Round 87: The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular vs. Bart the General

Round 87: 3F31 vs. 7G05.

3F31: “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular” (Season 7 / December 3, 1995)
Written by Penny Wise
Directed by Pound Foolish
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Dog Santas Little Helper with a gun in his mouth

Clip shows are usually terrible, but this one manages to be quite entertaining, thanks in large part to Phil Hartman as Troy McLure. They’re not just showing clips from old episodes but ones from the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, as well, which is neat, and some deleted scenes and alternate takes, too. So while this episode certainly won’t win the tournament, I was happy to revisit it, anyway.


7G05: “Bart the General” (Season 1 / February 4, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Bart Simpson vs the blow dryer

The first season is such a peculiar beast. The way the Simpsons look and sound today is so ingrained into my conscience that, watching it now, I can’t help but feel there’s something off about the first season. Yet I also remember seeing this for the first time, as a child. I didn’t get all of the jokes, certainly any movie references went way over my head, but even then I knew that this cartoon wasn’t like other cartoons. The Simpsons didn’t hold back, it dared to be crude, but it had heart, and it had something to say.

  • -“The following is a list of words I never want to hear on television again. Number one: bra. Number two: horny. Number three: family jewels.”

The winner: 7G05, “Bart the General.”

Round 83: Mother Simpson vs. Much Apu About Nothing

Round 83: 3F06 vs. 3F20.

3F06: “Mother Simpson” (Season 7 / November 19, 1995)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson sitting on his car under a starry sky

Before I watched this one again I endured the latest episode from season 25 (“YOLO,” sigh.) and what struck me comparing the two was just how utterly beautiful the show used to look. “Mother Simpsons” features awe-inspiring drawing, staging, acting, modeling and painting. as it’s to be expected from the genius that is David Silverman. But of course the writing is at the same, high level. The episode is flat-out funny, tells a great story, had me emotionally invested in the characters and has many quotable lines throughout.

  • “We are richer for having lost him.”
  • Great eye acting!
  • “Damn you, Walt Whitman!”

3F20: “Much Apu About Nothing” (Season 7 / May 5, 1996)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson teaching Apu about America

And again I have to decide between two equally great episodes. I laughed more during this one than during “Mother Simpson,” and I like the social/political commentary in “Much Apu,” so I’m leaning towards it, but that really shouldn’t take anything away from 3F06. They are both near perfect episodes.

  • Everything involving the bear is awesome.
  • “Book him, Lou. One count of being a bear. And one count of being an accessory to being a bear.”
  • “Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax.”
  • -“There is not nearly enough time to learn over 200 years of American history.”
    -“Oh, it can’t be that many.”

The winner: 3F20, “Much Apu About Nothing.”

Round 69: Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield vs. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington

Round 69: 3F11 vs. 8F01.

3F11: “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” (Season 7 / February 4, 1996)
Written by Jennifer Crittenden
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Marge Simpson showing off her new Chanel dress

A strong Marge episode with fun B-stories for the rest of the family. Unfortunately this is one of those times where I have no notes, no insights, no complaints I want to share. Not the episode’s fault, just my brain (not) at work.

  • -“Say, I wonder if this Homer Nixon is any relation.”
    -“Unlikely, sir. They spell and pronounce their name differently.”

8F01: “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” (Season 3 / September 26, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Welcome Finalists - Reading Digest - Brevity is... wit.

Like the sign says.

The winner: 8F01, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.”

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.”

Round 66: Homerpalooza vs. Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming

Round 66: 3F21 vs. 3F08.

3F21: “Homerpalooza” (Season 7 / May 19, 1996)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson in a record store

“Styx? I just heard them on the King Biscuit Flower Hour.”

In theory, I should hate this episode. One of my top complaints about the last few years of “The Simpsons” is how violent the show has become, especially towards Homer. The premise of “Homerpalooza” is based on the fact that Homer can take an endless amount of pain and abuse without flinching a muscle. But the way it’s presented and integrated into the story here, it works. (If that sounded familiar, it’s because I stole most of it from Round 9.)

This is an interesting little time-capsule of an episode. Sonic Youth’s “Goo” is now older than Grand Funk’s “Shinin’ On” was in 1996. And while my own musical taste is a little closer to Homer’s than Bart’s, I could relate to both sides of their generational conflict.

  • -“You don’t have to join a freak show just because the opportunity came along.”
    -“You know, Marge, in some ways, you and I are very different people.”
  • -“What religion are you?”
    -“You know… the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work out in real life. … Christianity.”
  • How, almost twenty years later, is there still no full version of “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill and the London Symphony Orchestra?

3F08: “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” (Season 7 / November 26, 1995)
Written by Spike Feresten
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Sideshow Bob in a prison bunk bed

It’s always a bummer when two great episodes (from a great season) meet each other this early in the tournament. Both would’ve gone far if they had faced off against lesser episodes at this stage. But what can you do?

Beautiful, dramatic animation, wonderful guest voices by Kelsey Grammer and R. Lee Ermey, a script with a nice mystery, tons of laughs, and plenty of obscure and less obscure movie and pop culture references. This is an all-time great Simpsons episode.

The winner: 3F08, “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming.”

Round 62: Lisa the Iconoclast vs. Catch ‘Em if You Can

Round 62: 3F13 vs. FABF14.

3F13: “Lisa the Iconoclast” (Season 7 / February 18, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Lisa ringing the bell as town criers.

Love this one. It was one of the episodes on that imported VHS tape that was my first foray into the world of not-dubbed-into-German Simpsons, so it holds a special place for me, anyway. But even without that, how could I not just love it? I wrote about my fondness of Lisa and Homer bonding before, and this episode is full of that. And Homer’s not reduced to being a big, loud jerk (well, maybe towards Flanders, but c’mon) but instead pursues the town-crier position with as noble a spirit as he would a mountain of sugar.

  • It’s an exciting story, too. Feels very much like a movie, especially with the parade at the end.
  • -“I’ve got nothing but respect for the office of town crier but this is well outside your jurisdiction.”
  • (Donald Sutherland!)

FABF14: “Catch ‘Em if You Can” (Season 15 / April 25, 2004)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Matthew Nastuk
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer and Marge Simpson

Eh.

It’s not that this episode is particularly bad – although it isn’t particularly good, either – but at this point in the series everything’s just… eh. Everything’s been done, so everything feels old. The “Catch Me If You Can” credits parody is well done, I guess, but you kinda wonder why it’s even here.

You wonder why this show is even still here.

The winner: 3F13, “Lisa the Iconoclast.”

Round 61: Bart Gets Hit by a Car vs. Two Bad Neighbors

Round 61: 7F10 vs. 3F09.

7F10: “Bart Gets Hit by a Car” (Season 2 / January 10, 1991)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Burns' lawyer and Bart in a wheelchair.

Good episode, but it feels very slow to this ADHD-inflicted person. There’s a lot of groundwork being laid for better and funnier stuff to come. And the ending with Homer and Marge at Moe’s is beautiful.

  • -“You sure have got some education, Mr. Hutz.”
    -“Yes– Harvard, Yale, M.I.T., Oxford, the Sorbonne, the Louvre.”

3F09: “Two Bad Neighbors” (Season 7 / January 14, 1996)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

3F09

“Great Scott, don’t touch that. That’s the alpenhorn Helmut Kohl gave me.”

I like this episode. Like Frank Grimes, George Bush is a real person who gets dropped into the Simpsons’ universe, and that’s always fun. The whole Dennis the Menace thing works really well, too.

  • Listen to the commentary to hear the story of Wes Archer’s real-life encounter with the Bush family, as well as references to how a certain, unnamed cast member wasn’t a big fan of the episode.
  • -“You could hand out these fliers for the neighborhood rummage sale. You’d get some fresh air and excercise.”
    -“Eh…I’ll do it anyway.”

The winner: 3F09, “Two Bad Neighbors.”