128th-Final, Round 14: The Day the Violence Died vs. The Call of the Simpsons

128th-final, round 14: 3F16 vs. 7G09.

3F16: “The Day the Violence Died” (Season 7 / March 17, 1996)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Wesley Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart and Lisa Simpson watching Itchy and Scratchy on TV

vs.

7G09: “The Call of the Simpsons” (Season 1 / February 18, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Wesley Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Marge and Lisa Simpson at a camp fire in the woods

Two great Swartzwelder/Archer episodes in this round. While there are certainly many differences in the look and feel and even the characters between seasons 1 and 7, the writer and director have undeniably put their stamp on either episode. Swartwelder’s crazy one-liners and out-there references are present in both of these, as is Archer’s lovingly detailed and beautifully drawn animation.

Albert Brooks“The Day the Violence Died” has great voice performances from guests Kirk Douglas, Alex Rocco, and Phil Hartman (and singing from Jack Sheldon!), while in “The Call of the Simpsons” we get a wonderful scene with Albert Brooks as the sleazy RV-salesman, who kinda reminded me of Walton Goggins’ character in “The Hateful Eight” this time around.

I always think that Season 1 doesn’t really stand much of a chance in this tournament because it can be so different from what the show would become later, but watching these two back-to-back I have to say that I enjoyed 7G09 a lot more than I would have expected. So, in what might be considered kind of an upset, …

… the winner is: 7G09, “The Call of the Simpsons.”

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128th-Final, Round 11: Bart the Mother vs. A Fish Called Selma

128th-final, round 11: 5F22 vs. 3F15.

5F22: “Bart the Mother” (Season 10 / September 27, 1998)
Written by David S. Cohen. Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F22 "Bart the Mother"

Hey, look, it’s Homer getting violently hit in the groin with a baseball. That’s not even three minutes into this episode – which, if past me is to be believed does get better as it goes on – and that’s when I turned it off and declared “A Fish Called Selma” the winner of this round. Not that that outcome was ever in doubt, anyway.


3F15: “A Fish Called Selma” (Season 7 / March 24, 1996)
Written by Jack Barth. Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

3F15 "A Fish Called Selma"

-Lovejoy: “And do you, Selma Bouvier Terwilliger Bouvier, take the fabulous Troy McClure to be your lawful wedded husband?”
-Selma: “I already told you, yes.”

That is such a subtle little joke and such a perfect line reading from Julie Kavner. (Have I mentioned the word perfect, yet?)

The winner: 3F15, “A Fish Called Selma.”

128th-Final, Round 6: Itchy & Scratchy Land vs. Bart Sells His Soul

128th-final, round 6: 2F01 vs. 3F02.

Itchy & Scratchy Land vs. Bart Sells His Soul

2F01: “Itchy & Scratchy Land” (Season 6 / October 2, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

vs.

3F02: “Bart Sells His Soul” (Season 7 / October 8, 1995)
Written by Greg Daniels. Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Both episodes belong in the Simpsons pantheon, but I can only choose one right now, and I’m going with “Itchy & Scratchy Land.”

If I had to come up with a reason I’d argue that 2F01 works better as a whole, while “Bart Sells His Soul,” with the B-plot about Moe’s family restaurant, feels more like two separate stories stitched together. Which is not not a bad thing, at all, but these two episodes are of such a high quality that directly pitting them against each other means coming up with even the tiniest “flaws,” as it were.

So long, 3F02. We’ll always have I. Ron Butterfly.

The winner: 2F01, ” Itchy & Scratchy Land.”

128th-Final, Round 2: Secrets of a Successful Marriage vs. 22 Short Films About Springfield

128th-final, round 2: 1F20 vs. 3F18.

1F20: “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” (Season 5 / May 19, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Barney Gumble playing poker

vs.

3F18: “22 Short Films About Springfield” (Season 7 / April 14, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Matt Groening
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Cletus the slack jawed yokel

Oh, wow. So, after trying to go the “I’m gonna really get into why I like one episode more than the other” route resulted in me not writing anything for almost two months, I decided to just go with my gut, announce the winner here, move on, and hope that I’ll have more to say in the future.

The winner: 3F18, “22 Short Films About Springfield.”

Round 128: Bart on the Road vs. Bart’s Friend Falls in Love

Round 128: 3F17 vs. 8F22.

3F17: “Bart on the Road” (Season 7 / March 31, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa Simpsons roasting marshmallows over a bucket fire in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

Been a while since the last round, sorry. I actually watched these episodes last month but then I got super busy, and later when I wasn’t busy I kinda forgot about it, and then maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to write this entry because it means that after 128 rounds the first phase of the tournament is over, which in turn means that I am old, and so are you. We’re all old, people. No way around it.

“Bart on the Road” is pretty much perfect. We’ve got an immensely fun main-plot (“Grammar Rodeo? We’re going to a Grammar Rodeo?”), and a sweet Homer-and-Lisa subplot to boot. I’m not a huge fan of the Bart-as-a-courier-shipping-eyeballs-to-Hong-Kong ending, but that’s a minor gripe.

  • Lisa: “I knew it! Because why would they have our National Rodeo in another nation?”

8F22: “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love” (Season 3 / May 7, 1992)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Sad Milhouse

Fantastic. My favorite bits:

  • That whole Raiders of the Lost Ark opening sequence. Great work from the animation and sound departments.
  • Skinner’s Vietnam stories. Again, it’s the dramatic animation that makes this so powerful. (Well, that and Harry’s performance.)
  • “Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What”
  • -Lisa: “According to Eternity magazine you can lose weight through subliminal learning. That’s where an idea is subtly implanted in your head without you even knowing it.”
    -Homer: “Oh, Lisa, that’s a load of rich creamery butter.”
  • Great Itchy & Scratchy. Short and to the point.
  • -Milhouse: “How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet but it ended up in tragedy.”

The winner: 8F22, “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love.” Tough decision, though. “Bart on the Road” is one of my favorite episodes, as well.

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.”

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.”