128th-Final, Round 13: Lost Our Lisa vs. The Front

128th-final, round 13: 5F17 vs. 9F16.

5F17: “Lost Our Lisa” (Season 9 / May 10, 1998)
Written by Brian Scully. Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

5F17 Lost Our Lisa

Didn’t like it quite as much as last time.

-Lisa: “Can I take the bus to the museum?”
-Homer: “Museum? I don’t like the sound of that.”


9F16: “The Front” (Season 4 / April 15, 1993)
Written by Adam I. Lapidus. Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

9F16 The Front

Don’t know what I was going on about last time. Brilliant episode.

The winner: 9F16, “The Front.”

Round 59: Goo Goo Gai Pan vs. Selma’s Choice

Round 59: GABF06 vs. 9F11.

GABF06: “Goo Goo Gai Pan” (Season 16 / March 13, 2005)
Written by Dana Gould
Directed by Lance Kramer
Showrunner: Al Jean

Chinese dragons

I wasn’t a big fan of this episode, but listening to the DVD’s audio commentary made me look at it a bit more favorably, I have to say. Writer Dana Gould based the story on his own experiences of traveling to China to adopt a baby girl, and many of the episode’s beats were directly inspired by real life, including a lesbian woman who had another man pretend to be her husband for the Chinese authorities.

Other highlights of the commentary include anecdotes about guest stars Robert Wagner (slept with Marilyn Monroe) and Lucy Liu (gave a huge basket of cupcakes to the writers).


9F11: “Selma’s Choice” (Season 4 / January 21, 1993)
Written by David M. Stern
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson and a potato chip shaped like the soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima

Selma realizes that time is ticking away and desperately wants to have a child? I’ve heard that before.

The actual plot of this episode is kinda all over the place without really going anywhere. In that aspect, “Goo Goo Gai Pan” handles Selma’s dilemma better – she actually gets a baby in the end, not just an iguana.

Still, “Selma’s Choice” is the better episode. It’s funnier, the animation is more beautiful, Homer gets to eat both potato chips shaped like famous people and a rotten sandwich.

Plus, of course, Lisa’s bad acid trip in Duff Gargens.

  • -“Well, to cheer you up, I rented a couple of videos. ‘Boxing’s Greatest Weigh-Ins‘ and Yentl.'”
    -“Yentl? What’s that?”
    -“It deals with a bookish young woman’s efforts to enter rabbinical school.”
    -“Sounds great!”
    -“Oh my God! You’re delirious.”

The winner: 9F11: “Selma’s Choice.”

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 89: Lisa the Beauty Queen vs. Bart Gets Famous

Round 89: 9F02 vs. 1F11.

9F02: “Lisa the Beauty Queen” (Season 4 / October 15, 1992)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Krusty the Klown heartily endorsing an even or product on television

-“I heartily endorse this event or product.”

One look at the names above and you know you’re in for a great episode. Of course I like the moments between Homer and Lisa, but what I caught watching it this time was how much of the episode is made up of almost skit-like little scenes that serve mostly for delivering setups and punchlines. From the moment Lisa is crowned beauty queen it’s one set piece after another, the wax museum, the deportation, the USO show, the football game. When “Family Guy” first ripped off “The Simpsons,” this is one of the things they were… inspired by, for sure.

  • A good Simpsons episode knows that when the main focus is on Lisa or Marge, Bart and Homer are allowed to act a bit wackier than usual, and we certainly get some of that here. (Bart channeling Tex Avery, Homer daydreaming about Marge mowing the lawn.)

1F11: “Bart Gets Famous” (Season 5 / February 3, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer Simpson answering the phone wearing nothing but a towel

-“You’ll have to speak up. I’m wearing a towel.”

Going into this round I of course knew that “Bart Gets Famous” is a great episode, but I wondered if it was still funny even after all the countless times I’ve seen it. The answer: Yes. It is. I laughed out loud more than I’d expected, both at jokes I anticipated and others I had forgotten about.

The observation I made above is true here, as well. With Bart center Homer gets away with a lot of crazy things, one of my favorites being his rant about poor people – and the ensuing blank stares from his family.

  • Another perfect Dan Castellaneta performance as the box factory guide.

The winner: 1F11, “Bart Gets Famous.”

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 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.