128th-Final, Round 8: Homie the Clown vs. Bart’s Girlfriend

128th-final, round 8: 2F12 vs. 2F04.

2F12: “Homie the Clown” (Season 6 / February 12, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunner: David Mirkin

I love Homer's expression here so, so much.

I love Homer’s expression here so, so much.

vs.

2F04: “Bart’s Girlfriend” (Season 6 / November 6, 1994)
Written by John Collier. Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons 2F04 Bart’s Girlfriend

I watched these two back to back on the projector the other day. Usually I watch ’em on my computer but a friend was over for a movie and afterwards we put in the good old Simpsons DVDs. So my main observation for both of these season 6 episodes is how great they look on the big screen. I know I say this every week but back in its prime the show was so cinematic! You’ve got low angles and elaborate action scenes and dramatic close-ups and all that kind of stuff. Sitcoms are usually not the most sophisticated, visually speaking. They all look kinda… flat. These don’t.

I laughed way more during “Homie the Clown” than the other one. I think under David Mirkin they had figured out the sweet spot between Homer being a lovable goof you want to root for and him causing trouble and injury to those around him and himself, not through malice but kinda just by being there. There’s a moment here where he beats up the guy in the Hamburglar costume half to death that I wish they had toned down a bit, or even taken out completely. I get why it’s funny and maybe it’s so out there with its violence that it becomes okay again? I don’t know.

(I’m extra rambly today for reasons. Sorry if none of this is coherent.)

2F12 is like a mini masterclass in comedic timing, too. Three fantastic moments rely entirely on pauses: when Homer falls into the burger props outside the Krusty Burger, when he is ejected out of his car after crashing it in front of the Van Houten place, and when Flanders repeatedly gets shot. They all involve silences or a few seconds of nothing happening, and they’re made exponentially funnier because of that.

“Bart’s Girlfriend” is a very different kind of episode. It doesn’t rely on the loud, funny moments as much, but instead focuses on what Bart’s going through, giving his story enough room to resonate with us and feel more true to life. (I guess “falling in love with a troublemaker and having your heart broken” IS more relatable than “enrolling in clown college and getting kidnapped by the mafia”?)

You know what? Up until a minute ago I was gonna let 2F04 win this one but now that I’ve written all this and looked through the episodes again I’m going with “Homie the Clown.” They’re pretty much equally great and last night I would have picked “Bart’s Girlfriend.” But this isn’t last night. Sorry, Meryl Streep. You were great, though.

The winner: 2F12, “Homie the Clown.”

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Round 16: Bart’s Girlfriend vs. Treehouse of Horror V

Round 16: 2F04 vs. 2F03.

2F04: “Bart’s Girlfriend” (Season 6 / November 6, 1994)
Written by John Collier
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson, in his blue suit, getting ready to strut.

There’s only one thing to do at a moment like this: Strut.

So far in this tournament, showrunner David Mirkin is something like the most valuable player. The only times episodes from his seasons have lost is when they were up against other episodes from his seasons. And so it is again in this round, with two episodes that aired back-to-back in 1994.

“Bart’s Girlfriend” features one of the best guest stars “The Simpsons” ever had in Meryl Streep, who totally disappears into the role of Jessica Lovejoy. I can think of only one other guest actor whose performance comes close to this, but we’ll get there when we get there. Nancy Cartwright does a great job, as well, as do the animators. It’s always a treat to see the characters in their Sunday clothes, and I thought Bart’s wardrobe was especially inspired.


2F03: “Treehouse of Horror V” (Season 6 / October 30, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, David S. Cohen, Bob Kushell
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpsons travelling through time via toaster.

We all know that no “Treehouse of Horror” will win this thing in the end. Even a great Halloween special like this one will sooner or later have to face a great non-Halloween episode and leave the tournament. Might as well be now.

The winner: 2F04: “Bart’s Girlfriend.”