Round 90: Homer vs. Patty and Selma vs. Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words

Round 90: 2F14 vs. KABF19.

2F14: “Homer vs. Patty and Selma” (Season 6 / February 26, 1995)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson with Patty and Selma Bouvier

Love Homer’s forced smile.

Homer verges a bit on the too mean/too dumb side for my taste in this episode, and it’s not as flat-out funny as some of the season’s other episodes, but overall I like it. Bart’s ballet subplot is fun, as is the resolution to the Patty and Selma story (“And you, sir, are worse than Hitler.”).

  • I’m a bit disappointed by the Mel Brooks and Susan Sarandon appearances. I like both of them and wish they had been giving something better to do.
  • -“Rat Boy? I resent that.”

KABF19: “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words” (Season 20 / November 16, 2008)
Written by Tim Long
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson having a revelation in bed

Here’s something I didn’t expect: this episode isn’t terrible. Parts of it are quite funny (the In Memoriam segment especially) and there were almost none of the cringe-worthy moments that define other episodes from later seasons.

So, it’s not bad, but is it better than “Homer vs. Patty and Selma”?

Not quite. But it’s not that far off, really.

The winner: 2F14, “Homer vs. Patty and Selma.”

Round 89: Lisa the Beauty Queen vs. Bart Gets Famous

Round 89: 9F02 vs. 1F11.

9F02: “Lisa the Beauty Queen” (Season 4 / October 15, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Krusty the Klown heartily endorsing an even or product on television

-“I heartily endorse this event or product.”

One look at the names above and you know you’re in for a great episode. Of course I like the moments between Homer and Lisa, but what I caught watching it this time was how much of the episode is made up of almost skit-like little scenes that serve mostly for delivering setups and punchlines. From the moment Lisa is crowned beauty queen it’s one set piece after another, the wax museum, the deportation, the USO show, the football game. When “Family Guy” first ripped off “The Simpsons,” this is one of the things they were… inspired by, for sure.

  • A good Simpsons episode knows that when the main focus is on Lisa or Marge, Bart and Homer are allowed to act a bit wackier than usual, and we certainly get some of that here. (Bart channeling Tex Avery, Homer daydreaming about Marge mowing the lawn.)

1F11: “Bart Gets Famous” (Season 5 / February 3, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson answering the phone wearing nothing but a towel

-“You’ll have to speak up. I’m wearing a towel.”

Going into this round I of course knew that “Bart Gets Famous” is a great episode, but I wondered if it was still funny even after all the countless times I’ve seen it. The answer: Yes. It is. I laughed out loud more than I’d expected, both at jokes I anticipated and others I had forgotten about.

The observation I made above is true here, as well. With Bart center Homer gets away with a lot of crazy things, one of my favorites being his rant about poor people – and the ensuing blank stares from his family.

  • Another perfect Dan Castellaneta performance as the box factory guide.

The winner: 1F11, “Bart Gets Famous.”

Round 88: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? vs. Blood Feud

Round 88: 8F23 vs. 7F22.

8F23: “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” (Season 3 / August 27, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Flanders family sings farewell to Herbert Powell

Danny DeVito reprises his role as Unky Herb from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?“ and again his voice effortlessly blends in with the rest of the cast. This is late into Al and Mike’s first season, so things start to get a little bit more outlandish (Smither’s sperm!?, the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence), but at the core there’s a solid, grounded story.

And, again, I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully animated the show is. The angles! The shadows!

  • -“This is one of our many light switches. It functions in both the on and off mode. On. Off. On. Off.”
  • Totally forgot about the fantastic “2001: A Space Odyssey” scene.

7F22: “Blood Feud” (Season 2 / July 11, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Smithers offering Dr. Hibbert his blood to save Mr. Burns' life

A lot of memorable moments in this one, from Lisa teaching Maggie new words, Homer’s twisted telling of the story of Hercules and the Lion (-“Is it a Bible story?” -“Probably.”) to his angry letter to Mr. Burns and of course the introduction of future basement-dweller Xtapolapocetl.

  • -“‘Senile,’ eh? ‘Buck-toothed,’ am I? ‘Bony arms,’ are they? ‘Liver spots,’ did I? ‘Chinless,’ will you?”

The winner: 7F22, “Blood Feud.”

Round 87: The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular vs. Bart the General

Round 87: 3F31 vs. 7G05.

3F31: “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular” (Season 7 / December 3, 1995)
Written by Penny Wise
Directed by Pound Foolish
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Dog Santas Little Helper with a gun in his mouth

Clip shows are usually terrible, but this one manages to be quite entertaining, thanks in large part to Phil Hartman as Troy McLure. They’re not just showing clips from old episodes but ones from the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, as well, which is neat, and some deleted scenes and alternate takes, too. So while this episode certainly won’t win the tournament, I was happy to revisit it, anyway.


7G05: “Bart the General” (Season 1 / February 4, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart Simpson vs the blow dryer

The first season is such a peculiar beast. The way the Simpsons look and sound today is so ingrained into my conscience that, watching it now, I can’t help but feel there’s something off about the first season. Yet I also remember seeing this for the first time, as a child. I didn’t get all of the jokes, certainly any movie references went way over my head, but even then I knew that this cartoon wasn’t like other cartoons. The Simpsons didn’t hold back, it dared to be crude, but it had heart, and it had something to say.

  • -“The following is a list of words I never want to hear on television again. Number one: bra. Number two: horny. Number three: family jewels.”

The winner: 7G05, “Bart the General.”

Round 86: The Secret War of Lisa Simpson vs. Homer’s Triple Bypass

Round 86: 4F21 vs. 9F09.

4F21: “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson” (Season 8 / May 18, 1997)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Mike Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lisa and Bart Simpson doing push-ups in the rain

I don’t think there’s a single Oakley & Weinstein episode I actively dislike, but there are a few, like this one, that just don’t quite resonate with me the way that, say, “A Fish Called Selma” does.

“The Secret War” is funny and well-crafted, the kids’ story is interesting and relevant. I have no complaints. It’s just… if the episode suddenly disappeared I don’t think I’d miss it.


9F09: “Homer’s Triple Bypass” (Season 4 / December 17, 1992)
Written by Gary Apple, Michael Carrington
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson and Smithers in Mr. Burns office

When trying to explain how, when, and why The Simpsons went bad, the focus is mostly on the writers and the showrunners. And most of the blame certainly does lie with them. But looking at the astonishingly beautifully animation of this and other episodes directed by David Silverman, it is clear that the show lost something crucial when he stopped directing. Silverman is still on staff as supervising director, but his last own episode (that’s not a clip show or a Halloween special) is season 7’s “Mother Simpson.”

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.)

  • -“Remember your hippopotamus oath.”
  • Always love seeing Homer with his half-glasses on, in bed, going over bills.
  • -“And that’s why God causes train wrecks.”

The winner: 9F09, “Homer’s Triple Bypass.

The Tournament To Find The Best Episode Thingy There Ever Was

HABF02

Good news! If you like to read blogs by nerds who created tournaments to figure out which Simpsons episode is the best, you’re in luck. Because now there’s another one!

(I kid with the plagiarismo thing. I doubt he had any idea I was doing a similar thing when he started his tournament. And I wouldn’t be surprised if others have done this long before either of us came along.)

Round 85: You Only Move Twice vs. Lisa the Skeptic

Round 85: 3F23 vs. 5F05.

3F23: “You Only Move Twice” (Season 8 / November 3, 1996)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpson family entering their new house in Cypress Creek

This is one of the three episodes I, before starting this tournament, would cite as my all-time favorites. It doesn’t get funnier than this.

  • On the commentary track, recorded four years after “Die Another Die” and before the release of “Casino Royale,” Ken Keeler feels the need to explain to the listener who James Bond is: “People will be listening to this at some point in time when, possibly, a significant fraction of the population won’t know who James Bond was.”
  • Josh Weinstein: “He was a secret agent… guy, who would often fight these… big villains.”
    Dan Castellaneta: “Parodied in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies. If you’ve seen those, that’s what that’s a take-of of.”

5F05: “Lisa the Skeptic” (Season 9 / November 23, 1997)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Neil Affleck
Showrunners: Mike Scully

Springfield's school children working in the blistering sun

I don’t dislike this episode, but I feel that it could have been better. The whole science vs. faith thing doesn’t really go anywhere, and parts of the story are a little too outlandish for my taste. It’s an okay episode, it just doesn’t look that good compared to 3F23, I guess.

  • -“Now that’s interesting!”

The winner: 3F23, “You Only Move Twice.”