Round 23: Bart Gets an F vs. Weekend at Burnsie’s

Round 23: 7F03 vs. DABF11.

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

Bart and Homer Simpson watching TV.

The guys from Robot Chicken did a Simpsons couch gag for the current season, and there’s a two part making-of video on YouTube. In it, they talk about recreating the look of The Simpsons, which they describe as “two-dimensional,” “flat,” and “even lit.”

And I guess that is what the show looks like these days. But it didn’t use to be that way. In the early years, The Simpsons was beautifully animated, full of cinematic angles, elegant lighting and shadows.

And so it is in “Bart Gets an F,” a sweet and funny episode from a point in the series where they were still figuring out a few of the characters, but all the great stuff is clearly there.

  • How great is Marcia Wallace?
  • I asked David Silverman if the step-dancing giant gorilla Homer watched on TV would eve make a return to the show. Here’s his response.
  • Commentary trivia: Matt reveals why the Simpsons are called the Simpsons: Because they are “Simpletons.” Now you know.

DABF11: “Weekend at Burnsie’s” (Season 13 / April 7, 2002)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Michael Marcantel
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson all high from the marijuana cigarettes.

Sigh. Another episode of Family Guy disguised as The Simpsons.

When early Simpsons writers like Conan O’Brien started to introduce more one-off jokes and sight gags that were less and less grounded in reality, Mattt Groening coined the term “rubber-band reality.” Yes, things could get wacky, but the show would always land back on firm ground.

By the point “Weekend at Burnsie’s” aired, that rubber band had snapped. Here Homer is ordering crows around to bring him beer and food, characters and props appear out of thin air when they’re needed, Smithers makes an unconscious Burns dance as a marionette.

The script is all over the place yet goes nowhere. Characters are strung around like lifeless puppets for the sake of a few cheap laughs – and I’m not even talking about Burns. It’s lazy. It’s lifeless. It’s out of this tournament.

The winner: 7F03: “Bart Gets an F.”

5 thoughts on “Round 23: Bart Gets an F vs. Weekend at Burnsie’s

  1. […] There are other, unquestionably talented directors working for the show, but, to me, David Silverman stands out as the most ambitious and innovative of them all. His episodes look and feel as dramatic and cinematic as they are funny. (I also wrote about the stark contrast between the way the show used to look and how it looks now in Round 23.) […]

  2. […] ugly stuff first. I talked about the concept of the rubber-band reality before, and how that band had pretty much snapped sometime in the early double digit seasons. We […]

  3. […] I dunno, “The Hunger Games” – but mostly it would come down to the oft-cited ‘rubber-band reality‘ of “The […]

  4. […] brainless, yes, but at least zombies have some agenda and consistency. These Simpsons are more like string-puppets, dragged around and contorted into whichever shape this week’s episode’s crazy story […]

  5. […] 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 […]

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