Round 118: 24 Minutes vs. Bart the Murderer

Round 118: JABF14 vs. 8F03.

JABF14: “24 Minutes” (Season 18 / May 20, 2007)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham & Billy Kimball
Directed by Raymond Persi
Showrunners: Al Jean

Goat sucking on a bottle.

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie. I haven’t seen this one in seven years, and since it’s not out on DVD or streaming anywhere, yet, I can’t really tell you anything about it. It’s season 18, so there’s probably a lot of Homer falling down or hitting his head or having his crotch punched by Jack Bauer. Maybe Lisa uses her one line in the show to sarcastically praise the writers for having the great idea of cross-promoting another FOX series.


8F03: “Bart the Murderer” (Season 3 / October 10, 1991)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F03 Bart the Murderer 8F03d

They don’t do those kinds of contrasting shots anymore, do they? They don’t do a lot of the things on display in this episode anymore, I guess.

Even if “24 Minutes” (which I’ll revisit as soon as it shows up on DVD or online) turns out to be some kind of season 18 masterpiece, I doubt that I’ll like it better than “Bart the Murderer,” which is just so damn great and funny and beautiful.

  • -Marge: “Bart, your father and I don’t want you doing that. Homer, say something.”
    -Homer: “How much does it pay?”
    -Bart: “Thirty bucks a week.”
    -Homer, scoffing: “I make more than that.”

The winner: 8F03, “Bart the Murderer.”

Round 117: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire vs. Bart vs. Australia

Round 117: 7G08 vs. 2F13.

7G08: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (Season 1 / December 17, 1989)
Written by Mimi Pond
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson in the snow

What I love most about The Simpsons Christmas Special is how on its surface it looks like a pretty typical family-sitcom holiday episode – the family’s in dire straits, the father doesn’t get his bonus, Christmas is ruined! – but then goes on to completely subvert any lesson or resolution the audience (especially one from that time, when not everything on TV was subversion) might have expected to happen.


2F13: “Bart vs. Australia” (Season 6 / February 19, 1995)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

A man on the roof of a house floating in lava answering a payphone

While the few minor complaints I have about this episode (mostly Homer’s a bit too aggressively jerky behavior) could hurt its chances in upcoming rounds of the tournament, and even though I do like “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” quite a bit …

… the winner is 2F13, “Bart vs. Australia.” For Lava Guy alone.

Rough sketches from David Silverman (Part 4)

The tournament will continue as soon as this pesky World Cup stops distracting me, but until then let’s take a look at some of the awesome doodles and sketches from David Silverman’s multi-decade tenure as animation director for “The Simpsons.” You can find all these and a lot more on his Twitter feed, @tubatron. Click on the images to see them full size.

For El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer,  Space Coyote went through a few designs before settling on #4 --

David Silverman (@tubatron), Feb 1 2014:
For El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer, Space Coyote went through a few designs before settling on #4 –

Eastern Europe's favorite cat & mouse team Worker & Parasite. In '93, xeroxing was the ticket. Hoch Hech!

David Silverman (@tubatron), Jan 31 2014:
Eastern Europe’s favorite cat & mouse team Worker & Parasite. In ’93, xeroxing was the ticket. Hoch Hech!

And here's the rough layout from rough doodle posted earlier - Bart, Lisa & Maggie, and cards.

David Silverman (@tubatron), Feb 5 2014:
And here’s the rough layout from rough doodle posted earlier – Bart, Lisa & Maggie, and cards.

Practice page, early Simpsons shorts, c.1987

David Silverman (@tubatron), Feb 4 2014:
Practice page, early Simpsons shorts, c.1987

Hold the tel-e-o-rola, THIS is probably my 1st sketch for Simpsons title seq., warts n all --

David Silverman (@tubatron), Jan 30 2014:
Hold the tel-e-o-rola, THIS is probably my 1st sketch for Simpsons title seq., warts n all –

Roughs from Black Widower - studies for Krusty Telethon seq & Bart protecting Selma.

David Silverman (@tubatron), Feb 4 2014:
Roughs from Black Widower – studies for Krusty Telethon seq & Bart protecting Selma.

Found these rough thumbnail doodles in prep for Homer's Triple Bypass - 1992.

David Silverman (@tubatron), Jan 27 2014:
Found these rough thumbnail doodles in prep for Homer’s Triple Bypass – 1992.

Bart made weird faces back in the TU shorts days -- I mean, I was just drawing from life --

David Silverman (@tubatron), Feb 8 2014:
Bart made weird faces back in the TU shorts days — I mean, I was just drawing from life –

Homer roughs as the Magical Man from Happy Land.

David Silverman (@tubatron), Feb 6 2014:
Homer roughs as the Magical Man from Happy Land.

My 2 Al Hirschfeld-esque Krustys for Black Widower. Based on Al's Jerry Lewis - used #2, clean-up has "Nina."

David Silverman (@tubatron), Jan 22 2014:
My 2 Al Hirschfeld-esque Krustys for Black Widower. Based on Al’s Jerry Lewis – used #2, clean-up has “Nina.”

Round 116: Simpson Tide vs. Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk

Round 116: 3G04 vs. 8F09.

3G04: “Simpson Tide” (Season 9 / March 29, 1998)
Written by Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey Ventimilia
Directed by Milton Gray
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Ten Minutes Later - the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in flames

In every other context I’d say this is a great, immensely funny half-hour of television, but the tournament demands a bit more scrutiny, I’m afraid.

Pop culture references and non-sequiter asides have been a part of what made The Simpsons great from the very start, but by the time this episode aired the amount of seemingly random cutaways had reached an almost inflationary level. Homer’s Planet of the Apes-inspired doughnut nightmare, Moe hosting Russian roulette straight out of The Deer Hunter, the ship’s crew (including, rather improbably, the Village People and Mr. Smithers) performing “In the Navy,” “Spanish Fly” playing over the submarine’s speakers, the whole thing with the Soviet Union, including the raising of both the Berlin Wall and the animated corpse of Vladimir Lenin. They’re all funny gags, but it’s starting to get a bit overwhelming. (And I haven’t even mentioned that the whole plot and most of the scenes or set pieces are direct homages to the movie Crimson Tide.)

The DVD commentaries for episodes of this era sometimes mention that the show turned away from this style after Family Guy came along and ripped off– I mean, happened to heavily rely on it, as well. “Simpson Tide” very much felt like an episode of Family Guy, to me, which I don’t mean in a bad way, at all. It’s enjoyable. It’s funny. It makes some smart observations and commentary, like the references to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or the rapid spread of Starbuckses.

But still it’s missing something. Heart, maybe? Or that certain, indefinable spark?

  • Love the Rocky & Bullwinkle couch gag.
  • -“I’m a man of few words.      Any questions?”

8F09: “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” (Season 3 / December 5, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Smithers and Mr. Burns outside of Moe's Tavern

Ooh, the Germans.

That “The Land of Chocolate” has lost none of its appeal in the two decades since this episode aired is of course primarily owed to David Silverman’s gorgeous drawings and Alf Clausen’s infectious music. But, to go back to what I was saying about “Simpson Tide,” it certainly helped that the segment wasn’t buried amid half a dozen similarly crazy things.

It’s a stand-out moment, for sure, but it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the episode, either. For me, this one’s an easy decision. See you next round, Hans und Fritz!

  • -Homer: “Lisa, your father needs your help. Do you know anything about Germany?”
    -Lisa: “Well, it’s a country in Europe.”
    -Homer: “Good, good. I’m learning.”

The winner: 8F09, “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk.”

Round 115: Trilogy of Error vs. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show

Round 115: CABF14 vs. 4F12.

CABF14: “Trilogy of Error” (Season 12 / April 29, 2001)
Written by Matt Selman
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Martin Prince holding a plasma globe on the school bus

Oh, hey, I remember this episode. This is where they tell the same story from three different point-of-views, each filling in more and more details, right? That sounds kinda fun.

(Watches the first act.)

Homer gets hit in the head with a skateboard (in the opening credits). Homer gets his thumb cut off by a kitchen knife, with gruesome amounts of blood splattering everywhere. Homer drinks himself to the point of passing out and violently slamming his head on the bar, only to be woken up by being forced to gulp down a pot of scolding hot coffee.

You know: fun.


4F12: “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” (Season 8 / February 9, 1997)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Hey, it's David Silverman and his beloved Tuba!

Hey, it’s David Silverman and his beloved Tuba!

Love how they make fun of obsessive nerds who go on the Internet to complain about the countless hours of entertainment they’ve been given free of charge. Ha! In your face, nerds!

  • -Homer: “Is this episode going on the air live?”
    -June Bellamy: “No, Homer. Very few cartoons are broadcast live. It’s a terrible strain on the animators’ wrists.”

The winner: 4F12, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show.”

Round 114: Three Men and a Comic Book vs. Homer Defined

Round 114: 7F21 vs. 8F04.

7F21: “Three Men and a Comic Book” (Season 2 / May 9, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Black and white still of the planet blowing up in an old Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy film strip

Good stuff. It takes a while to get going, the pacing of the plot and the jokes clearly mark this as a second season episode, but the climactic moments in Bart’s treehouse are every bit as awesome and beautiful as you remember.

  • Love how Bart basically turns into an old-timey gangster at the end. “Real friendly-like.”
  • -Bart: “We ended up with nothing because the three of us can’t share.”
    -Milhouse: “What’s your point?”
    -Bart: “Nothin’. Just kind of ticks me off.”

8F04 “Homer Defined” (Season 3 / October 17, 1991)
Written by Howard Gewirtz
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

-Homer: "What? What is it? What are you doing?" -Lisa: "Looking at you with quit awe." -Homer: "Well, as long as it's quiet."

-Homer: “What? What is it? What are you doing?”
-Lisa: “Looking at you with quiet awe.”
-Homer: “Well, as long as it’s quiet.”

Wonderful. Mark Kirkland brings such a good eye to his direction. The angles, the lighting, the shadows, the staging. I am again sadly reminded of the time the guys from Robot Chicken did the show’s couch gag, and in the making of they describe the look of (today’s) Simpsons as “two-dimensional,” “flat,” and “even lit.” It wasn’t always like that, as episodes like “Homer Defined” demonstrate masterfully.

The winner: 8F04, “Homer Defined.”

A Hypothetical Aside and Round 113: Homer Badman vs. The Wandering Juvie

Before we get to Round 113, a thought experiment.

Imagine The Simpsons had ended in 1998, with nine seasons aired. After Oakley & Weinstein finished their production run with “Lisa the Simpson,” the network decided not to order any more episodes. Maybe the actors wanted too much money or something. Stranger things have happened.

So the show’s cancelled and the fans are upset, naturally. Yes, there are already many who claim The Simpsons have jumped the shark and haven’t been up to the high standards set by its early seasons in years. And that whole Armin Tamzarian debacle? Let’s not even talk about it. But surely the show could have had a few more decent years if given the chance!

Alas, it’s not meant to be. The Simpsons are history. Fox is already developing a new cartoon to take up the time slot. Another family sitcom. But this time there’s a talking dog. Great.

Even with the show off the air, there’s still money to be made with the Simpsons brand, though. The next decade will see the release of all nine seasons on DVD and old episodes repeated ad nauseam in syndication. You can buy Bart’s face on a pair of shorts and Homer’s on a box of donuts.

And then the same thing will happen to The Simpsons that has happened to every single marketable franchise in the history of popular culture. They will come back. Just like The Muppets and the Looney Tunes and the Star Trek.

If you told Simpsons fans from my hypothetical 1998 that 15 years later they could turn on the television and watch a show called “The Simpsons,” with characters that look almost exactly as the ones they know, only slightly more polished (The animation’s digital now!) and with voices that, while recognizable, sound ever so slightly off (Did they get all the original voice actors back? Are they all still alive? Maybe they forgot how to do the voices?), and credits that feature some familiar names but also a lot of new ones — they wouldn’t be surprised. They brought back “Lost in Space,” for Pete’s sake! Of course they’d bring back “The Simpsons.”

Would they like the reboot? Who knows. Probably not, but they wouldn’t really care, either way. They would recognize that it’s a different show, for a different audience. For a different time. A different mindset.

I don’t think they’d give it much thought. They have their Simpsons, this decade has theirs. General consensus would probably be that Classic Simpsons is better than New Simpsons. There’d be debates online, of course. But in general everybody would understand that none if it really matters. Certainly no one would devise an elaborate tournament that includes individual episodes of both distinctive shows.

That would be like a tournament set up to find one person’s “favorite episode of Cheers or Family Ties.”

I’ll get further into all of this and what it means for the tournament in a few weeks, after round 128 (and the 256th-finale). Until then, let’s compare some apples and oranges.

 

Round 113: 2F06 vs. FABF11.

2F06: “Homer Badman” (Season 6 / November 27, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson curled up in bed watching The Late Show with David Letterman

I’m not a huge fan of this episode’s first act, but once the media satire kicks in I’m fully on board. The portrayal of 24 hour news coverage, wild speculation and valuing entertainment over information may seem tame today, but when this aired 20 years ago it the dramatic escalation of events was considered more a cautionary tale than an accurate depiction. If only they’d listened.

  • - ” ♫ There’ll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans — under the sea! ♫ “

FABF11: “The Wandering Juvie” (Season 15 / March 28, 2004)
Written by John Frink & Don Payne
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Blacksmith

Not even a minute in and Homer gets trampled on by a horde of shoppers. Heels in the eyes and everything. I’ve covered before how I hate that physically abusing Homer got to be more and more a go to for cheap laughs as the seasons reached double digits. Only I’m not laughing.

The rest of the episode’s not any funnier, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen or anything. Charles Napier and Sarah Michelle Gellar do a good job as guest actors and there are a couple of nice-looking shots here and there.

The winner: 2F06, “Homer Badman.”