128th-Final, Round 13: Lost Our Lisa vs. The Front

128th-final, round 13: 5F17 vs. 9F16.

5F17: “Lost Our Lisa” (Season 9 / May 10, 1998)
Written by Brian Scully. Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F17 Lost Our Lisa

Didn’t like it quite as much as last time.

-Lisa: “Can I take the bus to the museum?”
-Homer: “Museum? I don’t like the sound of that.”

9F16: “The Front” (Season 4 / April 15, 1993)
Written by Adam I. Lapidus. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

9F16 The Front

Don’t know what I was going on about last time. Brilliant episode.

The winner: 9F16, “The Front.”

128th-Final, Round 12: Bart Gets an “F” vs. Homer the Vigilante

128th-final, round 12: 7F03 vs. 1F09.

7F03: “Bart Gets an F” (Season 2 / October 11, 1990)
Written by David M. Stern. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

7F03 Bart Gets an F


1F09: “Homer the Vigilante” (Season 5 / January 6, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

1F09 Homer the Vigilante

Another close one. As many second season episodes do, “Bart Gets an F” starts out as a rather conventional family sitcom plot, but of course even back then The Simpsons couldn’t help but elevate the material. I am again and again impressed by the sophisticated and artful animation of the early seasons, and this one is just full of beautiful shots.

“Homer the Vigilante” is obviously a much more polished product, and I like the episode a lot, but “Bart Gets an F” has a certain charm that, at least for me, puts it ahead in this contest.

The winner: 7F03, “Bart Gets an F.”

128th-Final, Round 11: Bart the Mother vs. A Fish Called Selma

128th-final, round 11: 5F22 vs. 3F15.

5F22: “Bart the Mother” (Season 10 / September 27, 1998)
Written by David S. Cohen. Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F22 "Bart the Mother"

Hey, look, it’s Homer getting violently hit in the groin with a baseball. That’s not even three minutes into this episode – which, if past me is to be believed does get better as it goes on – and that’s when I turned it off and declared “A Fish Called Selma” the winner of this round. Not that that outcome was ever in doubt, anyway.

3F15: “A Fish Called Selma” (Season 7 / March 24, 1996)
Written by Jack Barth. Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

3F15 "A Fish Called Selma"

-Lovejoy: “And do you, Selma Bouvier Terwilliger Bouvier, take the fabulous Troy McClure to be your lawful wedded husband?”
-Selma: “I already told you, yes.”

That is such a subtle little joke and such a perfect line reading from Julie Kavner. (Have I mentioned the word perfect, yet?)

The winner: 3F15, “A Fish Called Selma.”

128th-Final, Round 10: Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song vs. A Streetcar Named Marge

128th-final, round 10: 1F18 vs. 8F18.

1F18: “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” (Season 5 / April 28, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein. Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson and Principal Skinner


8F18: “A Streetcar Named Marge” (Season 4 / October 1, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Play Enjoyed By All


The winner, you may be surprised to read, is 1F18, “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song.” I honestly did not expect “Streetcar” to exit the tournament this early, but the truth is that both episodes are excellent and I just happen to like SSSBS a tiny bit more. It’s a really, really close call, though.

128th-Final, Round 9: Lisa’s Pony vs. Treehouse of Horror IV

128th-final, round 9: 8F06 vs. 1F04.

8F06: “Lisa’s Pony” (Season 3 / November 7, 1991)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss. Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F06 Lisa’s Pony


1F04: “Treehouse of Horror IV” (Season 5 / October 28, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, Bill Canterbury
Directed by David Silverman. Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons 1F04 Treehouse of Horror IV

(Every time I come on here and apologize for not posting anything for so long and then vowing to do a better job from now on it only gets worse, so I’m not even gonna do that today.)

Whenever a Halloween special comes up on the tournament I go in thinking, well, even if it’s good I’m not gonna pick it over a decent regular episode, right?

Right. But this was a close one. “Treehouse of Horror IV” really is that good, and if I’m ever to rank the Treehouses o. H. I’m sure it will be near the very top. But I’m not doing that today.

The winner: “Lisa’s Pony,” of course.

128th-Final, Round 8: Homie the Clown vs. Bart’s Girlfriend

128th-final, round 8: 2F12 vs. 2F04.

2F12: “Homie the Clown” (Season 6 / February 12, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunner: David Mirkin

I love Homer's expression here so, so much.

I love Homer’s expression here so, so much.


2F04: “Bart’s Girlfriend” (Season 6 / November 6, 1994)
Written by John Collier. Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons 2F04 Bart’s Girlfriend

I watched these two back to back on the projector the other day. Usually I watch ’em on my computer but a friend was over for a movie and afterwards we put in the good old Simpsons DVDs. So my main observation for both of these season 6 episodes is how great they look on the big screen. I know I say this every week but back in its prime the show was so cinematic! You’ve got low angles and elaborate action scenes and dramatic close-ups and all that kind of stuff. Sitcoms are usually not the most sophisticated, visually speaking. They all look kinda… flat. These don’t.

I laughed way more during “Homie the Clown” than the other one. I think under David Mirkin they had figured out the sweet spot between Homer being a lovable goof you want to root for and him causing trouble and injury to those around him and himself, not through malice but kinda just by being there. There’s a moment here where he beats up the guy in the Hamburglar costume half to death that I wish they had toned down a bit, or even taken out completely. I get why it’s funny and maybe it’s so out there with its violence that it becomes okay again? I don’t know.

(I’m extra rambly today for reasons. Sorry if none of this is coherent.)

2F12 is like a mini masterclass in comedic timing, too. Three fantastic moments rely entirely on pauses: when Homer falls into the burger props outside the Krusty Burger, when he is ejected out of his car after crashing it in front of the Van Houten place, and when Flanders repeatedly gets shot. They all involve silences or a few seconds of nothing happening, and they’re made exponentially funnier because of that.

“Bart’s Girlfriend” is a very different kind of episode. It doesn’t rely on the loud, funny moments as much, but instead focuses on what Bart’s going through, giving his story enough room to resonate with us and feel more true to life. (I guess “falling in love with a troublemaker and having your heart broken” IS more relatable than “enrolling in clown college and getting kidnapped by the mafia”?)

You know what? Up until a minute ago I was gonna let 2F04 win this one but now that I’ve written all this and looked through the episodes again I’m going with “Homie the Clown.” They’re pretty much equally great and last night I would have picked “Bart’s Girlfriend.” But this isn’t last night. Sorry, Meryl Streep. You were great, though.

The winner: 2F12, “Homie the Clown.”

128th-Final, Round 7: Flaming Moe’s vs. My Sister, My Sitter

128th-final, round 7: 8F08 vs. 4F13.

8F08: “Flaming Moe’s” (Season 3 / November 21, 1991)
Written by Robert Cohen. Directed by Rich Moore, Alan Smart
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F08 Flaming Moe's


4F13: “My Sister, My Sitter” (Season 8 / March 2, 1997)
Written by Dan Greaney. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F13 My Sister, My Sitter

The winner: 8F08: “Flaming Moe’s.”

I like “My Sister, My Sitter” a lot, and especially Lisa’s story. Her struggle to prove herself a responsible and reliable babysitter feels very true to her character, and Bart makes the perfect foe. Homer and Marge’s visit to the Springfield waterfront promenade offers some fun sight gags, but this really is Lisa’s episode to carry, and she does it well. The way the episode wraps up is a tiny bit clunky, but that can be said of “Flaming Moe’s” as well, I suppose.

It’s easy to overlook (or even embrace) the lack of a perfect resolution in “Flaming Moe’s,” because everything leading up to it is just so masterfully constructed. I love that you really don’t need to know anything about the characters and their relationships going in – the episode flawlessly sets up Homer and Moe’s friendship and then rivalry. And of course the acting and animation is on a level that is so much higher than anything else on television then. Or now.