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.”

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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 80: Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo vs. The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons

Round 80: AABF20 vs. 5F04.

AABF20: “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” (Season 10 / May 16, 1999)
Written by Donick Cary & Dan Greaney
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Simpsons

Least offensive frame.

Oh boy. After what might very well be the worst opening eight minutes in the show’s history – it’s definitely the worst I’ve seen in the tournament so far – I was about to turn this episode off, but decided to switch to the commentary instead. This is where I went from being disappointed to just being sad. This episode and others like it are no mistakes. They weren’t intended to be something else but through a series of bad decisions ended up being what they are. No, this is exactly what the powers that be wanted it to be.

And it’s their right, of course. And who am I to complain? There are so many masterpieces bearing the name “The Simpsons” that I literally had to come up with a grand scheme to decide which one of them I like best. I just have to get used to the fact that “The Simpsons” means something else now, just like it meant something else in the first two years.

  • The Rashomon joke was good, though.

5F04: “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons” (Season 9 / November 16, 1997)
Written by Richard Appel
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Simpsons

Not as awful as the other one. A laugh or two, but mostly just disappointed sighs.

The winner: 1F22, “Bart of Darkness,” and no questions asked.

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 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.”

Round 55: Natural Born Kissers vs. Mr. Plow

Round 55: 5F18 vs. 9F07.

5F18: “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 / May 17, 1998)
Written by Matt Selman
Directed by Klay Hall
Showrunners: Mike Scully

Lenny, Carl, Homer and Marge.

-“How do you do, ma’am?”
-“I hope this evening finds you well.”
-“Oh, knock it off you perverts.”

Some funny lines, but overall I’m not a big fan of this episode. It’s very Matt Selman-y. His kind of jokes, from what I gathered from his episodes and commentary appearances, are much more suited to something like Family Guy. It’s not that they’re not funny, just that they aren’t anything that stands out.

Also, hearing Homer and Marge (attempting to) have sex is just not something I needed in my life.

  • “Folks, is your marriage stuck in a rut? Can you even remember the last time you felt the thrill of romance? Well, maybe you need… a divorce!”

9F07: “Mr. Plow” (Season 4 / November 19, 1992)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson buying a car from a sleazy salesman.

-“What country is this car from?”
-“It no longer exists.”

Like “Kamp Krusty” this is a beloved episode that is beloved for a reason: it’s really good.

Maybe it’s the direct contrast to later episodes, but both “Kamp” and “Mr. Plow” felt very slowly paced to me. Not in a bad way, but it is something that kinda dates them.

  • -“Now, before I give you the check, one more question. Uh, this place, Moe’s, you left just before the accident, this is a business of some kind?”
    -“Don’t tell him you were at a bar. But what else is open at night? — It’s a pornography store. I was buying pornography. — Heh-heh-heh. I would have never thought of that.

The winner: 9F07, “Mr. Plow.”

Round 52: Realty Bites vs. The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer

Round 52: 5F06 vs. HABF15.

5F06: “Realty Bites” (Season 9 / December 7, 1997)
Written by Dan Greaney
Directed by Swinton Scott
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Marge Simpson and Lionel Hutz

vs.

HABF15: “The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer
(Season 18 / September 10, 2006)
Written by Bill Odenkirk
Directed by Michael Marcantel
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson with his head stuck in the ground.

Me, asked to decide which of the two episodes is “better.”

Tough. I don’t really like either episode. They’re not awful, but they’re far from good. Both have extended performances from recurring guest stars – both good, but Phil Hartman wins over Joe Mantegna any day. 5F06 introduces us to Gil, who is fun to watch if just for Dan doing Jack Lemmon. But Homer is too much of a jerk, the story isn’t all that interesting and I hate all the violence.

HABF15 starts off with an awfully unfunny Otto thing (and one of Harry Sharer’s lesser moments in the series’ history), slightly improves from there but never reaches any levels worth celebrating. A few chuckles for this Godfather and Sopranos fan, but it’s not like those references hadn’t been done.

Usually when I have two great episodes competing I ask myself, if I could only ever watch one of them again, which one would I chose. This time around I’m asking, if I had to watch one of them again (and I do, for this tournament), which would it be.

The “winner”: 5F06, “Realty Bites,” I guess. For Phil.