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"A Star Is Burns"
The Simpsons episode
A Star is Burns.png
Homer and Marge meet Jay Sherman
Episode no. 121
Prod. code 2F31
Orig. airdate March 5, 1995[1]
Show runner(s) Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Susie Dietter
Couch gag The family’s heights are reversed; Maggie is now the largest while Homer is the smallest.[2]
Guest star(s) Jon Lovitz
Maurice LaMarche
Phil Hartman
James L. Brooks
Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Ken Keeler
Dan Castellaneta
Jon Lovitz
Susie Dietter

"A Star Is Burns" is the eighteenth episode of The Simpsons' sixth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 5, 1995.[1] In the episode, Springfield decides to hold a film festival, and famed critic Jay Sherman is invited to be a judge. Homer, feeling that Marge does not respect him, asks that he be put on the jury panel and ends up voting for the stupidest movie.

The story involves a crossover with the short-lived animated series The Critic. Jay Sherman was the main character on the show. The Critic was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had previously written for The Simpsons but left following the fourth season, and produced by James L. Brooks, who was also a producer for The Simpsons. The show had premiered on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network in January 1994 but was canceled despite positive critical reception. The series was switched over to Fox, and put in the timeslot directly after The Simpsons. Brooks pitched a crossover episode as a way to promote The Critic and decided that a film festival would be a good way to introduce Sherman.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, reacted negatively when he heard about this episode, feeling that it was just an advertisement for The Critic, and that people would incorrectly associate the show with him. When he was unsuccessful in getting the program pulled, he had his name removed from the credits and went public with his concerns, openly criticizing James L. Brooks and saying the episode "violates the Simpsons' universe." In response, Brooks said "I am furious with Matt, [...] he's allowed his opinion, but airing this publicly in the press is going too far. [...] his behavior right now is rotten."

The episode was directed by Susie Dietter and was the first episode to be written by Ken Keeler. Jon Lovitz, the star of The Critic, guest stars as Jay Sherman, while Maurice LaMarche (who was also a regular on The Critic) has a few minor roles. Sherman later became an infrequently recurring character on The Simpsons. The episode received mixed reviews from critics, many of whom felt the crossover was out of place on the show although Barney's film festival entry was well-received.



Barney's film, Pukahontas. A special airbrush effect was used on the curtains to make them translucent.[3]

The episode opens with a report by Kent Brockman depicting Springfield as the least cultural city in the United States. The town holds a meeting to decide on a course of action, where they adopt Marge's proposal to launch a film festival. As excited Springfielders create films to enter, Marge is made the head of a panel of judges. She decides to invite Jay Sherman, a critic from New York, to be a special guest critic. She sends a letter to Sherman, who is at first reluctant to leave New York City, but agrees. Jay stays with the Simpson family, which proves problematic, as his popularity with them makes Homer feel inadequate and overshadowed. Homer begins to worry that Marge thinks he is stupid. When Marge denies this, he asks that he be placed on the jury and she agrees. Meanwhile, Mr. Burns learns that his profits have dropped due to his bad image. Smithers informs him of the film festival, and Burns decides that a film biography will endear him to people. He hires Señor Spielbergo (the "non-union, Mexican equivalent" of Steven Spielberg) to direct and holds casting for the actor who will play Mr. Burns. In the end, Burns decides to play himself.

Later, several entries are shown to the public at the Aztec Theatre. Entries include Apu Nahasapeemapetilon's Bright Lights, Beef Jerky, Moe Syzlak's musical number, Moe Better Booze and Hans Moleman's film Man Getting Hit by Football, which features Moleman getting hit by a football in the groin. Barney Gumble's film Pukeahontas, a story about his alcoholism, is screened next. The crowd is touched by it and Jay predicts that it will win. Burns' film A Burns for All Seasons is the last one shown and is booed by nearly the entire audience.

In the judge's room, Jay and Marge vote for Barney's film, while Mayor Quimby and Krusty the Clown, who were bribed, vote for Burns' movie. Homer has the tiebreaker vote and he votes for Man Getting Hit by Football, which he found hilarious. Marge tries to convince him to change his vote and a conflicted Homer views Pukeahontas again. At the awards show, Jay announces that Barney is the grand prize winner and Marge tells Homer that he voted for the right film.

Jay leaves for New York and Marge says "Mr. Burns found that there are some awards can't be bought." However, a short epilogue shows Burns at the Academy Awards where, despite the fact that he "bribed everyone in Hollywood," his film loses to a remake of Man Getting Hit by Football starring George C. Scott.


A man with glasses and a red shirt is sitting in front of a microphone.
Al Jean had left The Simpsons after the fourth season, but returned to produce the episode.

The Critic was a short-lived animated series that revolved around the life of movie critic Jay Sherman. It was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had previously written for The Simpsons but left after the fourth season, and executive produced by James L. Brooks.[4] Jon Lovitz (who had previously guest starred in several episodes of The Simpsons) starred as Jay Sherman, and it also featured the voices of The Simpsons regulars Nancy Cartwright, Doris Grau and Russi Taylor.[5] It was first broadcast on ABC in January 1994 and was well-received by critics,[6][7] but did not catch on with viewers and was put on hiatus after six weeks. It returned in June 1994 and completed airing its initial production run.[8][9]

For the second season of The Critic, James L. Brooks cut a deal with the Fox network to have the series switch over.[10] The episode was pitched by Brooks, who had wanted a crossover that would help launch The Critic on Fox, and he thought having a film festival in Springfield would be a good way to introduce Sherman.[11] After Brooks pitched the episode, the script was written by Ken Keeler.[12] Although David Mirkin was executive producer for most of the sixth season, the episode was executive produced by Al Jean and Mike Reiss.[11] Jay Sherman's appearance was Simpsonized: he was made yellow and given an overbite.[12]

The episode contains a meta-reference to the fact that it is a crossover episode in a conversation Bart has with Sherman:[11]

  • [Bart is watching television] Announcer: Coming up next, The Flintstones meet The Jetsons.
  • Bart: Uh oh. I smell another cheap cartoon crossover.
  • [Homer enters the room with Jay] Homer: Bart Simpson, meet Jay Sherman, the critic.
  • Jay: Hello.
  • Bart: Hey man, I really love your show. I think all kids should watch it! [turns away] Ew, I suddenly feel so dirty.

The joke was pitched by Al Jean.[13]

Alongside Jon Lovitz, the episode guest stars Maurice LaMarche, a regular on The Critic, who voices George C. Scott[2] as well as Jay Sherman's belch.[13] Phil Hartman also makes a brief appearance as Charlton Heston.[2] Rainier Wolfcastle's line "on closer inspection, these are loafers" was ad-libbed by Dan Castellaneta who was providing the voice of the character on a temporary track. It was later re-recorded by Wolfcastle's normal voice actor, Harry Shearer.[14]

Cultural references

One of the proposals before Springfield decided to make the film festival, drafted by Patty and Selma, was "leeching off the popularity of others", by changing Springfield's name to Seinfeld. The Imperial March from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is played as Mr. Burns is introduced.[15] The song the "Rappin' Rabbis" play in the opening moments of the episode is a parody of "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer.[2] The opening of Bart's movie The Eternal Struggle is a reference to The Amazing Criswell's narration in Plan 9 from Outer Space.[12] Barney's movie contains references to Koyaanisqatsi, and the music of the film, which was composed by Philip Glass.[11]


In its original American broadcast, "A Star Is Burns " finished 57th in the ratings for the week of February 27 to March 5, 1995.[16] The episode was the third highest rated show on the Fox network that week, beaten only by Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210. The Critic finished 64th.[16]

The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote, "Jay Sherman perhaps proves here, even more so than in The Critic, just why that show failed. He's too flawed to be likeable." They added, "Barney's film is magnificent, but it's easy to see why Homer wants Hans Moleman to be the winner."[2] Adam Finley of TV Squad wrote "the episode, even if I didn't care for it as a whole, does have moments that are still very Simpson-y, and still very funny. Jay's appearance, however, casts a shadow over everything that tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth."[17] Todd Gilchrist of IGN listed Barney's film as one of the best moments of the sixth season.[18]

The A.V. Club named Hans Moleman's line "I was saying 'Boo-urns'", and Mr Burns' "Then get me his non-union, Mexican equivalent!" as two quotations from The Simpsons that can be used in everyday situations.[19] IGN ranked Jon Lovitz as the eighth best guest star in the show's history.[20]



"The two reasons I am opposed to this crossover is that I don't want any credit or blame for The Critic and I feel this (encroachment of another cartoon character) violates the Simpsons' universe, The Critic has nothing to do with the Simpsons' world. [...] [I'm] not criticizing The Critic. But cartoons have their own style and I really have nothing to say about The Critic. Through all the years of The Simpsons we have been careful about maintaining their uniqueness. Sure, there have been other cartoons who visit, but it's usually just one scene, often for a sight gag."

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, was a critic of the episode when it was first released. He felt that the crossover was a thirty-minute advertisement and blamed James L. Brooks, calling it an attempt to get attention for one of his unsuccessful shows. After unsuccessful attempts to get the episode pulled, he decided to go public with his concerns shortly before the episode aired. He stated that his reasons for doing so were that he hoped Brooks would have a change of heart and pull the episode, and that "articles began to appear in several newspapers around the country saying that [Groening] created 'The Critic.'"[21] Groening had his name removed from the credits, so he does not receive his normal "created by" and "developed by" credits that air at the end of the opening sequence.[21]

In response, James L. Brooks said "I am furious with Matt, he's been going to everybody who wears a suit at Fox and complaining about this. When he voiced his concerns about how to draw The Critic into the Simpsons' universe he was right and we agreed to his changes. Certainly he's allowed his opinion, but airing this publicly in the press is going too far. [...] He is a gifted, adorable, cuddly ingrate. But his behavior right now is rotten."[21]

Al Jean and Mike Reiss, creators of The Critic, had previously worked on The Simpsons and had executive produced the third and fourth seasons. Brooks said, "for years, Al and Mike were two guys who worked their hearts out on this show, staying up until 4 in the morning to get it right. The point is, Matt's name has been on Mike's and Al's scripts and he has taken plenty of credit for a lot of their great work. In fact, he is the direct beneficiary of their work. 'The Critic' is their shot and he should be giving them his support." Reiss stated that he was a "little upset" by Groening's actions and that "this taints everything at the last minute. [...] This episode doesn't say 'Watch The Critic' all over it."[21] Jean added "What bothers me about all of this, is that now people may get the impression that this Simpsons episode is less than good. It stands on its own even if 'The Critic' never existed."[21]

A video camera is being pointed at a bearded man who is wearing glasses. Some other people stand in the background.
James L. Brooks stated that Groening's public complaints were "going too far".

Groening was criticized for going public with his complaints. Ray Richmond of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote "who's right? Well, Groening is probably correct in judging this an integrity issue. It's a fairly tacky bit of promotion, the kind generally beneath The Simpsons. But it's also true that little is accomplished by taking a gripe like this public. Quietly erasing his name from the credits would have been sufficient. [...] I admire the man's standing up for his creative rights. But I question the way he's gone about it."[22]

Groening was absent from the episode's commentary for The Complete Sixth Season DVD boxset.[23]


In the end, The Critic was short-lived, broadcasting ten episodes on Fox before its cancellation. A total of only 23 episodes were produced, and it returned briefly in 2000 with a series of ten internet broadcast webisodes. The series has since developed a cult following thanks to reruns on Comedy Central and its complete series release on DVD.[5][9]

Jay Sherman has since become an infrequently recurring character on The Simpsons, appearing in speaking roles in "Hurricane Neddy" and "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner".[24]


  1. ^ a b "A Star is Burns". The Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "A Star is Burns". BBC. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  3. ^ Dietter, Susie. (2005) Commentary for "A Star Is Burns", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ Svetkey, Benjamin (1994-02-11). "Gotta Lovitz". Entertainment Weekly.,,301117,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  5. ^ a b Uhlich, Keith (2004-02-03). "The Critic: The Complete Series". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  6. ^ Boedecker, Hal (1994-01-26). "The Critic is worthy follow-up to The Simpsons Animated series gets two thumbs-up". The Gazette. 
  7. ^ Carter, Bill (1994-01-13). "Reporter's Notebook; Top Hollywood Agency Reaches for the Stars Of Television News". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  8. ^ "ABC-TV returns The Critic tonight". Toronto Star. 1994-06-01. 
  9. ^ a b Turner, p. 387
  10. ^ Shister, Gail (1994-05-02). "The Critic finds new life, love on Fox". Toronto Star. 
  11. ^ a b c d Jean, Al. (2005) Commentary for "A Star Is Burns", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  12. ^ a b c Keeler, Ken. (2005) Commentary for "A Star Is Burns", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  13. ^ a b Reiss, Mike. (2005) Commentary for "A Star Is Burns", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  14. ^ Castellaneta, Dan. (2005) Commentary for "A Star Is Burns", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  15. ^ Scott Chernoff (2007-07-24). "I Bent My Wookiee! Celebrating the Star Wars/Simpsons Connection". Star Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  16. ^ a b "Nielsen Ratings". The Tampa Tribune. 1995-03-09. 
  17. ^ Finley, Adam (2006-08-25). "The Simpsons: A Star is Burns". TV Squad. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  18. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (2005-08-15). "The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season". IGN. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  19. ^ Bahn, Christopher; Donna Bowman, Josh Modell, Noel Murray, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Kyle Ryan, Scott Tobias (2006-04-26). "Beyond "D'oh!": Simpsons Quotes For Everyday Use". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  20. ^ Goldman, Eric; Iverson, Dan; Zoromski, Brian. "Top 25 Simpsons Guest Appearances". IGN. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f Brennan, Judy (1995-03-03). "Matt Groening's Reaction to The Critic's First Appearance on The Simpsons". Los Angeles Times (The Times Mirror Company). 
  22. ^ Richmond, Ray (1995-03-04). "Groening's point well-taken, but probably best made privately". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  23. ^ The Simpsons season 6 DVD boxset. [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 2005. 
  24. ^ Weinstein, Josh. (2006) Commentary for "Hurricane Neddy", in The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.


  • Richmond, Ray; Antonia Coffman (1997). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. New York City: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-638898-1. 
  • Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 0-679-31318-4. 

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