The Lastest Gun in the West
"The Lastest Gun in the West" is the twelfth episode of The Simpsons’ thirteenth season. It first aired on the Fox network on February 24, 2002. In the episode, Bart, after being chased by a vicious dog, runs into a retired Western star named Buck McCoy, who soon becomes Bart's idol. After McCoy shows the Simpsons some of the films he starred in, the family decides to help him get back into acting.
The episode was directed by Bob Anderson and written by John Swartzwelder, who based the script on a story idea pitched by fellow Simpsons writer Ron Hauge. The episode features Dennis Weaver as the retired Western actor Buck McCoy, as well as Frank Welker as the vicious dog, and Karl Wiedergott as an alcoholic resembling Walter Brennan. When it was first broadcast, "The Lastest Gun in the West" was seen by 5.9% of the American population between ages 18 and 49. It has since been negatively received by fans and has garnered mixed reviews from critics.
While having what he thinks is a lucky day Bart encounters a vicious dog that proceeds to chase him relentlessly, harassing him whenever he steps out of the Simpsons house. One day, he takes refuge in the garden of a house belonging to Buck McCoy, a former Western actor who was a big star in the early days of television. An experienced animal handler as well as an actor, Buck shows Bart a trick to calm the dog down, making it friendly towards him, and Bart begins to hero-worship Buck. Bart begins to spend a lot of time with Buck, who teaches him all manner of old cowboy skills, such as lasso tricks. The other kids of Springfield soon begin to emulate Barts new style, and the Western fad makes a comeback. Meanwhile, Homer grows jealous over Bart's hero worship of Buck, and tries to get Bart to idolize him instead. Buck befriends the rest of the family, and eventually talks about the end of his career, when the western shows were replaced by detective shows in the 60's. Lisa convinces Buck that he is due for a comeback
Bart manages to get Buck on the Krusty The Clown Show as part of his push towards a comeback, which is helped by Krusty being an old fan of his. The rehearsal goes great, with Buck's sharpshooting skills still being in peak condition, but when Krusty mentions how many viewers Buck will be performing for, Buck develops stagefright due to not having performed live in decades, and ends up getting drunk, accidently shooting Krusty during a stunt and revealing that he's an alcoholic, devastating Bart. Homer is at first elated, hoping to replace Buck as Barts hero, but seeing how much losing his faith in Buck has hurt his son, Homer instead decides to help Marge get Buck sobered up. Progress is slow, as Buck has little interest in cleaning himself up, and resists help from both Marge and Alcoholics Anonymous (who brands him with a cattle iron when he quits the program).
Meanwhile, Homer sees a news broadcast where the Springfield Bank is robbed by Snake Jailbird and several unnamed accomplices, using military-grade weaponry and body armor which the police is helpless against. Seeing an opportunity, Homer convinces Buck to become a hero by foiling the robbery. Though Buck first refuses, pointing out that he is an actor, not an actual gunfighter, the idea of restoring Barts faith in him is enough to get him aboard. Buck easily disarms the robbers with a pair of lasso, with the befuddled criminals being confused about how to counter the attack, and Bart once again sees Buck as a hero. Buck rides off into the sunset, asking Bart never to bother him again, and returns to his house, just as Bart is once again chased past by the vicious dog from the opening.
The idea for the episode was pitched by Simpsons writer Ron Hauge, who thought it would be interesting to see an episode in which Bart would run into a retired Western film star in the neighborhood and "think he was the coolest guy in the world", although the actor had seen better days. Hauge suggested that Swartzwelder, who is an avid Western fan, would be the appropriate writer for the episode. Swartzwelder also pitched the plot idea about the angry dog who chases Bart in the episode.
The design for Buck McCoy was primarily based on Dennis Weaver, who portrayed him in the episode, as well as aspects of other western actors such as Roy Rogers and John Wayne. McCoy's costume in the fictional television show McTrigger was based on the attire worn by the main character in real-life television series McCloud. The design for the dog went through several different model changes until the Simpsons staff settled on the "very angry bull-terrier design" seen in the episode. A scene in the episode shows McCoy showcasing an array of films he starred in to the Simpson family through a movie projector. In order to achieve the strobe light effect done by the projector, the animators painted every other frame white and then blank.
The episode features American actor Dennis Weaver, famous for his role in the television show Gunsmoke, in a guest role as the Western actor Buck McCoy. Al Jean, the show runner for the episode, stated in the DVD commentary that Weaver was very funny, a ”terrific guy”, and that it was an honor to meet him. Karl Wiedergott, an actor who usually fills in for unavailable male cast members during table reads for The Simpsons episodes, portrayed an alcoholic resembling Walter Brennan. The dog was played by voice artist Frank Welker.
The episode title, which is often wrongfully referred to as "The Latest Gun In the West", is a pun based on the term "the fastest gun in the west". A scene in the episode shows McCoy auditioning for a spot in the Krusty the Clown show. To showcase his skills, McCoy shoots a Krusty cardboard cutout in the crotch. The scene is a reference to an incident on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, in which Ed Ames hit a mannequin in the crotch while demonstrating a tomahawk throw. Carson's quips during the incident are referenced in Krusty's line "Ooh, right in the panhandle." Carson can also be seen in one of the clips before Krusty's show in the episode, along with poet Robert Frost. The inside of McCoy's house is loosely based on the inside of Will Rogers' house in Will Rogers State Historic Park. "McTrigger", the last TV series McCoy starred in, is a parody of the American television police drama McCloud, in which Weaver played the lead; McCoy claims the series was eventually retooled into Room 222. In one scene, Homer shows Bart a poster of himself dressed as Farrah Fawcett.
In its original American broadcast on February 24, 2002, "The Lastest Gun In the West", along with a rerun of Malcolm in the Middle, put Fox in second place for the night among adults between ages 18 and 49. According to Nielsen Media Research, the episode received a 5.9 rating, meaning it was seen by 5.9% of the population in said demographic. On August 24, 2010, the episode was released as part of The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season DVD and Blu-ray set.
Following its television broadcast, The Lastest Gun in the West received a lot of negative feedback from The Simpsons fans. The Simpsons staff — who, according to Jean, are susceptible to criticism — were surprised by the amount of scorn the fans showed towards the episode. Jean, who thought the episode was "great", stated in the DVD commentary for the episode that he "[has] never been able to quite figure [why the fans disliked the episode] out", and speculated that, since Westerns have not been popular since the 1960s, "they [The Simpsons fans] just don't care about them at all."
Following the home video release of the thirteenth season of The Simpsons, reviews of "The Lastest Gun in the West" were mixed. On the negative side, describing the episode as a "clunker", Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict stated that the episode is "frightfully thin" and criticized the premise as being "lazy". Nate Boss of Project:Blu criticized the premise as well, writing that the episode was "just a couple jokes thrown together" rather than a complete story. Writing for Blu-ray.com, Casey Broadwater described the episode as being "just plain dull". On the other hand, Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide praised the episode as "offer[ing] good laughs" and wrote that, while the episode was not "brilliant", it was overall "an enjoyable experience." Giving the episode a positive review as well, Ron Martin of 411Mania described the episode as being "easily one of the best of the season".
- Jean, Al. (2010). Commentary for "The Lastest Gun in the West", in The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David. (2010). Commentary for "The Lastest Gun in the West", in The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- "CBS takes back Monday night". Media Life Magazine. February 26, 2002. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Malkowski, Jennifer (September 6, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season (Blu-Ray)". DVD Verdict. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Boss, Nate (September 8, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season". Project:Blu. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Broadwater, Casey (September 5, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season Blu-ray Review". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Jacobson, Colin (September 2, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [Blu-Ray] (2001)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Martin, Ron (September 15, 2010). "The Simpsons Season 13 DVD Review". 411Mania. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
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- "The Lastest Gun in the West" at The Simpsons.com
- "The Lastest Gun in the West" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "The Lastest Gun in the West" at the Internet Movie Database