrayed in Ben-Hur.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Smithers: A film biography might help [the townspeople] get to know the real you. Virtuous, heroic, nubile.
    Mr. Burns: [sharply] You left out "pleasant"! [hits Smithers with the head of his cane]
    • Barney knows perfectly well that he's a hopeless alcoholic and creates a documentary that acknowledges it, and he swears on stage on his acceptance speech that he will quit drinking. When he discovers that the first prize is a literal truckful of Duff beer, he yells for it to be given to him intravenously.
      • In addition, the excessive alcohol caused Barney to forget that he made a movie about that very topic in the first place:
    Barney: (excited) They're going to show my movie next.
    Bart: You made a movie?
    Barney: (confused) I made a movie? No wonder I was on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.
  • Ignored Epiphany: After Barney's film wins the Springfield Film Festival, he vows that from now on, he will be a new person, specifically, a clean and sober one. That is, until Mayor Quimby brings him the grand prize; a truck filled with Duff Beer. Barney's response? "Just hook it to my veins!"
    • The same happens to Homer after he watches Barney's film alone in the theater. He says he'll never touch a drop of alcohol again, only to buy beers from an attendant immediately after.
  • Insult Backfire: A woman in the audience commented on how beautiful Barney's movie was. Barney was sitting next to her and thanked her. Looking at him, she was grossed out by his appearance.
    Woman: Excuse me, did something crawl down your throat and die?
    Barney: It didn't die.
    [The woman's eyes widened at that remark.]
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    Smithers: I'm afraid we have a bad image, sir. Reports say that people see you as some kind of ogre.
    Burns: Oooh, I ought to club them and eat their bones!
  • Irony: At the Springfield Film Festival, Mr. Burns' movie lost to Barney's, but only because Homer was convinced not to vote for "Man Getting Hit By Football". The very same movie Mr. Burns loses to in the next film festival, after supposedly bribing everyone in Hollywood.
  • Le Film Artistique: Parodied with Bart's documentaries Homer in the Shower, Homer on the Toilet, and The Eternal Struggle (Homer struggling with his blue pants).
    • Downplayed with Barney Gumble's film. It's not a pretentious art piece so much as it is a tragic look at how alcohol has ruined his life shot in black and white and with all the symbolism you'd find in an artistic film.
  • Mangled Catchphrase:
    Smithers: Sir, the actors are here to audition for the part of you.
    Mr. Burns: Excellent.
    Anthony Hopkins: Excellent... hisssss!
    Mr. Burns: Next!
    William Shatner: Exc! Ell! Ent!
    Mr. Burns: Next!
    Homer: Exactly! .... D'oh!
    Mr. Burns: (getting aggravated) Next!
    Bumblebee Man: ¡Excelente!
    Señor Spielbergo: ¡Es muy bueno!
  • Negative Continuity: As Homer and Jay are arguing about awards they've won, Homer brings up a belching contest award (which Jay immediately outdoes him on), when he might've mentioned the Grammy he won while with the Be Sharps in "Homer's Barbershop Quartet". Then again, that episode scarcely thought much of it, either.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Barney's emotionally touching movie has the gross-sounding title Pukahontas.
  • Noodle Incident: In Mr. Burns' film, the scene of him trying to ride off on his horse took 20 takes, and the film showing him falling off and getting pulled around was the best one. One wonders how bad the other 19 takes were.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Everyone groaned when Marge suggest an idea to help their town's image, since her previous ideas weren't successful.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: While Kent Brockman explains how bad the city of Springfield has become, he plays a recording of a time when Principal Skinner was almost burnt at the stake for the "sacrilegious crime" of saying that the Earth goes around the Sun.
  • Poor Man's Substitute: In-universe parody.
    Mr. Burns: Get me Steven Spielberg!
    Smithers: He's unavailable.
    Mr. Burns: Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title is an obvious reference to A Star Is Born.
  • Recycled Animation: The whole "Eye on Springfield" intro from "Flaming Moe's" is reused here.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Jay makes one while interviewing Rainier Wolfcastle and reviewing one of his movies. Though Wolfcastle eventually realized it was an insult.
    Wolfcastle: The film is just me in front of a brick wall for an hour and a half. It cost $80 million.
    Sherman: (contemptuous) How do you sleep at night?
    Wolfcastle: On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.
    Sherman: Just asking. Yeesh!
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Mr. Burns tries to win the film festival by bribing jurors. Six months later, he tries the same thing at the Academy Awards. He loses on both occasions. He states that he once won "Miss America" this way.
  • Secondary Character Title: Mr. Burns might be in the title, but he only really features in the episode's B-plot. His only real effect on the main plot is to give Homer the deciding vote for the film festival when his bribery puts the judges into a deadlock.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sistine Steal: The opening credits of A Burns for All Seasons are set against one with Mr. Burns in Adam's place.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • McBain — Let's Get Silly, a stand-up comedy film with McBain bombing onstage and bombing the audience after they heckle him.
    • The episode itself is different from most Simpsons episodes as it's the first one to cross over with another show. Sadly, Matt Groening promised that his show wouldn't stoop to such cheap gimmicks, and when he found out it was, he took his name off the credits for that episode. In addition, he didn't participate in the DVD Commentary.
  • Special Edition Title: As a result of Groening taking his name off the episode, the shot of the TV at the end of the opening titles is a unique one that only credits James L. Brooks and Sam Simon as developers.
  • Special Guest: Jon Lovitz as Jay Sherman and Maurice LaMarche as Jay Sherman's belch. Both were on The Critic at the time.
  • Stalker Shot: When the film festival judges are voting on which film should win, Mayor Quimby and Krusty vote for Mr. Burn's film. The camera then pans to a sandwich where it's revealed that the olive on the sandwich is actually a camera and then the scene cuts to Mr. Burns who is watching the judges on the monitor to see if they're voting for him.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    (Everyone boos at Mr. Burns' movie.)
    Mr. Burns: Are they booing at me?
    Smithers: Uh, no, they’re saying "Boo-urns, Boo-urns."
    Mr. Burns: (stands up to face the audience) Did you people say "boo" or "Boo-urns"?
    (Everyone screams "boo!" and throws snacks at him)
    Hans Moleman: I was saying "Boo-urns".
    • Homer's first pick for Best was Hans Moleman's "Man Getting Hit By Football", which is Hans getting a Groin Attack by a football thrown off-screen. At the end of the episode, a remake by George C. Scott beats Burns' biopic in the Oscars.
  • Stylistic Suck: Most of the films featured at the festival can't be called anything even remotely cultured. Apu's is just security footage of another Kwik-E-Mart robbery, Moe's is a short music-and-dance number that ends with him falling off his counter, Hans Moleman's "Man Getting Hit by Football" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and Mr. Burns' movie is an awful pastiche of classic films that even with its big budget shows signs of a Troubled Production.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Of the actors vying to play Mr. Burns (which include Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecternote , William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Homer Simpson completely screwing up his lines, and, in a Deleted Scene, the Devil from The Critic, whom Burns considers good enough to be his understudy). He decides to just play himself when none are to his liking.
  • That Poor Car: Jay outdoes Homer with a foghorn burp that sets off car alarms.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Chief Wiggum when he gets his tie caught in the Kwik-E-Mart hot dog machine.
    Wiggum: This is gonna get worse before it gets better.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Mr. Burns compared himself to Schindler in that both built shells for the Nazis except that Burns' worked.
    Burns: Listen, Spielbergo, Schindler and I are like peas in a pod; we're both factory owners, we both made shells for the Nazis, but mine worked, dammnit!
  • Too Dumb to Live: In McBain: Let's Get Silly, the second heckler in the crowd even after McBain already opened fire on one heckler. Then again, McBain's jokes are bad.
  • Troubled Production: In-universe. Burns’ biopic:note 
    Burns: We did 20 takes and that was the best one!
  • Unexplained Recovery: Skinner is shown on the news being burned at the stake, which of course doesn't stick.
  • Vanity Project: In-Universe, nearly all the films at the film festival are this to a certain degree but Mr. Burns' movie, an ineptly-made biopic designed to remake his public image, is an especially egregious example.
  • What an Idiot!: In-Universe, when Jay escapes an enraged Rainier Wolfcastle by telling him his shoelaces are untied. He stares at his shoes for hours, until he realizes in the dead of night:
    Rainier: Upon closer inspection, these appear to be loafers.
  • Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Either this or Genius Bonus. Abe claims, "My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead!" A rod is around 16 1/2 feet, a hogshead is around 63 gallons. So, Abe gets 0.0025 miles to the gallon.

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