128th-Final, Round 13: Lost Our Lisa vs. The Front

128th-final, round 13: 5F17 vs. 9F16.

5F17: “Lost Our Lisa” (Season 9 / May 10, 1998)
Written by Brian Scully. Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F17 Lost Our Lisa

Didn’t like it quite as much as last time.

-Lisa: “Can I take the bus to the museum?”
-Homer: “Museum? I don’t like the sound of that.”


9F16: “The Front” (Season 4 / April 15, 1993)
Written by Adam I. Lapidus. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

9F16 The Front

Don’t know what I was going on about last time. Brilliant episode.

The winner: 9F16, “The Front.”

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128th-Final, Round 10: Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song vs. A Streetcar Named Marge

128th-final, round 10: 1F18 vs. 8F18.

1F18: “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” (Season 5 / April 28, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein. Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson and Principal Skinner

vs.

8F18: “A Streetcar Named Marge” (Season 4 / October 1, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Play Enjoyed By All

 

The winner, you may be surprised to read, is 1F18, “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song.” I honestly did not expect “Streetcar” to exit the tournament this early, but the truth is that both episodes are excellent and I just happen to like SSSBS a tiny bit more. It’s a really, really close call, though.

Round 124: Whacking Day vs. Treehouse of Horror III

Round 124: 9F18 vs. 9F04.

9F18: “Whacking Day” (Season 4 / April 29, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpson 9F18 Whacking Day

The way they’re cropping the old episodes for widescreen TVs these days is really getting out of hand.

This episode is so incredibly weird that it’s close to a miracle that it is also so enjoyably good.

It’s not a miracle, though. It’s talent, and hard work. From the writing to the acting, the directing and animation. Every frame, every beat, every joke tells a story about how the people behind the show poured everything they had into making it as great as they possibly could.


9F04: “Treehouse of Horror III” (Season 4 / October 29, 1992)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss (Part 1), Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky (Part 2), Sam Simon & Jon Vitti (Part 3)
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 9F04 Treehouse of Horror III

The great thing about the Treehouses of Horror is that odds are, whenever you revisit one of them you’ll have seen an old horror movie, or an episode of The Twilight Zone, or read something by Asimov that will let you appreciate the references, homages, and sometimes even shot-for-shot recreations in a whole new light.

For me, this time, it’s “King Kong.” I hadn’t seen the 1933 movie until a few years ago, when I finally deemed my home theater setup good enough for it. It’s a fantastic movie. And this is a fantastic Halloween episode.

  • Al Jean, on the commentary track, about the 1976 King Kong remake: “It is amazing how a version made forty years after the original is so much worse and less believable.”

The winner: 9F18, “Whacking Day.”

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 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.”