128th-Final, Round 5: The Homer They Fall vs. Lady Bouvier’s Lover

128th-final, round 5: 4F03 vs. 1F21.

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

"No running!"

“No running!”

I think if I had never started this tournament I’d happily file this one under “masterpiece” and move on, but since I’m comparing episodes I can’t help but note small things that, for lack of a better rationale, would seem out of place in what I’d picture as a “perfect” Simpsons episode. Tiny moments like Homer dragging Marge into the gadget store against her will (“Homer, please, you’re hurting my arm.”) just don’t sit right with me. And I already got into my problems with Homer being a human punching bag for most of the episode last time I watched it.

  • Janie saying “No running!” in the hallways is one of those things I probably missed the first 20 times I watched the episode but now think is one of the funniest things ever.
  • -Michael Buffer: “Due to popular demand, we will forego our national anthem.”

1F21: “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 / May 12, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer. Showrunner: David Mirkin

Grandpa Abe Simpson in 1F21 Lady Bouvier’s Lover

How good is this episode? I was so enthralled watching it that I completely forgot that I was supposed to take down notes or think about it critically in any capacity. I was just enjoying it from start to finish. And while I do like “The Homer They Fall” very much, the choice here is clear:

The winner: 1F21, “Lady Bouvier’s Lover.”

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 62: Lisa the Iconoclast vs. Catch ‘Em if You Can

Round 62: 3F13 vs. FABF14.

3F13: “Lisa the Iconoclast” (Season 7 / February 18, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa ringing the bell as town criers.

Love this one. It was one of the episodes on that imported VHS tape that was my first foray into the world of not-dubbed-into-German Simpsons, so it holds a special place for me, anyway. But even without that, how could I not just love it? I wrote about my fondness of Lisa and Homer bonding before, and this episode is full of that. And Homer’s not reduced to being a big, loud jerk (well, maybe towards Flanders, but c’mon) but instead pursues the town-crier position with as noble a spirit as he would a mountain of sugar.

  • It’s an exciting story, too. Feels very much like a movie, especially with the parade at the end.
  • -“I’ve got nothing but respect for the office of town crier but this is well outside your jurisdiction.”
  • (Donald Sutherland!)

FABF14: “Catch ‘Em if You Can” (Season 15 / April 25, 2004)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer and Marge Simpson

Eh.

It’s not that this episode is particularly bad – although it isn’t particularly good, either – but at this point in the series everything’s just… eh. Everything’s been done, so everything feels old. The “Catch Me If You Can” credits parody is well done, I guess, but you kinda wonder why it’s even here.

You wonder why this show is even still here.

The winner: 3F13, “Lisa the Iconoclast.”

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.”

Round 8: Sideshow Bob Roberts vs. Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’

Round 8: 2F02 vs. 3F19.

2F02: “Sideshow Bob Roberts” (Season 6 / October 9, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Smithers as Deep Throat

This is another great example of how “The Simpsons” can be appreciated on multiple levels. I first saw the episode when I was a 14 year old kid somewhere in Germany. I didn’t know who Rush Limbaugh was, or Willy Horton, or what it really meant to be “Democrat” or “Republican.” (True story: On the eve of the 1992 presidential election, somebody asked me who I wanted to win and I said “Bush, because Clinton looks like a pig.”) I hadn’t seen “All the President’s Men” or knew much about Watergate. Still, I enjoyed the episode a lot, and I still do, today. Recognizing all the stuff the show references adds a great deal to the viewing experience, but being ignorant of them doesn’t take anything away from it.

  • “My question’s about the budget” is something I still say whenever I or somebody else goes off on a long rant that doesn’t seem to have any point to it.
  • Love the campaign ads. It’s basically a choice between incompetent and evil. (So… nothing has changed, really.)
  • “I can’t believe a convicted felon would get so many votes and another convicted felon would get so few.”

3F19: “Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’” (Season 7 / April 28, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier
Directed by Jeffrey Lynch
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Jeff Weinstein

Bart Simpson diving for treasure.

Some beautiful animation in this one, and hand-drawn, at that. Not too thrilled about all the retconning, but the (Sgt. Rock inspired) flashback to WWII was pretty funny, and Burns, as usual, makes for a good villain.

I love that “The Simpsons” can make an episode centered entirely around a secondary character like Grandpa. I enjoy family-centric episodes more, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it when the show strays from the familiar.

The winner: 2F02, “Sideshow Bob Roberts.” But I really want to point out how beautiful the direction and animation in 3F19 is. (And if you’re interested in how they did it, I recommend you listen to the episode’s audio commentary, where Jeff Lynch and David Silverman talk a bit about it.)

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.