128th-Final, Round 10: Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song vs. A Streetcar Named Marge

128th-final, round 10: 1F18 vs. 8F18.

1F18: “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” (Season 5 / April 28, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein. Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson and Principal Skinner

vs.

8F18: “A Streetcar Named Marge” (Season 4 / October 1, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Play Enjoyed By All

 

The winner, you may be surprised to read, is 1F18, “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song.” I honestly did not expect “Streetcar” to exit the tournament this early, but the truth is that both episodes are excellent and I just happen to like SSSBS a tiny bit more. It’s a really, really close call, though.

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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.”

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 114: Three Men and a Comic Book vs. Homer Defined

Round 114: 7F21 vs. 8F04.

7F21: “Three Men and a Comic Book” (Season 2 / May 9, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Black and white still of the planet blowing up in an old Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy film strip

Good stuff. It takes a while to get going, the pacing of the plot and the jokes clearly mark this as a second season episode, but the climactic moments in Bart’s treehouse are every bit as awesome and beautiful as you remember.

  • Love how Bart basically turns into an old-timey gangster at the end. “Real friendly-like.”
  • -Bart: “We ended up with nothing because the three of us can’t share.”
    -Milhouse: “What’s your point?”
    -Bart: “Nothin’. Just kind of ticks me off.”

8F04 “Homer Defined” (Season 3 / October 17, 1991)
Written by Howard Gewirtz
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

-Homer: "What? What is it? What are you doing?" -Lisa: "Looking at you with quit awe." -Homer: "Well, as long as it's quiet."

-Homer: “What? What is it? What are you doing?”
-Lisa: “Looking at you with quiet awe.”
-Homer: “Well, as long as it’s quiet.”

Wonderful. Mark Kirkland brings such a good eye to his direction. The angles, the lighting, the shadows, the staging. I am again sadly reminded of the time the guys from Robot Chicken did the show’s couch gag, and in the making of they describe the look of (today’s) Simpsons as “two-dimensional,” “flat,” and “even lit.” It wasn’t always like that, as episodes like “Homer Defined” demonstrate masterfully.

The winner: 8F04, “Homer Defined.”

Round 105: I Married Marge vs. New Kid on the Block

Round 105: 8F10 vs. 9F06.

8F10: “I Married Marge” (Season 3 / December 26, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Jeffrey Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Springfield at night, nuclear power plant, grid, car, headlights

Love this one. It’s an episode that I haven’t seen many time for some reason, so it felt kinda new and exciting. These flashback shows (origin stories?) are a lot of fun when done right, as this one certainly is.

  • -Homer: “I bet the guy she was singing that about was real happy.”
    -Marge: “Mh, actually, she was singing about God.”
    -Homer: “Oh, well, he’s always happy. … No, wait, he’s always mad.”

9F06: “New Kid on the Block” (Season 4 / November 12, 1992)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson's heart getting ripped out

I hate to say this about an episode written by my hero Conan O’Brien, but, man, this one’s all over the place, plot-wise. There are a few good elements, but as a whole I’m not a big fan. It feels rather unfinished, like it needed a few more rewrites. Or maybe it had too many. Who knows.

  • -Bart: “Dad, I have some questions about women.”
    -Homer: “Uh, can’t you see I’m reading the, uh, cultural calendar? … Ooh! ‘Mostly Mozart‘ is in town.”

The winner: 8F10: “I Married Marge.”

Round 89: Lisa the Beauty Queen vs. Bart Gets Famous

Round 89: 9F02 vs. 1F11.

9F02: “Lisa the Beauty Queen” (Season 4 / October 15, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Krusty the Klown heartily endorsing an even or product on television

-“I heartily endorse this event or product.”

One look at the names above and you know you’re in for a great episode. Of course I like the moments between Homer and Lisa, but what I caught watching it this time was how much of the episode is made up of almost skit-like little scenes that serve mostly for delivering setups and punchlines. From the moment Lisa is crowned beauty queen it’s one set piece after another, the wax museum, the deportation, the USO show, the football game. When “Family Guy” first ripped off “The Simpsons,” this is one of the things they were… inspired by, for sure.

  • A good Simpsons episode knows that when the main focus is on Lisa or Marge, Bart and Homer are allowed to act a bit wackier than usual, and we certainly get some of that here. (Bart channeling Tex Avery, Homer daydreaming about Marge mowing the lawn.)

1F11: “Bart Gets Famous” (Season 5 / February 3, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson answering the phone wearing nothing but a towel

-“You’ll have to speak up. I’m wearing a towel.”

Going into this round I of course knew that “Bart Gets Famous” is a great episode, but I wondered if it was still funny even after all the countless times I’ve seen it. The answer: Yes. It is. I laughed out loud more than I’d expected, both at jokes I anticipated and others I had forgotten about.

The observation I made above is true here, as well. With Bart center Homer gets away with a lot of crazy things, one of my favorites being his rant about poor people – and the ensuing blank stares from his family.

  • Another perfect Dan Castellaneta performance as the box factory guide.

The winner: 1F11, “Bart Gets Famous.”

Round 74: Lisa’s First Word vs. Deep Space Homer

Round 74: 9F08 vs. 1F13.

9F08: “Lisa’s First Word” (Season 4 / December 3, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Marge Simpson with Baby Bart on the steps

A sequel of sorts to “The Way We Was,” this is a fantastic flashback episode. The slightly younger designs are inspired, the jokes and references to mid-eighties pop culture are a lot of fun, and of course I always fall for well-told stories centered around the family.


1F13: “Deep Space Homer” (Season 5 / February 24, 1994)
Written by David Mirkin
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson casting a long shadow

“I’ll show him inanimate!”

This episode has David Mirkin written all over it. Like, literally, he wrote it and he’s the showrunner. And you can tell by all the craziness and non sequiturs, especially in contrast to the Al & Jean episode above. They are both very good, and in a way, they’re both winners. But in another, more accurate way, “Deep Space Homer” is the winner.

  • No SNPP crow?
  • Dan Castellaneta doing Charlton Heston’s “lament” from The Planet of the Apes (the movie, not the planet) is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard.

The winner: 1F13, “Deep Space Homer.”