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 78: D’oh-in’ in the Wind vs. And Maggie Makes Three

Round 78: AABF02 vs. 2F10.

AABF02: “D’oh-in’ in the Wind” (Season 10 / November 15, 1998)
Written by Donick Cary
Directed by Mark Kirkland & Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Grandpa Abe Simpson at Woodstock

Original here.

An okay episode. Homer’s not very likable here, which bothers me a bit, but it’s got some good stuff, too. Look, the less I write here the sooner I get to watch “And Maggie Makes Three.”


2F10: “And Maggie Makes Three” (Season 6 / January 22, 1995)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson taking a walk on the moonlit beach

Crittenden and Mirkin just go perfect with each other. She brings heart, he brings… whatever organ of his it is that comes up with the funny stuff.

  • “I’m gonna march right up to Al and say: Steve. I mean, Al, I think I deserve a raise.”

The winner: 2F10, “And Maggie Makes Three.”

Round 76: The PTA Disbands vs. Principal Charming

Round 76: 2F19 vs. 7F15.

2F19: “The PTA Disbands” (Season 6 / April 16, 1995)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Girl left alone hanging from the rings in gymnastics class

“Mrs. Pommelhorst?”

Very good story with a lot of Mirken-esque touches. I am again reminded how important Marcia Wallace and Maggie Roswell are to the show. These school-centered episodes gain so much from their performances.

  • -“Sorry, Bart. I’m deeply immersed in the Teapot Dome scandal.”
    -“Huh?”
    -“However, it might be feasible in a fortnight.”
    -“Wha?”
    -“I can play in two weeks.”
    -“Juh?”

7F15: “Principal Charming” (Season 2 / February 14, 1991)
Written by David Stern
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Principal Skinner shaking his fist all Gone With the Wind like

“After all, tomorrow is another school day!”

What I love about the early seasons is that there is so much effort put into making the movie references, in this case to Vertigo, The Terminator and Gone With the Wind, not only funny but also beautiful to look at.

Looking back you notice the characters behaving in ways slightly off from what they would become, but I don’t mind that. I like the way Homer and Bart are integral to Skinner and Patty and Selma’s stories but don’t feel shoehorned in.

The winner: 2F19, “The PTA Disbands.”

And a sad addendum: After I wrote this round I heard the news that Marcia Wallace passed away. I have praised her performance as Ms. Krabappel on many occasions and I’m sure there will be more of that as the tournament goes on. Along with other frequent guest actors like Maggie Roswell, Phil Hartman, Albert Brooks and Kelsey Grammer, Wallace was integral to giving life to the secondary citizens of Springfield, and whenever Krabappel was made center of an episode she made her as real and deep as any life-action performer would have. Springfield Elementary won’t be the same without her.

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.”

Round 26: The Twisted World of Marge Simpson vs. The Front

Round 26: 4F08 vs. 9F16.

4F08: “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” (Season 8 / January 19, 1997)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Chuck Sheetz
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson, Official Pretzel Inspector

The best thing about this episode is obviously the guest appearance by Jack Lemmon. Thank God the show got to him early enough (in two ways: before his death and also before the time most celebrities doing the Simpsons just get to play themselves in a cameo that serves little to no story purposes).

Other favorite moments here are Marge setting up her business with the family happily helping her (the ticker tape parade!) and pretty much every single scene between Homer and Fat Tony. The ending is pretty absurd, but that’s okay.

  • – “Homer, did you tell the Mafia they could eliminate my competitors with savage beatings and attempted murder?”
    – “In those words? Yes.”

9F16: “The Front” (Season 4 / April 15, 1993)
Written by Adam I. Lapidus
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Itchy and Scratchy Show writers room.

Left to right: John Swartzwelder, George Meyer, Jeff Martin, Al Jean, Mike Reiss

A weird thing is happening as I watch episodes of season 4, which I always named the show’s best, as part of this tournament. I know they are great. I have watched them countless times, listened to the commentaries repeatedly. Yet, somehow, when it comes to comparing them to other episodes, they underwhelm.

A lot of it has to do with the non-sequitur cut-aways and one-off jokes. Long before Seth MacFarlane made a living with these they were a welcome addition to “The Simpsons,” and most of them are still very funny and memorable, but they are not (in my opinion) the show at its best.

  • All that said, there are still many great moments here. The Itchy & Scratchy cartoons are all very good, Roger Meyers, Jr. (sadly not voiced by Alex Rocco in this episode) is fun, as are the jabs at the Simpsons’ writers, which of course get enhanced a thousand-fold when you “know” them through the commentaries.
  • – “Cartoons have writers?”
    – “Eh, sort of.”

The winner: 9F16: “The Front.”

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.