128th-Final, Round 7: Flaming Moe’s vs. My Sister, My Sitter

128th-final, round 7: 8F08 vs. 4F13.

8F08: “Flaming Moe’s” (Season 3 / November 21, 1991)
Written by Robert Cohen. Directed by Rich Moore, Alan Smart
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F08 Flaming Moe's

vs.

4F13: “My Sister, My Sitter” (Season 8 / March 2, 1997)
Written by Dan Greaney. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F13 My Sister, My Sitter

The winner: 8F08: “Flaming Moe’s.”

I like “My Sister, My Sitter” a lot, and especially Lisa’s story. Her struggle to prove herself a responsible and reliable babysitter feels very true to her character, and Bart makes the perfect foe. Homer and Marge’s visit to the Springfield waterfront promenade offers some fun sight gags, but this really is Lisa’s episode to carry, and she does it well. The way the episode wraps up is a tiny bit clunky, but that can be said of “Flaming Moe’s” as well, I suppose.

It’s easy to overlook (or even embrace) the lack of a perfect resolution in “Flaming Moe’s,” because everything leading up to it is just so masterfully constructed. I love that you really don’t need to know anything about the characters and their relationships going in – the episode flawlessly sets up Homer and Moe’s friendship and then rivalry. And of course the acting and animation is on a level that is so much higher than anything else on television then. Or now.

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128th-Final, Round 5: The Homer They Fall vs. Lady Bouvier’s Lover

128th-final, round 5: 4F03 vs. 1F21.

4F03: “The Homer They Fall” (Season 8 / November 10, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier. Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

"No running!"

“No running!”

I think if I had never started this tournament I’d happily file this one under “masterpiece” and move on, but since I’m comparing episodes I can’t help but note small things that, for lack of a better rationale, would seem out of place in what I’d picture as a “perfect” Simpsons episode. Tiny moments like Homer dragging Marge into the gadget store against her will (“Homer, please, you’re hurting my arm.”) just don’t sit right with me. And I already got into my problems with Homer being a human punching bag for most of the episode last time I watched it.

  • Janie saying “No running!” in the hallways is one of those things I probably missed the first 20 times I watched the episode but now think is one of the funniest things ever.
  • -Michael Buffer: “Due to popular demand, we will forego our national anthem.”

1F21: “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 / May 12, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer. Showrunner: David Mirkin

Grandpa Abe Simpson in 1F21 Lady Bouvier’s Lover

How good is this episode? I was so enthralled watching it that I completely forgot that I was supposed to take down notes or think about it critically in any capacity. I was just enjoying it from start to finish. And while I do like “The Homer They Fall” very much, the choice here is clear:

The winner: 1F21, “Lady Bouvier’s Lover.”

128th-Final, Round 1: Treehouse of Horror II vs. Lisa’s Date with Density

128th-final, round 1: 8F02 vs. 4F01.

8F02: “Treehouse of Horror II” (Season 3 / October 31, 1991)
Written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss,
Jeff Martin, George Meyer, Sam Simon and John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F02 Treehouse of Horror II

vs.

4F01: “Lisa’s Date with Density” (Season 8, December 15, 1996)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F01 Lisa’s Date with Density

It’s Halloween, and Phase 2 starts of with one of the greatest Treehouses of Horror that will promptly exit the tournament because it doesn’t stand a chance against the 22 minutes of pure perfection that is “Lisa’s Date with Density.”

The winner: 4F01, “Lisa’s Date with Density.”

Round 125: In Marge We Trust vs. The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

Round 125: 4F18 vs. 4F20.

4F18: “In Marge We Trust” (Season 8 / April 27, 1997)
Written by Donick Cary
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F18 In Marge We Trust

I liked the idea of giving Lovejoy a bit of a backstory, but the episode lost me somewhere on the way from there to crazy monkeys attacking Ned Flanders. The Mr. Sparkle thing had some fun bits, I guess.


4F20: “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase” (Season 8 / May 11, 1997)
Written by David S. Cohen, Dan Greaney, Steve Tompkins. Story by: Ken Keeler
Directed by Neil Affleck
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Wiggum, P.I., and Skinner

This episode must feel so weird for anyone under 30.

I love all the different genre parodies and references. Of course this is a stand-out in the series, and comparing it to a regular story gets kinda tricky. But of the two episodes here, it’s my clear favorite.

The winner: 4F20, “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase.”

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.”

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 103: Grade School Confidential vs. Lisa’s Rival

Round 103: 4F09 vs. 1F17.

4F09: “Grade School Confidential” (Season 8 / April 6, 1997)
Written by Rachel Pulido
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson driving Bart and Milhouse around in a makeshift lawnmower space shuttle

One of the rare Simpsons episodes that’s both directed and written by a woman, and both did an excellent job. It reminded me of “Bart the Lover,” another strong Bart and Krabappel episode. “Grade School Confidential” tells a great, timeless story that still has room for plenty of funny stuff, and it showcases the wonderful work of the animators and voice actors, too. I find no faults with this one, and I love Homer’s little moments, like his Richard Nixon impression or the legendary “Krabappel? I’ve been calling her Crandall.” run.

  • -Principal Skinner: “Bart, if life has taught me one lesson repeatedly it’s to know when I’m beaten.”
  • Perfect moment between Superintendent Chalmers and Bart in the movie theater:
    -Chalmers: “You think they actually filmed this in Atlanta?”
    -Bart: “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s important.”

1F17: “Lisa’s Rival” (Season 6 / September 11, 1994)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson yelling Never! in front of his mountain of sugar

I must have seen this episode a hundred times, yet I always forget that this is the one with my all-time favorite crazy Homer B-plot: sugar mountain. That scene, and particularity that rant, are where three of the most gifted people in their respective fields come together to create something magical. George Meyer wrote the words, Dan Castellaneta recorded them, and David Silverman animated. Beautiful.

I like Lisa’s story a lot, too. It’s so true to her character, and it gives Bart the nice opportunity of being mischievous while still standing with his sister.

So. This is a wonderful episode, but my gut says I like 4F09 better. And I’ve gotta go with my gut, even if it means losing Homer’s sugar plot.

  • In the dubbed German version, Lisa’s anagram for “Jeremy Irons” is not “Jeremy’s Iron” but… “Jeremy Irons.” Maybe the only time I prefer a dubbed joke to the original.
  • This has one of my favorite DVD audio commentaries, with lots of anecdotes about the Northridge earthquake and David Mirkin making inappropriate jokes at full steam.

The winner: 4F09, “Grade School Confidential.”