Round 93: The Boy Who Knew Too Much vs. Treehouse of Horror XVII

Round 93: 1F19 vs. HABF17.

1F19: “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” (Season 5 / May 5, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson looking out of a window at a rainbow.

I had this whole big speech prepared about why something like the “Westworld“-inspired chase sequence between Skinner and Bart works here, in season five, but if a similar thing would happen in season 25 (is that where they’re at?) it would feel cheap and out of place, but then my browser just closed the tab I was writing in and I had to start from scratch:

Part of the reason is the execution – today’s animation just can’t compare to what the show used to look like – part is the reference – it wouldn’t be some mildly obscure 70s sci-fi flick but something painfully obvious like, I dunno, “The Hunger Games” – but mostly it would come down to the oft-cited ‘rubber-band reality‘ of “The Simpsons.”

We can accept (and laugh off) Skinner walking through the river like some sort of…non…giving up…school guy, because it’s clearly done with a winking eye in an otherwise grounded episode. Bart’s dilemma of whether to tell the truth to save Freddy Quimby from trouble while getting himself into trouble is real, so it’s okay if the reality that’s getting him there is stretched a bit.

Today, not only has the rubber-band long been snapped and broken into fragments; the plots are so far off the ground that it can hardly be seen anymore.

  • One of Phil Hartman’s most perfect performances:
    -Lionel Hutz: “I rest my case.”
    -Judge: “You rest your case?”
    -Lionel Hutz: “What? Oh no I thought that was just a figure of speech. … Case closed.”

HABF17: “Treehouse of Horror XVII” (Season 18 / November 5, 2006)
Written by Peter Gaffney
Directed by David Silverman, Matthew C. Faughnan
Showrunner: Al Jean

Orson Welles performing H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds

Not a particularly good Halloween special. The first segment (Blob) is awful, the second (Golem) slightly better but still pretty bad and the third (War of the World) has some nice things going for it – I especially liked the 1930’s design of the people of Springfield – but ultimately disappoints, as well.

The winner: 1F19, “The Boy Who Knew Too Much.”


Round 52: Realty Bites vs. The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer

Round 52: 5F06 vs. HABF15.

5F06: “Realty Bites” (Season 9 / December 7, 1997)
Written by Dan Greaney
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Marge Simpson and Lionel Hutz


HABF15: “The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer
(Season 18 / September 10, 2006)
Written by Bill Odenkirk
Directed by Michael Marcantel
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson with his head stuck in the ground.

Me, asked to decide which of the two episodes is “better.”

Tough. I don’t really like either episode. They’re not awful, but they’re far from good. Both have extended performances from recurring guest stars – both good, but Phil Hartman wins over Joe Mantegna any day. 5F06 introduces us to Gil, who is fun to watch if just for Dan doing Jack Lemmon. But Homer is too much of a jerk, the story isn’t all that interesting and I hate all the violence.

HABF15 starts off with an awfully unfunny Otto thing (and one of Harry Sharer’s lesser moments in the series’ history), slightly improves from there but never reaches any levels worth celebrating. A few chuckles for this Godfather and Sopranos fan, but it’s not like those references hadn’t been done.

Usually when I have two great episodes competing I ask myself, if I could only ever watch one of them again, which one would I chose. This time around I’m asking, if I had to watch one of them again (and I do, for this tournament), which would it be.

The “winner”: 5F06, “Realty Bites,” I guess. For Phil.

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.”


Round 32: Springfield Up vs. Lisa On Ice

Round 32: JABF07 vs. 2F05.

JABF07: “Springfield Up” (Season 18 / February 18, 2007)
Written by Matt Warburton
Directed by Chuck Sheetz
Showrunner: Al Jean

Growing Up Springfield

Earlier this year I watched the first seven films in Michael Apted’s “Up” series – still waiting for the eighth and most recent one to hit Netflix – so I enjoyed the Simpsons‘ take on it very much. There are some nice visual references in the beginning, and some thematic references, too. For an episode so far into Zombie Simpsons territory it’s surprisingly good. But obviously they had to put in an incredibly awful Smithers joke so there’d still be a bitter aftertaste. So close, though.

2F05: “Lisa On Ice” (Season 6 / November 13, 1994)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson in Mrs. Krabappel's class.

“Bart Simpson, stop raising your hand. You haven’t had one right answer today.”

Like in “Burns’ Heir,” we get an angry and mean Homer here, but like in that episode it’s bearable because it’s just for a couple of jokes and not fueling the main plot. Although I’ll always prefer the Homer of “Lost Our Lisa,” genuinely caring for and helping out his kid, to the Homer of “Lisa On Ice,” pitting his kids against each other.

But the center here is Bart and Lisa’s rivalry, and it’s a great example of what the show does (well, did) so well: kids behaving and experiencing things like kids. Plus it’s a lot of fun and beautifully animated.

  • “Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn’t, it’s that girls should stick to girl sports, such as hot oil wrestling, foxy boxing and such and such.”

The winner: 2F05: “Lisa On Ice.”