128th-Final, Round 14: The Day the Violence Died vs. The Call of the Simpsons

128th-final, round 14: 3F16 vs. 7G09.

3F16: “The Day the Violence Died” (Season 7 / March 17, 1996)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Wesley Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart and Lisa Simpson watching Itchy and Scratchy on TV

vs.

7G09: “The Call of the Simpsons” (Season 1 / February 18, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Wesley Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Marge and Lisa Simpson at a camp fire in the woods

Two great Swartzwelder/Archer episodes in this round. While there are certainly many differences in the look and feel and even the characters between seasons 1 and 7, the writer and director have undeniably put their stamp on either episode. Swartwelder’s crazy one-liners and out-there references are present in both of these, as is Archer’s lovingly detailed and beautifully drawn animation.

Albert Brooks“The Day the Violence Died” has great voice performances from guests Kirk Douglas, Alex Rocco, and Phil Hartman (and singing from Jack Sheldon!), while in “The Call of the Simpsons” we get a wonderful scene with Albert Brooks as the sleazy RV-salesman, who kinda reminded me of Walton Goggins’ character in “The Hateful Eight” this time around.

I always think that Season 1 doesn’t really stand much of a chance in this tournament because it can be so different from what the show would become later, but watching these two back-to-back I have to say that I enjoyed 7G09 a lot more than I would have expected. So, in what might be considered kind of an upset, …

… the winner is: 7G09, “The Call of the Simpsons.”

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128th-Final, Round 12: Bart Gets an “F” vs. Homer the Vigilante

128th-final, round 12: 7F03 vs. 1F09.

7F03: “Bart Gets an F” (Season 2 / October 11, 1990)
Written by David M. Stern. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

7F03 Bart Gets an F

vs.

1F09: “Homer the Vigilante” (Season 5 / January 6, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunner: David Mirkin

1F09 Homer the Vigilante

Another close one. As many second season episodes do, “Bart Gets an F” starts out as a rather conventional family sitcom plot, but of course even back then The Simpsons couldn’t help but elevate the material. I am again and again impressed by the sophisticated and artful animation of the early seasons, and this one is just full of beautiful shots.

“Homer the Vigilante” is obviously a much more polished product, and I like the episode a lot, but “Bart Gets an F” has a certain charm that, at least for me, puts it ahead in this contest.

The winner: 7F03, “Bart Gets an F.”

Round 92: When Flanders Failed vs. The War of the Simpsons

Round 92: 7F23 vs. 7F20.

7F23: “When Flanders Failed” (Season 3 / October 3, 1991)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson hanging by his underwear on a basketball hoop.

Whenever Homer has some change-of-heart or learning experience at the end of an episode they have to go out of their way to make him as obnoxious and mean as they can in the rest of the episodes, and that’s not the Homer Simpson I like to see. Bart’s story is more fun, especially when Lisa gets involved, as well.

  • -“Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well, now I need you to do a favor for me.”

7F20: “The War of the Simpsons” (Season 2 / May 2, 1991)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

These episodes were produced very close to each other and so they feel somewhat similar. Again Homer is insufferable throughout, only this time he doesn’t really learn anything. In fact the resolution of the main plot is kind of unsatisfying. Bart and Lisa’s story is more enjoyable in this episode, as well, although even their mischief goes a little too far for my taste. At least Grandpa wins out in the end, I was beginning to feel bad for him for a while there.

Homer Simpsons opening the trunk of his car. The shot of Homer opening the trunk of his car is interesting. It reads as an homage to Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” which had been out for a few months when the episode aired, but in fact it was conceived before the writers and the director had seen the film. In the commentary track, Mike Reiss even remarks that they “did that shot before Scorsese, or Quentin Tarantino.” Before Kevin Smith, too.

The winner: 7F20: “The War of the Simpsons.” I didn’t really like either story, but 7F20 has a few great moments of animation I enjoyed.

Round 91: Krusty Gets Kancelled vs. Treehouse of Horror

Round 91: 9F19 vs. 7F04.

9F19: “Krusty Gets Kancelled” (Season 4 / May 13, 1993)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Worker and Parasite

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Johnny Carson fan, so naturally I got a huge kick out of his appearance here. (It may, in fact, have been this very episode that spawned my fascination with Carson.)

The many other celebrity voices worked very well, too. The episode is filled with funny moments and observations and just a great joy to watch.


7F04: “Treehouse of Horror” (Season 2 /October 25, 1990)
Written by John Swartzwelder / Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky / Sam Simon, Edgar Allan Poe
Directed by Rich Moore / Wes Archer / David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson firing up the grill in a Halloween special.

The first Simpsons Halloween Special is still one of my favorites. All three segments are fun, but of course “The Raven” takes the cake, with James Earl Jones and Dan Castellaneta’s readings and the beautiful staging and animation by David Silverman.

The winner: 9F19, “Krusty Gets Kancelled.”

Round 88: Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? vs. Blood Feud

Round 88: 8F23 vs. 7F22.

8F23: “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” (Season 3 / August 27, 1992)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

The Flanders family sings farewell to Herbert Powell

Danny DeVito reprises his role as Unky Herb from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?“ and again his voice effortlessly blends in with the rest of the cast. This is late into Al and Mike’s first season, so things start to get a little bit more outlandish (Smither’s sperm!?, the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence), but at the core there’s a solid, grounded story.

And, again, I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully animated the show is. The angles! The shadows!

  • -“This is one of our many light switches. It functions in both the on and off mode. On. Off. On. Off.”
  • Totally forgot about the fantastic “2001: A Space Odyssey” scene.

7F22: “Blood Feud” (Season 2 / July 11, 1991)
Written by George Meyer
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Smithers offering Dr. Hibbert his blood to save Mr. Burns' life

A lot of memorable moments in this one, from Lisa teaching Maggie new words, Homer’s twisted telling of the story of Hercules and the Lion (-“Is it a Bible story?” -“Probably.”) to his angry letter to Mr. Burns and of course the introduction of future basement-dweller Xtapolapocetl.

  • -“‘Senile,’ eh? ‘Buck-toothed,’ am I? ‘Bony arms,’ are they? ‘Liver spots,’ did I? ‘Chinless,’ will you?”

The winner: 7F22, “Blood Feud.”

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 84: Old Money vs. The President Wore Pearls

Round 84: 7F17 vs. EABF20.

7F17: “Old Money” (Season 2 / March 28, 1991)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Grandpa Abe Simpson in Edward Hopper's Nighthawks diner

Another very good episode from the second season. You can tell that David Silverman directed it, as again we get some beautiful, inventive angles and shadows. Great story, too, with a real emotional depth to it.


EABF20: “The President Wore Pearls” (Season 15 / November 16, 2003)
Written by Dana Gould
Directed by Mike B. Anderson
Showrunners: Al Jean

Vote Lisa Simpson

One marking of a Zombie Simpsons episode (that I hadn’t really thought about until Dead Homer Society pointed it out but now can’t stop noticing) is that characters just appear out of thin air in places they have no reason to be in, just for the sake of a throwaway joke or as a lazy way to move the plot forward. This happens at least three times in this episode, with Chalmers, Skinner’s mother, and Homer and Marge walking into frame without even the attempt of an explanation as to why they would be anywhere near the school.

The winner: 7F17, “Old Money.”