Round 92: When Flanders Failed vs. The War of the Simpsons

Round 92: 7F23 vs. 7F20.

7F23: “When Flanders Failed” (Season 3 / October 3, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson hanging by his underwear on a basketball hoop.

Whenever Homer has some change-of-heart or learning experience at the end of an episode they have to go out of their way to make him as obnoxious and mean as they can in the rest of the episodes, and that’s not the Homer Simpson I like to see. Bart’s story is more fun, especially when Lisa gets involved, as well.

  • -“Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well, now I need you to do a favor for me.”

7F20: “The War of the Simpsons” (Season 2 / May 2, 1991)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

These episodes were produced very close to each other and so they feel somewhat similar. Again Homer is insufferable throughout, only this time he doesn’t really learn anything. In fact the resolution of the main plot is kind of unsatisfying. Bart and Lisa’s story is more enjoyable in this episode, as well, although even their mischief goes a little too far for my taste. At least Grandpa wins out in the end, I was beginning to feel bad for him for a while there.

Homer Simpsons opening the trunk of his car. The shot of Homer opening the trunk of his car is interesting. It reads as an homage to Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” which had been out for a few months when the episode aired, but in fact it was conceived before the writers and the director had seen the film. In the commentary track, Mike Reiss even remarks that they “did that shot before Scorsese, or Quentin Tarantino.” Before Kevin Smith, too.

The winner: 7F20: “The War of the Simpsons.” I didn’t really like either story, but 7F20 has a few great moments of animation I enjoyed.


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 69: Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield vs. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington

Round 69: 3F11 vs. 8F01.

3F11: “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” (Season 7 / February 4, 1996)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Marge Simpson showing off her new Chanel dress

A strong Marge episode with fun B-stories for the rest of the family. Unfortunately this is one of those times where I have no notes, no insights, no complaints I want to share. Not the episode’s fault, just my brain (not) at work.

  • -“Say, I wonder if this Homer Nixon is any relation.”
    -“Unlikely, sir. They spell and pronounce their name differently.”

8F01: “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” (Season 3 / September 26, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Welcome Finalists - Reading Digest - Brevity is... wit.

Like the sign says.

The winner: 8F01, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.”


Round 53: The Otto Show vs. Life on the Fast Lane

I’m back home, but it’s just too hot to think or write or even watch cartoons. I’ll try to do five this week, but don’t hold me to it. You’ve probably got better things to do, as well.

Round 53: 8F21 vs. 7G11.

8F21: “The Otto Show” (Season 3 / April 23, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Spinal Tap kick Muammar Gaddafi‎'s butt

Gotta love Spinal Tap. Otto’s not one of my favorite characters, but this episode is a good spotlight for him.

  • – Marge: “Doesn’t the Bible say, Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me?”
    – Homer: “Yes, but doesn’t the Bible also say, Thou shalt not take… moochers into thy… hut?”
  • Commentary trivia: Apparently, a certain guest star was quite the pain in the neck.

7G11: “Life on the Fast Lane” (Season 1 / March 8, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Marge Simpson and Jacques

Gotta love A. Brooks. His Jacques isn’t my favorite character of his, but it’s still a good one, and the episode is full of great, emotional moments.

I enjoyed both episodes, but they’re not quite at that level, yet. This could go either way, depending on the time of day. Right now, I’d say…

The winner: 8F21, “The Otto Show.”


Round 47: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? vs. Bart the Lover

Round 47: 7F16 vs. 8F16.

7F16: “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” (Season 2 / February 21, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Herb and Homer Simpson

That’s not how mirrors work!

A solid, funny, clever early episode, featuring national treasure Danny DeVito as Homer’s long lost brother Herb. It inspired both a TED Talk and an actual car.

  • Abe: “She did things your mother would never do, like have sex for money.”
  • Love that Homer calls Herb “Unky Herb” near the end.
  • – Herb: “Do you understand?”
    – Homer: “Sort of.”
    – Herb: “Homer! Answer me again with self-confidence.”
    – Homer: “SORT OF!”
  • Per the commentary, pretty much every single great line in this episode was pitched by James L. Brooks.
  • Mike Reiss named the company that took over Powell Motors, Kumatsu, after a character from the Japanese movie “Skinny and Fatty.” Skip to 21:10 on the DVD commentary to hear him tell the story, and enjoy his excellent, heart-felt “D’oh!” when he learns the character’s name was actually Komatsu.)

8F16: “Bart the Lover” (Season 3 / February 13, 1992)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer's postcard to Marge: Maybe it's the beer talking Marge but you've got a butt that won't quit. They got those big pretzels here... five dollars??!!!? get outta here

Even better with Dan Castellaneta reading it out loud.

This episode is not as laugh-out-loud funny as the one above – although it does have very good jokes in it, too – but I still like it better, for the story it tells, for the emotional impact (on both me and the characters) and for how it is all resolved in the end.

I enjoyed Homer’s doghouse subplot, as well – “Marge, you’re a tool of the doghouse makers.” – and the swear jar sequence was fun.

  • How great is Marcia Wallace?

The winner: 8F16, “Bart the Lover.” This marks the first time in the tournament that an episode written (or co-written) by Jon Vitti has won, which really does not reflect his immense talent, at all. It just shows that in a bracket like this one good episodes will inevitably lose against slightly better episodes.


Round 44: Radio Bart vs. The Springfield Files

For those of you coming here via Dead Homer Society, might I turn your attention to this polemic on why men should sit down to pee I wrote? Got nothing to do with The Simpsons, but, you know… it’s about peeing.

Round 44: 8F11 vs. 3G01.

8F11: “Radio Bart” (Season 3 / January 9, 1992)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Herman, Carl, a flying saucer, Apu, Skinner, and Moe digging to free Bart from the well.

Bask in my amazing photo stitching skills! Bask, I said!

Great episode! I mean, it’s no Claymation Easter, and Sting’s no Bruce Springsteen, but what can you do? The story is based on Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole,” a great movie with a great Kirk Douglas performance. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. I think it’s on Netflix?

I’m stalling, because I didn’t jot down any notes while watching this, as will happen every once in a while when I’m just too caught up in an episode, especially one I haven’t seen in a while. Loved “Radio Bart” from start to finish, nothing to complain about.

Plus, there’s this to look at. You’re so very welcome.

3G01: “The Springfield Files” (Season 8 / January 12, 1997)
Written by Reid Harrison
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Marvin the Martian, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Chewbacca, ALF, and Kang or Kodos in an FBI line-up.

The most illegal shot in the history of The Simpsons.

For many reasons, watching this episode feels different from watching any other episode. Much of that has to do with how and when I first came upon it, way way back in the late nineties. “The Springfield Files” was among four episodes on a VHS tape a friend’s sister brought back from England, and they were the first four episodes of The Simpsons I ever watched in English, not dubbed into horrible, horrible German. And watch them I did. Over and over and over.

So that was a whole new, kinda weird at first, experience anyway. Add to that the fact that back then (and still, to some extent, now) I was a huge X-Files fan. A cross-over of my two  favorite shows was a big thrill then, and watching it now I still get a kick out of Mulder, Scully, CSM and other elements from the X-Files appearing in Springfield.

But there’s another thing. This may be a weird complaint to have for a comedy show, and it’s not really a complaint, more of a… thing I noticed. More like any other episode I can think of, this one feels a lot like the jokes came first, the story later. Not even jokes so much as a string of funny references and situations. Unrelated skits, almost.

It’s probably just me and my history with the episode. But if you’ve noticed something similar let me know.

The winner: 3G01, “The Springfield Files.” I don’t think it will ever have a chance of winning the tournament, because it is too much of a one-off, too bending of the format. But I enjoyed it a lot, even more than the wonderful “Radio Bart.”


Round 43: Jazzy and the Pussycats vs. Colonel Homer

Round 43: HABF18 vs. 8F19.

HABF18: “Jazzy and the Pussycats” (Season 18 / September 17, 2006)
Written by Daniel Chun
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Al Jean

Lisa Simpson and her animals in front a sign saying, Closed By Popular Demand.

When I chose which of the post-season 15 episodes (the ones that haven’t been released on DVD, yet) to include in the tournament, I went through the episode guide and basically wrote down the few titles that conjured up any positive feelings, however faint. (Most of them I didn’t remember at all.)

And you saw what happened two rounds ago, where I couldn’t even make it five minutes into either episode. But this time? I was pleasantly surprised. Disregarding Homer, who is loud, angry, bipolar and just not funny throughout, I very much enjoyed “Jazzy and the Pussycats.” Maybe it’s because I’m a drummer (well, used to be, anyway), I love jazz and The White Stripes. And even it came kinda out of nowhere I liked Lisa’s story, too.

8F19: “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 / March 26, 1992)
Written by Matt Groening
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

A bar fight about to happen.

-“Hey, you. Let’s fight!”
-“Them’s fightin’ words.”

This, however, is on a completely different level. And it’s not even a stand-out episode from the third season, it’s just that the show as a whole was such high-quality back then.

So, more thoughts on this one… eventually.

The winner: 8F19, “Colonel Homer.”