128th-Final, Round 4: Homer and Apu vs. Sideshow Bob Roberts

128th-final, round 4: 1F10 vs. 2F02.

1F10: “Homer and Apu” (Season 5 / February 10, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels. Directed by Mark Kirkland.
Showrunner: David Mirkin

1F10 Homer and Apu

Recorded in 2004, the DVD audio commentary for this episode holds a lot of wisdom from David Mirkin, who talks about how “The Simpsons” is able to stay fresh by changing showrunners every few years, because they bring in new ideas, and new approaches to the familiar characters and relationships. Mirkin made those comments some three years after Al Jean had taken over the show, and it clearly wasn’t a stab at him, but one can’t help but wonder how he feels now that Jean has been running “The Simpsons” for 13 years – more than half of its time on the air.

Another thing Mirkin goes into (as have I on here) is the “flexible reality” that allows the writers to stretch plausibility for a few moments here and there, while still maintaining a solid foundation to keep the stories grounded in the show’s established reality. Writer Greg Daniels originally was reluctant to have Homer travel to India with Apu because he couldn’t rationalize how Homer could afford the flight with his meager power plant salary. Mirkin fought to keep the trip in the show (it makes for a handful of great jokes, after all) arguing that the rubber-band reality of the show would snap right back to where it was before.

And it probably did back then, or very nearly so, anyway. But to see what happens to a rubber band after you’ve been stretching it for two decades you’ll only need to turn on Fox on any given Sunday night – or whatever day of the week “The Simpsons” is on these days.

2F02: “Sideshow Bob Roberts” (Season 6 / October 9, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein. Directed by Mark Kirkland.
Showrunner: David Mirkin

2F02 Sideshow Bob Roberts

I try to be as critical as I can when watching these episodes for the tournament, but I honestly couldn’t tell you a thing wrong with this one. Not the masterfully constructed plot, not the many great jokes and references, certainly not Kelsey Grammer’s fantastic performance.

The winner: 2F02, “Sideshow Bob Roberts.”


Round 8: Sideshow Bob Roberts vs. Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’

Round 8: 2F02 vs. 3F19.

2F02: “Sideshow Bob Roberts” (Season 6 / October 9, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Smithers as Deep Throat

This is another great example of how “The Simpsons” can be appreciated on multiple levels. I first saw the episode when I was a 14 year old kid somewhere in Germany. I didn’t know who Rush Limbaugh was, or Willy Horton, or what it really meant to be “Democrat” or “Republican.” (True story: On the eve of the 1992 presidential election, somebody asked me who I wanted to win and I said “Bush, because Clinton looks like a pig.”) I hadn’t seen “All the President’s Men” or knew much about Watergate. Still, I enjoyed the episode a lot, and I still do, today. Recognizing all the stuff the show references adds a great deal to the viewing experience, but being ignorant of them doesn’t take anything away from it.

  • “My question’s about the budget” is something I still say whenever I or somebody else goes off on a long rant that doesn’t seem to have any point to it.
  • Love the campaign ads. It’s basically a choice between incompetent and evil. (So… nothing has changed, really.)
  • “I can’t believe a convicted felon would get so many votes and another convicted felon would get so few.”

3F19: “Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’” (Season 7 / April 28, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier
Directed by Jeffrey Lynch
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Jeff Weinstein

Bart Simpson diving for treasure.

Some beautiful animation in this one, and hand-drawn, at that. Not too thrilled about all the retconning, but the (Sgt. Rock inspired) flashback to WWII was pretty funny, and Burns, as usual, makes for a good villain.

I love that “The Simpsons” can make an episode centered entirely around a secondary character like Grandpa. I enjoy family-centric episodes more, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it when the show strays from the familiar.

The winner: 2F02, “Sideshow Bob Roberts.” But I really want to point out how beautiful the direction and animation in 3F19 is. (And if you’re interested in how they did it, I recommend you listen to the episode’s audio commentary, where Jeff Lynch and David Silverman talk a bit about it.)