Round 98: The Old Man and the Lisa vs. ‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky

Round 98: 4F17 vs. EABF11.

4F17: “The Old Man and the Lisa” (Season 8 / April 20, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lenny in charge of the Springfield nuclear power plant Charles Montgomery Burns all alone in Mr. Smithers' kitchen

Such a wonderful episode. A terrific Burns and Lisa story with emotional heft and a clever twist at the end. And the animation’s just beautiful, full of cinematic angles and lighting. I especially enjoyed the “Night of the Living Dead” thing at the end.

Also: bonus points for Burns’ usage of “Egad!,” my favorite minced oath.

  • -Bart: “Oh, recycling is useless, Lis. Once the sun burns out, this planet is doomed. You’re just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.”

EABF11: “‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky” (Season 14 / March 30, 2003)
Written by Dan Greaney, Allen Grazier
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Al Jean

Bart Simpson and Milhouse van Houten stealing Fat Tony's Emmy hood ornament wearing fake mustaches

I remember liking this episode when it first aired, but it really doesn’t hold up. Compared to “The Old Man and the Lisa” the script’s flaws and gaping plot holes become obvious, and the few jokes and gimmicks that might have made you chuckle at first don’t offer anything worth revisiting.

The winner: 4F17, “The Old Man and the Lisa.”

More early rough sketches and drafts from David Silverman

David Silverman’s Twitter feed is the gift that keeps on giving. Here are some more of his early Simpsons sketches he shared.

From 1987, a sketch from the Tracey Ullman Show short “House of Cards,” as well as some rough models for Maggie and Grampa:

Rough sketch of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson building a house of cards.

Rough model for Maggie Simpson by David Silverman Rough model for Abe Grampa Simpson

From the 1989 short “Maggie in Peril: Chapter One,” a background cell drawn by Eric Stefani, and an animation cycle:

sewer pipe background cell Maggie Simpson

Also from 1989, one of Silverman’s first sketches for the Simpsons title sequence:

Rough draft of Homer Simpson working at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant

Also from Eric Stefani, a draft of a cut scene from 1990’s “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”:

The Simpson family as pilgrims

Homer acting poses for the second season episode “Blood Feud” from 1991:

Homer Simpson Living in a World of Make Believe animation poses

Homer’s heart attack poses from 1992’s “Homer’s Triple Bypass“:

Homer Simpson having a heart attack

Sketches for Mr. Burns’ big number in “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds,” 1995:

Mr. Burns See My Vest Mr. Burns See My Vest

Finally, some sketches and color drawings from 1997’s “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)”

Psychedelic Jasper, Nelson, Mrs. Krabappel, Barney Script pages and drawings Johnny Cash coyote sketch

Round 97: A Milhouse Divided vs. King of the Hill

Round 97: 4F04 vs. 5F16.

4F04: “A Milhouse Divided” (Season 8 / December 1, 1996)
Written by Steve Tompkins
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Luann Van Houten burning a box of Kirk's belongings

A great script, beautifully animated. I tend to enjoy episodes that focus on the family more than those heavily featuring secondary characters, but having Milhouse’s parents get a divorce is a great idea and I love the way it’s handled. Most other sitcoms would have restored the status quo at the end, and probably while teaching us some valuable lesson, too.

  • -Marge: “A punch bowl like that just screams good taste. Wouldn’t it be perfect for the dinner party?”
    -Homer: “We can’t afford that. Who do you think I am, Liz Taylor?”
    -Marge: “Well, maybe we can use it once and then return it.”
    -Homer: “Marge, we’re not talking about a toothbrush here.”
  • -Homer: “You can’t keep blaming yourself. Just blame yourself once and move on.”

5F16: “King of the Hill” (Season 9 / May 3, 1998)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Mike Scully

Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, helping Homer Simpson climb the Murderhorn

An interesting side-effect of this tournament, and one that I didn’t expect to happen, is that I look at episodes much more critically than I ever did in the past. I always enjoyed “King of the Hill,” and I still did, for the most part, on this viewing. But compared to not only the episode above but also to the kinds of episode I expect to make it to the last rounds of the bracket, a few things stood out to me. Homer is once again a tad too much of a jerk, he’s victim of too much physical abuse, and the (always lose) fabric of the show’s plausibility is  stretched too thin a few times.

These are, of cause, all symptoms of a Zombie Simpsons episode, yet “King of the Hill” is far from that. The difference, and the thing that saves the episode from falling into that dreaded category, are the effort, love, and care of the people involved in the making of it that is clearly on display.

The winner: 4F04, “A Milhouse Divided.”

Treehouse of Horror sketches from David Silverman

Update: Added one more, a worksheet of Silverman trying to figure out how to draw Bart as The Raven.

Once again, David Silverman has taken to Twitter to share another batch of his original rough sketches, this time for the “Raven” segment of the second season’s “Treehouse of Horror” episode:

Round 96: The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace vs. My Mother the Carjacker

Round 96: 5F21 vs. EABF18.

5F21: “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” (Season 10 / September 20, 1998)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Dogs gnawing on burried Homer Simpson's legs

A fun, memorable episode. Homer verges on the edge of likability at times – his motivation here seems to be spite more than anything else – but it’s okay because the plot works, the jokes are funny and the animation and acting are quite beautiful.

  • -Lisa: “Dad, women won’t like being shot in the face.”
    -Homer: “Women will like what I tell them to like.”
  • -Kent Brockman: “Authorities say the phony pope can be recognized by his high-top sneakers and incredibly foul mouth.”

EABF18: “My Mother the Carjacker” (Season 15 / November 9, 2003)
Written by Michael Price
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson looking for a hidden message in the Springfield Shopper newspaper

Not a fan. I’m willing to forgive outlandish plots, and abandoning all logic and character traits, if an episode at least manages to make me laugh, or if it has something to say.

This one didn’t, and it hasn’t.

The winner: 5F21, “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace.”

Early rough sketches and character sheets from David Silverman

“The Simpsons” animation director David Silverman shared some beautiful sketches from the archives on his @tubatron Twitter account last night:

Rough sketch of Homer Simpson by David Silverman

Rough sketch of Homer from the Tracey Ullman Short “The Bart Simpson Show
(First aired: November 20, 1988) @tubatron

Rough sketches of Bart Simpson and Milhouse van Houten by David Silverman

Rough sketches of Milhouse and Bart from the
Butterfinger commercial “The Butterfinger Group
(First aired: December 31, 1988) @tubatron

Rough sketches of Homer Simpson by David Silverman

Rough sketches of Homer Simpson from first season episode “Bart the Genius
(First aired: January 14, 1990) @tubatron

Rough sketches of Bart Simpson by David Silverman

Doodles of Bart and notes by David Silverman for
second season episode “Blood Feud
(First aired: July 11, 1991) @tubatron

Rough sketches of Homer Simpson in The Land of Chocolate

Rough sketch of Homer in The Land of Chocolate
in third season episode “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”
(First aired: December 5, 1991) @tubatron

Storyboard sketch of Homer Simpson in The Land of Chocolate

Storyboard sketch of Homer in The Land of Chocolate
in third season episode “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”
(First aired: December 5, 1991) @tubatron

Turnaround model sheet for Marge Simpson by Wes Archer

First season Marge Simpson model sheet by Wes Archer #

Turnaround model sheet for Milhouse Van Houten

Milhouse model sheet for first season episode “Bart the Genius#

Turnaround model sheet for Edna Krabappel

Original Mrs. Krabappel model sheet, designed by Dan Haskett, for first season episode “Bart the Genius#

Round 64: There’s Something About Marrying vs. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

Round 64: GABF04 vs. 4F15.

GABF04: “There’s Something About Marrying” (Season 16 / February 20, 2005)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Al Jean

Death Before Gay Marriage sign

One thing that bothers me so much about Zombie Simpsons is that things just happen. People walk in and out of frame willy-nilly – What, was Disco Stu just hanging around the Simpson house, waiting for his name to come up in conversation somewhere? – character traits are adjusted to the plot, not the other way around.

The word “zombie” doesn’t really apply, now that I think about it. Life- and 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 needs them to be in.

On a less bitter note, I like how this episode treats marriage. Not “gay marriage” (such an antiquated term), but marriage, the concept. It’s a silly thing, if you think about it, and it’s mostly about money, anyway. Good on them for pointing that out. I just wish they had done it in an episode of “The Simpsons,” not “Family Guy.”


4F15: “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment” (Season 8 / March 16, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Alcohol Prohibited in Springfield

I will have plenty of time talking about this episode in future rounds, so for now just a matter of contrast:

There is a scene where Homer and Marge are talking in their kitchen when a disheveled Chief Wiggum happens to walk past their window and begins talking to them. It’s important for the plot because it both gives Homer the idea to start his Beer Baron business and it sets up Wiggum’s involvement in the story later.

The writers had to come up with a feasible way to have Homer and Wiggum meet, and that’s why they had Homer and Marge hold their conversation in the kitchen, where there is a window overlooking the street. It’s still a convenient coincidence that Wiggum happened to stagger by just that minute, but not an inconceivable one.

As opposed to, say, Disco Stu walking into Marge’s bedroom.

  • -“Remember, honey, we’re disobeying an unjust law here. We’re patriots. Like… all those people in jail.”

The winner: 4F15, “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment.”