Round 21: Treehouse of Horror X vs. Bart the Mother

Round 21: BABF01 vs. 5F22.

BABF01: “Treehouse of Horror X” (Season 11 / October 31, 1999)
Written by Donick Cary, Tim Long, Ron Hauge
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Collector (Comic Book Guy) with Xena, Warrior Princess and Tom Baker as Doctor Who.

Loooong before YouTube, BitTorrent, eMule, Netflix, Hulu and other, spattered-on-the-spectrum-of-legality ways to enjoy TV shows on your computer, there was Cletus’ Farm (, don’t bother, the link’s long dead, but you can relive the glorious flashstravaganza here), a website dedicated to offer Real Media (remember?) copies of new Simpsons episodes to fans who, like me, had no other way to watch them except a year later and dubbed into horrible, awful German.

As an avid reader and poster of the newsgroup (remember?), I got wind of Cletus’ Farm in late 1999 and, in what must have taken my trusted 56k-modem the whole night, downloaded “Treehouse of Horror X.”

It wasn’t the first time I watched the show in its original language, but it was the beginning of the end of me watching The Simpsons – dubbed – on German TV, a thing that definitely stopped once the DVD sets started to arrive in 2001.

So what was the first thing I did after watching ToHX? Why, post a raving “review” to the newsgroup, of course. (It’s here, in German, and maybe the worst thing I or anyone has ever written, for so, so many reasons. Sometimes when I feel down I go back and read it to remind me of just how far I’ve come as a human being.)

The Usenet responded to my detailed plot summary by reminding me what an asshole I was for spoiling an episode that hadn’t even aired on local TV yet. I felt horrible. It was a whole big thing. Also I was 17 and spent most of my time talking to strangers online. As opposed to today, where I’m 30 and spend most of my time talking to friends and strangers online. Big step up.

But let’s talk about the episode. I didn’t think it was as hilarious as I did when I first watched it, but it’s not all that bad, either. The first segment has some nice staging going for it, but I didn’t laugh once. I quite like “Desperately Xeeking Xena,” it’s a fun Bart & Lisa story with a well used guest star and some good jokes. The third segment offers the funniest bit of the episode, when the guard tells Lisa she is only allowed to take one parent with her, and she, without missing a beat, opts for “Mom.” Perfect timing on that one.

Other random trivia and thoughts:

  • Comic Book Guy says his Star Trek phaser was fired only once, “to keep William Shatner from making another album.” Shatner did make two more after that, and 2004’s “Has Been” is actually pretty great.
  • One of the names CBG offers Lucy Lawless to call him on their wedding night is “Mister Mxyzptlk,” who “can be stopped only by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards,” as I’ve learned listening to this great episode of the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

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

Special Guest Voice Phil Hartman

The last episode to feature Phil Hartman, the last full episode to be written by David S. Cohen. Two great losses for the show, which was already getting into some bad habits, best exhibited by Homer getting repeatedly and violently hit by baseballs.

Now, Homer has suffered through painful ordeals for as long as the show has been on the air (just take this hilarious moment from the third season’s “Lisa’s Pony”), but the baseballs scene and similar ones that would follow are just… not… that funny to me.

It’s a weird thing though. On paper, Homer getting hit by baseballs is no more gruesome than Homer repeatedly falling down Springfield Gorge, and while that scene does bother me, a little bit – did there have to be blood? – it doesn’t feel as gratuitous. (The sad, sad low point of the series in this regard, which you won’t find in this tournament, is when Homer is raped by a panda. Funny!)

“Bart the Mother” has more to offer than that one scene, of course, and most of it is actually quite good. (Although, as with many of the episodes made around this time, I laughed a lot more listening to the audio commentary than during the actual show.)

The winner: 5F22: “Bart the Mother”.