Round 94: Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy vs. Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy

Round 94: 2F07 vs. 1F12.

It’s vs. vs. vs.! Bill & Josh vs. Oakley & Weinstein! 1994 vs. 1994!

2F07: “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy” (Season 6 / December 4, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Marge and Homer Simpson share a bathtub.

I’m a bit distracted right now as I’m travelling and mostly occupied with other things, but I still want to move this thing along, so I crammed in this episode last night and will watch the second one in a minute.

Not much to say about this one, anyway. It’s a great episode. The Homer and Grandpa plot is fun and comes to a nice little emotional conclusion, but I liked the kids’ story of paranoid conspiracy theories even better.

  • Stock Footage Festival!

1F12: “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” (Season 5 / February 17, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Lisa Simpson and Stacy Lovell

Kathleen Turner!

Fantastic episode. Too much good stuff to get into now; I have a train to catch!

The winner: 1F12, “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy.”


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 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 81: Rosebud vs. Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh

Round 81: 1F01 vs. LABF10.

1F01: “Rosebud” (Season 5 / October 21, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson discovering Mr. Burns' teddy bear Bobo

Looking at this frame, and the whole episode for that matter, I had a thought. You could show “Rosebud” (and other great Simpsons episodes) to someone who has never seen it, without the sound, and not only would they be fully able to follow the story, they’d enjoy it, too.  Not to take anything away from the words written by the writers and spoken by the actors, the images drawn and animated by the director and his countless helpers stand as works of art by themselves.

I don’t believe that the digital animation process the show has employed since season 14 prohibits the animators from coming up with equally beautiful imagery. I do believe, however, that it’s a lot harder to do so, and unfortunately the areas that most benefit from a certain human touch are the very same digital ink and paint  take the human element away from.

LABF10: “Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh” (Season 20 / May 3, 2009)
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Simpsons dog Santas Little Helper scratching on the paved lawn

Hey, if they can be lazy in writing them, I can be lazy in reviewing them.

The winner: 1F01 “Rosebud.”

A quick note regarding the bracket: Since I cheated and gave Round 80‘s win to the runner-up from Round 79, I had to fidget with the way that episode advanced into the 128th-final. (If I hadn’t, Round 79 would just be repeated in the next phase.) So what I did is place 1F22 where the winner from this round would have gone, and 1F01 will take the place where Round 80’s winner would be. Exciting, I know.

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 73: E. Pluribus Wiggum vs. Homer Loves Flanders

Round 73: KABF03 vs. 1F14.

KABF03: “E. Pluribus Wiggum” (Season 19 / January 6, 2008)
Written by Michael Price
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Ralph Wiggum surrounded by cameras and microphones

You know how when George Lucas first wrote Star Wars it was pretty terrible but as he started showing the script to people he got all sorts of input and made changes to it and it go better but then when he became super rich and successful he decided he didn’t want anybody else’s opinion on anything ever again so he wrote and directed Episode I pretty much in a vacuum, only surrounded by a bunch of yea-sayers who only encouraged him and all his dumb ideas?

You know?

1F14: “Homer Loves Flanders” (Season 5 / March 17, 1994)
Written by David Richardson
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson chasing after Rod and Todd Flanders with golf clubs, Terminator 2 style

Huh. Not really feeling this one, either. Some clever jokes and references, but overall I just don’t like this episode very much.

The winner: 1F14, “Homer Loves Flanders.”

Round 60: The Springfield Connection vs. Homer’s Barbershop Quartet

Round 60: 2F21 vs. 9F21.

60 rounds! Can you believe it? Doesn’t it feel like, I dunno, only 58? Well, you got me. I skipped 48 a few weeks ago and just now 59 was postponed for the same reason: I’m waiting (for someone) to get (me) Season 16 on DVD. Also I’m waiting for Season 16 to come out on DVD. Also I’m waiting for them to announce when this will happen.

2F21: “The Springfield Connection” (Season 6 / May 7, 1995)
Written by John Collier
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons watch TV.

Not the most exciting or representative frame, but it stood out to me. A beautifully drawn family portrait. In fact there’s a lot of great animation, both dramatic and subtle, in this one.

Funny episode. It’s a good story for Marge. They had to make Homer extra obnoxious to make him “learn his lesson” in the end, and he doesn’t even really do that. So I don’t like that part but it’s okay because it’s not the main focus of the episode.

  • -“Boy, when Marge first told me she was going to the police academy I thought it’d be fun and exciting. You know, like that movie, Spaceballs. But instead it’s been painful and disturbing, like that movie Police Academy.”

9F21: “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” (Season 5 / September 30, 1993)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

A dear friend of mine claimed she had never seen an episode of The Simpsons and wanted me to watch one with her, and since she’s a big Beatles fan I chose this one, knowing she’d recognize a lot of the referenced history and artwork. She did.

But she also asked “what kind of creatures” these people are supposed to be and thought Homer’s five o’clock shadow was actually his lips. So she has some way to go.

If you’re playing the Simpsons DVD commentary drinking game, you might want to water down your drink for this one, or you’ll really regret it in the morning. We get…

  • bitterness about losing the Emmy to Claymation Easter
  • Jon Lovitz being there for no reason
  • Jon Lovitz calling Al and Mike gay
  • Al and Mike reminiscing about their days on Carson and ALF
  • Hank Azaria promoting “Along Came Polly”
  • Matt Groening complaining about pupil sizes

The winner: 9F21, “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet.”