Round 62: Lisa the Iconoclast vs. Catch ‘Em if You Can

Round 62: 3F13 vs. FABF14.

3F13: “Lisa the Iconoclast” (Season 7 / February 18, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa ringing the bell as town criers.

Love this one. It was one of the episodes on that imported VHS tape that was my first foray into the world of not-dubbed-into-German Simpsons, so it holds a special place for me, anyway. But even without that, how could I not just love it? I wrote about my fondness of Lisa and Homer bonding before, and this episode is full of that. And Homer’s not reduced to being a big, loud jerk (well, maybe towards Flanders, but c’mon) but instead pursues the town-crier position with as noble a spirit as he would a mountain of sugar.

  • It’s an exciting story, too. Feels very much like a movie, especially with the parade at the end.
  • -“I’ve got nothing but respect for the office of town crier but this is well outside your jurisdiction.”
  • (Donald Sutherland!)

FABF14: “Catch ‘Em if You Can” (Season 15 / April 25, 2004)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer and Marge Simpson

Eh.

It’s not that this episode is particularly bad – although it isn’t particularly good, either – but at this point in the series everything’s just… eh. Everything’s been done, so everything feels old. The “Catch Me If You Can” credits parody is well done, I guess, but you kinda wonder why it’s even here.

You wonder why this show is even still here.

The winner: 3F13, “Lisa the Iconoclast.”

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Round 61: Bart Gets Hit by a Car vs. Two Bad Neighbors

Round 61: 7F10 vs. 3F09.

7F10: “Bart Gets Hit by a Car” (Season 2 / January 10, 1991)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Burns' lawyer and Bart in a wheelchair.

Good episode, but it feels very slow to this ADHD-inflicted person. There’s a lot of groundwork being laid for better and funnier stuff to come. And the ending with Homer and Marge at Moe’s is beautiful.

  • -“You sure have got some education, Mr. Hutz.”
    -“Yes– Harvard, Yale, M.I.T., Oxford, the Sorbonne, the Louvre.”

3F09: “Two Bad Neighbors” (Season 7 / January 14, 1996)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

3F09

“Great Scott, don’t touch that. That’s the alpenhorn Helmut Kohl gave me.”

I like this episode. Like Frank Grimes, George Bush is a real person who gets dropped into the Simpsons’ universe, and that’s always fun. The whole Dennis the Menace thing works really well, too.

  • Listen to the commentary to hear the story of Wes Archer’s real-life encounter with the Bush family, as well as references to how a certain, unnamed cast member wasn’t a big fan of the episode.
  • -“You could hand out these fliers for the neighborhood rummage sale. You’d get some fresh air and excercise.”
    -“Eh…I’ll do it anyway.”

The winner: 3F09, “Two Bad Neighbors.”

Round 60: The Springfield Connection vs. Homer’s Barbershop Quartet

Round 60: 2F21 vs. 9F21.

60 rounds! Can you believe it? Doesn’t it feel like, I dunno, only 58? Well, you got me. I skipped 48 a few weeks ago and just now 59 was postponed for the same reason: I’m waiting (for someone) to get (me) Season 16 on DVD. Also I’m waiting for Season 16 to come out on DVD. Also I’m waiting for them to announce when this will happen.

2F21: “The Springfield Connection” (Season 6 / May 7, 1995)
Written by John Collier
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons watch TV.

Not the most exciting or representative frame, but it stood out to me. A beautifully drawn family portrait. In fact there’s a lot of great animation, both dramatic and subtle, in this one.

Funny episode. It’s a good story for Marge. They had to make Homer extra obnoxious to make him “learn his lesson” in the end, and he doesn’t even really do that. So I don’t like that part but it’s okay because it’s not the main focus of the episode.

  • -“Boy, when Marge first told me she was going to the police academy I thought it’d be fun and exciting. You know, like that movie, Spaceballs. But instead it’s been painful and disturbing, like that movie Police Academy.”

9F21: “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” (Season 5 / September 30, 1993)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

A dear friend of mine claimed she had never seen an episode of The Simpsons and wanted me to watch one with her, and since she’s a big Beatles fan I chose this one, knowing she’d recognize a lot of the referenced history and artwork. She did.

But she also asked “what kind of creatures” these people are supposed to be and thought Homer’s five o’clock shadow was actually his lips. So she has some way to go.

If you’re playing the Simpsons DVD commentary drinking game, you might want to water down your drink for this one, or you’ll really regret it in the morning. We get…

  • bitterness about losing the Emmy to Claymation Easter
  • Jon Lovitz being there for no reason
  • Jon Lovitz calling Al and Mike gay
  • Al and Mike reminiscing about their days on Carson and ALF
  • Hank Azaria promoting “Along Came Polly”
  • Matt Groening complaining about pupil sizes

The winner: 9F21, “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet.”

Round 58: Lisa’s Substitute vs. $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)

Round 58: 7F19 vs. 1F08.

7F19: “Lisa’s Substitute” (Season 2 / April 25, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Mr. Bergstrom reading to Lisa Simpson's class.

Dustin Hoffman, center

Damn. Beautiful.

This makes a great companion piece to season 3’s “Bart the Lover.” Maybe the two episodes meet in the second quarter-final. If they make it that far, that is. And they just might.


1F08: “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)” (Season 5 / December 16, 1993)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson dealing cards to Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise from Rain Man.

Dustin Hoffman, left

The difference between these two episodes is striking. So much, in fact, that I’d prefer to think of them as coming from two different shows altogether. There’s much discussion concerning “Zombie Simpsons,” but the differences in style, humor, tone between the first two, three, maybe four seasons to those that came after can be just as striking. (Only that both incarnations are great, while Zombie Simpsons are mostly shit.)

So we have an apples and oranges situation here. How do I compare them? I do have to make a decision, have to kick one of them out of the tournament. So I ask myself, once more, if I could only watch one of the two episodes ever again, which one would it be? If I could only eat either bananas or apples going forward, what would I chose?

The winner: Apples. Also, 7F19, “Lisa’s Substitute.”

Round 57: The Last Temptation of Homer vs. Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

Round 57: 1F07 vs. 7F09.

1F07: “The Last Temptation of Homer” (Season 5 / December 9, 1993)
Written by Frank Mula
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Your infatuation is based on a physical attraction. Talk to the woman and you'll realize you have nothing in common.

This is an example of sitcom writing at its very best. The script is perfectly structured, from a first act full of crazy, one-off jokes and situations that still manages to set up all the necessary plot complications, followed by a true, emotionally invested arc for Homer and the final conclusion that is not the least bit forced but absolutely organic to the character we know and love. And a whole lot of funny along the way.

  • -“Pick me, teacher, I’m ever so smart!”
  • -“Get back to work, Stewart!”
  • Even if he just shows up for one line, Phil Hartman makes everything better.
  • Wonderful work by the animators and actors. Particularly Dan Castellaneta and guest star Michelle Pfeiffer get to shine.

7F09: “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” (Season 2 / December 20, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer and Marge Simpson admiring Michelangelo's Statue David

Michelangelo’s “Dave”

Solid, smart episode. The shot-for-shot “Psycho” recreation is incredible, especially given that you couldn’t just pull a clip off of YouTube for reference back then. Alex Rocco is one of my favorite recurring Simpsons guest actors. And that the children discover nature-montage? Amazing.

  • -“Well, I always knew you’d change the world… for the better.”

The winner: 1F07, “The Last Temptation of Homer.”

Round 56: Marge vs. the Monorail vs. Treehouse of Horror VI

Round 56: 9F10 vs. 3F04.

9F10: “Marge vs. the Monorail” (Season 4 / January 14, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Chief Wiggum looking at the monorail buzzing through Springfield

(This is supposed to be an animated gif. If it doesn’t work try clicking on it.)

God, I love this episode so much. The strange thing is, I see it more as a Conan O’Brien-project than a Simpsons-episode. It has all the hallmarks of Conan’s style of comedy: it’s crazy, outlandish, absurdist. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, it stretches, even snaps the rubber-band reality of the show. It doesn’t have any of the emotional weight I missed in some other episodes, but here, that really doesn’t matter. It’s just too funny.

  • As usual, the commentary featuring O’Brien and others is pure gold.
  • After Conan’s been ranting about old people and how they all eat mush, Al Jean asks “Are there any other minorities you’d like to sound off against on this DVD no one will ever hear?,” to which he replies, “Old people, sadly, are not a minority.”

3F04: “Treehouse of Horror VI” (Season 7 / October 29, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder, Steve Tompkins, David S. Cohen
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart Simpson's eyes popping out.

Possibly the funniest and most memorable Halloween special. I liked the second segment best, with the beautifully painted backgrounds in Bart’s dream and all the other visual references. (The poses on Martin as he’s dying in his sleep are just perfect.)

  • -“Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong all the time?”
    -“Sometimes.”
  • -“These monsters are destroying everything we hold dear. — And you kids should have jackets on.”
  • -“Lousy Smarch weather.”

The winner: 9F10, “Marge vs. the Monorail.”

Round 55: Natural Born Kissers vs. Mr. Plow

Round 55: 5F18 vs. 9F07.

5F18: “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 / May 17, 1998)
Written by Matt Selman
Directed by Klay Hall
Showrunners: Mike Scully

Lenny, Carl, Homer and Marge.

-“How do you do, ma’am?”
-“I hope this evening finds you well.”
-“Oh, knock it off you perverts.”

Some funny lines, but overall I’m not a big fan of this episode. It’s very Matt Selman-y. His kind of jokes, from what I gathered from his episodes and commentary appearances, are much more suited to something like Family Guy. It’s not that they’re not funny, just that they aren’t anything that stands out.

Also, hearing Homer and Marge (attempting to) have sex is just not something I needed in my life.

  • “Folks, is your marriage stuck in a rut? Can you even remember the last time you felt the thrill of romance? Well, maybe you need… a divorce!”

9F07: “Mr. Plow” (Season 4 / November 19, 1992)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson buying a car from a sleazy salesman.

-“What country is this car from?”
-“It no longer exists.”

Like “Kamp Krusty” this is a beloved episode that is beloved for a reason: it’s really good.

Maybe it’s the direct contrast to later episodes, but both “Kamp” and “Mr. Plow” felt very slowly paced to me. Not in a bad way, but it is something that kinda dates them.

  • -“Now, before I give you the check, one more question. Uh, this place, Moe’s, you left just before the accident, this is a business of some kind?”
    -“Don’t tell him you were at a bar. But what else is open at night? — It’s a pornography store. I was buying pornography. — Heh-heh-heh. I would have never thought of that.

The winner: 9F07, “Mr. Plow.”