Round 115: Trilogy of Error vs. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show

Round 115: CABF14 vs. 4F12.

CABF14: “Trilogy of Error” (Season 12 / April 29, 2001)
Written by Matt Selman
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Martin Prince holding a plasma globe on the school bus

Oh, hey, I remember this episode. This is where they tell the same story from three different point-of-views, each filling in more and more details, right? That sounds kinda fun.

(Watches the first act.)

Homer gets hit in the head with a skateboard (in the opening credits). Homer gets his thumb cut off by a kitchen knife, with gruesome amounts of blood splattering everywhere. Homer drinks himself to the point of passing out and violently slamming his head on the bar, only to be woken up by being forced to gulp down a pot of scolding hot coffee.

You know: fun.


4F12: “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” (Season 8 / February 9, 1997)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Hey, it's David Silverman and his beloved Tuba!

Hey, it’s David Silverman and his beloved Tuba!

Love how they make fun of obsessive nerds who go on the Internet to complain about the countless hours of entertainment they’ve been given free of charge. Ha! In your face, nerds!

  • -Homer: “Is this episode going on the air live?”
    -June Bellamy: “No, Homer. Very few cartoons are broadcast live. It’s a terrible strain on the animators’ wrists.”

The winner: 4F12, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show.”

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Round 114: Three Men and a Comic Book vs. Homer Defined

Round 114: 7F21 vs. 8F04.

7F21: “Three Men and a Comic Book” (Season 2 / May 9, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Black and white still of the planet blowing up in an old Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy film strip

Good stuff. It takes a while to get going, the pacing of the plot and the jokes clearly mark this as a second season episode, but the climactic moments in Bart’s treehouse are every bit as awesome and beautiful as you remember.

  • Love how Bart basically turns into an old-timey gangster at the end. “Real friendly-like.”
  • -Bart: “We ended up with nothing because the three of us can’t share.”
    -Milhouse: “What’s your point?”
    -Bart: “Nothin’. Just kind of ticks me off.”

8F04 “Homer Defined” (Season 3 / October 17, 1991)
Written by Howard Gewirtz
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

-Homer: "What? What is it? What are you doing?" -Lisa: "Looking at you with quit awe." -Homer: "Well, as long as it's quiet."

-Homer: “What? What is it? What are you doing?”
-Lisa: “Looking at you with quiet awe.”
-Homer: “Well, as long as it’s quiet.”

Wonderful. Mark Kirkland brings such a good eye to his direction. The angles, the lighting, the shadows, the staging. I am again sadly reminded of the time the guys from Robot Chicken did the show’s couch gag, and in the making of they describe the look of (today’s) Simpsons as “two-dimensional,” “flat,” and “even lit.” It wasn’t always like that, as episodes like “Homer Defined” demonstrate masterfully.

The winner: 8F04, “Homer Defined.”

A Hypothetical Aside and Round 113: Homer Badman vs. The Wandering Juvie

Before we get to Round 113, a thought experiment.

Imagine The Simpsons had ended in 1998, with nine seasons aired. After Oakley & Weinstein finished their production run with “Lisa the Simpson,” the network decided not to order any more episodes. Maybe the actors wanted too much money or something. Stranger things have happened.

So the show’s cancelled and the fans are upset, naturally. Yes, there are already many who claim The Simpsons have jumped the shark and haven’t been up to the high standards set by its early seasons in years. And that whole Armin Tamzarian debacle? Let’s not even talk about it. But surely the show could have had a few more decent years if given the chance!

Alas, it’s not meant to be. The Simpsons are history. Fox is already developing a new cartoon to take up the time slot. Another family sitcom. But this time there’s a talking dog. Great.

Even with the show off the air, there’s still money to be made with the Simpsons brand, though. The next decade will see the release of all nine seasons on DVD and old episodes repeated ad nauseam in syndication. You can buy Bart’s face on a pair of shorts and Homer’s on a box of donuts.

And then the same thing will happen to The Simpsons that has happened to every single marketable franchise in the history of popular culture. They will come back. Just like The Muppets and the Looney Tunes and the Star Trek.

If you told Simpsons fans from my hypothetical 1998 that 15 years later they could turn on the television and watch a show called “The Simpsons,” with characters that look almost exactly as the ones they know, only slightly more polished (The animation’s digital now!) and with voices that, while recognizable, sound ever so slightly off (Did they get all the original voice actors back? Are they all still alive? Maybe they forgot how to do the voices?), and credits that feature some familiar names but also a lot of new ones — they wouldn’t be surprised. They brought back “Lost in Space,” for Pete’s sake! Of course they’d bring back “The Simpsons.”

Would they like the reboot? Who knows. Probably not, but they wouldn’t really care, either way. They would recognize that it’s a different show, for a different audience. For a different time. A different mindset.

I don’t think they’d give it much thought. They have their Simpsons, this decade has theirs. General consensus would probably be that Classic Simpsons is better than New Simpsons. There’d be debates online, of course. But in general everybody would understand that none if it really matters. Certainly no one would devise an elaborate tournament that includes individual episodes of both distinctive shows.

That would be like a tournament set up to find one person’s “favorite episode of Cheers or Family Ties.”

I’ll get further into all of this and what it means for the tournament in a few weeks, after round 128 (and the 256th-finale). Until then, let’s compare some apples and oranges.

 

Round 113: 2F06 vs. FABF11.

2F06: “Homer Badman” (Season 6 / November 27, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson curled up in bed watching The Late Show with David Letterman

I’m not a huge fan of this episode’s first act, but once the media satire kicks in I’m fully on board. The portrayal of 24 hour news coverage, wild speculation and valuing entertainment over information may seem tame today, but when this aired 20 years ago the dramatic escalation of events was considered more a cautionary tale than an accurate depiction. If only they’d listened.

  • – ” ♫ There’ll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans — under the sea! ♫ “

FABF11: “The Wandering Juvie” (Season 15 / March 28, 2004)
Written by John Frink & Don Payne
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Blacksmith

Not even a minute in and Homer gets trampled on by a horde of shoppers. Heels in the eyes and everything. I’ve covered before how I hate that physically abusing Homer got to be more and more a go to for cheap laughs as the seasons reached double digits. Only I’m not laughing.

The rest of the episode’s not any funnier, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen or anything. Charles Napier and Sarah Michelle Gellar do a good job as guest actors and there are a couple of nice-looking shots here and there.

The winner: 2F06, “Homer Badman.”

Round 112: In the Name of the Grandfather vs. Beyond Blunderdome

Round 112: LABF11 vs. AABF23.

LABF11: “In the Name of the Grandfather” (Season 20 / March 22, 2009)

Written by Matt Marshall
Directed by Ralph Sosa
Showrunner: Al Jean

The Simpsons flopping about like fish out of water

Symbolism!

I guess I must have at one point thought this episode wasn’t entirely terrible, because somehow it ended up here in this tournament. Oh, well.


AABF23: “Beyond Blunderdome” (Season 11 / September 26, 1999)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Simpsons AABF23 Beyond Blunderdome

I watched the first act. Then I turned it off because I remembered a) the rest of the episode and b) that I will have to (attempt to) watch it again, since…

The “winner”: AABF23, “Beyond Blunderdome.”

Round 111: El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer) vs. Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily

Round 101: 3F24 vs. 3F01.

3F24: “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)
(Season 8 / January 5, 1997)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson, sunset, sunrise

An exceptional episode, no doubt. Maybe too exceptional for me to consider it “my favorite”? It’s a bit like “The Springfield Files” in that regard, an episode I love very much but that is so unlike everything else that it’s hard to compare it to “regular” great ones. I don’t know. I’ll go with my gut when deciding this, anyway, and at the time I’m writing these words I haven’t watched “Home Sweet Homediddly…,” yet.

“El Viaje Misterioso” is of course famous for its surreal, beautiful, hand-drawn sequences and Johnny Cash’s wonderful turn as Homer’s chili-induced space coyote hallucination. That alone takes the episode into sacred ground territory. So even if it won’t win this tournament, I’ll always come back to it, and think of it fondly whenever I’m drinking a nice glass of hot wax or following a tortoise around the desert.


3F01: “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily” (Season 7 /October 1, 1995)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Principal Skinner and Bart Simpson watch as Groundskeeper Willie burns Bart's lice-infested underwear.

No space coyotes in this one, but I enjoyed it even more than “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer.” It’s got a brilliant script, from the way it sets up the story to that fantastic climax at the Springfield River, and it’s beautifully directed by Susie Dietter.

  • -“Stupid babies need the most attention.”

The winner: 3F01, “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily.”

Round 110: Homer at the Bat vs. Team Homer

Round 110: 8F13 vs. 3F10.

8F13: “Homer at the Bat” (Season 3 / February 20, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Smithers and Mr. Burns

Love this episode, even though I don’t know anything about baseball and the plot is straight-up stolen from that Michael Jordon/Bugs Bunny classic, “Space Jam.”

Guest stars can be a tricky thing, and having a whole bunch of them in one episode can easily turn into a gimmick or a distraction. But it works here, because the heart of the story is still with Homer, the baseball celebrities just enhance it. And they’re really funny in it, too. I can only imagine how this plays for someone who actually knows the sport and these players. Maybe it’s like what I felt when I watched the “Futurama” episode with all the cast members of the original “Star Trek” in it? Or that “Family Guy” with all the cast members of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Well, maybe not so much that last one.

Anyway, if you have the DVD I recommend checking out the commentary for this one. It’s pretty fun, there are a lot of stories about recording the baseball people and you get to hear which one of them was kind of a dick and also which two Simpsons cast members kinda hated the script and didn’t want to do it.

  • -“Mattingly! I thought I told you to trim those sideburns.”

3F10: “Team Homer” (Season 7 / January 7, 1996)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson in bed at night

-“No, I will not pay you $500 for sex.”

As much as I love “Homer at the Bat,” I’m going to have to let “Team Homer” win this one. They’re both very good episodes. But watching them back to back, I just enjoyed this one a bit more.

The winner: 3F10, “Team Homer.”

Round 109: Lisa’s Wedding vs. Treehouse of Horror XIV

Round 109: 2F15 vs. EABF21.

2F15: “Lisa’s Wedding” (Season 6 / March 19, 1995)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Future Lisa and Hugh enjoy the sunset

Mandy Patinkin!


EABF21: “Treehouse of Horror XIV” (Season 15 /November 2, 2003)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Al Jean

Dr. Dudley Herschbach and Jennifer Garner

-Jennifer Garner: “You know, Dr. Herschbach, our jobs are actually not that different.”
Dr. Dudley Herschbach: “I disagree.”

Pretty fun Halloween special. I wouldn’t consider any of the segments “classic,” but I laughed a few times.

The winner: 2F15, “Lisa’s Wedding.”

(Sorry for the long absence and now this super short entry. Was kinda preoccupied there for a while. Regular scheduling should resume any day now.)