Round 41: The Italian Bob vs. The Debarted

Round 41: HABF02 vs. KABF06.

HABF02: “The Italian Bob” (Season 17 / December 11, 2005)
Written by John Frink
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Al Jean

title

Turned it off after three minutes and fifty-seven seconds.


KABF06: “The Debarted” (Season 19 / March 2, 2008)
Written by Joel H. Cohen
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Al Jean

title

Turned it off after four minutes and twenty-five seconds.

The “winner”: KABF06, “The Debarted,” I guess.

Round 40: Moaning Lisa vs. Dead Putting Society

Round 40: 7G06 vs. 7F08.

7G06: “Moaning Lisa” (Season 1 / February 11, 1990)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss
Directed by Wesley Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Drunkards and barflies in Moe's Tavern.

“Today’s fire raced through downtown Springfield, gutting Symphony Hall, the Springfield Museum of Natural History, the Springfield Arts Center and Barney’s Bowl-a-rama.”

An important episode, for both the show as a whole and for the development of some of the characters, especially Lisa. “Moaning Lisa” was a clear statement that The Simpsons wouldn’t just be a silly cartoon show, but one that could have real emotional impact, and a story to tell.

  • I want to play that boxing game. I hate boxing and I never play video games, but that one looks like fun. Also I love that 8-bit music.

7F08: “Dead Putting Society” (Season 2 / November 15, 1990)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart and Lisa Simpson overlooking Springfield

“What’s the sound of one hand clapping?”

Lovely little episode. Still rough around the edges, especially Homer and Flanders are not entirely who they’d later become, yet, but it’s an entertaining show, quite funny, and with a great resolution at the end.

  • Gotta love that couch (non-)gag.
  • “It’s times like this that I’m thankful Dad has little to no interest in almost everything I do.”
  • “Newsflash, Lisa! Bart is not a horse.”
  • “I can’t believe it. You actually found a practical use for geometry.”
  • “Forgive an old Brit for crying, but this is the most stirring display of gallantry and sportsmanship since Mountbatten gave India back to the Punjabs.”

The winner: 7F08, “Dead Putting Society.”

Round 39: Saturdays of Thunder vs. Marge Be Not Proud

Round 39: 8F07 vs. 3F07.

8F07: “Saturdays of Thunder” (Season 3 / November 14, 1991)
Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson welding.

“Bart! You can’t weld with such a little flame.”

A nice little Homer and Bart story. I was a bit surprised that this was already in the show’s third season, for some reason it feels like a season two episode to me. That has nothing to do with the quality, it’s just that in my head this episode feels older than the timeless “The Way We Was.”

Anyway, we get great animation on and off the race track here, including a loving tribute to “The Godfather” in the McBain clip.

(I hate to be this brief when talking about the episodes, but sometimes I just don’t have much to say. There’s nothing to complain about, and nothing earth-shattering, either.)


3F07: “Marge Be Not Proud” (Season 7 / December 17, 1995)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lisa and Bart Simpson watching television.

“Now, stay tuned for a video Christmas card from Tupac Shakur.”

Dead Homer Society have a whole chapter just on this “very special episode,” which they cite as one of the (if not the) turning point of “The Simpsons,” the one episode that turned the once great show into the banality that is Zombie Simpsons.

I don’t know what that’s all about, to me “Marge Be Not Proud” is a wonderful episode, with a story true to Bart and Marge’s characters, and featuring one great joke after another. Homer gets a lot of the big laughs here, but I also very much enjoyed 75-year-old Lawrence Tierney as the store detective. (The commentary is full of good stories about him, too.)

  • “I don’t think this is the kind of coat that opens.”
  • I will never get tired of Homer wearing his reading glasses in bed:
  • “I figured out the boy’s punishment. First, he’s grounded. No leaving the house, not even for school. And absolutely no stealing for three months.”
  • Another perfect little Lisa moment at the end, when she’s upset about not getting a present, too. Gotta love Yeardley!

The winner: 3F07, “Marge Be Not Proud.”

Round 38: The Way We Was vs. The Canine Mutiny

Round 38: 7F12 vs. 4F16.

7F12: “The Way We Was” (Season 2 / January 31, 1991)
Written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Young Homer Simpson walking in the moonlight.

There’s not one wrong note to be found in this episode. The Simpsons is called an “animated sitcom,” but “The Way We Was” is so much more than just a couple of jokes and “comedic situations.” The story of how Homer and Marge first met is moving, sweet, and funny. The animation, the character designs, the performances, the music… everything comes together beautifully to create one of the best things to ever appear on television.

  • I love that Homer cheers for Marge when she is crowned prom queen, instead of being upset about Artie Ziff being crowned prom king.

4F16: “The Canine Mutiny” (Season 8 / April 13, 1997)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Laddie

Loved this one from start to finish. It’s a wonderful, very funny episode, and it would have won against many episodes that have already advanced, but sadly it can’t win against “The Way We Was.” This one is great, but the former is even greater.

  • I think my favorite moment – and there are many contenders – is Lisa being hopped up on pep pills. Perfect bit of acting from Yeardley Smith.
  • I don’t have much else to say about this one, really. There are no nits to be picked, and too much good stuff to list here. Just… just watch it again, if you haven’t in a while.

The winner: 7F12, “The Way We Was.”

Round 37: Lemon of Troy vs. Bart’s Inner Child

Round 37: 2F22 vs. 1F05.

2F22: “Lemon of Troy” (Season 6 / May 14, 1995)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Marge Simpson vacuuming underneath Homer's feet.

A quintessential David Mirkin episode, full of, as Conan would say, the old switcheroo kind of joke they and I love so much. I’ve watched this more times than I can count and it still makes me laugh.

  • One highlight is definitely the pairing of Nelson and Martin. Perfect.
  • In that brief period of time where the Internet existed but Google did not, I was convinced I had imagined that TV series where young Jerry O’Connell used spray cans to fly around, because I couldn’t find any evidence of it anywhere. (Turns out I was not crazy.)

1F05: “Bart’s Inner Child” (Season 5 / November 11, 1993)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Milhouse van Houten crawling out of Homer Simpson's mattress fort.

“Ooh, the Springfield Men’s Shelter is giving away 60 soiled mattresses!”

That joke above, set up by an ad Homer reads in the paper and then visualized in his fantasy sequence, is one that I missed the first however-many times I saw this episode but finally caught this time around.

We basically get three stories in a row here, first the fantastic saga of Homer and the trampoline, then Marge’s nagging problem and turn towards a self-help guru, and finally Bart’s carefree attitude plunging the town into chaos. But the plot progresses organically and doesn’t feel forced, and we get a ton of great jokes on the way.

  • James Brown saying “Wait a minute, this bandstand wasn’t double-bolted!” would be the greatest thing in any other episode, but it is only the second greatest thing in this one, because…
  • … there’s this moment of pure perfection. (And just as great is David Silverman quietly laughing to himself on the commentary track when this scene happens.)

The winner: 1F05, “Bart’s Inner Child.”

Round 36: Make Room for Lisa vs. Krusty Gets Busted

Round 36: AABF12 vs. 7G2.

AABF12: “Make Room for Lisa” (Season 10 / February 28, 1999)
Written by Brian Scully
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Lisa and Homer Simpson in an esoteric new age store.

“Other cultures are fine. I’m just saying I can get along in life without a… ‘toothbrush.'”

While I went into last round‘s “Lard of the Dance” with one specific, dreaded image in mind but then was pleasantly surprised by the whole of the episode, this time it was the other way around. “Make Room for Lisa” ends with a touching moment of bonding between Homer and Lisa, and that’s what I fondly remembered about it. But the way there? Boy, it gets rough.

I guess the writers decided that in order to give the final reconciliation between father and daughter more of an impact they had to crank up Homer’s lack of fatherly skills and basically make him World’s Greatest Asshole. And in the end he doesn’t grow or learn anything, it’s only Lisa who has the questionably epiphany of realizing that she really is a pain in the neck sometimes.

  • We do get, as is illustrated above, one of the two all-time great toothbrush jokes of The Simpsons. (The other one will come up in round 97. So any day now.)

7G12: “Krusty Gets Busted” (Season 1 / April 29, 1990)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Brad Bird
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart Simpson with a Krusty the Clown doll.

I’m a huge Brad Bird fan (“The Iron Giant” is one of my favorite movies) and it’s great fun to watch this episode and listen to the commentary with him, Matt, Jay & Wallace. The first season can be a bit rough at times, but this is a masterfully written and animated episode.

Full of jokes, both high and low brow, but also there’s real drama going on, and a crime mystery, too! Plus Kelsey Grammer, perfect as Sideshow Bob in this and the many follow-up episodes to come.

The winner: 7G12, “Krusty Gets Busted.”

Round 35: Lard of the Dance vs. Homer Alone

Round 35: AABF15 vs. LABF02.

5F20: “Lard of the Dance” (Season 10 / August 23, 1998)
Written by Jane O’Brien
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Lisa Simpson admitting students to the school dance. In last round‘s “How the Test Was Won” there’s a montage of scenes of Homer getting hurt, which is all kinds of terrible, and the most terrible part of it, as far as I’m concerned, is the bit where his swollen, bloodshot eye is sticking out of its socket. I always hated that, and it was with that dreadful image in mind that I came to “Lard of the Dance.” And we get it not once but twice in this episode, because, as the commentary tells us, it got a huge laugh from the writers and animators. I, meanwhile, just cringe every time I see it. But tastes differ, I guess. Luckily, there’s more to the episode than gross-out humor, and it’s actually pretty good! I liked Lisa’s story, Lisa Kudrow did a fine job as Alex, and Homer’s grease scheme had a few nice moments, too.

  • Lisa struggles with popularity issues after befriending a new student at her school while Homer tries to get rich by selling a food substance? The Simpsons did it.

8F14: “Homer Alone” (Season 3 / February 6, 1992)
Written by David Stern
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer and Maggie Simpson saying goodbye to Marge at the train station.

“Where’s my clean underwear? How often should I change Maggie? Marge! Marge! How do I use the pressure cooker?”

This is not only The Simpsons but TV in general at its very best. The script tells a truly engaging story while still being incredibly funny and the animation is just beautiful. Naturally I loved all the Homer and Maggie stuff (I get very emotional at the sight of fathers bonding with their daughters, remember?) and then there’s Bart and Lisa staying at Patty and Selma’s and there’s Phil Hartman and there’s… there’s simply not one wrong note here.

  • Very entertaining and informative DVD commentary. (Brad Bird!)

The winner: 8F14: “Homer Alone.”