128th-Final, Round 2: Secrets of a Successful Marriage vs. 22 Short Films About Springfield

128th-final, round 2: 1F20 vs. 3F18.

1F20: “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” (Season 5 / May 19, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Barney Gumble playing poker

vs.

3F18: “22 Short Films About Springfield” (Season 7 / April 14, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Matt Groening
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Cletus the slack jawed yokel

Oh, wow. So, after trying to go the “I’m gonna really get into why I like one episode more than the other” route resulted in me not writing anything for almost two months, I decided to just go with my gut, announce the winner here, move on, and hope that I’ll have more to say in the future.

The winner: 3F18, “22 Short Films About Springfield.”

Round 90: Homer vs. Patty and Selma vs. Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words

Round 90: 2F14 vs. KABF19.

2F14: “Homer vs. Patty and Selma” (Season 6 / February 26, 1995)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson with Patty and Selma Bouvier

Love Homer’s forced smile.

Homer verges a bit on the too mean/too dumb side for my taste in this episode, and it’s not as flat-out funny as some of the season’s other episodes, but overall I like it. Bart’s ballet subplot is fun, as is the resolution to the Patty and Selma story (“And you, sir, are worse than Hitler.”).

  • I’m a bit disappointed by the Mel Brooks and Susan Sarandon appearances. I like both of them and wish they had been giving something better to do.
  • -“Rat Boy? I resent that.”

KABF19: “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words” (Season 20 / November 16, 2008)
Written by Tim Long
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson having a revelation in bed

Here’s something I didn’t expect: this episode isn’t terrible. Parts of it are quite funny (the In Memoriam segment especially) and there were almost none of the cringe-worthy moments that define other episodes from later seasons.

So, it’s not bad, but is it better than “Homer vs. Patty and Selma”?

Not quite. But it’s not that far off, really.

The winner: 2F14, “Homer vs. Patty and Selma.”

Round 66: Homerpalooza vs. Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming

Round 66: 3F21 vs. 3F08.

3F21: “Homerpalooza” (Season 7 / May 19, 1996)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson in a record store

“Styx? I just heard them on the King Biscuit Flower Hour.”

In theory, I should hate this episode. One of my top complaints about the last few years of “The Simpsons” is how violent the show has become, especially towards Homer. The premise of “Homerpalooza” is based on the fact that Homer can take an endless amount of pain and abuse without flinching a muscle. But the way it’s presented and integrated into the story here, it works. (If that sounded familiar, it’s because I stole most of it from Round 9.)

This is an interesting little time-capsule of an episode. Sonic Youth’s “Goo” is now older than Grand Funk’s “Shinin’ On” was in 1996. And while my own musical taste is a little closer to Homer’s than Bart’s, I could relate to both sides of their generational conflict.

  • -“You don’t have to join a freak show just because the opportunity came along.”
    -“You know, Marge, in some ways, you and I are very different people.”
  • -“What religion are you?”
    -“You know… the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work out in real life. … Christianity.”
  • How, almost twenty years later, is there still no full version of “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill and the London Symphony Orchestra?

3F08: “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” (Season 7 / November 26, 1995)
Written by Spike Feresten
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Sideshow Bob in a prison bunk bed

It’s always a bummer when two great episodes (from a great season) meet each other this early in the tournament. Both would’ve gone far if they had faced off against lesser episodes at this stage. But what can you do?

Beautiful, dramatic animation, wonderful guest voices by Kelsey Grammer and R. Lee Ermey, a script with a nice mystery, tons of laughs, and plenty of obscure and less obscure movie and pop culture references. This is an all-time great Simpsons episode.

The winner: 3F08, “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming.”

Round 37: Lemon of Troy vs. Bart’s Inner Child

Round 37: 2F22 vs. 1F05.

2F22: “Lemon of Troy” (Season 6 / May 14, 1995)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Marge Simpson vacuuming underneath Homer's feet.

A quintessential David Mirkin episode, full of, as Conan would say, the old switcheroo kind of joke they and I love so much. I’ve watched this more times than I can count and it still makes me laugh.

  • One highlight is definitely the pairing of Nelson and Martin. Perfect.
  • In that brief period of time where the Internet existed but Google did not, I was convinced I had imagined that TV series where young Jerry O’Connell used spray cans to fly around, because I couldn’t find any evidence of it anywhere. (Turns out I was not crazy.)

1F05: “Bart’s Inner Child” (Season 5 / November 11, 1993)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Milhouse van Houten crawling out of Homer Simpson's mattress fort.

“Ooh, the Springfield Men’s Shelter is giving away 60 soiled mattresses!”

That joke above, set up by an ad Homer reads in the paper and then visualized in his fantasy sequence, is one that I missed the first however-many times I saw this episode but finally caught this time around.

We basically get three stories in a row here, first the fantastic saga of Homer and the trampoline, then Marge’s nagging problem and turn towards a self-help guru, and finally Bart’s carefree attitude plunging the town into chaos. But the plot progresses organically and doesn’t feel forced, and we get a ton of great jokes on the way.

  • James Brown saying “Wait a minute, this bandstand wasn’t double-bolted!” would be the greatest thing in any other episode, but it is only the second greatest thing in this one, because…
  • … there’s this moment of pure perfection. (And just as great is David Silverman quietly laughing to himself on the commentary track when this scene happens.)

The winner: 1F05, “Bart’s Inner Child.”

Round 4: 22 Short Films About Springfield vs. Dumbbell Indemnity

Damn you, random number generator! Two great episodes face off in this round:

3F18 vs. 5F12
(Bracket)

3F18: “22 Short Films About Springfield” (Season 7 / April 14, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Matt Groening
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Skinner & the Superintendent

Here’s the thing about “22 Short Films About Springfield”: It’s memorable, it’s interesting, it’s got a great script and of course my all-time favorite Skinner/Chalmers scene. At the same time, though, it’s not, as Josh Weinstein would say, a jokey, jokey, jokey, jokenheimer episode (meaning there are not a lot of jokey jokes made by jokey jokenheimers, obviously). That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I did make note of it after watching the episode today.

  • I had forgotten just how much “Pulp Fiction” was in this. And how graphic some of the scenes (especially in Herman’s shop) are.
  • Again: Skinner and Chalmers. Harry and Hank at their very best. (“Aurora Borealis?”)
  • Wikipedia (and apparently one of the official episode guides, as well) says Phil Hartman voices the hospital board chairman, but it’s very clearly Harry Shearer.
  • Never liked the bit with Smithers getting stung by the bee.
  • Always loved the bit with Bumblebee-Man.
  • Favorite piece of animation: Homer juggling Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper and his groceries in order to get the newspaper. (Laid out by Paul Wee.)
  • Some folk’ll never eat a skunk, but then again, some folk’ll… like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.” That rhyme gets me every time. The song was written by Steve Tompkins.
  • Random trivia: This is Jimmy Carr’s favorite episode of “The Simpsons.” (Watch “QI,” everyone! It’s a great show!)

5F12: “Dumbbell Indemnity” (Season 9 / March 1, 1998)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson stealing a car.

“Stealing, stealing, stealing a car for Moe!”

I laughed a lot during this one. I even laughed just thinking about it before I watched it. (Homer rolling out of the car and rolling right back in again, that’s just wonderful.) Not a big fan of Helen Hunt’s guest star performance, and the story is a bit too outlandish for my taste. But there are just so many good jokes in here!

  • Happy Homer! Happy Homer Dancing! Happy Homer stealing a car! What’s not to love?
  • Funny montage of Moe and Renee falling in love.
  • Speaking of Moe and Renee: Hank Azaria and Helen Hunt were dating when they recorded this episode, and even got married later. (That one didn’t last too long, though.)
  • – Moe: “Bring us the finest food you got, stuffed with the second finest.”
    – Waiter: “Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos.”
  • – Marge: “Why all the black?”
    – Homer: “Why all the pearls? Why all the hair? Why anything?”
  • It’s things like this that set “The Simpsons” apart from other sitcoms. Try finding that on “Cheers.”

The winner: 3F18, “22 Short Films About Springfield,” by a hair. This has been the toughest decision yet for me in this tournament. I love both episodes, even though they do have their flaws, but in the end, I like the things I like in 3F18 more than the things I like in 5F12.