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 90: Homer vs. Patty and Selma vs. Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words

Round 90: 2F14 vs. KABF19.

2F14: “Homer vs. Patty and Selma” (Season 6 / February 26, 1995)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson with Patty and Selma Bouvier

Love Homer’s forced smile.

Homer verges a bit on the too mean/too dumb side for my taste in this episode, and it’s not as flat-out funny as some of the season’s other episodes, but overall I like it. Bart’s ballet subplot is fun, as is the resolution to the Patty and Selma story (“And you, sir, are worse than Hitler.”).

  • I’m a bit disappointed by the Mel Brooks and Susan Sarandon appearances. I like both of them and wish they had been giving something better to do.
  • -“Rat Boy? I resent that.”

KABF19: “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words” (Season 20 / November 16, 2008)
Written by Tim Long
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson having a revelation in bed

Here’s something I didn’t expect: this episode isn’t terrible. Parts of it are quite funny (the In Memoriam segment especially) and there were almost none of the cringe-worthy moments that define other episodes from later seasons.

So, it’s not bad, but is it better than “Homer vs. Patty and Selma”?

Not quite. But it’s not that far off, really.

The winner: 2F14, “Homer vs. Patty and Selma.”

Round 79: Bart of Darkness vs. The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson

Round 79: 1F22 vs. 4F22. Whoa.

1F22: “Bart of Darkness” (Season 6 / September 4, 1994)
Written by Dan McGrath
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Bart Simpson reading MAD Magazine (NYPD Blecch)

I have probably written about this before (I mean, I guess? No way to be sure.), but the thing that I love most about The Simpsons is that there are so many levels to it, so many different ways to enjoy it. And this episode is the perfect embodiment of that. You can watch this without ever having seen “Rear Window” or anything by Hitchcock – as I did when I first saw the episode – and get a great deal of joy from it. And once you know the movie – as I do now – you have this whole new layer of references and homages to appreciate. And then you listen to the commentary and you learn even more things that enrich your experience of watching the episode. But the beauty of it is that you don’t need to know anything to enjoy it.

This episode is perfect. Not one wrong note.


4F22: “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” (Season 9 / September 21, 1997)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Alfred E. Neuman in the MAD Magazine offices

This has got to be one of the toughest rounds in the tournament. I love both episodes a great deal, and it sucks to see one of them leave so early. “Bart of Darkness” really does hit all high notes, while there are some (minor, but still) things in “The City of New York” that I don’t like that much. Homer gets his dose of physical punishment here, and while it’s miles away from the awful things he’d have to endure in later seasons, it’s still something I don’t like to see.

But then again, the high notes it does have hit higher than the ones in 1F22. “Kickin’ It,” written by Ken Keeler, is my favorite musical number of the whole series, Homer’s New York-flashback is a truly beautiful bit of animation, and the ending with Homer driving out of the city makes me smile just thinking about it.

So, once again, I have to ask myself the question: If I could only see one of these two episodes again, with the other one being forever lost, which would I pick?

The winner, after much hemming and hawing: 4F22, “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” This really could’ve gone either way. Maybe if I saw “Bart of Darkness” last I would have picked it. This one’s gonna haunt me.

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 76: The PTA Disbands vs. Principal Charming

Round 76: 2F19 vs. 7F15.

2F19: “The PTA Disbands” (Season 6 / April 16, 1995)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Girl left alone hanging from the rings in gymnastics class

“Mrs. Pommelhorst?”

Very good story with a lot of Mirken-esque touches. I am again reminded how important Marcia Wallace and Maggie Roswell are to the show. These school-centered episodes gain so much from their performances.

  • -“Sorry, Bart. I’m deeply immersed in the Teapot Dome scandal.”
    -“Huh?”
    -“However, it might be feasible in a fortnight.”
    -“Wha?”
    -“I can play in two weeks.”
    -“Juh?”

7F15: “Principal Charming” (Season 2 / February 14, 1991)
Written by David Stern
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Principal Skinner shaking his fist all Gone With the Wind like

“After all, tomorrow is another school day!”

What I love about the early seasons is that there is so much effort put into making the movie references, in this case to Vertigo, The Terminator and Gone With the Wind, not only funny but also beautiful to look at.

Looking back you notice the characters behaving in ways slightly off from what they would become, but I don’t mind that. I like the way Homer and Bart are integral to Skinner and Patty and Selma’s stories but don’t feel shoehorned in.

The winner: 2F19, “The PTA Disbands.”

And a sad addendum: After I wrote this round I heard the news that Marcia Wallace passed away. I have praised her performance as Ms. Krabappel on many occasions and I’m sure there will be more of that as the tournament goes on. Along with other frequent guest actors like Maggie Roswell, Phil Hartman, Albert Brooks and Kelsey Grammer, Wallace was integral to giving life to the secondary citizens of Springfield, and whenever Krabappel was made center of an episode she made her as real and deep as any life-action performer would have. Springfield Elementary won’t be the same without her.

Round 75: Homer’s Night Out vs. A Star is Burns

Round 75: 7G10 vs. 2F31.

7G10: “Homer’s Night Out” (Season 1 / March 25, 1990)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Developed by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Halfway through this episode I scribbled in my notes something about how prudish it seemed that Marge would kick Homer out of the house just for dancing with an ecdysiast (that’s the fancy word for stripper). Talk about sex-negativity!

But then Marge explained to Homer (and me) why she was so angry: because he was being a bad role-model for Bart by letting him see his father treat a woman like an object and not a human being. The third act, with Homer taking Bart to see and talk to Princess Kashmir, was what really sold me on this episode. She is portrayed neither as a saint nor a whore, just a person doing a job. Not bad for a cartoon from over twenty years ago.


2F31: “A Star is Burns” (Season 6 / March 5, 1995)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Developed by James L. Brooks, Sam Simon

I’m not exactly siding with Matt Groening here – a crossover to promote another show is fine, especially considering the things he didn’t pull his name from – but Jim Brooks gleefully rubbing it in (the absent and unmentioned) Matt’s face on the commentary doesn’t make him look all that great, either.

The episode itself is fine. A few memorable lines, and the movie parodies and references are very well done. But nothing extraordinary.

The winner: 7G10, “Homer’s Night Out.”

Round 63: Two Dozen and One Greyhounds vs. Behind the Laughter

Round 63: 2F18 vs. BABF19.

2F18: “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” (Season 6 / April 9, 1995)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Santa's Little Helper in a parody of The Lady and the Tramp

I don’t even know what to write.

Perfect.

Next?


BABF19: “Behind the Laughter” (Season 11 / May 21, 2000)
Written by Tim Long, George Meyer, Mike Scully, Matt Selman
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson in black-and-white

“Mama Mia!”

I actually like this one. The immersion into the “Behind the Music” format works quite well, and I enjoyed all the visualizations of those overwrought phrases: “The Simpsons’ TV show started out on a wing and a prayer… but now the wing was on fire and the prayer had been answered by Satan.

  • -“This will be our last season.”

The winner: 2F18, “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds.”