85. Rosebud

“Smithers! I’m home!”

  • First broadcast: Thursday 21 October 1993, Fox Television
  • First shown on UK terrestrial television: Monday 28 September 1998, BBC2
  • Showrunner: David Mirkin
  • First draft: John Swartzwelder
  • Writing staff: Jace Richdale, Harold Kimmel, Frank Mula, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Conan O’Brien, David Richardson, Greg Daniels, Jonathan Collier, Gerry Richardson, David Sacks, Brent Forrester, Bob Kushell, Dan McGrath, Bill Canterbury, David S Cohen
  • Animation director: Wes Archer

64 slices of almost the best ever Simpsons episode:

1. Yes, it’s Citizen Kane again. But not just a few nods to Citizen Kane. It’s a full-on doff of a late-period-Welles-sized hat to Citizen Kane. And for both the scope of its pastiche and the richness of its humour, it gets a perfect (10).

2. “Would you like to continue living with us, your loving natural parents, or would you rather live with this twisted, loveless billionaire?” [Burns gets in car] “Let’s roll!”

3. The welcome return of the ‘Nev-R-Break’ gag.

4. Alf Clausen’s score. Rarely has Burns been lavished with so many wistful – and unsettling – music cues (10).

5. Burns’ impressively earnest attempt to throw Smithers off the scent. “‘Bobo’? Er, I meant, er, Lobo! Sheriff Lobo! They never should have cancelled that show.”


7. The fact that Homer had to hold the piñata at one of Burns’ previous birthday parties. It is exactly the sort of thing Burns would ask him to do – and which Homer would accept.

8. Burns deciding to hire Homer to perform comedy at his birthday party, in order to “harness his fractured take on modern life.”

9. Homer’s sincere and absolute glee at having to write jokes for Burns’ party. His reaction is a delight. “I’m so funny! This is going to be great!”

10. The sound of the guests trudging up to the entrance to Burns’ party, groaning timidly.

11. The sight of the guests trudging up to the entrance to Burns’ party, including Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

12. George HW Bush being turned away from Burns’ party. “No one-termers!”

13. Flanders’ defiantly cheerful response at being told by Homer that he has a body odour problem. “Thanks for the nose news, neighbour!”


15. “Sir, I’ve arranged for the people of Australia to join hands tonight and spell out your name with candles. There’s a satellite hook-up on that monitor, if you’d just turn your head slightly.” “Bah, no time. Next!”

16. The Ramones. They come on, do what’s needed, shout and swear a bit, then leave. They don’t overstay their welcome, don’t over-act, and don’t do anything except advance the plot in precisely the right way. The ideal special guests (10).

17. Burns’ reaction to The Ramones: “Have the Rolling Stones killed.”

18. Homer the stand-up. He is just so enthusiastic. “Are you ready to LAUGH?!”

19. The silence Homer receives from the audience, who are reeling from the news of a dead dog. “Quiet, you awful man!” a lady snaps.

20. Homer’s determination to persist with his routine. He is proud of what he has written and, by God, he is going to deliver it.

21. The quite spectacular grotesqueness of the design (9) of Homer’s embellished arse.

22. Burns face when greeted with Homer’s arse.

23. The way Harry Shearer’s voice cracks as Burns hisses: “Destroy him!”. Of all the vocal performances (10) in this episode, Shearer’s is absolutely the stand out.

24. The riot police breaking up party. Burns is nothing if not methodical in his rage.

25. Homer: “I’ll never wiggle my bare butt in my public again.” Lisa: “I’d like to believe that this time, I really would.”

26. Bart: “Please don’t deny the world your fat can.” Homer: “Don’t worry, boy; she’ll be ready for your Aunt Selma’s birthday!” Lisa: “I knew it.” The best-delivered joke (10) of the episode.

27. The design of Bobo itself. Despite not being alive, it has just as much personality as everyone else (and that’s in an episode already brimming with memorable characters). (10).

28. Bobo’s journey through the 20th century, in particular its brief association with…


30. Hitler to Bobo: “This is all your fault!”

31. Apu’s matter-of-fact reply to the polar explorers: “If you can think of a better way to get ice, I’d like to hear it.”

32. The sight of Smithers standing by a conveyor belt of drink cartons and calmly replacing each carton’s photo of Milhouse with a photo of Bobo. We’re told nothing as to why Milhouse is on the cartons; the answer is left to our imagination.

33. From an episode packed with outstanding animation (10), the sequence where Homer falls down the stairs:

34. The staccato sound of Homer’s voice as he falls down the stairs (“Aaah – ohhhh – aaah – son of a…”)

35. The plot (10). It is a simple yet brilliant idea expanded with consummate style and wit to fill an entire episode. Not a single moment is wasted; not a scene or line of dialogue is out of place.

36. A pile of treasure crashing through the ceiling and falling on Burns’ head. “As you can see, this old place is falling apart.”

37. The one thing that will seal the deal for Homer. “He’s going to have to give me… my own recording studio!”

38. “Well, why can’t I be greedy once in a while?” Marge’s big moment.

39. Homer’s inability to detach Bobo from Maggie. “It seems to be stuck!”

40. Homer’s decision to return Bobo to Maggie and give up the chance of a million dollars. One of his noblest gestures.

41. The sight of Burns and Smithers dressed as cat burglars.

42. Burns using pepper spray to dispose of a curious Flanders.

43. Smithers and Burns dangling from a rope they have slung between Ned and Homer’s houses – in particular, the grunt of delight from Smithers when Burns bumps up against him from behind.

44. “More cocoa Mr Burns?” “YES.”


46. “64 slices of American cheese.”

47. Marge gets straight to the point. “Have you been up all night eating cheese?” “I think I’m blind.”

48. Burns’ exit line after falling off the ceiling. “Good day to you.”

49. The sight of Homer in a cave being whipped by a slave-driver as he turns a wheel that rotates the cake stand in the power plant canteen.

50. Homer enchanting himself with a cardboard box. “My box! My box!”

51. Homer being enchanted by Barney the dinosaur. “Ha ha ha, I can see why THIS is so popular.”

52. Burns and Smithers doing their own sitcom. “Smithers, I’m home!” It pushes The Simpsons’ boundaries of the absurd the furthest they have ever been, yet it works, because Homer buys into it completely. “Look out Smithers! I love this show.”

53. The angry mob, and the fact it includes such upstanding citizens as Dr Hibbert and Principal Skinner.

54. Homer’s unarguable logic. “But Mr Burns. It’s not my bear. It’s Maggie’s.”


56. A moment of rapture for Burns. “Something amazing has happened! I’m actually happy!”

57. The moment of rapture is brief – and rightly so. You wouldn’t want to see Burns permanently happy.

58. The look of the whole episode. It is full of wonderful contrasts and cinematic flourishes, including some of the most vivid use of shadows.

59. “Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?” Homer wonders. “It’s an ending,” concludes Marge, “that’s enough.”

60. The tone (10) of the episode. See numbers 1 to 59.


62. The sight of Smithers’ head welded to the body of a robot dog, leaping and bounding after Burns.

63. The fact the episode ends and you don’t notice 22 minutes have passed because you have been so utterly engrossed for every single second.

64. Final score: 99%

One thought on “85. Rosebud

  1. “Rosebud” really does showcase how every aspect of The Simpsons – the writing, the animation, the voice acting, the comedy, the (rather surprising) character pathos (done without making Burns less of a threatening character), all of it – was firing on all cylinders, coming together to create one of the most engrossing episodes of the entire series. Season 5 is probably my favorite Simpsons season, and this episode is one of the prime reasons why.


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