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
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
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.”