Who Shot Mr. Burns? (partially found 1-800 COLLECT The Simpsons Mystery Sweepstakes commercials; 1995)

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Poster promoting "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part Two" and the subsequent conclusion of the 1-800 COLLECT The Simpsons Mystery Sweepstakes.

Status: Partially Found

Who Shot Mr. Burns? was a two-part episode of The Simpsons, which ended the sixth season on a cliffhanger and commenced the seventh. In Part One, Mr. Burns, after angering the majority of Springfield with his schemes, is shot by an unknown individual. To promote Part Two, which would reveal the shooter, a series of 1-800-COLLECT commercials were broadcast, where callers could guess who shot Burns and enter The Simpsons Mystery Sweepstakes. Whoever guessed correctly would have themselves animated in a future episode of the show.


Who Shot Mr. Burns? was conceptualised by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who saw the potential of generating publicity by having Burns be shot by an unidentified assailant.[1][2][3] By making the episode a two-parter, and ending Season 6 with Part One as a cliffhanger, significant hype headed into season 7 on the culprit's identity.[1][2][3] Part One not only helped provide many of the suspects' motivations towards shooting Burns but also contained various clues that would enable viewers to solve the mystery.[2][3] Among these included Burns' arms being placed on the sundial's W and S, indicating the shooter had an S and either a W or M within their initials.[2][3] The cliff-hanger succeeded in providing intrigue and hype among many Simpsons fans.[1][2][3]

Thus, Fox capitalised on this twofold; firstly, it established Springfield.com in the summer of 1995 which provided clues and generated further intrigue surrounding the mystery.[2][1] Secondly, it established a 1-800-COLLECT contest called "The Simpsons Mystery Sweepstakes" where callers could dial 1-800-COLLECT for an opportunity to guess the shooter's identity.[4][2][1] Theoretically, whoever guessed correctly would see themselves be animated in a future episode of the show.[2][1][3] The contest ran from 13th August to 10th September, about a week prior to Part Two's premiere airing.[4][2][1] During this time period, various commercials would be broadcast advertising the contest. The commercials showed Chief Wiggum requesting assistance in solving the mystery, before summarising two possible suspects and how they could potentially be the culprit.

The contest restricted entries; to enter, one had to dial 1-800-COLLECT, submitting their name and the person they were calling.[2][4][3] They would then be called by hotline operators HCI, where both the entrant and the other person requiring to be at home during the broadcast of Part Two.[2][4][3] About 1,000 received calls from MCI with the chance of identifying the culprit.[2] Ultimately, none successfully identified the shooter, Maggie Simpson.[1][2] According to Part Two's season 6 DVD commentary, writers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein discovered that one individual did guess correctly earlier on the same day as the broadcast, albeit on an online forum.[3][2][3] Oakley attempted to trace the poster so he could give them a prize, but remained unsuccessful because the poster utilised a now-defunct college email address.[2][3] Despite the 1,000 sampled not guessing Maggie as the shooter, a winner had to be declared among them as demanded by contest regulations, which refused to let another sample of entrants be called.[1][2][3] The winner was chosen at random, being Fayla Gibson of Washington D.C., a non-viewer of the show who accepted a monetary award rather than have herself be animated on The Simpsons.[2][1][3]


The commercials aired on Sundays after episodes of The Simpsons. Once Part Two was televised on 17th September 1995, the commercials were made obsolete and were never re-broadcast. Many have since become lost media, although two have resurfaced courtesy of ReeYees Retro TV. The first highlighted Groundskeeper Willie and Snake as possible suspects, the former due to his outburst in Part One, and the latter due to his extensive criminal record. The other suspected the Old Sea Captain seeking revenge against Burns due to his direct threat against him in Part One, while Grampa Simpson was accused simply for being "known to have the face of a killer". The others have yet to be found, although mugshot images can be found in various Simpsons merchandise, including press slips, posters, and cups.[5][6][7]




Commercial identifying Groundskeeper Willie and Snake as suspects.

Commercial identifying the Old Sea Captain and Grampa Simpson as suspects.


ObscureMediaTV's video on the subject.

See Also