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"Black Widower"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 21
Directed byDavid Silverman
Written byJon Vitti (teleplay)
Sam Simon and Thomas Chastain (story)
Production code8F20
Original air dateApril 9, 1992
Guest appearance(s)
Episode features
Chalkboard gag"Funny noises are not funny"
Couch gagTwo thieves are carting the couch away. The family leaps onto the couch, but the thieves dump them on the floor and continue stealing it.
CommentaryMatt Groening
Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Julie Kavner
Jon Vitti
David Silverman
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Colonel Homer"
Next →
"The Otto Show"
The Simpsons (season 3)
List of The Simpsons episodes

"Black Widower" is the twenty-first episode of The Simpsons' third season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 9, 1992. The episode was written by Jon Vitti and directed by David Silverman. Kelsey Grammer guest starred as Sideshow Bob for the second time. In the episode, Sideshow Bob — Bart's archenemy — marries Bart's Aunt Selma. When Bart later realizes that Bob is planning to kill Selma, he prevents the attempted murder and Bob is sent back to prison. "Black Widower" finished 39th in Nielsen ratings for the week that it originally aired. Reviewers generally enjoyed the episode, and gave Grammer's portrayal of Sideshow Bob particular praise.


The Simpsons have dinner with Selma and her new boyfriend, Sideshow Bob, Bart's arch-enemy. While Bob was in prison, he spent every moment plotting his revenge against Bart for exposing his plan to frame Krusty the Clown ("Krusty Gets Busted"). When Selma replied to his "prison pen pal" ad, Bob became a model prisoner to earn an early release so he could gain revenge.

Bob proposes to Selma and she accepts. He makes an appearance at a Krusty the Clown telethon and they reconcile. Lisa encourages Bart to forgive him, but Bart refuses to believe he is reformed. When Selma discovers that Bob detests her beloved MacGyver, the marriage is nearly called off until Bob takes Homer's suggestion to let Selma watch it alone.

Selma reveals that she has no sense of smell or taste after a mishap with a bottle rocket and has cut back on cigarettes, smoking only after meals and episodes of MacGyver. Selma sends the Simpsons a tape of their honeymoon which captures Bob's tirade over the lack of a gas fireplace in their hotel room. While watching MacGyver, Bart realizes that Selma has one hour to live and the Simpsons rush to the hotel room.

When Selma retires alone to watch MacGyver, her hotel room explodes. She is unscathed and the Simpsons and the police apprehend Bob. Bart explains how he exposed Bob's scheme. Bob opened the gas valve in the hotel room, knowing Selma would not smell the leak. He left while she watched MacGyver, thinking she would light a cigarette afterwards and cause an explosion. Bob asks why the room still exploded if Bart foiled his plot; Chief Wiggum explains that he absent-mindedly threw a match into the room after smoking a celebratory cigar. Bob, again vowing revenge, is led away by the police.


A man wearing a cap smiles broadly.
Kelsey Grammer returned to play Sideshow Bob for the episode "Black Widower".

"Black Widower" was written by Jon Vitti and directed by David Silverman.[1][2] The staff wanted an episode involving a "mystery", so executive producer Sam Simon approached Thomas Chastain, head of the organization Mystery Writers of America, to help construct the mystery.[3] A number of clues leading up to the revelation at the end were inserted into the script so viewers would be able to solve the mystery on their own.[4] As the episode was being written, the writers had their eyes towards winning an Edgar Award, which is awarded to the best mystery fiction in television and film published or produced in the past year. Despite their efforts, "Black Widower" did not win an Edgar Award.[3]

In the episode, the writers echoed the premise of Wile E. Coyote by having Sideshow Bob unexpectedly insert himself into Bart's life and attempt to kill him. Executive producer Al Jean has compared Bob's character to that of Wile E. Coyote, noting that both are intelligent, yet always foiled by what they perceive as an inferior intellect.[4] For "Black Widower", director David Silverman updated the character model of Bob to reflect the animation of director Brad Bird.[5] One of Bob's friends from jail seen in the episode is Snake Jailbird. The character first appeared in the season two episode "The War of the Simpsons" only as "Jailbird",[6] but his full name was first mentioned in "Black Widower".[7] The writers gave him the name Snake because of the snake tattoo on his arm, and the character has gone by that name ever since.[6]

"Black Widower" was the second episode Kelsey Grammer guest starred in as the voice of Sideshow Bob. He had previously appeared in the season one episode "Krusty Gets Busted", in which Bart gets Bob sentenced to jail for framing Krusty for armed robbery.[4] Grammer initially expected Bob to be a one-time role, but it eventually became one of the most popular roles he ever played, as Bob became a recurring character on the show.[8] Grammer bases his Bob voice on theatre actor and director Ellis Rabb. He had once worked for Rabb, whose "lamenting tones became [the] foundation for Sideshow Bob".[8]

Cultural references

Lisa imagines that Selma's new boyfriend is The Elephant Man.
Lisa imagines that Selma's new boyfriend is The Elephant Man.

The episode begins with the family, except for Marge, watching a parody of the show Dinosaurs on television.[5] The staff thought Dinosaurs was a knock-off of The Simpsons, so at one point Bart exclaims "It's like they saw our lives and put it right on screen," and points at the television screen.[3] Before she reveals to the Simpson family that Selma's new boyfriend is Bob, Patty says there is something "disturbing" about him, which results in Lisa's imagining him as The Elephant Man.[7] As Bob remembers his time in prison, a scene with him picking up road side trash is seen, referencing the film Cool Hand Luke. The music in the scene is a reference to the soundtrack of the film as well.[5] Bob also remembers winning a Daytime Emmy Award in the "Best Supporting Performer in a Children's Program" category.[4][7] In Selma's letters to Sideshow Bob, she refers to him by his prison number, 24601, which is Jean Valjean's prisoner number in the novel Les Misérables.[3] The karaoke song Selma and Sideshow Bob sing as a montage is the Frank/Nancy Sinatra duet of “Somethin' Stupid”. The reunion between Krusty and Bob at the telethon is a reference to a surprise reunion between former comedy partners Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin on a 1970s telethon.[5][7] The telethon logo features an Al Hirschfeld-style caricature of Krusty.[4]

"Black Widower" was the second episode to show Patty and Selma's obsession with the character Angus MacGyver from the television show MacGyver, which has become a recurring joke on The Simpsons.[4] When Sideshow Bob goes into the room to see Selma's corpse, he turns around the chair, only to see Bart sitting in it. Bob turns around and sees Selma in the doorway. These shots, from Bob turning the chair to Selma in the doorway, are a reference to the ending of the film Psycho.[5] The music in the scene, written by composer Alf Clausen, is also a reference to Psycho.[5] In Bart's retelling of the story at the end of the episode, Homer shouts "To the Simpsonmobile!", a reference to Batman's batmobile.[4]


In its original American broadcast, "Black Widower" finished 39th in Nielsen ratings for the week of April 6–12, 1992, making The Simpsons the third-highest rated television series on Fox that week, after Married... with Children and In Living Color.[9]

In I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn wrote that he considered the episode a "terrific show", appreciating Grammer's work in particular, and he also enjoyed the Dinosaurs gag and Bob's reaction to McGyver, which he remarked "make the whole thing great fun".[2] Bill Gibron of DVD Verdict rated the episode 97%, and considered it a "timeless treat" because of Sideshow Bob's appearance, calling it "excellent from beginning to end".[10]

Nate Meyers of the website digitallyOBSESSED rated the episode a 3 (of 5). He felt the episode was "not a strong entry to the series", noting that "the love story between Bob and Selma never seems to play as well as it should".[11] Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide remarked that later episodes of The Simpsons seasons were typically of lesser quality than episodes that appeared earlier in a season because of "general tiredness and the pressure of creating so many programs". However, he found "Black Widower" an exception, noting that most episodes featuring Sideshow Bob rarely disappoint.[12]

Hock Guan Teh of DVD Town applauded Grammer's performance as Sideshow Bob in the episode, saying he could not "get over Sideshow Bob´s evil and conniving tone of voice, all delivered in a pseudo-Anglophile accent".[13]


  1. ^ Vitti, John (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Black Widower" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  2. ^ a b "Black Widower". BBC. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  3. ^ a b c d Reiss, Mike (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Black Widower" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Jean, Al (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Black Widower" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Silverman, David (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Black Widower" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ a b Groening, Matt (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Black Widower" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ a b c d Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
  8. ^ a b Grammer, Kelsey (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Brother From Another Series" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  9. ^ "Nielsen Ratings". The Tampa Tribune. 1992-04-16.
  10. ^ Gibron, Bill (2003-12-15). "The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  11. ^ Meyers, Nate (2004-06-23). "The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season". digitallyOBSESSED. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  12. ^ Jacobson, Colin (2003-08-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (1991)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-08-02.
  13. ^ Teh, Hock Guan (2003-08-21). "Simpsons, The: The Complete 3rd Season (DVD)". DVD Town. Archived from the original on 2006-03-19. Retrieved 2009-08-02.

External links

This page was last edited on 1 September 2020, at 14:15
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