Round 5: Bart the Genius vs. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

First season! Second season! Fight!

Round 5: 7G02 vs. 7F13 (Bracket)

7G02: “Bart the Genius” (Season 1 / January 14, 1990)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart and Homer Simpson playing Scrabble.

“KWYJIBO: A big, dumb, balding, North American ape with no chin.”

To be honest, when I whittled down the number of episodes to the 256 I needed for the bracket to work, I thought twice about whether to include all or even any of the thirteen episodes from the show’s first season. They are not ones I go back to all that often, because while I do remember them with a certain fondness, I also recall that they are very slowly paced, kinda crudely animated and just on a different level, quality-wise, than even the ones from the season that followed. Watching “Bart the Genius” again last night, a few things struck me:

  • The very first chalkboard gag of “The Simpsons” to appear on television is Bart writing “I will not waste chalk.” over and over. Ha!
  • As a Scrabble fan, I enjoy the scene of the family playing it very much. A lot of great gags here, from Homer’s inability to recognize “OXIDIZE” as a word to, of course, Bart’s definition of “KWYJIBO.”
  • Loved Bart’s fantasy sequence: “At 7:30 a.m., an express train traveling 60 miles an hour leaves Santa Fe bound for Phoenix, 520 miles away…
  • The visit to the Opera (“Carmen,” in Russian, because the producers didn’t have to pay for that) is full of nice touches. I like that Lisa, being a kid after all, is joining in on Bart and Homer’s fun.
  • And in general, as much as the early years stress the Bart vs. Homer-dynamic, the scenes that did the most for me were of the two actually bonding. (Still, it’s weird hearing Bart call Homer “Dad.”)

7F13: “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” (Season 2 / February 7, 1991)
Written by Steve Pepoon
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson on the couch, watching TV at night

“They must think people will watch anything.”

Here’s a secret: I’m a pretty big “Simpsons” fan. Always have been. And not just because it’s a funny sitcom. Because it’s important. Because it can make a difference.

I’m not saying this episode, which I first saw when I was Bart’s age, taught me that it’s wrong to steal, but I’m not not saying it, either. What stood out to me the most about watching it again was how emotional it is. I’ve actually got a little misty-eyed when Homer joined Lisa’s protest in the end. I think this tournament will show that this is something that identifies my favorite “Simpsons” episodes: the flawless combination of humor and heart.

  • Phil Hartman is all over this one, as Moses, the cable guy and, in his first appearance, Troy McClure.
  • I’ll get into this more as the tournament goes on, as well, but another thing that makes “The Simpsons” stand out is on how many levels it can be appreciated. As a child I didn’t notice the direct reference to “North by Northwest,” (or the ones to “The Ten Commandments,” for that matter) but I still thought it was a funny scene.
  • The scene in Sunday school was, I believe, the first time I encountered the word “thou” in my life.
  • “Bart! You’re no longer in Sunday school. Don’t swear!”
  • Beautiful animation all around. The lighting of the night scenes (see above), Lisa’s fantasy of the family in hell and Homer’s fear of going to jail especially stood out.

The winner: 7F13, “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment.”


One thought on “Round 5: Bart the Genius vs. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

  1. […] sketches of Homer Simpson from first season episode “Bart the Genius“ (First aired: January 14, 1990) […]

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