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.”

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Round 96: The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace vs. My Mother the Carjacker

Round 96: 5F21 vs. EABF18.

5F21: “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” (Season 10 / September 20, 1998)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Dogs gnawing on burried Homer Simpson's legs

A fun, memorable episode. Homer verges on the edge of likability at times – his motivation here seems to be spite more than anything else – but it’s okay because the plot works, the jokes are funny and the animation and acting are quite beautiful.

  • -Lisa: “Dad, women won’t like being shot in the face.”
    -Homer: “Women will like what I tell them to like.”
  • -Kent Brockman: “Authorities say the phony pope can be recognized by his high-top sneakers and incredibly foul mouth.”

EABF18: “My Mother the Carjacker” (Season 15 / November 9, 2003)
Written by Michael Price
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson looking for a hidden message in the Springfield Shopper newspaper

Not a fan. I’m willing to forgive outlandish plots, and abandoning all logic and character traits, if an episode at least manages to make me laugh, or if it has something to say.

This one didn’t, and it hasn’t.

The winner: 5F21, “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace.”

Round 64: There’s Something About Marrying vs. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

Round 64: GABF04 vs. 4F15.

GABF04: “There’s Something About Marrying” (Season 16 / February 20, 2005)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Al Jean

Death Before Gay Marriage sign

One thing that bothers me so much about Zombie Simpsons is that things just happen. People walk in and out of frame willy-nilly – What, was Disco Stu just hanging around the Simpson house, waiting for his name to come up in conversation somewhere? – character traits are adjusted to the plot, not the other way around.

The word “zombie” doesn’t really apply, now that I think about it. Life- and brainless, yes, but at least zombies have some agenda and consistency. These Simpsons are more like string-puppets, dragged around and contorted into whichever shape this week’s episode’s crazy story needs them to be in.

On a less bitter note, I like how this episode treats marriage. Not “gay marriage” (such an antiquated term), but marriage, the concept. It’s a silly thing, if you think about it, and it’s mostly about money, anyway. Good on them for pointing that out. I just wish they had done it in an episode of “The Simpsons,” not “Family Guy.”


4F15: “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment” (Season 8 / March 16, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Alcohol Prohibited in Springfield

I will have plenty of time talking about this episode in future rounds, so for now just a matter of contrast:

There is a scene where Homer and Marge are talking in their kitchen when a disheveled Chief Wiggum happens to walk past their window and begins talking to them. It’s important for the plot because it both gives Homer the idea to start his Beer Baron business and it sets up Wiggum’s involvement in the story later.

The writers had to come up with a feasible way to have Homer and Wiggum meet, and that’s why they had Homer and Marge hold their conversation in the kitchen, where there is a window overlooking the street. It’s still a convenient coincidence that Wiggum happened to stagger by just that minute, but not an inconceivable one.

As opposed to, say, Disco Stu walking into Marge’s bedroom.

  • -“Remember, honey, we’re disobeying an unjust law here. We’re patriots. Like… all those people in jail.”

The winner: 4F15, “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment.”

Round 6: The Trouble with Trillions vs. Simpsons Bible Stories

Round 6: 5F14 vs. AABF14.

5F14: “The Trouble with Trillions” (Season 9 / April 5, 1998)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson filling out his tax returns.

“Marge, if anyone asks, you require 24-hour nursing care, Lisa’s a clergyman, Maggie is seven people, and Bart was wounded in Vietnam.”

Did you file your taxes yet? The idea of starting the episode on New Year’s Eve, have Ned file his returns the next morning (“8:45? Here I am yapping away like it’s 8:35!”) and then fast-forwarding to April 15 is a great one. From there it’s a long way to Burns, Smithers and Homer on a raft returning from Cuba, but the episode gets there in a semi-believable way, so that’s okay.

  • This episode marks the first time in this tournament (but not in the series) that the Charles Nelson Reilly noise is employed (without the collar yank, though). Last month I asked Simpsons writer Matt Selman how they represent the Charles Nelson Reilly noise in the scripts. Answer: “[Charles Nelson Reilly noise].” Those crazy writers and their technical terms!
  • – “Daddy, what do taxes pay for?”
    – “Oh, why, everything! Policeman, trees, sunshine. And let’s not forget the folks who just don’t feel like working, God bless ’em.”
  • I would have never noticed it without Ian Maxtone-Graham pointing it out in the commentary, but ever since then Homer’s package magically turning into a ball of string makes me laugh every time I see it.
  • When Homer asks the guys in the bar to talk about crimes being committed, they specifically reference things he did in past episodes: running moonshine out of his basement, a telemarketing scam, and the time he beat up George Bush.

AABF14: “Simpsons Bible Stories” (Season 10 / April 4, 1999)
Written by Tim Long, Larry Doyle, Matt Selman
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Reverend Lovejoy and a melting, chocolate Easter bunny.

Huh. I kinda remember at the very least not actively disliking this episode, and maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood today, but the thing is: watching it again, I didn’t laugh once. In fact, all that my notes say about “Bible Stories” is “didn’t laugh once” and “oh, look, it’s the Orb of Isis from ‘Lost Our Lisa.’ That was great episode.”

The winner: 5F14: “The Trouble with Trillions.”