Round 59: Goo Goo Gai Pan vs. Selma’s Choice

Round 59: GABF06 vs. 9F11.

GABF06: “Goo Goo Gai Pan” (Season 16 / March 13, 2005)
Written by Dana Gould
Directed by Lance Kramer
Showrunner: Al Jean

Chinese dragons

I wasn’t a big fan of this episode, but listening to the DVD’s audio commentary made me look at it a bit more favorably, I have to say. Writer Dana Gould based the story on his own experiences of traveling to China to adopt a baby girl, and many of the episode’s beats were directly inspired by real life, including a lesbian woman who had another man pretend to be her husband for the Chinese authorities.

Other highlights of the commentary include anecdotes about guest stars Robert Wagner (slept with Marilyn Monroe) and Lucy Liu (gave a huge basket of cupcakes to the writers).


9F11: “Selma’s Choice” (Season 4 / January 21, 1993)
Written by David M. Stern
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson and a potato chip shaped like the soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima

Selma realizes that time is ticking away and desperately wants to have a child? I’ve heard that before.

The actual plot of this episode is kinda all over the place without really going anywhere. In that aspect, “Goo Goo Gai Pan” handles Selma’s dilemma better – she actually gets a baby in the end, not just an iguana.

Still, “Selma’s Choice” is the better episode. It’s funnier, the animation is more beautiful, Homer gets to eat both potato chips shaped like famous people and a rotten sandwich.

Plus, of course, Lisa’s bad acid trip in Duff Gargens.

  • -“Well, to cheer you up, I rented a couple of videos. ‘Boxing’s Greatest Weigh-Ins‘ and Yentl.'”
    -“Yentl? What’s that?”
    -“It deals with a bookish young woman’s efforts to enter rabbinical school.”
    -“Sounds great!”
    -“Oh my God! You’re delirious.”

The winner: 9F11: “Selma’s Choice.”

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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 89: Lisa the Beauty Queen vs. Bart Gets Famous

Round 89: 9F02 vs. 1F11.

9F02: “Lisa the Beauty Queen” (Season 4 / October 15, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Krusty the Klown heartily endorsing an even or product on television

-“I heartily endorse this event or product.”

One look at the names above and you know you’re in for a great episode. Of course I like the moments between Homer and Lisa, but what I caught watching it this time was how much of the episode is made up of almost skit-like little scenes that serve mostly for delivering setups and punchlines. From the moment Lisa is crowned beauty queen it’s one set piece after another, the wax museum, the deportation, the USO show, the football game. When “Family Guy” first ripped off “The Simpsons,” this is one of the things they were… inspired by, for sure.

  • A good Simpsons episode knows that when the main focus is on Lisa or Marge, Bart and Homer are allowed to act a bit wackier than usual, and we certainly get some of that here. (Bart channeling Tex Avery, Homer daydreaming about Marge mowing the lawn.)

1F11: “Bart Gets Famous” (Season 5 / February 3, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson answering the phone wearing nothing but a towel

-“You’ll have to speak up. I’m wearing a towel.”

Going into this round I of course knew that “Bart Gets Famous” is a great episode, but I wondered if it was still funny even after all the countless times I’ve seen it. The answer: Yes. It is. I laughed out loud more than I’d expected, both at jokes I anticipated and others I had forgotten about.

The observation I made above is true here, as well. With Bart center Homer gets away with a lot of crazy things, one of my favorites being his rant about poor people – and the ensuing blank stares from his family.

  • Another perfect Dan Castellaneta performance as the box factory guide.

The winner: 1F11, “Bart Gets Famous.”

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 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.”

Round 74: Lisa’s First Word vs. Deep Space Homer

Round 74: 9F08 vs. 1F13.

9F08: “Lisa’s First Word” (Season 4 / December 3, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Marge Simpson with Baby Bart on the steps

A sequel of sorts to “The Way We Was,” this is a fantastic flashback episode. The slightly younger designs are inspired, the jokes and references to mid-eighties pop culture are a lot of fun, and of course I always fall for well-told stories centered around the family.


1F13: “Deep Space Homer” (Season 5 / February 24, 1994)
Written by David Mirkin
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson casting a long shadow

“I’ll show him inanimate!”

This episode has David Mirkin written all over it. Like, literally, he wrote it and he’s the showrunner. And you can tell by all the craziness and non sequiturs, especially in contrast to the Al & Jean episode above. They are both very good, and in a way, they’re both winners. But in another, more accurate way, “Deep Space Homer” is the winner.

  • No SNPP crow?
  • Dan Castellaneta doing Charlton Heston’s “lament” from The Planet of the Apes (the movie, not the planet) is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard.

The winner: 1F13, “Deep Space Homer.”

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.”