Round 122: Bart the Fink vs. Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?

Round 122: 3F12 vs. AABF21.

3F12: “Bart the Fink” (Season 7 / February 11, 1996)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Krusty the Clown down in the gutters

Very funny episode. From that great haunted house fake-out, to bankers in gorilla suits, to Sydney Greenstreet, and, my favorite, Bob Newhart’s speech at Krusty’s funeral.

No complaints about this one, but not too much that makes me think it will be a stand-out performer in this here tournament. Seeing Bart and Lisa go off on one of their little investigations is always fun, but there are better examples of that in other episodes, I think. We’ll see.

  • Are you missing Mad About You right now?

AABF21: “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” (Season 11 / October 24, 1999)
Written by Al Jean
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Mike Scully

AABF21 Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?

It’s so interesting to me that I react so positively to episodes penned by the duo of Al Jean and Mike Reiss, like “Stark Raving Dad,” “Lisa’s Pony,” “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh!-cious,” but have a much harder time with those by Jean alone. It would be tempting to attest this solely to Reiss’ writing, or even to the balance he brings to their scripts, but I can’t know if that’s true. After all, it’s not just Jean’s solo work in the later seasons I don’t respond to the same way I do with episodes from the first seven or eight years, and the qualities I love are present in most, if not all of the earlier episodes, not just the ones Reiss was involved in.

My main issue with the episode is, once again, that there is not much that makes it distinctly The Simpsons: “Peter Griffin becomes a food critic; Brian helps him write reviews.” That’s about it.

The winner: 3F12, “Bart the Fink.”

My Favorite Frames from Homer Defined

The Simpsons 8F04 Homer Defined

If you’re following me on Twitter you know that, in concert with FXX’s Simpsons marathon, I’ve been posting my favorite shot from each episode.

I’ve been limiting myself to one frame per episode, and in most cases it was an easy pick. But then I got to Mark Kirkland’s “Homer Defined” from season 3. I knew one image wouldn’t be enough to demonstrate just how beautiful this episode is. So here’s just a little sample:

8F04b

8F04c

8F04d

The Simpsons 8F04 Homer Defined

8F04h

8F04g

8F04i

8F04j

Round 121: Treehouse of Horror XIX vs. Bart the Daredevil

Round 121: KABF16 vs. 7F06.

KABF16: “Treehouse of Horror XIX” (Season 20 / November 2, 2008)
Written by Matt Warburton
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: Al Jean

KABF16

Season 20? I don’t have that! That’s not online! Is it good? Did I think it was good? Did I even see it? I think I did, when it first aired? There’s a one minute clip of it online. I watched it. Made me wish I watched “Peanuts” instead.


7F06: “Bart the Daredevil” (Season 2 / December 6, 1990)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

The Simpsons 7F06 Bart the Daredevil

Fun episode. My favorite part is definitely Lisa’s school recital. There are a few minor things that will probably mean it won’t stay in the tournament until the final rounds, but here it’s the clear winner.

The winner: 7F06, “Bart the Daredevil.”

Round 120: Brush with Greatness vs. Homer the Great

Round 120: 7F18 vs. 2F09.

7F18: “Brush with Greatness” (Season 2 / April 11, 1991)
Written by Brian K. Roberts
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart and Lisa Simpson pestering Homer, asleep on the couch.

“Will you take us to Mt. Splashmore?”

Season 2 just keeps on delivering fantastic episodes. And I shouldn’t be surprised by that at this point, but for some reason I’m not quite as familiar with the Brooks/Groening/Simon years than, say the Mirkin ones. So they feel a bit fresher, maybe? Because I’ve only seen them ten times before, and not 50?

In any case, “Brush With Greatness” is just wonderful, from Mt. Splashmore to all the references to classic movies that I can only now fully appreciate, to Ringo Starr and Mr. Burns’ genitals. I think that even when I watched this at 10 years-old I knew that it was great and special, even though I didn’t really know why or had the right words to describe it. Not that I have today.

  • From the commentary, during Krusty’s “I Want to Go to Mt. Splasmore” song:
    -Brian Roberts: “I think this [segment] was a Jeff Martin special, wasn’t it?”
    -Al Jean: “The dialogue, I think, we wrote– a bunch of us. I think George [Meyer] wrote ‘Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!‘”

2F09: “Homer the Great” (Season 6 / January 8, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Lisa and Homer Simpson

I used to love this episode. I don’t really, anymore. Sure, there’s a lot of funny stuff, but not much else, really. And it’s all stretched so far and so off-the-wall crazy that it no longer feels like it’s grounded in anything “The Simpsons” used to be. So my complaints about this episode from season 6 are basically the same ones I have with episodes from season 20. “It was better back in my day,” with both “better” and “my day” being completely arbitrary and wholly subjective matters.

But this is, after all, about what I like, not what’s good, or what I used to like. And right now, given the choice to watch either “Brush With Greatness” or “Homer the Great” again, I’d very much like to pick the former.

The winner: 7F18, “Brush with Greatness.”

Round 119: Bart vs. Thanksgiving vs. Marge Gets a Job

Round 119: 7F07 vs. 9F05.

7F07: “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” (Season 2 / November 22, 1990)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart Simpson and his dog Santa's Little Helper outside the Simpsons' house

Written by George Meyer. Directed by David Silverman. Is there a more promising combination of words to ever appear in the opening credits of a TV show?

My notes for this episode are filled with the usual superlatives, about the story, the cinematic visuals, the jokes, the performances. These episodes from season 2 are just such a joy to watch, and so full of great stuff that they never seem to get old.

  • -Announcer: “And the Silverdome now ablaze with flashbulbs as Hooray For Everything leaves the field! Of course, the stadium’s much too big for flash pictures to work, but nobody seems to care!”

9F05: “Marge Gets a Job” (Season 4 / November 5, 1992)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 9F05 Marge Gets a Job

Another great episode. Comparing it to the one from the second season you notice that there are a lot more crazy, non-sequitur gags and cutaways. The rubber-band reality is being stretched a bit further, but it’s all still grounded within a pretty straight-forward sitcom setup (wife gets job at husband’s place of work).

  • I think this was the first time I had heard the “Imperial March” outside of Star Wars.
  • The shot-for-shot “Citizen Kane” reference went way over my head even after I had seen the movie a couple of times. I just never thought to connect the two.
  • -Mr. Smithers: “Oh, I thought Muddy Waters wrote that song.”

The winner: 7F07, “Bart vs. Thanksgiving.”