128th-Final, Round 12: Bart Gets an “F” vs. Homer the Vigilante

128th-final, round 12: 7F03 vs. 1F09.

7F03: “Bart Gets an F” (Season 2 / October 11, 1990)
Written by David M. Stern. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

7F03 Bart Gets an F

vs.

1F09: “Homer the Vigilante” (Season 5 / January 6, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

1F09 Homer the Vigilante

Another close one. As many second season episodes do, “Bart Gets an F” starts out as a rather conventional family sitcom plot, but of course even back then The Simpsons couldn’t help but elevate the material. I am again and again impressed by the sophisticated and artful animation of the early seasons, and this one is just full of beautiful shots.

“Homer the Vigilante” is obviously a much more polished product, and I like the episode a lot, but “Bart Gets an F” has a certain charm that, at least for me, puts it ahead in this contest.

The winner: 7F03, “Bart Gets an F.”

128th-Final, Round 3: Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment vs. The Trouble with Trillions

128th-final, round 3: 7F13 vs. 5F14
Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment vs. The Trouble with Trillions

7F13: “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” (Season 2 / February 7, 1991)
Written by Steve Pepoon. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

The Simpsons 7F13 Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

vs.

5F14: “The Trouble with Trillions” (Season 9 / April 5, 1998)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham. Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F14

So, two big questions: First: which of these episodes do I like more? Second: will it take me another two months to write another 50 word blog post?

I really do like both of these, and it’s kinda hard to even compare them because they are so different in style and Simpsons-ness. But in the end I just gotta go with 7F13, even though 5F14 has some of my favorite jokes ever.

  • Fantastic touch of having Ned look directly at the viewer when talking about “the folks who just don’t feel like working, God bless ‘em.”
  • -Moe: “So, Lenny, let’s say you pull a thorn out of the pope’s butt and he grants you one wish. What’ll it be?” -Lenny: “Hm. Only one, huh? Well, I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to wear something that’s been ironed.”

The winner: 7F13, “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment.”

And as for that second question… we’ll see.

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.”

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.”

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’.”