128th-Final, Round 2: Secrets of a Successful Marriage vs. 22 Short Films About Springfield

128th-final, round 2: 1F20 vs. 3F18.

1F20: “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” (Season 5 / May 19, 1994)
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Barney Gumble playing poker

vs.

3F18: “22 Short Films About Springfield” (Season 7 / April 14, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Matt Groening
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Cletus the slack jawed yokel

Oh, wow. So, after trying to go the “I’m gonna really get into why I like one episode more than the other” route resulted in me not writing anything for almost two months, I decided to just go with my gut, announce the winner here, move on, and hope that I’ll have more to say in the future.

The winner: 3F18, “22 Short Films About Springfield.”

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Round 125: In Marge We Trust vs. The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

Round 125: 4F18 vs. 4F20.

4F18: “In Marge We Trust” (Season 8 / April 27, 1997)
Written by Donick Cary
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

The Simpsons 4F18 In Marge We Trust

I liked the idea of giving Lovejoy a bit of a backstory, but the episode lost me somewhere on the way from there to crazy monkeys attacking Ned Flanders. The Mr. Sparkle thing had some fun bits, I guess.


4F20: “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase” (Season 8 / May 11, 1997)
Written by David S. Cohen, Dan Greaney, Steve Tompkins. Story by: Ken Keeler
Directed by Neil Affleck
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Wiggum, P.I., and Skinner

This episode must feel so weird for anyone under 30.

I love all the different genre parodies and references. Of course this is a stand-out in the series, and comparing it to a regular story gets kinda tricky. But of the two episodes here, it’s my clear favorite.

The winner: 4F20, “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase.”

Round 97: A Milhouse Divided vs. King of the Hill

Round 97: 4F04 vs. 5F16.

4F04: “A Milhouse Divided” (Season 8 / December 1, 1996)
Written by Steve Tompkins
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Luann Van Houten burning a box of Kirk's belongings

A great script, beautifully animated. I tend to enjoy episodes that focus on the family more than those heavily featuring secondary characters, but having Milhouse’s parents get a divorce is a great idea and I love the way it’s handled. Most other sitcoms would have restored the status quo at the end, and probably while teaching us some valuable lesson, too.

  • -Marge: “A punch bowl like that just screams good taste. Wouldn’t it be perfect for the dinner party?”
    -Homer: “We can’t afford that. Who do you think I am, Liz Taylor?”
    -Marge: “Well, maybe we can use it once and then return it.”
    -Homer: “Marge, we’re not talking about a toothbrush here.”
  • -Homer: “You can’t keep blaming yourself. Just blame yourself once and move on.”

5F16: “King of the Hill” (Season 9 / May 3, 1998)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Mike Scully

Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, helping Homer Simpson climb the Murderhorn

An interesting side-effect of this tournament, and one that I didn’t expect to happen, is that I look at episodes much more critically than I ever did in the past. I always enjoyed “King of the Hill,” and I still did, for the most part, on this viewing. But compared to not only the episode above but also to the kinds of episode I expect to make it to the last rounds of the bracket, a few things stood out to me. Homer is once again a tad too much of a jerk, he’s victim of too much physical abuse, and the (always lose) fabric of the show’s plausibility is  stretched too thin a few times.

These are, of cause, all symptoms of a Zombie Simpsons episode, yet “King of the Hill” is far from that. The difference, and the thing that saves the episode from falling into that dreaded category, are the effort, love, and care of the people involved in the making of it that is clearly on display.

The winner: 4F04, “A Milhouse Divided.”

Round 56: Marge vs. the Monorail vs. Treehouse of Horror VI

Round 56: 9F10 vs. 3F04.

9F10: “Marge vs. the Monorail” (Season 4 / January 14, 1993)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Chief Wiggum looking at the monorail buzzing through Springfield

(This is supposed to be an animated gif. If it doesn’t work try clicking on it.)

God, I love this episode so much. The strange thing is, I see it more as a Conan O’Brien-project than a Simpsons-episode. It has all the hallmarks of Conan’s style of comedy: it’s crazy, outlandish, absurdist. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, it stretches, even snaps the rubber-band reality of the show. It doesn’t have any of the emotional weight I missed in some other episodes, but here, that really doesn’t matter. It’s just too funny.

  • As usual, the commentary featuring O’Brien and others is pure gold.
  • After Conan’s been ranting about old people and how they all eat mush, Al Jean asks “Are there any other minorities you’d like to sound off against on this DVD no one will ever hear?,” to which he replies, “Old people, sadly, are not a minority.”

3F04: “Treehouse of Horror VI” (Season 7 / October 29, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder, Steve Tompkins, David S. Cohen
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Bart Simpson's eyes popping out.

Possibly the funniest and most memorable Halloween special. I liked the second segment best, with the beautifully painted backgrounds in Bart’s dream and all the other visual references. (The poses on Martin as he’s dying in his sleep are just perfect.)

  • -“Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong all the time?”
    -“Sometimes.”
  • -“These monsters are destroying everything we hold dear. — And you kids should have jackets on.”
  • -“Lousy Smarch weather.”

The winner: 9F10, “Marge vs. the Monorail.”

Round 4: 22 Short Films About Springfield vs. Dumbbell Indemnity

Damn you, random number generator! Two great episodes face off in this round:

3F18 vs. 5F12
(Bracket)

3F18: “22 Short Films About Springfield” (Season 7 / April 14, 1996)
Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Matt Groening
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Skinner & the Superintendent

Here’s the thing about “22 Short Films About Springfield”: It’s memorable, it’s interesting, it’s got a great script and of course my all-time favorite Skinner/Chalmers scene. At the same time, though, it’s not, as Josh Weinstein would say, a jokey, jokey, jokey, jokenheimer episode (meaning there are not a lot of jokey jokes made by jokey jokenheimers, obviously). That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I did make note of it after watching the episode today.

  • I had forgotten just how much “Pulp Fiction” was in this. And how graphic some of the scenes (especially in Herman’s shop) are.
  • Again: Skinner and Chalmers. Harry and Hank at their very best. (“Aurora Borealis?”)
  • Wikipedia (and apparently one of the official episode guides, as well) says Phil Hartman voices the hospital board chairman, but it’s very clearly Harry Shearer.
  • Never liked the bit with Smithers getting stung by the bee.
  • Always loved the bit with Bumblebee-Man.
  • Favorite piece of animation: Homer juggling Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper and his groceries in order to get the newspaper. (Laid out by Paul Wee.)
  • Some folk’ll never eat a skunk, but then again, some folk’ll… like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.” That rhyme gets me every time. The song was written by Steve Tompkins.
  • Random trivia: This is Jimmy Carr’s favorite episode of “The Simpsons.” (Watch “QI,” everyone! It’s a great show!)

5F12: “Dumbbell Indemnity” (Season 9 / March 1, 1998)
Written by Ron Hauge
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson stealing a car.

“Stealing, stealing, stealing a car for Moe!”

I laughed a lot during this one. I even laughed just thinking about it before I watched it. (Homer rolling out of the car and rolling right back in again, that’s just wonderful.) Not a big fan of Helen Hunt’s guest star performance, and the story is a bit too outlandish for my taste. But there are just so many good jokes in here!

  • Happy Homer! Happy Homer Dancing! Happy Homer stealing a car! What’s not to love?
  • Funny montage of Moe and Renee falling in love.
  • Speaking of Moe and Renee: Hank Azaria and Helen Hunt were dating when they recorded this episode, and even got married later. (That one didn’t last too long, though.)
  • – Moe: “Bring us the finest food you got, stuffed with the second finest.”
    – Waiter: “Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos.”
  • – Marge: “Why all the black?”
    – Homer: “Why all the pearls? Why all the hair? Why anything?”
  • It’s things like this that set “The Simpsons” apart from other sitcoms. Try finding that on “Cheers.”

The winner: 3F18, “22 Short Films About Springfield,” by a hair. This has been the toughest decision yet for me in this tournament. I love both episodes, even though they do have their flaws, but in the end, I like the things I like in 3F18 more than the things I like in 5F12.