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.”

Advertisements

Round 111: El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer) vs. Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily

Round 101: 3F24 vs. 3F01.

3F24: “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)
(Season 8 / January 5, 1997)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson, sunset, sunrise

An exceptional episode, no doubt. Maybe too exceptional for me to consider it “my favorite”? It’s a bit like “The Springfield Files” in that regard, an episode I love very much but that is so unlike everything else that it’s hard to compare it to “regular” great ones. I don’t know. I’ll go with my gut when deciding this, anyway, and at the time I’m writing these words I haven’t watched “Home Sweet Homediddly…,” yet.

“El Viaje Misterioso” is of course famous for its surreal, beautiful, hand-drawn sequences and Johnny Cash’s wonderful turn as Homer’s chili-induced space coyote hallucination. That alone takes the episode into sacred ground territory. So even if it won’t win this tournament, I’ll always come back to it, and think of it fondly whenever I’m drinking a nice glass of hot wax or following a tortoise around the desert.


3F01: “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily” (Season 7 /October 1, 1995)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Principal Skinner and Bart Simpson watch as Groundskeeper Willie burns Bart's lice-infested underwear.

No space coyotes in this one, but I enjoyed it even more than “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer.” It’s got a brilliant script, from the way it sets up the story to that fantastic climax at the Springfield River, and it’s beautifully directed by Susie Dietter.

  • -“Stupid babies need the most attention.”

The winner: 3F01, “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily.”

Round 110: Homer at the Bat vs. Team Homer

Round 110: 8F13 vs. 3F10.

8F13: “Homer at the Bat” (Season 3 / February 20, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Smithers and Mr. Burns

Love this episode, even though I don’t know anything about baseball and the plot is straight-up stolen from that Michael Jordon/Bugs Bunny classic, “Space Jam.”

Guest stars can be a tricky thing, and having a whole bunch of them in one episode can easily turn into a gimmick or a distraction. But it works here, because the heart of the story is still with Homer, the baseball celebrities just enhance it. And they’re really funny in it, too. I can only imagine how this plays for someone who actually knows the sport and these players. Maybe it’s like what I felt when I watched the “Futurama” episode with all the cast members of the original “Star Trek” in it? Or that “Family Guy” with all the cast members of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Well, maybe not so much that last one.

Anyway, if you have the DVD I recommend checking out the commentary for this one. It’s pretty fun, there are a lot of stories about recording the baseball people and you get to hear which one of them was kind of a dick and also which two Simpsons cast members kinda hated the script and didn’t want to do it.

  • -“Mattingly! I thought I told you to trim those sideburns.”

3F10: “Team Homer” (Season 7 / January 7, 1996)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson in bed at night

-“No, I will not pay you $500 for sex.”

As much as I love “Homer at the Bat,” I’m going to have to let “Team Homer” win this one. They’re both very good episodes. But watching them back to back, I just enjoyed this one a bit more.

The winner: 3F10, “Team Homer.”

Round 109: Lisa’s Wedding vs. Treehouse of Horror XIV

Round 109: 2F15 vs. EABF21.

2F15: “Lisa’s Wedding” (Season 6 / March 19, 1995)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Future Lisa and Hugh enjoy the sunset

Mandy Patinkin!


EABF21: “Treehouse of Horror XIV” (Season 15 /November 2, 2003)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Al Jean

Dr. Dudley Herschbach and Jennifer Garner

-Jennifer Garner: “You know, Dr. Herschbach, our jobs are actually not that different.”
Dr. Dudley Herschbach: “I disagree.”

Pretty fun Halloween special. I wouldn’t consider any of the segments “classic,” but I laughed a few times.

The winner: 2F15, “Lisa’s Wedding.”

(Sorry for the long absence and now this super short entry. Was kinda preoccupied there for a while. Regular scheduling should resume any day now.)

Round 107: Bart’s Dog Gets an “F” vs. Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble”

Round 107: 7F14 vs. AABF04.

7F14: “Bart’s Dog Gets an ‘F’” (Season 2 / March 7, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Santa's Little Helper burying a potted plant

It’s no “Dog of Death,” and a few of the first season remnants, like Homer’s jealousy of Flanders’ prosperity, do stick out. But it’s a nice story with a couple of good jokes here and there. And I think it was this episode that ignited my love for an enthusiastic “Aloha!” greeting every once and a while.


AABF04: “Homer Simpson in: ‘Kidney Trouble’” (Season 10 / December 6, 1998)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Call Me Delish-Mael Taffy Shop

I hate this episode. It’s not very funny, the characters (especially Homer) are erratically jumping from one emotion to another, and the “resolution” at the end is appalling. I don’t mind kicking this one out of the tournament, at all.

The winner: 7F14, “Bart’s Dog Gets an ‘F’.”

Round 106: Trash of the Titans vs. Lisa the Simpson

Round 106: 5F09 vs. 4F24.

5F09: “Trash of the Titans” (Season 9 / April 26, 1998)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson and the Garbage Men Can

Well.

I always loved this episode. It’s funny. It’s got Steve Martin in a great guest spot that’s an actual character and not just a pointless cameo. There’s the song, of course.

So it’s a good episode. But it’s not a good Simpsons episode. If anything, it’s that rare beast, a good Zombie Simpsons episode. It’s a fun idea, but you could swap out Homer Simpson for Peter Griffin and nothing would be lost. Actually, I think this story would have made more sense on Family Guy.

Steve Martin’s character is molded in the Frank Grimes fashion, a “real life” person visiting the cartoon world. To get maximum contrast they had to amp up the wackiness, of course. Homer is in peak jerk-mode, which can be fun, for a short while. But it leaves an aftertaste.


4F24: “Lisa the Simpson” (Season 9 / March 8, 1998)
Written by Ned Goldreyer
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lisa Simpson alone in her classroom

This episode aired just a few weeks before “Trash of the Titans,” but it feels very different. That’s because “Lisa the Simpson” was one of the last shows produced under Oakley & Weinstein, before Mike Scully took over as showrunner. I like some of Scully’s episodes, but there really is a tangible shift in how The Simpsons look and feel between these episodes.

Sorry, Bono, but the winner is: 4F24, “Lisa the Simpson.”

Round 92: When Flanders Failed vs. The War of the Simpsons

Round 92: 7F23 vs. 7F20.

7F23: “When Flanders Failed” (Season 3 / October 3, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson hanging by his underwear on a basketball hoop.

Whenever Homer has some change-of-heart or learning experience at the end of an episode they have to go out of their way to make him as obnoxious and mean as they can in the rest of the episodes, and that’s not the Homer Simpson I like to see. Bart’s story is more fun, especially when Lisa gets involved, as well.

  • -“Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well, now I need you to do a favor for me.”

7F20: “The War of the Simpsons” (Season 2 / May 2, 1991)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

These episodes were produced very close to each other and so they feel somewhat similar. Again Homer is insufferable throughout, only this time he doesn’t really learn anything. In fact the resolution of the main plot is kind of unsatisfying. Bart and Lisa’s story is more enjoyable in this episode, as well, although even their mischief goes a little too far for my taste. At least Grandpa wins out in the end, I was beginning to feel bad for him for a while there.

Homer Simpsons opening the trunk of his car. The shot of Homer opening the trunk of his car is interesting. It reads as an homage to Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” which had been out for a few months when the episode aired, but in fact it was conceived before the writers and the director had seen the film. In the commentary track, Mike Reiss even remarks that they “did that shot before Scorsese, or Quentin Tarantino.” Before Kevin Smith, too.

The winner: 7F20: “The War of the Simpsons.” I didn’t really like either story, but 7F20 has a few great moments of animation I enjoyed.