A Hypothetical Aside and Round 113: Homer Badman vs. The Wandering Juvie

Before we get to Round 113, a thought experiment.

Imagine The Simpsons had ended in 1998, with nine seasons aired. After Oakley & Weinstein finished their production run with “Lisa the Simpson,” the network decided not to order any more episodes. Maybe the actors wanted too much money or something. Stranger things have happened.

So the show’s cancelled and the fans are upset, naturally. Yes, there are already many who claim The Simpsons have jumped the shark and haven’t been up to the high standards set by its early seasons in years. And that whole Armin Tamzarian debacle? Let’s not even talk about it. But surely the show could have had a few more decent years if given the chance!

Alas, it’s not meant to be. The Simpsons are history. Fox is already developing a new cartoon to take up the time slot. Another family sitcom. But this time there’s a talking dog. Great.

Even with the show off the air, there’s still money to be made with the Simpsons brand, though. The next decade will see the release of all nine seasons on DVD and old episodes repeated ad nauseam in syndication. You can buy Bart’s face on a pair of shorts and Homer’s on a box of donuts.

And then the same thing will happen to The Simpsons that has happened to every single marketable franchise in the history of popular culture. They will come back. Just like The Muppets and the Looney Tunes and the Star Trek.

If you told Simpsons fans from my hypothetical 1998 that 15 years later they could turn on the television and watch a show called “The Simpsons,” with characters that look almost exactly as the ones they know, only slightly more polished (The animation’s digital now!) and with voices that, while recognizable, sound ever so slightly off (Did they get all the original voice actors back? Are they all still alive? Maybe they forgot how to do the voices?), and credits that feature some familiar names but also a lot of new ones — they wouldn’t be surprised. They brought back “Lost in Space,” for Pete’s sake! Of course they’d bring back “The Simpsons.”

Would they like the reboot? Who knows. Probably not, but they wouldn’t really care, either way. They would recognize that it’s a different show, for a different audience. For a different time. A different mindset.

I don’t think they’d give it much thought. They have their Simpsons, this decade has theirs. General consensus would probably be that Classic Simpsons is better than New Simpsons. There’d be debates online, of course. But in general everybody would understand that none if it really matters. Certainly no one would devise an elaborate tournament that includes individual episodes of both distinctive shows.

That would be like a tournament set up to find one person’s “favorite episode of Cheers or Family Ties.”

I’ll get further into all of this and what it means for the tournament in a few weeks, after round 128 (and the 256th-finale). Until then, let’s compare some apples and oranges.

 

Round 113: 2F06 vs. FABF11.

2F06: “Homer Badman” (Season 6 / November 27, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson curled up in bed watching The Late Show with David Letterman

I’m not a huge fan of this episode’s first act, but once the media satire kicks in I’m fully on board. The portrayal of 24 hour news coverage, wild speculation and valuing entertainment over information may seem tame today, but when this aired 20 years ago the dramatic escalation of events was considered more a cautionary tale than an accurate depiction. If only they’d listened.

  • – ” ♫ There’ll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans — under the sea! ♫ “

FABF11: “The Wandering Juvie” (Season 15 / March 28, 2004)
Written by John Frink & Don Payne
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Blacksmith

Not even a minute in and Homer gets trampled on by a horde of shoppers. Heels in the eyes and everything. I’ve covered before how I hate that physically abusing Homer got to be more and more a go to for cheap laughs as the seasons reached double digits. Only I’m not laughing.

The rest of the episode’s not any funnier, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen or anything. Charles Napier and Sarah Michelle Gellar do a good job as guest actors and there are a couple of nice-looking shots here and there.

The winner: 2F06, “Homer Badman.”

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Round 72: I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot vs. Simpson and Delilah

Round 72: FABF04 vs. 7F02.

FABF04: “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot” (Season 15 / January 11, 2004)
Written by Dan Greaney & Allen Glazier
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Lisa's cat, Snowball III, about to die in an aquarium

I have now seen this episode four times. Once on TV, once when the DVD came out, once with commentary, and now for this tournament. That’s enough. I don’t ever want to watch it again.

The writers love torturing Homer, and sometimes, with a little restraint and focus, that can make a good episode (“The Homer They Fall,” “Homerpalooza“), but this is season 15, and restraint and focus are long gone.


7F02: “Simpson and Delilah” (Season 2 / October 18, 1990)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Karl buying Homer (with hair) a new suit

Fun(?) fact: At the start of the episode, when they’re watching the Grade School Challenge and Homer yells out “Hitler!,” Bart’s response (“Hitler?”) was, for some reason, slightly expanded in the German dubbing, where he incredulously says “Hitler? Was denn noch?” To this day, when someone answers a questions with “Hitler,” I’ll try to respond with that, even if it’s only under my breath.

Anyway, terrific episode.

The winner: 7F02, “Simpson and Delilah.”

Round 50: Mayored to the Mob vs. Moe Baby Blues

Round 50: AABF05 vs. EABF17.

AABF05: “Mayored to the Mob” (Season 10 / December 20, 1998)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner:  Mike Scully

Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fourth Doctor Who, Godzilla and Neil Armstrong signing autographs at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.

Click to embiggen.

I’m getting pretty good at stitching together these panning shots. Useless talent #66.

A rather mixed episode. More of it good than bad, but there’s definitely some bad stuff. I didn’t like Homer’s actions and attitudes as Quimby’s bodyguard, but I gotta say I loved seeing him in that black tux. Joe Mantegna’s always a welcome voice, and animation-pro Mark Hamill did a good job playing himself and the bodyguard instructor.

  • “Roger Corman’s Titanic.” Brilliant. Perfect match of animation and sound effects.
  • Never thought Frank Nelson was very funny, never thought Yes Guy was very funny.
  • Good musical number near the end.

EABF17: “Moe Baby Blues” (Season 14 / May 18, 2003)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Moe, Marge and Homer Simpson looking at a diorama of Moe's Tavern.

“I peed my pants.”

After a real stinker of a first act I was ready to kick this one out of the tournament without regret. But then a funny thing happened. And then another. Funny things kept happening.

The ugly stuff first. I talked about the concept of the rubber-band reality before, and how that band had pretty much snapped sometime in the early double digit seasons. We get some of that here, most strikingly with the Venus flytrap luring in Homer with a hot dog.

Then there’s some gross-out humor I don’t really care for. Krusty jumping into a pile of manure, Moe dislocating his shoulder.

But the more the episode went on, the better it got. Whereas the episode above produced a few chuckles here and there, this one had me actually laughing, at things like Homer being in Burns’ carpool, or Moe acting out The Godfather with Maggie’s toys.

I was very impressed with the staging and animation of the fourth act. Some very cool color choices and angles. And I liked the little photo montage at the end, too.

The winner: EABF17, “Moe Baby Blues,” marking the first true win for an Al Jean episode.