128th-Final, Round 1: Treehouse of Horror II vs. Lisa’s Date with Density

128th-final, round 1: 8F02 vs. 4F01.

8F02: “Treehouse of Horror II” (Season 3 / October 31, 1991)
Written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss,
Jeff Martin, George Meyer, Sam Simon and John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F02 Treehouse of Horror II

vs.

4F01: “Lisa’s Date with Density” (Season 8, December 15, 1996)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F01 Lisa’s Date with Density

It’s Halloween, and Phase 2 starts of with one of the greatest Treehouses of Horror that will promptly exit the tournament because it doesn’t stand a chance against the 22 minutes of pure perfection that is “Lisa’s Date with Density.”

The winner: 4F01, “Lisa’s Date with Density.”

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Round 120: Brush with Greatness vs. Homer the Great

Round 120: 7F18 vs. 2F09.

7F18: “Brush with Greatness” (Season 2 / April 11, 1991)
Written by Brian K. Roberts
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart and Lisa Simpson pestering Homer, asleep on the couch.

“Will you take us to Mt. Splashmore?”

Season 2 just keeps on delivering fantastic episodes. And I shouldn’t be surprised by that at this point, but for some reason I’m not quite as familiar with the Brooks/Groening/Simon years than, say the Mirkin ones. So they feel a bit fresher, maybe? Because I’ve only seen them ten times before, and not 50?

In any case, “Brush With Greatness” is just wonderful, from Mt. Splashmore to all the references to classic movies that I can only now fully appreciate, to Ringo Starr and Mr. Burns’ genitals. I think that even when I watched this at 10 years-old I knew that it was great and special, even though I didn’t really know why or had the right words to describe it. Not that I have today.

  • From the commentary, during Krusty’s “I Want to Go to Mt. Splasmore” song:
    -Brian Roberts: “I think this [segment] was a Jeff Martin special, wasn’t it?”
    -Al Jean: “The dialogue, I think, we wrote– a bunch of us. I think George [Meyer] wrote ‘Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!‘”

2F09: “Homer the Great” (Season 6 / January 8, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Lisa and Homer Simpson

I used to love this episode. I don’t really, anymore. Sure, there’s a lot of funny stuff, but not much else, really. And it’s all stretched so far and so off-the-wall crazy that it no longer feels like it’s grounded in anything “The Simpsons” used to be. So my complaints about this episode from season 6 are basically the same ones I have with episodes from season 20. “It was better back in my day,” with both “better” and “my day” being completely arbitrary and wholly subjective matters.

But this is, after all, about what I like, not what’s good, or what I used to like. And right now, given the choice to watch either “Brush With Greatness” or “Homer the Great” again, I’d very much like to pick the former.

The winner: 7F18, “Brush with Greatness.”

Round 119: Bart vs. Thanksgiving vs. Marge Gets a Job

Round 119: 7F07 vs. 9F05.

7F07: “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” (Season 2 / November 22, 1990)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart Simpson and his dog Santa's Little Helper outside the Simpsons' house

Written by George Meyer. Directed by David Silverman. Is there a more promising combination of words to ever appear in the opening credits of a TV show?

My notes for this episode are filled with the usual superlatives, about the story, the cinematic visuals, the jokes, the performances. These episodes from season 2 are just such a joy to watch, and so full of great stuff that they never seem to get old.

  • -Announcer: “And the Silverdome now ablaze with flashbulbs as Hooray For Everything leaves the field! Of course, the stadium’s much too big for flash pictures to work, but nobody seems to care!”

9F05: “Marge Gets a Job” (Season 4 / November 5, 1992)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 9F05 Marge Gets a Job

Another great episode. Comparing it to the one from the second season you notice that there are a lot more crazy, non-sequitur gags and cutaways. The rubber-band reality is being stretched a bit further, but it’s all still grounded within a pretty straight-forward sitcom setup (wife gets job at husband’s place of work).

  • I think this was the first time I had heard the “Imperial March” outside of Star Wars.
  • The shot-for-shot “Citizen Kane” reference went way over my head even after I had seen the movie a couple of times. I just never thought to connect the two.
  • -Mr. Smithers: “Oh, I thought Muddy Waters wrote that song.”

The winner: 7F07, “Bart vs. Thanksgiving.”

Round 103: Grade School Confidential vs. Lisa’s Rival

Round 103: 4F09 vs. 1F17.

4F09: “Grade School Confidential” (Season 8 / April 6, 1997)
Written by Rachel Pulido
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson driving Bart and Milhouse around in a makeshift lawnmower space shuttle

One of the rare Simpsons episodes that’s both directed and written by a woman, and both did an excellent job. It reminded me of “Bart the Lover,” another strong Bart and Krabappel episode. “Grade School Confidential” tells a great, timeless story that still has room for plenty of funny stuff, and it showcases the wonderful work of the animators and voice actors, too. I find no faults with this one, and I love Homer’s little moments, like his Richard Nixon impression or the legendary “Krabappel? I’ve been calling her Crandall.” run.

  • -Principal Skinner: “Bart, if life has taught me one lesson repeatedly it’s to know when I’m beaten.”
  • Perfect moment between Superintendent Chalmers and Bart in the movie theater:
    -Chalmers: “You think they actually filmed this in Atlanta?”
    -Bart: “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s important.”

1F17: “Lisa’s Rival” (Season 6 / September 11, 1994)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson yelling Never! in front of his mountain of sugar

I must have seen this episode a hundred times, yet I always forget that this is the one with my all-time favorite crazy Homer B-plot: sugar mountain. That scene, and particularity that rant, are where three of the most gifted people in their respective fields come together to create something magical. George Meyer wrote the words, Dan Castellaneta recorded them, and David Silverman animated. Beautiful.

I like Lisa’s story a lot, too. It’s so true to her character, and it gives Bart the nice opportunity of being mischievous while still standing with his sister.

So. This is a wonderful episode, but my gut says I like 4F09 better. And I’ve gotta go with my gut, even if it means losing Homer’s sugar plot.

  • In the dubbed German version, Lisa’s anagram for “Jeremy Irons” is not “Jeremy’s Iron” but… “Jeremy Irons.” Maybe the only time I prefer a dubbed joke to the original.
  • This has one of my favorite DVD audio commentaries, with lots of anecdotes about the Northridge earthquake and David Mirkin making inappropriate jokes at full steam.

The winner: 4F09, “Grade School Confidential.”

Round 100: Separate Vocations vs. Das Bus

Round 100: 8F15 vs. 5F11.

8F15: “Separate Vocations” (Season 3 / February 27, 1992)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Jeffrey Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Mayor Quimby polling the electorate.

I enjoyed how dynamic this episode was. Jeff Lynch does some fantastic action-directing, especially in the police car chase and later in the Bart-as-hall-monitor montage, which featured a terrific score, as well. And of course the episode is drawn and animated beautifully – this is the third season, after all.

The story, centered on Bart and Lisa, exploring their characters by putting them in unusual positions, still feels fresh and relevant 22 years after it first aired. It’s always fun to see the kids behave like kids in situations that, while exciting, are not some of the crazy, outlandish things people on TV are thrown into at times.

(Like, I dunno, being stranded on a deserted island or something like that.)


5F11: “Das Bus” (Season 9 / February 15, 1998)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunners: Mike Scully

The children sit around a camp fire on the deserted island

It’s a very funny episode, but also a very gimmicky one that doesn’t quite hold up to repeat viewings like “Separate Vocations” does.

Homer’s Internet business is a nice little time capsule, and Dan’s reading of “It’s Patty” as he hands Marge the phone is among my favorite things he’s ever done.

The winner: 8F15, “Separate Vocations.”

Round 88: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? vs. Blood Feud

Round 88: 8F23 vs. 7F22.

8F23: “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” (Season 3 / August 27, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Flanders family sings farewell to Herbert Powell

Danny DeVito reprises his role as Unky Herb from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?“ and again his voice effortlessly blends in with the rest of the cast. This is late into Al and Mike’s first season, so things start to get a little bit more outlandish (Smither’s sperm!?, the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence), but at the core there’s a solid, grounded story.

And, again, I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully animated the show is. The angles! The shadows!

  • -“This is one of our many light switches. It functions in both the on and off mode. On. Off. On. Off.”
  • Totally forgot about the fantastic “2001: A Space Odyssey” scene.

7F22: “Blood Feud” (Season 2 / July 11, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Smithers offering Dr. Hibbert his blood to save Mr. Burns' life

A lot of memorable moments in this one, from Lisa teaching Maggie new words, Homer’s twisted telling of the story of Hercules and the Lion (-“Is it a Bible story?” -“Probably.”) to his angry letter to Mr. Burns and of course the introduction of future basement-dweller Xtapolapocetl.

  • -“‘Senile,’ eh? ‘Buck-toothed,’ am I? ‘Bony arms,’ are they? ‘Liver spots,’ did I? ‘Chinless,’ will you?”

The winner: 7F22, “Blood Feud.”

Round 69: Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield vs. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington

Round 69: 3F11 vs. 8F01.

3F11: “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” (Season 7 / February 4, 1996)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Marge Simpson showing off her new Chanel dress

A strong Marge episode with fun B-stories for the rest of the family. Unfortunately this is one of those times where I have no notes, no insights, no complaints I want to share. Not the episode’s fault, just my brain (not) at work.

  • -“Say, I wonder if this Homer Nixon is any relation.”
    -“Unlikely, sir. They spell and pronounce their name differently.”

8F01: “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” (Season 3 / September 26, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Welcome Finalists - Reading Digest - Brevity is... wit.

Like the sign says.

The winner: 8F01, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.”