Round 108: Stark Raving Dad vs. Black Widower

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Round 108: 7F24 vs. 8F20.

7F24: “Stark Raving Dad” (Season 3 / September 19, 1991)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Maggie celebrating Lisa Simpson's birthday

Such an odd and quirky and wonderful episode. Having Michael Jackson as a guest star could have so easily been nothing more than an empty cameo, a gimmicky publicity stunt. Instead, he actually gets to act as a genuine character who is bridging the A plot of Lisa feeling sad and alone on her birthday to the B storyline of Homer, through equal faults Bart’s and his own, being committed to a mental hospital.

“Stark Raving Dad” came at the very tail end of the Brooks/Groening/Simon tenure, and it shows how much the show has grown in just two years, both in style – the beautiful animation by Rich Moore – and content – a brilliant, funny, and emotionally rich script by showrunners-to-be Jean and Reiss.

  • -Homer: “Pink?! Marge, I can’t wear a pink shirt to work. Everybody wears white shirts. I’m not popular enough to be different.”

8F20: “Black Widower” (Season 3 /April 9, 1992)
Written by Jon Vitti and Sam Simon & Thomas Chastain
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Reverend Lovejoy marrying Selma Bouvier and Sideshow Bob

Sideshow Bob is always fun. I like that there are clues throughout the episode as to his murderous scheme, so the attentive viewer can actually solve the case as it unfolds. And, being directed by David Silverman, of course we are treated gorgeous, cinematic visuals.

But, while I liked “Black Widower,” I enjoyed the other episode even more. So:

The winner: 7F24, “Stark Raving Dad.”

Round 107: Bart’s Dog Gets an “F” vs. Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble”

Round 107: 7F14 vs. AABF04.

7F14: “Bart’s Dog Gets an ‘F’” (Season 2 / March 7, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Santa's Little Helper burying a potted plant

It’s no “Dog of Death,” and a few of the first season remnants, like Homer’s jealousy of Flanders’ prosperity, do stick out. But it’s a nice story with a couple of good jokes here and there. And I think it was this episode that ignited my love for an enthusiastic “Aloha!” greeting every once and a while.


AABF04: “Homer Simpson in: ‘Kidney Trouble’” (Season 10 / December 6, 1998)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Call Me Delish-Mael Taffy Shop

I hate this episode. It’s not very funny, the characters (especially Homer) are erratically jumping from one emotion to another, and the “resolution” at the end is appalling. I don’t mind kicking this one out of the tournament, at all.

The winner: 7F14, “Bart’s Dog Gets an ‘F’.”