128th-Final, Round 9: Lisa’s Pony vs. Treehouse of Horror IV

128th-final, round 9: 8F06 vs. 1F04.

8F06: “Lisa’s Pony” (Season 3 / November 7, 1991)
Written by Al Jean & Mike Reiss. Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F06 Lisa’s Pony


1F04: “Treehouse of Horror IV” (Season 5 / October 28, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, Bill Canterbury
Directed by David Silverman. Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons 1F04 Treehouse of Horror IV

(Every time I come on here and apologize for not posting anything for so long and then vowing to do a better job from now on it only gets worse, so I’m not even gonna do that today.)

Whenever a Halloween special comes up on the tournament I go in thinking, well, even if it’s good I’m not gonna pick it over a decent regular episode, right?

Right. But this was a close one. “Treehouse of Horror IV” really is that good, and if I’m ever to rank the Treehouses o. H. I’m sure it will be near the very top. But I’m not doing that today.

The winner: “Lisa’s Pony,” of course.


Round 102: When You Dish Upon a Star vs. Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood

Round 102: 5F19 vs. 1F06.

5F19: “When You Dish Upon a Star” (Season 10 / November 8, 1998)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin with her Academy Award

-Alec Baldwin: “Honey, why don’t you give that thing a rest? You’re taking the finish off.”
-Kim Basinger: “When you win one, you can take care of it however you want.”

Alec Baldwin’s in the news right now because he wrote something or said something that somebody then wrote about or maybe he tweeted something that the New Yorker then blogged about. Look, I’m not here to talk about Alec Baldwin, but you know, if people happen to search for his name in combination with the term “gay slur” (as Google’s auto-complete suggests many do) and in turn find this website that has nothing to say about Alec Baldwin’s shocking (I guess?) behavior, well, that’s unfortunate. Bad Google!

Anyway, I was in a bit of a bad mood when I watched this episode and I’m still in a bad mood now, so that might tell us something. It’s not panda rape bad, but it’s pretty bad. There are a few funny things I can see making the writers laugh when they came up with it but maybe after the third draft they should have said, You know what? Let’s just not make this episode, after all.

1F06: “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood” (Season 5 / November 18, 1993)
Written by Dan McGrath
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Barney Gumble, and Bart and Milhouse high on an all-syrup squishee

One of the most memorable Simpsons episodes, no doubt. And it’s only in the context of the tournament that I find flaws with it, but I’ll go into them (hint: it starts with an “H” and ends with “omer is too much of a jerk”) when we see 1F06 again, because…

… the winner is: 1F06, “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood.”

Round 79: Bart of Darkness vs. The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson

Round 79: 1F22 vs. 4F22. Whoa.

1F22: “Bart of Darkness” (Season 6 / September 4, 1994)
Written by Dan McGrath
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson reading MAD Magazine (NYPD Blecch)

I have probably written about this before (I mean, I guess? No way to be sure.), but the thing that I love most about The Simpsons is that there are so many levels to it, so many different ways to enjoy it. And this episode is the perfect embodiment of that. You can watch this without ever having seen “Rear Window” or anything by Hitchcock – as I did when I first saw the episode – and get a great deal of joy from it. And once you know the movie – as I do now – you have this whole new layer of references and homages to appreciate. And then you listen to the commentary and you learn even more things that enrich your experience of watching the episode. But the beauty of it is that you don’t need to know anything to enjoy it.

This episode is perfect. Not one wrong note.

4F22: “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” (Season 9 / September 21, 1997)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Alfred E. Neuman in the MAD Magazine offices

This has got to be one of the toughest rounds in the tournament. I love both episodes a great deal, and it sucks to see one of them leave so early. “Bart of Darkness” really does hit all high notes, while there are some (minor, but still) things in “The City of New York” that I don’t like that much. Homer gets his dose of physical punishment here, and while it’s miles away from the awful things he’d have to endure in later seasons, it’s still something I don’t like to see.

But then again, the high notes it does have hit higher than the ones in 1F22. “Kickin’ It,” written by Ken Keeler, is my favorite musical number of the whole series, Homer’s New York-flashback is a truly beautiful bit of animation, and the ending with Homer driving out of the city makes me smile just thinking about it.

So, once again, I have to ask myself the question: If I could only see one of these two episodes again, with the other one being forever lost, which would I pick?

The winner, after much hemming and hawing: 4F22, “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” This really could’ve gone either way. Maybe if I saw “Bart of Darkness” last I would have picked it. This one’s gonna haunt me.


Round 18: Treehouse of Horror IV vs. Marge on the Lam

Round 18: 1F04 vs. 1F03.

1F04: “Treehouse of Horror IV” (Season 5 / October 28, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, Bill Canterbury
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The devil and Homer Simpson

The talent behind this Halloween episode is amazing, and it shows. (If you don’t have time to listen to every single audio commentary, you should definitely listen to this one: Jim Brooks, Davids Mirkin and Silverman, Conan, Bill and Josh, and Greg Daniels!) Just like ToH V from Mirkin’s second season this one belongs up there in the pantheon.

  • The Devil and Homer Simpson is my favorite segment, and features one of the all-time great Lionel Hutz performances by Phil Hartman.
  • The whole episode is like a big long list of thing’s I have not read or seen: Night Gallery, The Twilight Zone, Fantasia, War of the Worlds (well, I’ve seen the Spielberg movie and loved it, actually, but I never read the book or listened to the radio play), (Francis Ford Coppola’s) Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Lost Boys…

1F03: “Marge on the Lam” (Season 5 / November 4, 1993)
Written by Bill Canterbury
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Lionel Hutz watching TV on the Simpsons' couch.

“Oh, sure. Like lawyers work in big skyscrapers and have secretaries. Look at him. He’s wearing a belt! That’s Hollywood for you.”

And again we have two episodes produced in a row, which makes it harder for me to decide, because they’re about equal, quality wise. Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen “Thelma & Louise,” which is heavily referenced, but some of the more outlandish plot and character twists don’t really do it for me. Homer’s a bit too dumb for my taste. As much as I love Lionel Hutz, his stint as babysitter seems a bit forced. And the third act, while beautifully animated, stretches the rubber-band reality of “The Simpsons” too far for my liking.

  • Great animation moment: When Ruth returns the power tool to Marge and she’s immediately pulled to the floor by it.
  • Mention ballet in my circle of friends and you’ll get to hear “Entrance of the Gladiators.”
  • Springfield is very much Los Angeles in this episode. As it is in many episodes.
  • Love Hank’s line reading as Wiggum, giving the dispatcher his current location:
    “I’m on a road. Looks to be asphalt. Trees, shrubs. I’m directly under the Earth’s sun… now.”
  • Commentary trivia: Matt mentions they’re recording on June 17, 2004, so right during production of the 16th season, which will be the next to come out on DVD.

The winner: 1F04: “Treehouse of Horror IV,” by a hair.


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.”