30. Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk
Season Three, Episode 11
Premiere Date: December 5, 1991
Writers’ Room: Talk about writing by committee. To start, Jon Vitti scribed “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” with a pitch about the nuclear power plant being bought out by the Japanese. Vitti laid the groundwork, but it seems like everyone pitched in. According to Al Jean on the commentary, the Japanese were dropped for fear of being cliché, and swapped with Germans during the writing process. Phil Hartman knew German, and assisted with dialogue. Sam Simon lobbed the amazing idea of “Homer and the Land of Chocolate.” And according to Mike Reiss, again on the commentary, the writers all had to band together come up with just one suitable Moe’s Tavern phone prank. What went to air was a thematically dense and joke-rich episode.
Essential Quote: Ever feel like the universe is working against you? “Attention workers, we have completed our evaluation of the plant. We regret to announce the following lay-offs, which I will read in alphabetical order:” Pause. “Simpson, Homer.” Pause. “That is all.”
D’oh! Moment: Poor Homer is the subject of job evaluations by the Germans. They’re huge on safety, and well, Homer’s never been strict with all that. “Hey, Homer. Aren’t you the safety inspector?” “D’oh.”
Best Visual Gag: The “Land of Chocolate” daydream fantasy is so classically Homer. The chocolate rain drops. That poor little Poochie that Homer rips a bite out of. And the whimsical fantasy music feels straight out of Wonka. And the best part of the long-form gag is that it’s built off Homer’s fear of getting canned from the power plant, which gives the gag a streak of nervous reality – who wouldn’t want to escape somewhere safe when the fear of the everyday is breathing down your neck? They have gum drop streets and cane sugar lamp posts there!
Willkommen zu Springfield: Guten tag, Herr Fritz und Hans und Horst! Ja, aber… Apologies, this is a predominantly English publication is it not? Hans, Fritz, and Horst, the German consortium representatives, were created for the episode. Also, the white-haired Horst was played by the late, great Phil Hartman with a jolly German accent. And in a bit of TV dweeb inside referencing, Horst’s look was modeled after Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes. Man, these writers loved Hogan’s Heroes!
Episode as a GIF:
Analysis: “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” (which poorly translates to “Burns Sells the Power Plant”) is an episode that operates on a ton of levels. We get some real, in-depth characterization from Monty Burns, and his late-life existentialism. Sell the plant? Life his life? Burns longs for something more, or at least the chance to be and do more — even if it is a short-lived jaunt. But it’s a shade deeper than his usual comic book villainy. And Homer’s lay off produces rich comedy and drama for the Simpsons family. They struggle with being poor. Home haircuts, carrot-stuff cat food, and balls of soap made from little slivers – the Simpsons family’s struggle was downright Chaplinesque. And finally, the German humor, meine güte! Vitti and the writing staff came up with playful, non-offensive jokes that would become a casually defined interest of the series (Hello, Uter!). The consortium’s manners, strictness, and enablement for strolls down Chocolate Lane provide ample, memorable humor. And we’re still trying to figure out where that damn chocolate town is!