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.”

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Round 103: Grade School Confidential vs. Lisa’s Rival

Round 103: 4F09 vs. 1F17.

4F09: “Grade School Confidential” (Season 8 / April 6, 1997)
Written by Rachel Pulido
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson driving Bart and Milhouse around in a makeshift lawnmower space shuttle

One of the rare Simpsons episodes that’s both directed and written by a woman, and both did an excellent job. It reminded me of “Bart the Lover,” another strong Bart and Krabappel episode. “Grade School Confidential” tells a great, timeless story that still has room for plenty of funny stuff, and it showcases the wonderful work of the animators and voice actors, too. I find no faults with this one, and I love Homer’s little moments, like his Richard Nixon impression or the legendary “Krabappel? I’ve been calling her Crandall.” run.

  • -Principal Skinner: “Bart, if life has taught me one lesson repeatedly it’s to know when I’m beaten.”
  • Perfect moment between Superintendent Chalmers and Bart in the movie theater:
    -Chalmers: “You think they actually filmed this in Atlanta?”
    -Bart: “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s important.”

1F17: “Lisa’s Rival” (Season 6 / September 11, 1994)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson yelling Never! in front of his mountain of sugar

I must have seen this episode a hundred times, yet I always forget that this is the one with my all-time favorite crazy Homer B-plot: sugar mountain. That scene, and particularity that rant, are where three of the most gifted people in their respective fields come together to create something magical. George Meyer wrote the words, Dan Castellaneta recorded them, and David Silverman animated. Beautiful.

I like Lisa’s story a lot, too. It’s so true to her character, and it gives Bart the nice opportunity of being mischievous while still standing with his sister.

So. This is a wonderful episode, but my gut says I like 4F09 better. And I’ve gotta go with my gut, even if it means losing Homer’s sugar plot.

  • In the dubbed German version, Lisa’s anagram for “Jeremy Irons” is not “Jeremy’s Iron” but… “Jeremy Irons.” Maybe the only time I prefer a dubbed joke to the original.
  • This has one of my favorite DVD audio commentaries, with lots of anecdotes about the Northridge earthquake and David Mirkin making inappropriate jokes at full steam.

The winner: 4F09, “Grade School Confidential.”

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.