Round 82: Homer to the Max vs. Duffless

Round 82: AABF09 vs. 9F14.

AABF09: “Homer to the Max” (Season 10 / February 7, 1999)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunners: Mike Scully

The Simpson family watching television

Me, watching this episode.

You know how that show, “Breaking Bad,” took one character and over many years turned him from good to bad so gradually that you can’t really pinpoint any specific incidences that put him over the edge? “The Simpsons” is like that. It was good, now it’s bad. This episode is somewhere in between, although I’d say it leans more towards the bad side. (Not coincidentally, this is another one that feels an awful lot like a “Family Guy” episode.)

  • -“Wow, look at this place. The house number is spelled out with letters.
    -“Get used to it, honey. From now on, we’ll be spelling everything with letters.”

9F14: “Duffless” (Season 4 / February 18, 1993)
Written by David M. Stern
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss Homer Simpson screams, Bart has a giant tomato

A funny episode with a sweet ending and an incredibly cool “A Clockwork Orange” reference thrown in. It’s not my favorite season 4 outing, but obviously it’s the better episode here.

The winner: 9F14, “Duffless.”

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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 78: D’oh-in’ in the Wind vs. And Maggie Makes Three

Round 78: AABF02 vs. 2F10.

AABF02: “D’oh-in’ in the Wind” (Season 10 / November 15, 1998)
Written by Donick Cary
Directed by Mark Kirkland & Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Grandpa Abe Simpson at Woodstock

Original here.

An okay episode. Homer’s not very likable here, which bothers me a bit, but it’s got some good stuff, too. Look, the less I write here the sooner I get to watch “And Maggie Makes Three.”


2F10: “And Maggie Makes Three” (Season 6 / January 22, 1995)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson taking a walk on the moonlit beach

Crittenden and Mirkin just go perfect with each other. She brings heart, he brings… whatever organ of his it is that comes up with the funny stuff.

  • “I’m gonna march right up to Al and say: Steve. I mean, Al, I think I deserve a raise.”

The winner: 2F10, “And Maggie Makes Three.”

Round 67: I Love Lisa vs. Maximum Homerdrive

Round 67: 9F13 vs. AABF13.

9F13: “I Love Lisa” (Season 4 / February 11, 1993)
Written by Frank Mula
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

You Need a Heart to Live

As a self-proclaimed Late Night scholar I always get a kick out of Krusty doubling for Carson on The Simpsons, as he does in this episode, with lots of flashbacks alluding to The Tonight Show and adjacent formats you wouldn’t normally associate with a clown hosting a show for children.

A great many quotable lines in this one (“Six words: I’m not gay, but I’ll learn.”), plus a very good song (“We are the Mediocre Presidents”) and Bart as John Wilkes Booth. This one’s gonna be hard to beat.

  • Haven’t checked, but this is one of the episodes where I swear I can hear Matt Groening complain about pupil sizes on the commentary track even when watching it with the regular audio.

AABF13: “Maximum Homerdrive” (Season 10 / March 28, 1999)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Truck in a drive-in theater

I remember liking this episode when I first saw it, but after a few repeat viewings, there’s not much funny or interesting left.

The winner: 9F13, “I Love Lisa.”

Round 50: Mayored to the Mob vs. Moe Baby Blues

Round 50: AABF05 vs. EABF17.

AABF05: “Mayored to the Mob” (Season 10 / December 20, 1998)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner:  Mike Scully

Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fourth Doctor Who, Godzilla and Neil Armstrong signing autographs at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.

Click to embiggen.

I’m getting pretty good at stitching together these panning shots. Useless talent #66.

A rather mixed episode. More of it good than bad, but there’s definitely some bad stuff. I didn’t like Homer’s actions and attitudes as Quimby’s bodyguard, but I gotta say I loved seeing him in that black tux. Joe Mantegna’s always a welcome voice, and animation-pro Mark Hamill did a good job playing himself and the bodyguard instructor.

  • “Roger Corman’s Titanic.” Brilliant. Perfect match of animation and sound effects.
  • Never thought Frank Nelson was very funny, never thought Yes Guy was very funny.
  • Good musical number near the end.

EABF17: “Moe Baby Blues” (Season 14 / May 18, 2003)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Lauren MacMullan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Moe, Marge and Homer Simpson looking at a diorama of Moe's Tavern.

“I peed my pants.”

After a real stinker of a first act I was ready to kick this one out of the tournament without regret. But then a funny thing happened. And then another. Funny things kept happening.

The ugly stuff first. I talked about the concept of the rubber-band reality before, and how that band had pretty much snapped sometime in the early double digit seasons. We get some of that here, most strikingly with the Venus flytrap luring in Homer with a hot dog.

Then there’s some gross-out humor I don’t really care for. Krusty jumping into a pile of manure, Moe dislocating his shoulder.

But the more the episode went on, the better it got. Whereas the episode above produced a few chuckles here and there, this one had me actually laughing, at things like Homer being in Burns’ carpool, or Moe acting out The Godfather with Maggie’s toys.

I was very impressed with the staging and animation of the fourth act. Some very cool color choices and angles. And I liked the little photo montage at the end, too.

The winner: EABF17, “Moe Baby Blues,” marking the first true win for an Al Jean episode.

Round 36: Make Room for Lisa vs. Krusty Gets Busted

Round 36: AABF12 vs. 7G2.

AABF12: “Make Room for Lisa” (Season 10 / February 28, 1999)
Written by Brian Scully
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Lisa and Homer Simpson in an esoteric new age store.

“Other cultures are fine. I’m just saying I can get along in life without a… ‘toothbrush.'”

While I went into last round‘s “Lard of the Dance” with one specific, dreaded image in mind but then was pleasantly surprised by the whole of the episode, this time it was the other way around. “Make Room for Lisa” ends with a touching moment of bonding between Homer and Lisa, and that’s what I fondly remembered about it. But the way there? Boy, it gets rough.

I guess the writers decided that in order to give the final reconciliation between father and daughter more of an impact they had to crank up Homer’s lack of fatherly skills and basically make him World’s Greatest Asshole. And in the end he doesn’t grow or learn anything, it’s only Lisa who has the questionably epiphany of realizing that she really is a pain in the neck sometimes.

  • We do get, as is illustrated above, one of the two all-time great toothbrush jokes of The Simpsons. (The other one will come up in round 97. So any day now.)

7G12: “Krusty Gets Busted” (Season 1 / April 29, 1990)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Brad Bird
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart Simpson with a Krusty the Clown doll.

I’m a huge Brad Bird fan (“The Iron Giant” is one of my favorite movies) and it’s great fun to watch this episode and listen to the commentary with him, Matt, Jay & Wallace. The first season can be a bit rough at times, but this is a masterfully written and animated episode.

Full of jokes, both high and low brow, but also there’s real drama going on, and a crime mystery, too! Plus Kelsey Grammer, perfect as Sideshow Bob in this and the many follow-up episodes to come.

The winner: 7G12, “Krusty Gets Busted.”

Round 35: Lard of the Dance vs. Homer Alone

Round 35: AABF15 vs. LABF02.

5F20: “Lard of the Dance” (Season 10 / August 23, 1998)
Written by Jane O’Brien
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Lisa Simpson admitting students to the school dance. In last round‘s “How the Test Was Won” there’s a montage of scenes of Homer getting hurt, which is all kinds of terrible, and the most terrible part of it, as far as I’m concerned, is the bit where his swollen, bloodshot eye is sticking out of its socket. I always hated that, and it was with that dreadful image in mind that I came to “Lard of the Dance.” And we get it not once but twice in this episode, because, as the commentary tells us, it got a huge laugh from the writers and animators. I, meanwhile, just cringe every time I see it. But tastes differ, I guess. Luckily, there’s more to the episode than gross-out humor, and it’s actually pretty good! I liked Lisa’s story, Lisa Kudrow did a fine job as Alex, and Homer’s grease scheme had a few nice moments, too.

  • Lisa struggles with popularity issues after befriending a new student at her school while Homer tries to get rich by selling a food substance? The Simpsons did it.

8F14: “Homer Alone” (Season 3 / February 6, 1992)
Written by David Stern
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer and Maggie Simpson saying goodbye to Marge at the train station.

“Where’s my clean underwear? How often should I change Maggie? Marge! Marge! How do I use the pressure cooker?”

This is not only The Simpsons but TV in general at its very best. The script tells a truly engaging story while still being incredibly funny and the animation is just beautiful. Naturally I loved all the Homer and Maggie stuff (I get very emotional at the sight of fathers bonding with their daughters, remember?) and then there’s Bart and Lisa staying at Patty and Selma’s and there’s Phil Hartman and there’s… there’s simply not one wrong note here.

  • Very entertaining and informative DVD commentary. (Brad Bird!)

The winner: 8F14: “Homer Alone.”