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


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 128: Bart on the Road vs. Bart’s Friend Falls in Love

Round 128: 3F17 vs. 8F22.

3F17: “Bart on the Road” (Season 7 / March 31, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa Simpsons roasting marshmallows over a bucket fire in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

Been a while since the last round, sorry. I actually watched these episodes last month but then I got super busy, and later when I wasn’t busy I kinda forgot about it, and then maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to write this entry because it means that after 128 rounds the first phase of the tournament is over, which in turn means that I am old, and so are you. We’re all old, people. No way around it.

“Bart on the Road” is pretty much perfect. We’ve got an immensely fun main-plot (“Grammar Rodeo? We’re going to a Grammar Rodeo?”), and a sweet Homer-and-Lisa subplot to boot. I’m not a huge fan of the Bart-as-a-courier-shipping-eyeballs-to-Hong-Kong ending, but that’s a minor gripe.

  • Lisa: “I knew it! Because why would they have our National Rodeo in another nation?”

8F22: “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love” (Season 3 / May 7, 1992)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Sad Milhouse

Fantastic. My favorite bits:

  • That whole Raiders of the Lost Ark opening sequence. Great work from the animation and sound departments.
  • Skinner’s Vietnam stories. Again, it’s the dramatic animation that makes this so powerful. (Well, that and Harry’s performance.)
  • “Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What”
  • -Lisa: “According to Eternity magazine you can lose weight through subliminal learning. That’s where an idea is subtly implanted in your head without you even knowing it.”
    -Homer: “Oh, Lisa, that’s a load of rich creamery butter.”
  • Great Itchy & Scratchy. Short and to the point.
  • -Milhouse: “How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet but it ended up in tragedy.”

The winner: 8F22, “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love.” Tough decision, though. “Bart on the Road” is one of my favorite episodes, as well.

Round 102: When You Dish Upon a Star vs. Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood

Round 102: 5F19 vs. 1F06.

5F19: “When You Dish Upon a Star” (Season 10 / November 8, 1998)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin with her Academy Award

-Alec Baldwin: “Honey, why don’t you give that thing a rest? You’re taking the finish off.”
-Kim Basinger: “When you win one, you can take care of it however you want.”

Alec Baldwin’s in the news right now because he wrote something or said something that somebody then wrote about or maybe he tweeted something that the New Yorker then blogged about. Look, I’m not here to talk about Alec Baldwin, but you know, if people happen to search for his name in combination with the term “gay slur” (as Google’s auto-complete suggests many do) and in turn find this website that has nothing to say about Alec Baldwin’s shocking (I guess?) behavior, well, that’s unfortunate. Bad Google!

Anyway, I was in a bit of a bad mood when I watched this episode and I’m still in a bad mood now, so that might tell us something. It’s not panda rape bad, but it’s pretty bad. There are a few funny things I can see making the writers laugh when they came up with it but maybe after the third draft they should have said, You know what? Let’s just not make this episode, after all.

1F06: “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood” (Season 5 / November 18, 1993)
Written by Dan McGrath
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Barney Gumble, and Bart and Milhouse high on an all-syrup squishee

One of the most memorable Simpsons episodes, no doubt. And it’s only in the context of the tournament that I find flaws with it, but I’ll go into them (hint: it starts with an “H” and ends with “omer is too much of a jerk”) when we see 1F06 again, because…

… the winner is: 1F06, “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood.”

Round 86: The Secret War of Lisa Simpson vs. Homer’s Triple Bypass

Round 86: 4F21 vs. 9F09.

4F21: “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson” (Season 8 / May 18, 1997)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Mike Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lisa and Bart Simpson doing push-ups in the rain

I don’t think there’s a single Oakley & Weinstein episode I actively dislike, but there are a few, like this one, that just don’t quite resonate with me the way that, say, “A Fish Called Selma” does.

“The Secret War” is funny and well-crafted, the kids’ story is interesting and relevant. I have no complaints. It’s just… if the episode suddenly disappeared I don’t think I’d miss it.

9F09: “Homer’s Triple Bypass” (Season 4 / December 17, 1992)
Written by Gary Apple, Michael Carrington
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson and Smithers in Mr. Burns office

When trying to explain how, when, and why The Simpsons went bad, the focus is mostly on the writers and the showrunners. And most of the blame certainly does lie with them. But looking at the astonishingly beautifully animation of this and other episodes directed by David Silverman, it is clear that the show lost something crucial when he stopped directing. Silverman is still on staff as supervising director, but his last own episode (that’s not a clip show or a Halloween special) is season 7’s “Mother Simpson.”

There are other, unquestionably talented directors working for the show, but, to me, David Silverman stands out as the most ambitious and innovative of them all. His episodes look and feel as dramatic and cinematic as they are funny. (I also wrote about the stark contrast between the way the show used to look and how it looks now in Round 23.)

  • -“Remember your hippopotamus oath.”
  • Always love seeing Homer with his half-glasses on, in bed, going over bills.
  • -“And that’s why God causes train wrecks.”

The winner: 9F09, “Homer’s Triple Bypass.

Round 83: Mother Simpson vs. Much Apu About Nothing

Round 83: 3F06 vs. 3F20.

3F06: “Mother Simpson” (Season 7 / November 19, 1995)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson sitting on his car under a starry sky

Before I watched this one again I endured the latest episode from season 25 (“YOLO,” sigh.) and what struck me comparing the two was just how utterly beautiful the show used to look. “Mother Simpsons” features awe-inspiring drawing, staging, acting, modeling and painting. as it’s to be expected from the genius that is David Silverman. But of course the writing is at the same, high level. The episode is flat-out funny, tells a great story, had me emotionally invested in the characters and has many quotable lines throughout.

  • “We are richer for having lost him.”
  • Great eye acting!
  • “Damn you, Walt Whitman!”

3F20: “Much Apu About Nothing” (Season 7 / May 5, 1996)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson teaching Apu about America

And again I have to decide between two equally great episodes. I laughed more during this one than during “Mother Simpson,” and I like the social/political commentary in “Much Apu,” so I’m leaning towards it, but that really shouldn’t take anything away from 3F06. They are both near perfect episodes.

  • Everything involving the bear is awesome.
  • “Book him, Lou. One count of being a bear. And one count of being an accessory to being a bear.”
  • “Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax.”
  • -“There is not nearly enough time to learn over 200 years of American history.”
    -“Oh, it can’t be that many.”

The winner: 3F20, “Much Apu About Nothing.”

Round 80: Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo vs. The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons

Round 80: AABF20 vs. 5F04.

AABF20: “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” (Season 10 / May 16, 1999)
Written by Donick Cary & Dan Greaney
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Simpsons

Least offensive frame.

Oh boy. After what might very well be the worst opening eight minutes in the show’s history – it’s definitely the worst I’ve seen in the tournament so far – I was about to turn this episode off, but decided to switch to the commentary instead. This is where I went from being disappointed to just being sad. This episode and others like it are no mistakes. They weren’t intended to be something else but through a series of bad decisions ended up being what they are. No, this is exactly what the powers that be wanted it to be.

And it’s their right, of course. And who am I to complain? There are so many masterpieces bearing the name “The Simpsons” that I literally had to come up with a grand scheme to decide which one of them I like best. I just have to get used to the fact that “The Simpsons” means something else now, just like it meant something else in the first two years.

  • The Rashomon joke was good, though.

5F04: “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons” (Season 9 / November 16, 1997)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Simpsons

Not as awful as the other one. A laugh or two, but mostly just disappointed sighs.

The winner: 1F22, “Bart of Darkness,” and no questions asked.

Round 30: Marge in Chains vs. Bart After Dark

Round 30: 9F20 vs. 4F06.

9F20: “Marge in Chains” (Season 4 / May 6, 1993)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Lionel Hutz imagining a world without lawyers.

“If there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers.
Can you imagine a world without lawyers?”

I had kinda forgotten about this episode. Certain parts of it (definitely the scene above) are all-time favorites, but I couldn’t have placed them in this specific episode. Looking at the bracket and the show this one is up against I fear “Marge in Chains” won’t make it to the next round (haven’t decided yet, though), which is a shame. In par with the rest of the season this one is incredibly funny and features another great Phil Hartman performance.

Commentary trivia:
– Al Jean ordered Bill & Josh to read Camus’ “The Plague” in preparation for this episode.
– Conan O’Brien was (probably still is) obsessed with big sandwiches.
– (Possible) TV firsts in this episode: JFK joke, MAD fold-in joke, somebody saying “Eep!”
– Matt Groening: not a huge fan of Homer wearing Marge’s wedding dress.
– Al really hates Jimmy Carter.

  • Love the Psycho reference. Shot-for-shot, perfect music.
  • Favorite Lionel Hutz moment in this tournament so far:
    – “What color tie am I wearing?”
    – “You are wearing a red-and-white striped club tie in a half Windsor knot.”
    – “Oh, I am, am I? Is that what you think? Well if that is what you think…”

4F06: “Bart After Dark” (Season 8 / November 24, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson wearing a brown paper bag as pants.

“I have misplaced my pants.”

Okay, sorry 9F20, you’re great, but this one’s a comedy masterpiece.

  • Cat in the furnace.
  • Tress MacNeille is always great, but this may just be her crowning achievement.
  • Bill & Josh aren’t the only things “Bart After Dark” has in common with “Marge in Chains.” We also get, in both of these episodes: Marge leaving the house for an extended amount of time and said house instantly filling up with garbage, Mayor Quimby vacationing on a tropical island, a Hitchcock reference (here it’s “North by Northwest”), somebody saying “Eep!” and, finally, David Crosby.

The winner: 4F06: “Bart After Dark.”