Round 64: There’s Something About Marrying vs. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

Round 64: GABF04 vs. 4F15.

GABF04: “There’s Something About Marrying” (Season 16 / February 20, 2005)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Al Jean

Death Before Gay Marriage sign

One thing that bothers me so much about Zombie Simpsons is that things just happen. People walk in and out of frame willy-nilly – What, was Disco Stu just hanging around the Simpson house, waiting for his name to come up in conversation somewhere? – character traits are adjusted to the plot, not the other way around.

The word “zombie” doesn’t really apply, now that I think about it. Life- and brainless, yes, but at least zombies have some agenda and consistency. These Simpsons are more like string-puppets, dragged around and contorted into whichever shape this week’s episode’s crazy story needs them to be in.

On a less bitter note, I like how this episode treats marriage. Not “gay marriage” (such an antiquated term), but marriage, the concept. It’s a silly thing, if you think about it, and it’s mostly about money, anyway. Good on them for pointing that out. I just wish they had done it in an episode of “The Simpsons,” not “Family Guy.”

4F15: “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment” (Season 8 / March 16, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Alcohol Prohibited in Springfield

I will have plenty of time talking about this episode in future rounds, so for now just a matter of contrast:

There is a scene where Homer and Marge are talking in their kitchen when a disheveled Chief Wiggum happens to walk past their window and begins talking to them. It’s important for the plot because it both gives Homer the idea to start his Beer Baron business and it sets up Wiggum’s involvement in the story later.

The writers had to come up with a feasible way to have Homer and Wiggum meet, and that’s why they had Homer and Marge hold their conversation in the kitchen, where there is a window overlooking the street. It’s still a convenient coincidence that Wiggum happened to stagger by just that minute, but not an inconceivable one.

As opposed to, say, Disco Stu walking into Marge’s bedroom.

  • -“Remember, honey, we’re disobeying an unjust law here. We’re patriots. Like… all those people in jail.”

The winner: 4F15, “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment.”


Round 81: Rosebud vs. Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh

Round 81: 1F01 vs. LABF10.

1F01: “Rosebud” (Season 5 / October 21, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson discovering Mr. Burns' teddy bear Bobo

Looking at this frame, and the whole episode for that matter, I had a thought. You could show “Rosebud” (and other great Simpsons episodes) to someone who has never seen it, without the sound, and not only would they be fully able to follow the story, they’d enjoy it, too.  Not to take anything away from the words written by the writers and spoken by the actors, the images drawn and animated by the director and his countless helpers stand as works of art by themselves.

I don’t believe that the digital animation process the show has employed since season 14 prohibits the animators from coming up with equally beautiful imagery. I do believe, however, that it’s a lot harder to do so, and unfortunately the areas that most benefit from a certain human touch are the very same digital ink and paint  take the human element away from.

LABF10: “Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh” (Season 20 / May 3, 2009)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Simpsons dog Santas Little Helper scratching on the paved lawn

Hey, if they can be lazy in writing them, I can be lazy in reviewing them.

The winner: 1F01 “Rosebud.”

A quick note regarding the bracket: Since I cheated and gave Round 80‘s win to the runner-up from Round 79, I had to fidget with the way that episode advanced into the 128th-final. (If I hadn’t, Round 79 would just be repeated in the next phase.) So what I did is place 1F22 where the winner from this round would have gone, and 1F01 will take the place where Round 80’s winner would be. Exciting, I know.

Round 50: Mayored to the Mob vs. Moe Baby Blues

Round 50: AABF05 vs. EABF17.

AABF05: “Mayored to the Mob” (Season 10 / December 20, 1998)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner:  Mike Scully

Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fourth Doctor Who, Godzilla and Neil Armstrong signing autographs at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.

Click to embiggen.

I’m getting pretty good at stitching together these panning shots. Useless talent #66.

A rather mixed episode. More of it good than bad, but there’s definitely some bad stuff. I didn’t like Homer’s actions and attitudes as Quimby’s bodyguard, but I gotta say I loved seeing him in that black tux. Joe Mantegna’s always a welcome voice, and animation-pro Mark Hamill did a good job playing himself and the bodyguard instructor.

  • “Roger Corman’s Titanic.” Brilliant. Perfect match of animation and sound effects.
  • Never thought Frank Nelson was very funny, never thought Yes Guy was very funny.
  • Good musical number near the end.

EABF17: “Moe Baby Blues” (Season 14 / May 18, 2003)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Moe, Marge and Homer Simpson looking at a diorama of Moe's Tavern.

“I peed my pants.”

After a real stinker of a first act I was ready to kick this one out of the tournament without regret. But then a funny thing happened. And then another. Funny things kept happening.

The ugly stuff first. I talked about the concept of the rubber-band reality before, and how that band had pretty much snapped sometime in the early double digit seasons. We get some of that here, most strikingly with the Venus flytrap luring in Homer with a hot dog.

Then there’s some gross-out humor I don’t really care for. Krusty jumping into a pile of manure, Moe dislocating his shoulder.

But the more the episode went on, the better it got. Whereas the episode above produced a few chuckles here and there, this one had me actually laughing, at things like Homer being in Burns’ carpool, or Moe acting out The Godfather with Maggie’s toys.

I was very impressed with the staging and animation of the fourth act. Some very cool color choices and angles. And I liked the little photo montage at the end, too.

The winner: EABF17, “Moe Baby Blues,” marking the first true win for an Al Jean episode.


Round 9: Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind vs. The Homer They Fall

Round 9: KABF02 vs. 4F03.

KABF02: “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind
(Season 19 / December 16, 2007)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Chuck Sheetz
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson on a snowy bridge.

This is the episode people point to when they want to show that it hasn’t been all bad after season 12. And they’re right, it hasn’t. This episode is not bad. In fact, it’s good. Great? Yeah, why not. It’s a great episode of television. But, while it does come close, it’s just not a great episode of “The Simpsons.”

I don’t want to be mean-spirited. I really do think “Moonshine” deserves praise, for its creative plot, elaborate animation and a few good jokes (like the “Ice Age” parody). But this tournament was set up to determine my favorite episode of my favorite TV show, and there are things here I just can’t overlook. The voice acting bugs me, too many of the jokes don’t land, the gimmicky plot is not strong enough to distract from its many holes.

4F03: “The Homer They Fall” (Season 8 / November 10, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

George Bellows, Dempsey and Firpo (The Simpsons)

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 “The Homer They Fall” is based on the fact that Homer can take an endless amount of punches and abuse without going down. That doesn’t sound very funny to me, but the way it is presented here, it actually is. The writers and animators don’t rest on that one joke, instead they embed it into a genuinely touching Moe/Homer story and give it a look and feel that you just can’t expect from any other animated show.

  • A lot of great voice acting, by Dan and Hank, obviously, but also by guest stars Paul Winfield and Michael Buffer.
  • The black and white montage is just beautiful, including Alf Clausen’s music.

The winner: 4F03: “The Homer They Fall.”