Round 91: Krusty Gets Kancelled vs. Treehouse of Horror

Round 91: 9F19 vs. 7F04.

9F19: “Krusty Gets Kancelled” (Season 4 / May 13, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Worker and Parasite

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Johnny Carson fan, so naturally I got a huge kick out of his appearance here. (It may, in fact, have been this very episode that spawned my fascination with Carson.)

The many other celebrity voices worked very well, too. The episode is filled with funny moments and observations and just a great joy to watch.

7F04: “Treehouse of Horror” (Season 2 /October 25, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder / Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky / Sam Simon, Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by Rich Moore / Wes Archer / David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson firing up the grill in a Halloween special.

The first Simpsons Halloween Special is still one of my favorites. All three segments are fun, but of course “The Raven” takes the cake, with James Earl Jones and Dan Castellaneta’s readings and the beautiful staging and animation by David Silverman.

The winner: 9F19, “Krusty Gets Kancelled.”


Round 88: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? vs. Blood Feud

Round 88: 8F23 vs. 7F22.

8F23: “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” (Season 3 / August 27, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Flanders family sings farewell to Herbert Powell

Danny DeVito reprises his role as Unky Herb from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?“ and again his voice effortlessly blends in with the rest of the cast. This is late into Al and Mike’s first season, so things start to get a little bit more outlandish (Smither’s sperm!?, the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence), but at the core there’s a solid, grounded story.

And, again, I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully animated the show is. The angles! The shadows!

  • -“This is one of our many light switches. It functions in both the on and off mode. On. Off. On. Off.”
  • Totally forgot about the fantastic “2001: A Space Odyssey” scene.

7F22: “Blood Feud” (Season 2 / July 11, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Smithers offering Dr. Hibbert his blood to save Mr. Burns' life

A lot of memorable moments in this one, from Lisa teaching Maggie new words, Homer’s twisted telling of the story of Hercules and the Lion (-“Is it a Bible story?” -“Probably.”) to his angry letter to Mr. Burns and of course the introduction of future basement-dweller Xtapolapocetl.

  • -“‘Senile,’ eh? ‘Buck-toothed,’ am I? ‘Bony arms,’ are they? ‘Liver spots,’ did I? ‘Chinless,’ will you?”

The winner: 7F22, “Blood Feud.”

Round 75: Homer’s Night Out vs. A Star is Burns

Round 75: 7G10 vs. 2F31.

7G10: “Homer’s Night Out” (Season 1 / March 25, 1990)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Developed by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Halfway through this episode I scribbled in my notes something about how prudish it seemed that Marge would kick Homer out of the house just for dancing with an ecdysiast (that’s the fancy word for stripper). Talk about sex-negativity!

But then Marge explained to Homer (and me) why she was so angry: because he was being a bad role-model for Bart by letting him see his father treat a woman like an object and not a human being. The third act, with Homer taking Bart to see and talk to Princess Kashmir, was what really sold me on this episode. She is portrayed neither as a saint nor a whore, just a person doing a job. Not bad for a cartoon from over twenty years ago.

2F31: “A Star is Burns” (Season 6 / March 5, 1995)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Developed by James L. Brooks, Sam Simon

I’m not exactly siding with Matt Groening here – a crossover to promote another show is fine, especially considering the things he didn’t pull his name from – but Jim Brooks gleefully rubbing it in (the absent and unmentioned) Matt’s face on the commentary doesn’t make him look all that great, either.

The episode itself is fine. A few memorable lines, and the movie parodies and references are very well done. But nothing extraordinary.

The winner: 7G10, “Homer’s Night Out.”


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 68: Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie vs. Summer of 4 Ft. 2

Round 68: 9F03 vs. 3F22.

9F03: “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” (Season 4 / November 3, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Scratchy getting a flamethrower through the head

Solid episode that made me laugh out loud a couple of times. To this day I will quote Bart’s “Boy, time really flies when you’re reading– The Bible? Ew.” when pretending to read a book. And you gotta love Homer’s insight knowledge of Chief Justices of the Supreme Court.

3F22: “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” (Season 7 / May 19, 1996)
Written by Dan Greaney
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart Simpson got the dud.

“You got the dud.”

Not as many instantly quotable lines as 9F03 (although there are some), but of course I love any good Lisa and Bart episode, and this one has to be up there among the very best of them.

  • -“These are my only friends. Grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he kissed more boys than I ever will.”
    -“Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”

The winner: 3F22, “Summer of 4 Ft. 2.”


Round 58: Lisa’s Substitute vs. $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)

Round 58: 7F19 vs. 1F08.

7F19: “Lisa’s Substitute” (Season 2 / April 25, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Mr. Bergstrom reading to Lisa Simpson's class.

Dustin Hoffman, center

Damn. Beautiful.

This makes a great companion piece to season 3’s “Bart the Lover.” Maybe the two episodes meet in the second quarter-final. If they make it that far, that is. And they just might.

1F08: “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)” (Season 5 / December 16, 1993)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson dealing cards to Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise from Rain Man.

Dustin Hoffman, left

The difference between these two episodes is striking. So much, in fact, that I’d prefer to think of them as coming from two different shows altogether. There’s much discussion concerning “Zombie Simpsons,” but the differences in style, humor, tone between the first two, three, maybe four seasons to those that came after can be just as striking. (Only that both incarnations are great, while Zombie Simpsons are mostly shit.)

So we have an apples and oranges situation here. How do I compare them? I do have to make a decision, have to kick one of them out of the tournament. So I ask myself, once more, if I could only watch one of the two episodes ever again, which one would it be? If I could only eat either bananas or apples going forward, what would I chose?

The winner: Apples. Also, 7F19, “Lisa’s Substitute.”


Round 56: Marge vs. the Monorail vs. Treehouse of Horror VI

Round 56: 9F10 vs. 3F04.

9F10: “Marge vs. the Monorail” (Season 4 / January 14, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Chief Wiggum looking at the monorail buzzing through Springfield

(This is supposed to be an animated gif. If it doesn’t work try clicking on it.)

God, I love this episode so much. The strange thing is, I see it more as a Conan O’Brien-project than a Simpsons-episode. It has all the hallmarks of Conan’s style of comedy: it’s crazy, outlandish, absurdist. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, it stretches, even snaps the rubber-band reality of the show. It doesn’t have any of the emotional weight I missed in some other episodes, but here, that really doesn’t matter. It’s just too funny.

  • As usual, the commentary featuring O’Brien and others is pure gold.
  • After Conan’s been ranting about old people and how they all eat mush, Al Jean asks “Are there any other minorities you’d like to sound off against on this DVD no one will ever hear?,” to which he replies, “Old people, sadly, are not a minority.”

3F04: “Treehouse of Horror VI” (Season 7 / October 29, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder, Steve Tompkins, David S. Cohen
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart Simpson's eyes popping out.

Possibly the funniest and most memorable Halloween special. I liked the second segment best, with the beautifully painted backgrounds in Bart’s dream and all the other visual references. (The poses on Martin as he’s dying in his sleep are just perfect.)

  • -“Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong all the time?”
  • -“These monsters are destroying everything we hold dear. — And you kids should have jackets on.”
  • -“Lousy Smarch weather.”

The winner: 9F10, “Marge vs. the Monorail.”