Round 98: The Old Man and the Lisa vs. ‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky

Round 98: 4F17 vs. EABF11.

4F17: “The Old Man and the Lisa” (Season 8 / April 20, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lenny in charge of the Springfield nuclear power plant Charles Montgomery Burns all alone in Mr. Smithers' kitchen

Such a wonderful episode. A terrific Burns and Lisa story with emotional heft and a clever twist at the end. And the animation’s just beautiful, full of cinematic angles and lighting. I especially enjoyed the “Night of the Living Dead” thing at the end.

Also: bonus points for Burns’ usage of “Egad!,” my favorite minced oath.

  • -Bart: “Oh, recycling is useless, Lis. Once the sun burns out, this planet is doomed. You’re just making sure we spend our last days using inferior products.”

EABF11: “‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky” (Season 14 / March 30, 2003)
Written by Dan Greaney, Allen Grazier
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Al Jean

Bart Simpson and Milhouse van Houten stealing Fat Tony's Emmy hood ornament wearing fake mustaches

I remember liking this episode when it first aired, but it really doesn’t hold up. Compared to “The Old Man and the Lisa” the script’s flaws and gaping plot holes become obvious, and the few jokes and gimmicks that might have made you chuckle at first don’t offer anything worth revisiting.

The winner: 4F17, “The Old Man and the Lisa.”

Round 48: Homer’s Phobia vs. Future-Drama

Now that the Season 16 DVD box set has arrived, I can finally do the rounds I skipped, starting with…

Round 48: 4F11 vs. GABF12.

4F11: “Homer’s Phobia” (Season 8 / February 16, 1997)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer, Barney, Bart, and Moe going hunting

Nice touch that their clothes are modeled after those from “The Deer Hunter.”

I like the idea behind this episode better than I like the actual episode. Similar to Frank Grimes, John, brilliantly voiced by John Waters, comes upon the Simpsons as somebody from “the real world” (Baltimore, presumably), and the ensuing culture clash is a fun and interesting one.

For a season 8 episode, “Homer’s Phobia” feels strangely season 14-ish at times. (A better way of saying that is that certain moments feels more like they’re from an Al Jean episode than from an Oakley & Weinstein episode.) Especially Homer’s behavior is annoying to me – although I do recognize that they had to amp up his lesser qualities to make the final redemption work.

  • “Force majeure!”

GABF12: “Future-Drama” (Season 16 / April 17, 2005)
Written by Matt Selman
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunner: Al Jean

Slightly older Mrs. Krabappel, Ms. Hoover, Homer and Bart Simpson

Where did Ms. Hoover go? Where did her glass go? Where did Homer go?

I laughed a few times.

Not during the actual episode, unfortunately, but during the DVD commentary.

Oh, well.

The winner: 4F11, “Homer’s Phobia.”

Round 95: Girly Edition vs. Treehouse of Horror VII

Round 95: 5F15 vs. 4F02.

5F15: “Girly Edition” (Season 9 / April 19, 1998)
Written by Larry Doyle
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Lindsey Naegle and Krusty the Clown

Homer gets a monkey while Bart and Lisa become famous TV newscasters. This episode is awful, and surprisingly so when you consider it happened in Mike Scully’s first season as showrunner.

I didn’t even make it all the way through this thing.


4F02: “Treehouse of Horror VII” (Season 8 / October 27, 1996)
Written by Ken Keeler / Dan Greaney / David S. Cohen
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer and Marge entering through the door as lightning strikes.

Back in Round 16 I wrote that “we all know that no ‘Treehouse of Horror’ will win this thing in the end,” but, wow, this one? It’s the one to beat. All three segments are awesome, the second and third are downright masterful.

  • The whole “waffle” run in Lisa’s story is just perfect:
    -“Hey, these aren’t waffles. These are just square pancakes.”
    -“I’m sorry, honey, the waffle iron’s in the shop.”
    -“The waffle iron’s been in the shop forever.”

The winner: 4F02, “Treehouse of Horror VII.”

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 85: You Only Move Twice vs. Lisa the Skeptic

Round 85: 3F23 vs. 5F05.

3F23: “You Only Move Twice” (Season 8 / November 3, 1996)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpson family entering their new house in Cypress Creek

This is one of the three episodes I, before starting this tournament, would cite as my all-time favorites. It doesn’t get funnier than this.

  • On the commentary track, recorded four years after “Die Another Die” and before the release of “Casino Royale,” Ken Keeler feels the need to explain to the listener who James Bond is: “People will be listening to this at some point in time when, possibly, a significant fraction of the population won’t know who James Bond was.”
  • Josh Weinstein: “He was a secret agent… guy, who would often fight these… big villains.”
    Dan Castellaneta: “Parodied in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies. If you’ve seen those, that’s what that’s a take-of of.”

5F05: “Lisa the Skeptic” (Season 9 / November 23, 1997)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Neil Affleck
Showrunners: Mike Scully

Springfield's school children working in the blistering sun

I don’t dislike this episode, but I feel that it could have been better. The whole science vs. faith thing doesn’t really go anywhere, and parts of the story are a little too outlandish for my taste. It’s an okay episode, it just doesn’t look that good compared to 3F23, I guess.

  • -“Now that’s interesting!”

The winner: 3F23, “You Only Move Twice.”

Round 70: Brother from Another Series vs. One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish

Round 70: 4F14 vs. 7F11.

4F14: “Brother from Another Series” (Season 8 / February 23, 1997)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart Simpson falling to his doom

Kelsey Grammer’s performances as Sideshow Bob are always a delight, and giving him David Hyde Pierce to play off of is a great idea. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of Frasier, so I bet there are a lot of references I don’t get, but there are a ton of other funny things to enjoy here, plus beautiful, dramatic animation and scoring.

If you like the occasional glimpse behind the scenes of The Simpsons, you could do worse than to follow David Silverman on Twitter, where he, a while ago, shared a page from this episode’s storyboards, with notes by Brad Bird:

4F14 storyboard with notes by Brad Bird


7F11: “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” (Season 2 / January 24, 1991)
Written by Nell Scovell
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Dumb Things I Gotta Do Today

I still do this every time I make a list.

What can I say? A pivotal episode for the series, one that announced to the world that this wasn’t just some cartoon, but a show that has something to say, stories to tell, make you think, and make you laugh.

  • -“What are you in for?”
    -“Atmosphere.”

The winner: 7F11, “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish.”

Round 65: Homer’s Enemy vs. Lisa’s Sax

Round 65: 4F19 vs. 3G02.

4F19: “Homer’s Enemy” (Season 8 / May 4, 1997)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Homer Simpson presenting his power plant model to Mr. Burns

The real world collides with that of the Simpsons once again, and once again the results are hilarious. Frank Grimes, or Grimey, as he liked to be called, is the tragic personiofication of all of us in the audience who ever wondered how exactly someone like Homer Simpson could ever become safety inspector in a nuclear power plant, or afford to live in anything other than a single room above a bowling alley – and below another bowling alley.

  • “Then, on his 18th birthday, he was blown up in a silo explosion.”
  • Love the B-plot (Bart’s factory), as well.

3G02: “Lisa’s Sax” (Season 9 / October 19, 1997)
Written by Al Jean
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer playing foosball with Edvard Munch's The Scream

The ninth season is a mixed bag, and a look at the production codes shines a light on why that is: Most of the episodes are Mike Scully’s (5F), and while I like some of them, there is a noticeable drop in quality from the Oakley and Weinstein years, of which we get a few holdover episodes in S9, among them “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” David Mirkin ran two shows (5F23 and 5F24) which we’ll get to when we get to them (Yikes!) and then we have two holdovers of Al Jean & Mike Reiss’ 3G episodes, including “Lisa’s Sax.”

So that explains why this episode doesn’t feel like a S9 episode but more like a S7 episode. The flashback format always allows for some fun stuff, and it’s got some good observations of not quite finding your place in the world, no matter if you’re five or three and three-eights.

  • From the commentary: The original sheet music for the Batman theme apparently said “Word and music by Neal Hefti.” Nice.

The winner: 4F19, “Homer’s Enemy.”