Round 106: Trash of the Titans vs. Lisa the Simpson

Round 106: 5F09 vs. 4F24.

5F09: “Trash of the Titans” (Season 9 / April 26, 1998)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson and the Garbage Men Can

Well.

I always loved this episode. It’s funny. It’s got Steve Martin in a great guest spot that’s an actual character and not just a pointless cameo. There’s the song, of course.

So it’s a good episode. But it’s not a good Simpsons episode. If anything, it’s that rare beast, a good Zombie Simpsons episode. It’s a fun idea, but you could swap out Homer Simpson for Peter Griffin and nothing would be lost. Actually, I think this story would have made more sense on Family Guy.

Steve Martin’s character is molded in the Frank Grimes fashion, a “real life” person visiting the cartoon world. To get maximum contrast they had to amp up the wackiness, of course. Homer is in peak jerk-mode, which can be fun, for a short while. But it leaves an aftertaste.


4F24: “Lisa the Simpson” (Season 9 / March 8, 1998)
Written by Ned Goldreyer
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lisa Simpson alone in her classroom

This episode aired just a few weeks before “Trash of the Titans,” but it feels very different. That’s because “Lisa the Simpson” was one of the last shows produced under Oakley & Weinstein, before Mike Scully took over as showrunner. I like some of Scully’s episodes, but there really is a tangible shift in how The Simpsons look and feel between these episodes.

Sorry, Bono, but the winner is: 4F24, “Lisa the Simpson.”

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Round 105: I Married Marge vs. New Kid on the Block

Round 105: 8F10 vs. 9F06.

8F10: “I Married Marge” (Season 3 / December 26, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Jeffrey Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Springfield at night, nuclear power plant, grid, car, headlights

Love this one. It’s an episode that I haven’t seen many time for some reason, so it felt kinda new and exciting. These flashback shows (origin stories?) are a lot of fun when done right, as this one certainly is.

  • -Homer: “I bet the guy she was singing that about was real happy.”
    -Marge: “Mh, actually, she was singing about God.”
    -Homer: “Oh, well, he’s always happy. … No, wait, he’s always mad.”

9F06: “New Kid on the Block” (Season 4 / November 12, 1992)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson's heart getting ripped out

I hate to say this about an episode written by my hero Conan O’Brien, but, man, this one’s all over the place, plot-wise. There are a few good elements, but as a whole I’m not a big fan. It feels rather unfinished, like it needed a few more rewrites. Or maybe it had too many. Who knows.

  • -Bart: “Dad, I have some questions about women.”
    -Homer: “Uh, can’t you see I’m reading the, uh, cultural calendar? … Ooh! ‘Mostly Mozart‘ is in town.”

The winner: 8F10: “I Married Marge.”

Round 104: Last Exit to Springfield vs. The Cartridge Family

Round 104: 9F15 vs. 5F01.

9F15: “Last Exit to Springfield” (Season 4 / March 11, 1993)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson in Mr. Burns' office, polar bear and dramatic shadows and all

Two things tangentially related to this episode (which is perfect, by the way):

  • Not only would I demand “Now do Classical Gas.” from anyone who had just finished a song on the guitar in my vicinity for many years (although not as much recently), I also credit the mention of Mason Williams‘ song in this episode for leading me, via Google – or whatever it was we used to google things back then (AltaVista?) – to another Mason Williams, and, more specifically, his groundbreaking, exceptional, 1,000-days web comic project 1/0, which remains one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature and which you should go and read, like, right now.
  • I saw Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” the other day, and as the credits rolled I noticed the name Wally Wolodarsky, who, with Jay Kogen, wrote this and many other classic Simpsons episodes. He appeared in a couple of Anderson’s films, mostly in small roles but also more prominently in “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which is something I always forget about so it’s a surprise each time a new one comes around.

5F01: “The Cartridge Family” (Season 9 / November 2, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson gunning down a plate

Well. This is a rather problematic episode. I kinda remembered at least respecting it for its anti-gun stance, and Homer buying the gun (Five days? But I’m mad now!) does make for a good clip.

But the episode’s actual message, if it has any, is pretty murky. Homer’s jerk-mode is dialed up to 11, making even the NRA look sane and rational in comparison, and the last scene not only conveys that guns can be useful if in the hands of the right people (which is quite troublesome in itself) but then tags along the even more disturbing message that, hey, guns are pretty cool.

Anyway, none of it really matters. 9F15 clearly is the superior episode. So:

The winner: 9F15, “Last Exit to Springfield.”