Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk
"Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk" (German pronunciation: [bʊɐ̯ns fɛɐ̯ˈkaʊ̯fən deːɐ̯ ˈkʁaftvɛɐ̯k]) is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' third season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 5, 1991. In the episode, Mr. Burns wishes to pursue other interests and therefore decides to sell his power plant to two German investors for $100 million. Safety inspector Homer is immediately fired by the Germans because of his incompetence. Later, Burns realizes that he has lost all his respectability because he can no longer control anyone.
The episode was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Mark Kirkland. Originally, the writers wanted to have Burns sell the plant to the Japanese, but they decided that it would have been too clichéd; the plot, however, remained the same with the Germans. The title is a literal, but inaccurate German translation of "Burns sells the power plant", the correct version being Burns verkauft das Kraftwerk.
In its original airing on the Fox network, the episode had a 12.6 Nielsen rating, finishing the week ranked 38th. "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk" received generally positive reviews from critics and was praised for several scenes, particularly the "Land of Chocolate" sequence in which Homer dances around in an imaginary land made entirely out of chocolate. The sequence was also remaking cutscenes from the episode in The Simpsons Game.
One night, Mr. Burns tells his assistant Waylon Smithers that he is considering selling the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant so he can pursue other interests. Meanwhile, unconfirmed takeover rumors boost the plant's stock, which rises for the first time in ten years. Homer learns he owns stock in the company and sells his 100 shares for 25 cents apiece to a shady stockbroker, netting $25, which he spends on beer. Soon after the sale he learns that the value of the stock has shot up to $52 per share. While Homer misses out on the windfall—he could have made $5,200—other employees make small fortunes. Two German businessmen, Hans and Fritz, learn that the plant might be for sale. They offer Burns $100 million, which he immediately accepts. Burns leaves, seeking adventure, while Smithers remains an employee at the plant.
The new owners immediately begin a thorough evaluation of the plant and its employees, their more friendly demeanor pleasing all the workers save for Homer, who worries his lax work ethic as safety inspector will cost him his job. When they interview Homer, he is unable to intelligently answer their questions and begins slipping into a fantasy about cavorting through "The Land of Chocolate". The owners announce shortly after that Homer will be the only employee fired. A depressed Homer hangs around the Simpsons' house, insisting he is a competent safety-minded worker while the rest of the family makes budget cuts until Homer can find a new job. Meanwhile, Burns is having a good time in retirement and decides to get together with Smithers for a drink. They decide to go to Moe's Tavern, where Homer has been drinking. Homer lashes out at Burns, calling him greedy and saying nobody loves him. The other bar patrons join in and taunt Burns, including Bart who stamps on Mr. Burns' foot and starts singing "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" where everyone except Smithers joins in. Feeling humiliated, Burns and Smithers walk out of Moe's. Burns realizes that his former employees no longer fear him, concludes that only his ownership of the plant gave him power over ordinary men, and decides to buy the plant back.
The German investors, meanwhile, discover that the plant is in bad need of repairs and decide to sell before they sink too much money into it. Burns, noting their desperation to sell, offers them $50 million for the plant, and they reluctantly accept half of what they paid him. Now back in charge, Burns orders that Homer be rehired. He tells Smithers "I keep my friends close, and my enemies closer" and vows revenge on Homer at some unspecified point in the future as revenge for his lashing at the bar. The episode ends with Homer cheering to his family that he got his job back.
The episode was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Mark Kirkland. It features several German elements, including a reference to John F. Kennedy's "ich bin ein Berliner" speech. The title "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk" is an inaccurate German translation of "Burns sells the power plant", the correct version being Burns verkauft das Kraftwerk. Originally, the writers decided to have Burns sell the plant to the Japanese, but they decided that it would have been too clichéd; the plot, however, remained the same with the Germans. The writers and animators based one of the two German buyers on the German character Sergeant Schultz from the American television show Hogan's Heroes. By coincidence, frequent Simpsons guest star Phil Hartman happened to know a little German so he helped out with the conversations. Hartman also guest-starred in the episode as Horst and the stockbroker.
The writers had a tough time coming up with Bart's prank call to Moe's Tavern and Moe's reply, in which they could not include any foul language. The writer also wanted to include a longer portion of Burns's sworn vengeance, but had to trim it in the end. In this episode, the producers decided to start stressing the relationship between Smithers and Burns. Originally, there was a two-minute scene involving the two, but the writers cut it down considerably. The producers also noted the constant flux of the Simpsons' economic state; one moment Homer appears to have his wallet full of cash, and the next, they do not even have a saving account. The animators also included a character other than Lenny or Homer with a beardline, something the producers did not like. Originally, when The Simpsons shorts aired on The Tracy Ullman Show, all the male characters had beardlines similar to Homer's; however, after the Simpsons became their own show, they decided to drop the beardline for the majority of the characters to make Homer unique. After Homer gets fired, Bart feeds his cat a mixture of 88% ash and 12% carrots. The gag came from a real-life experience when Vitti tried to feed his cat a mixture of carrots and ash; however, the cat simply ate and regurgitated it. The sequence with the Frosty Chocolate Milkshakes in which Bart dreams what he would do with the money from the stocks is a reference to The Tracey Ullman Show shorts.
"The Land of Chocolate"
In the original script, the "Land of Chocolate" sequence was absent, though the dialog that set it up was present (Homer complains to his new German bosses about the candy machines not working, to which one of them replies: "We understand, Homer. After all, we are from the land of chocolate!"). Executive producer Sam Simon was the one who suggested that they actually do a sequence in which Homer's mind wanders off into an imaginary land made of chocolate. The sequence was storyboarded by animator Kevin O'Brien, who designed it to be a parody of The Sound of Music, but supervising director David Silverman suggested that it be more original. Silverman storyboarded the revised sequence, and tried to make Homer "deliriously happy" as he skipped through the town. He later recalled, "I animated that scene frame by frame, I needed to draw the skip I wanted. Homer's skipping sets the tone for that show."
In the sequence there was supposed to be a road sign that read "Hershey Highway" (Hershey's is a chocolate manufacturer, but the term "hershey highway" refers to anal sex). However, the censors objected and the writers replaced it with "Fudgetown". The "Land of Chocolate" sequence was set to a song based on music from the film Tucker. Composed by Alf Clausen, the song was later included in the 1999 compilation album Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons. "The Land of Chocolate" was also featured as a level in The Simpsons Game, which was released in 2007.
In its original airing on the Fox network, the episode acquired a 12.6 Nielsen rating and was viewed in approximately 11.60 million homes. It finished 38th in the ratings for the week of December 2–8, 1991, down from the season's average rank of 37th. It finished second in its timeslot behind The Cosby Show, which came in at 11th with a 16.8 rating. The Simpsons was the highest rated show on Fox that week.
Since airing, "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk" has received generally positive reviews from critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, praised the episode, most notably "Homer in the land of chocolate and Smithers counselling Mr. Burns with the aid of his sock-puppet friend, Mr. Snappy the Alligator". Writing for the Star Tribune, Neal Justin rated the episode as one of his ten favorite episodes, commenting that the scene where "Homer dreams about prancing across a literal 'land of chocolate' [was] perhaps the most outrageous moment in Simpsons history." In a list of Homer's best gluttony moments, Herald Sun's Mikey Cahill ranked "The Land of Chocolate" as number one. The sequence was also named one of the twenty best moments in the history of the show by Daily Record's Brian McIver. In 2012, Johnny Dee of The Guardian listed the episode as one of his five favorite episodes in the history of The Simpsons, noting that it was the "Land of Chocolate" segment that "makes this episode such a classic". Jon Greenberg of ESPN said the episode is one of his favorites, calling it "hardly an average episode". He commented that "the sarcastic heart of the story comes at the end, when Mr. Burns realizes that wealth and time do not buy him happiness because no one, not even the scourge of Sector 7G [Homer], is scared of a powerless despot."
The episode was study material for a sociology course at University of California Berkeley, where it was used to "examine issues of the production and reception of cultural objects, in this case, a satirical cartoon show", and to figure out what it was "trying to tell audiences about aspects primarily of American society, and, to a lesser extent, about other societies."
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- Silverman, David. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Vitti, Jon. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Castellaneta, Dan. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
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- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk?". BBC. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
- Justin, Neal (January 28, 2000). "Homer's odyssey - What a long, strange trip it's been for TV's longest-running sitcom, "The Simpsons." Here are 10 of our favorite stops along the way.". Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
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- Dee, Johnny (2012-01-13). "The Simpsons at 500: what are your favourite episodes?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
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