It’s hard to imagine we’ll ever have another moment like “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” The sixth-and-seventh-season Simpsons event—both an obvious parody of Dallas-style TV cliffhangers, and a hype-heavy effort to replicate the ratings effects of same—ate up huge chunks of our brains over the summer of 1995, spurred on by Fox’s own efforts to play the “mystery” for all that it was worth. (Including a “Can you guess the culprit?” contest that ultimately fizzled out into a non-fan taking a cash prize, rather than having themselves animated into the show.) Years later, people still toss out theories about the conclusion of the two-parter, despite the fact that it’s been pretty definitively solved at this point. (It was the baby, in case you didn’t know.)
Today, though, folks online have been less interested in whodunnit, than in “How could I have cashed in?”, as Twitter has been passing around a reminder that Vegas was actually taking real-money odds on the outcome of the animated comedy program—and that the correct culprit, Maggie Simpson, was running at an incredibly rich 70 to 1. And, really: If there are stupider things to do with a time machine than travel back to 1995 and turn $1,000 into $70,000 at the Mirage by betting that a cartoon baby would shoot a geezer, we’re currently hard-pressed to think of them.
What’s interesting about this bookmaking is that it was actually, at least tangentially, approved of by the show itself: The image of the odds appears to have been taken from Springfield’s Most Wanted, a half-hour special that ran on Fox in between “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” parts 1 and 2, starring America’s Most Wanted’s John Walsh as he attempted to “investigate” the animated killing. (Although the special isn’t part of Disney+’s collection of the show, it’s available on the sixth-season DVD sets, and in various corners online; it’s also a weird enough thing to be worth watching if you’d never seen it. Multiple newspapers apparently called out Walsh, who normally spent his time ostensibly helping to track real criminals, for lending his credibility to something so silly.)
A perusal of the special’s betting section (run by actual oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro) also serves as a weird psychographic of where fans’ minds were at during the mystery-solving process. Homer and Smithers (the latter of whom had several clues pointing to his identity) were both at the top of the list, while the venerable Tito Puente comes in dead last, at 800 to 1. Americans in 1995 also considered Ms. Krabappel (75 to 1) more murderous than both Miss Hoover (300 to 1) and Lunchlady Doris (200 to 1). (And now we can’t stop wondering whether anyone ever made the latter bet; the idea of calling up a Vegas bookie and putting $500 on Lunchlady Doris as a killer is really delightful to us.) Side characters extraordinaire Lionel Hutz and Dr. Nick Riviera come in at 150 and 175 to one, respectively. And in terms of murderousness, The Simpson family themselves rank in order of Homer, Bart, Lisa (at a shockingly short 20 to 1), and then Maggie. (Marge was presumably invalidated by being on-screen in the scene where Burns is shot, otherwise, we imagine all that restrained rage would have found her in the top third of the list.)
And, look: 26 years later, it’s hard to tell how many, if any, of these bets were actually made. But it’s like we always, always say: When someone has attempted to murder a cartoon millionaire as part of an obvious television promotional stunt: Follow the money.