128th-Final, Round 12: Bart Gets an “F” vs. Homer the Vigilante

128th-final, round 12: 7F03 vs. 1F09.

7F03: “Bart Gets an F” (Season 2 / October 11, 1990)
Written by David M. Stern. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

7F03 Bart Gets an F

vs.

1F09: “Homer the Vigilante” (Season 5 / January 6, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

1F09 Homer the Vigilante

Another close one. As many second season episodes do, “Bart Gets an F” starts out as a rather conventional family sitcom plot, but of course even back then The Simpsons couldn’t help but elevate the material. I am again and again impressed by the sophisticated and artful animation of the early seasons, and this one is just full of beautiful shots.

“Homer the Vigilante” is obviously a much more polished product, and I like the episode a lot, but “Bart Gets an F” has a certain charm that, at least for me, puts it ahead in this contest.

The winner: 7F03, “Bart Gets an F.”

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128th-Final, Round 7: Flaming Moe’s vs. My Sister, My Sitter

128th-final, round 7: 8F08 vs. 4F13.

8F08: “Flaming Moe’s” (Season 3 / November 21, 1991)
Written by Robert Cohen. Directed by Rich Moore, Alan Smart
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Simpsons 8F08 Flaming Moe's

vs.

4F13: “My Sister, My Sitter” (Season 8 / March 2, 1997)
Written by Dan Greaney. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F13 My Sister, My Sitter

The winner: 8F08: “Flaming Moe’s.”

I like “My Sister, My Sitter” a lot, and especially Lisa’s story. Her struggle to prove herself a responsible and reliable babysitter feels very true to her character, and Bart makes the perfect foe. Homer and Marge’s visit to the Springfield waterfront promenade offers some fun sight gags, but this really is Lisa’s episode to carry, and she does it well. The way the episode wraps up is a tiny bit clunky, but that can be said of “Flaming Moe’s” as well, I suppose.

It’s easy to overlook (or even embrace) the lack of a perfect resolution in “Flaming Moe’s,” because everything leading up to it is just so masterfully constructed. I love that you really don’t need to know anything about the characters and their relationships going in – the episode flawlessly sets up Homer and Moe’s friendship and then rivalry. And of course the acting and animation is on a level that is so much higher than anything else on television then. Or now.

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.”

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 128: Bart on the Road vs. Bart’s Friend Falls in Love

Round 128: 3F17 vs. 8F22.

3F17: “Bart on the Road” (Season 7 / March 31, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa Simpsons roasting marshmallows over a bucket fire in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

Been a while since the last round, sorry. I actually watched these episodes last month but then I got super busy, and later when I wasn’t busy I kinda forgot about it, and then maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to write this entry because it means that after 128 rounds the first phase of the tournament is over, which in turn means that I am old, and so are you. We’re all old, people. No way around it.

“Bart on the Road” is pretty much perfect. We’ve got an immensely fun main-plot (“Grammar Rodeo? We’re going to a Grammar Rodeo?”), and a sweet Homer-and-Lisa subplot to boot. I’m not a huge fan of the Bart-as-a-courier-shipping-eyeballs-to-Hong-Kong ending, but that’s a minor gripe.

  • Lisa: “I knew it! Because why would they have our National Rodeo in another nation?”

8F22: “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love” (Season 3 / May 7, 1992)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Sad Milhouse

Fantastic. My favorite bits:

  • That whole Raiders of the Lost Ark opening sequence. Great work from the animation and sound departments.
  • Skinner’s Vietnam stories. Again, it’s the dramatic animation that makes this so powerful. (Well, that and Harry’s performance.)
  • “Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What”
  • -Lisa: “According to Eternity magazine you can lose weight through subliminal learning. That’s where an idea is subtly implanted in your head without you even knowing it.”
    -Homer: “Oh, Lisa, that’s a load of rich creamery butter.”
  • Great Itchy & Scratchy. Short and to the point.
  • -Milhouse: “How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet but it ended up in tragedy.”

The winner: 8F22, “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love.” Tough decision, though. “Bart on the Road” is one of my favorite episodes, as well.

Round 127: Love, Springfieldian Style vs. Homer Goes to College

Round 127: KABF05 vs. 1F02.

KABF05: “Love, Springfieldian Style” (Season 19 / February 17, 2008)
Written by Don Payne
Directed by Raymond Persi
Showrunner: Al Jean

Goat sucking on a bottle.

Despite my best efforts, I did not manage to slow this blog down long enough for the 19th season DVDs to be released, so I can’t really comment on this episode. Except that there is no way that I’d like it more than “Homer Goes to College.”


1F02: “Homer Goes to College” (Season 5 / October 14, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons 1F02 Homer Goes to College

I think the DVD commentary track for this episode might be the one I’ve listened to the most often. And no wonder: it’s got Matt Groening, Jim Brooks, David Mirkin, Jim Reardon, David Silverman, and, on the phone from New York, Conan O’Brien. Those are a bunch of my all-time favorite people, so to get to hear them reminisce and make jokes about working for “The Simpsons” during its creative pinnacle – and the story of Conan’s exit from the show – is an amazing treat.

Oh, and of course “Homer Goes to College” is a fantastic episode, but you knew that already.

The winner: 1F02, “Homer Goes to College.”

Round 122: Bart the Fink vs. Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?

Round 122: 3F12 vs. AABF21.

3F12: “Bart the Fink” (Season 7 / February 11, 1996)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Krusty the Clown down in the gutters

Very funny episode. From that great haunted house fake-out, to bankers in gorilla suits, to Sydney Greenstreet, and, my favorite, Bob Newhart’s speech at Krusty’s funeral.

No complaints about this one, but not too much that makes me think it will be a stand-out performer in this here tournament. Seeing Bart and Lisa go off on one of their little investigations is always fun, but there are better examples of that in other episodes, I think. We’ll see.

  • Are you missing Mad About You right now?

AABF21: “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” (Season 11 / October 24, 1999)
Written by Al Jean
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Mike Scully

AABF21 Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?

It’s so interesting to me that I react so positively to episodes penned by the duo of Al Jean and Mike Reiss, like “Stark Raving Dad,” “Lisa’s Pony,” “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh!-cious,” but have a much harder time with those by Jean alone. It would be tempting to attest this solely to Reiss’ writing, or even to the balance he brings to their scripts, but I can’t know if that’s true. After all, it’s not just Jean’s solo work in the later seasons I don’t respond to the same way I do with episodes from the first seven or eight years, and the qualities I love are present in most, if not all of the earlier episodes, not just the ones Reiss was involved in.

My main issue with the episode is, once again, that there is not much that makes it distinctly The Simpsons: “Peter Griffin becomes a food critic; Brian helps him write reviews.” That’s about it.

The winner: 3F12, “Bart the Fink.”