Round 116: Simpson Tide vs. Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk

Round 116: 3G04 vs. 8F09.

3G04: “Simpson Tide” (Season 9 / March 29, 1998)
Written by Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey Ventimilia
Directed by Milton Gray
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Ten Minutes Later - the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in flames

In every other context I’d say this is a great, immensely funny half-hour of television, but the tournament demands a bit more scrutiny, I’m afraid.

Pop culture references and non-sequiter asides have been a part of what made The Simpsons great from the very start, but by the time this episode aired the amount of seemingly random cutaways had reached an almost inflationary level. Homer’s Planet of the Apes-inspired doughnut nightmare, Moe hosting Russian roulette straight out of The Deer Hunter, the ship’s crew (including, rather improbably, the Village People and Mr. Smithers) performing “In the Navy,” “Spanish Fly” playing over the submarine’s speakers, the whole thing with the Soviet Union, including the raising of both the Berlin Wall and the animated corpse of Vladimir Lenin. They’re all funny gags, but it’s starting to get a bit overwhelming. (And I haven’t even mentioned that the whole plot and most of the scenes or set pieces are direct homages to the movie Crimson Tide.)

The DVD commentaries for episodes of this era sometimes mention that the show turned away from this style after Family Guy came along and ripped off– I mean, happened to heavily rely on it, as well. “Simpson Tide” very much felt like an episode of Family Guy, to me, which I don’t mean in a bad way, at all. It’s enjoyable. It’s funny. It makes some smart observations and commentary, like the references to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or the rapid spread of Starbuckses.

But still it’s missing something. Heart, maybe? Or that certain, indefinable spark?

  • Love the Rocky & Bullwinkle couch gag.
  • -“I’m a man of few words.      Any questions?”

8F09: “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” (Season 3 / December 5, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Smithers and Mr. Burns outside of Moe's Tavern

Ooh, the Germans.

That “The Land of Chocolate” has lost none of its appeal in the two decades since this episode aired is of course primarily owed to David Silverman’s gorgeous drawings and Alf Clausen’s infectious music. But, to go back to what I was saying about “Simpson Tide,” it certainly helped that the segment wasn’t buried amid half a dozen similarly crazy things.

It’s a stand-out moment, for sure, but it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the episode, either. For me, this one’s an easy decision. See you next round, Hans und Fritz!

  • -Homer: “Lisa, your father needs your help. Do you know anything about Germany?”
    -Lisa: “Well, it’s a country in Europe.”
    -Homer: “Good, good. I’m learning.”

The winner: 8F09, “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk.”