The Simpsons episode “Radio Bart” was initially darker as it had a reference to mass suicide, and other details were also different – here’s what happened. Created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons began as a series of animated shorts in The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, and after three seasons, it was developed into a half-hour prime time show, making its official debut on Fox in 1989. The Simpsons has since become the longest-running animated American series and has successfully expanded to other media, most notably comic books and film.
The Simpsons follows the daily adventures of the title family and other colorful citizens of Springfield, among those close friends and enemies. Over the course of more than 30 seasons, the Simpsons have been involved in all types of trouble, but their adventures in the first seasons of the show are definitely different from those in more recent seasons. Among their most memorable ones from the first seasons is “Radio Bart”, where Bart got into big trouble with a radio and an abandoned well.
“Radio Bart” follows Bart, who on his 10th birthday, gets a microphone that can transmit through radio, which Homer thought would be a great present. Initially underwhelmed, Bart doesn’t know what to do with it, but being the mischievous mind he is, he found a way to play with it. He first uses to mess with Rod and Todd Flanders and make them believe God is talking to them, and he then plays a bigger prank on all residents of Springfield by lowering his radio down into an abandoned well and calls for help over the radio, playing the role of a boy named Timmy O’Toole who accidentally fell into the well. This “accident” quickly made the news and people began to campaign for his safe rescue, and Krusty the Clown teamed up with Sting to create a song called “We’re Sending Our Love Down The Well”, in the style of “We Are The World”. Bart later decides to retrieve the radio and falls into the well, and is later rescued.
The initial plan for “Radio Bart” was slightly different but also darker. First off, Sting wasn’t the first option for the guest star spot, and the crew behind The Simpsons offered the part to Bruce Springsteen as he was part of “We Are the World”. However, Springsteen declined and the producers offered the role to Sting, which turned out for the best, as producer Al Jean has said Sting is one of his favorite guest stars that have appeared in The Simpsons. Another thing that was initially different was the scene where Homer panics over Bart’s message on the radio about an alien invasion. Originally, Homer was seen mixing a punch bowl filled with Kool-Aid and rat poison in the kitchen, but censors objected to this, as impressionable viewers could end up imitating him, so it was changed to Homer getting a shotgun and running to face the aliens. The Kool-Aid scene was a reference to Jim Jones and the mass murder-suicide of himself and his followers, as he was the leader of the cult Peoples Temple. Jones made his followers drink cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid (widely believed to have been Kool-Aid), and he later shot himself.
The mass-suicide of Jim Jones and his followers has made its way to pop culture many, many times and in different media, but The Simpsons didn’t really need to jump on that train, especially in its early seasons. Surely, it’s a reference that younger audiences wouldn’t have caught, but it was ultimately for the best that the scene was changed, and the shotgun one is more fitting with Homer’s personality. As for Sting taking Bruce Springsteen’s place, it doesn’t change the story at all, and bringing Sting on board turned out to be a nice experience for everyone involved.