Video: Behind the Scenes of The Simpsons (1992)

Via Dead Homer Society, here’s a vintage FOX promo/making-of vignette that puts some faces behind those all too familiar voices:


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 44: Radio Bart vs. The Springfield Files

For those of you coming here via Dead Homer Society, might I turn your attention to this polemic on why men should sit down to pee I wrote? Got nothing to do with The Simpsons, but, you know… it’s about peeing.

Round 44: 8F11 vs. 3G01.

8F11: “Radio Bart” (Season 3 / January 9, 1992)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Carlos Baeza
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Herman, Carl, a flying saucer, Apu, Skinner, and Moe digging to free Bart from the well.

Bask in my amazing photo stitching skills! Bask, I said!

Great episode! I mean, it’s no Claymation Easter, and Sting’s no Bruce Springsteen, but what can you do? The story is based on Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole,” a great movie with a great Kirk Douglas performance. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. I think it’s on Netflix?

I’m stalling, because I didn’t jot down any notes while watching this, as will happen every once in a while when I’m just too caught up in an episode, especially one I haven’t seen in a while. Loved “Radio Bart” from start to finish, nothing to complain about.

Plus, there’s this to look at. You’re so very welcome.

3G01: “The Springfield Files” (Season 8 / January 12, 1997)
Written by Reid Harrison
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Marvin the Martian, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Chewbacca, ALF, and Kang or Kodos in an FBI line-up.

The most illegal shot in the history of The Simpsons.

For many reasons, watching this episode feels different from watching any other episode. Much of that has to do with how and when I first came upon it, way way back in the late nineties. “The Springfield Files” was among four episodes on a VHS tape a friend’s sister brought back from England, and they were the first four episodes of The Simpsons I ever watched in English, not dubbed into horrible, horrible German. And watch them I did. Over and over and over.

So that was a whole new, kinda weird at first, experience anyway. Add to that the fact that back then (and still, to some extent, now) I was a huge X-Files fan. A cross-over of my two  favorite shows was a big thrill then, and watching it now I still get a kick out of Mulder, Scully, CSM and other elements from the X-Files appearing in Springfield.

But there’s another thing. This may be a weird complaint to have for a comedy show, and it’s not really a complaint, more of a… thing I noticed. More like any other episode I can think of, this one feels a lot like the jokes came first, the story later. Not even jokes so much as a string of funny references and situations. Unrelated skits, almost.

It’s probably just me and my history with the episode. But if you’ve noticed something similar let me know.

The winner: 3G01, “The Springfield Files.” I don’t think it will ever have a chance of winning the tournament, because it is too much of a one-off, too bending of the format. But I enjoyed it a lot, even more than the wonderful “Radio Bart.”

Round 43: Jazzy and the Pussycats vs. Colonel Homer

Round 43: HABF18 vs. 8F19.

HABF18: “Jazzy and the Pussycats” (Season 18 / September 17, 2006)
Written by Daniel Chun
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Al Jean

Lisa Simpson and her animals in front a sign saying, Closed By Popular Demand.

When I chose which of the post-season 15 episodes (the ones that haven’t been released on DVD, yet) to include in the tournament, I went through the episode guide and basically wrote down the few titles that conjured up any positive feelings, however faint. (Most of them I didn’t remember at all.)

And you saw what happened two rounds ago, where I couldn’t even make it five minutes into either episode. But this time? I was pleasantly surprised. Disregarding Homer, who is loud, angry, bipolar and just not funny throughout, I very much enjoyed “Jazzy and the Pussycats.” Maybe it’s because I’m a drummer (well, used to be, anyway), I love jazz and The White Stripes. And even it came kinda out of nowhere I liked Lisa’s story, too.

8F19: “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 / March 26, 1992)
Written by Matt Groening
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

A bar fight about to happen.

-“Hey, you. Let’s fight!”
-“Them’s fightin’ words.”

This, however, is on a completely different level. And it’s not even a stand-out episode from the third season, it’s just that the show as a whole was such high-quality back then.

So, more thoughts on this one… eventually.

The winner: 8F19, “Colonel Homer.”

Round 42: Cape Feare vs. The Principal and the Pauper

Round 42: 9F22 vs. 4F23.

9F22: “Cape Feare” (Season 5 / October 7, 1993)
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by Rich Moore
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Homer Simpson's face, distorted through a glass of water.

I have seen neither of the Capes Fear, and after watching this episode so many times it would probably be a very weird experience. (On the other hand I love Robert Mitchum…)

In addition to extended and very specific movie parodies we also get a ton of cut-away gags, non-sequiturs and little absurdities that are all very funny but, after I’ve seen them a few dozen times, leave me yearning for more substantial, emotional content. During the Reiss & Jean and Mirkin years of The Simpsons, before Family Guy made them its own, these throw-away jokes were an essential (and welcome) new thing, but I’m glad that Weinstein and Oakley dialed it down a notch when they came into power.

And speaking of TPTB, while watching this I was actually thinking (and laughing) more about the DVD commentary than the episode itself. It’s hard for me to separate the two, but after all this tournament was set up to find my favorite Simpsons episode, not commentary, so I’ll have to try. (And even if it was, The Principal and the Pauper‘s commentary is very good, as well.)

4F23: “The Principal and the Pauper” (Season 9 / September 28, 1997)
Written by Ken Keeler
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Abe Simpson, Jasper, Lisa, Maggie, Bart, Marge, Agnes Skinner, Mrs. Krabappel and Homer in the car.

-“Okay, once more, where are we going?”
-“To Capitol City.”
-“And why are you and the old lady in the car?”
-“We’re gonna talk Armin Tamzarian into coming back.”
-“And why is Marge here?”
-“I came up with the idea.”
-“And why am I here?”
-“Because the streets of Capitol City are no place for three unescorted ladies.”
-“And why are the kids here?”
-“Because we couldn’t find Grampa to sit for them.”
-“And why is Grampa here?”
-“Because Jasper didn’t want to come by himself.”
-“Fair enough.”

This one apparently got a lot of people really mad. If you are one of them, you’re not going to like how this round will come out.

Writer and Futurama-DVD-commentary-favorite Ken Keeler explains in the commentary track why this episode is exactly about the kind of people that went on to write angry letters and decry the show had jumped the shark with the whole Armin Tamzarian storyline. Much like the citizens of Springfield, they didn’t like things to change and would rather pretend the whole thing never happened.

I don’t really care about all that. “The Principal and the Pauper” is a fun episode, with great performances (including from Martin Sheen), good jokes, and beautiful animation. I like “Cape Feare,” a lot, but if I could only ever watch one of them again, I’d opt for this one.

The winner: 4F23, “The Principal and the Pauper.”

Round 39: Saturdays of Thunder vs. Marge Be Not Proud

Round 39: 8F07 vs. 3F07.

8F07: “Saturdays of Thunder” (Season 3 / November 14, 1991)
Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs
Directed by Jim Reardon
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson welding.

“Bart! You can’t weld with such a little flame.”

A nice little Homer and Bart story. I was a bit surprised that this was already in the show’s third season, for some reason it feels like a season two episode to me. That has nothing to do with the quality, it’s just that in my head this episode feels older than the timeless “The Way We Was.”

Anyway, we get great animation on and off the race track here, including a loving tribute to “The Godfather” in the McBain clip.

(I hate to be this brief when talking about the episodes, but sometimes I just don’t have much to say. There’s nothing to complain about, and nothing earth-shattering, either.)

3F07: “Marge Be Not Proud” (Season 7 / December 17, 1995)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Lisa and Bart Simpson watching television.

“Now, stay tuned for a video Christmas card from Tupac Shakur.”

Dead Homer Society have a whole chapter just on this “very special episode,” which they cite as one of the (if not the) turning point of “The Simpsons,” the one episode that turned the once great show into the banality that is Zombie Simpsons.

I don’t know what that’s all about, to me “Marge Be Not Proud” is a wonderful episode, with a story true to Bart and Marge’s characters, and featuring one great joke after another. Homer gets a lot of the big laughs here, but I also very much enjoyed 75-year-old Lawrence Tierney as the store detective. (The commentary is full of good stories about him, too.)

  • “I don’t think this is the kind of coat that opens.”
  • I will never get tired of Homer wearing his reading glasses in bed:
  • “I figured out the boy’s punishment. First, he’s grounded. No leaving the house, not even for school. And absolutely no stealing for three months.”
  • Another perfect little Lisa moment at the end, when she’s upset about not getting a present, too. Gotta love Yeardley!

The winner: 3F07, “Marge Be Not Proud.”

Round 34: Mom and Pop Art vs. How the Test Was Won

Round 34: AABF15 vs. LABF02.

AABF15: “Mom and Pop Art” (Season 10 / April 11, 1999)
Written by Al Jean
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Marge Simpson painting a flooded Springfield.

Aside from the truly beautiful animation and visual references, this episode didn’t do much for me. It’s not great, but it’s far from the worst. It’s… well, it’s okay, I guess.

  • Favorite detail: The bear at Jebediah Springfied’s feet is wearing a snorkel, too.
  • From the commentary, after the joke about Christo’s umbrellas killing someone:
    Matt Groening: “There was some hesitation over that joke.”
    George Meyer: “Maybe there should have been more.”
  • (I thought it was a good joke.)

LABF02: “How the Test Was Won” (Season 20 / March 1, 2009)
Written by Michael Price
Directed by Lance Kramer
Showrunner: Al Jean

Luann Van Houten

The first thing that struck me about this episode was how little of it there actually is. Extra-long credits, extra-long couch gag, extended flashback/clip-show sequence and a whole lotta awkward silences that seem to scream “We’ll put a joke in here as soon as we think of one.”

I did like a few things, the image above is one, also Ralph singing the Spice Girls made me laugh, and the Footloose-ending was kinda nice, even though it seemed like yet another time filler.

On the other hand there was the disgusting visual of Burns spouting blood like a fountain. So while “Mom and Pop Art” really isn’t all that good, at least it didn’t contain a moment as god-awful as that one.

The winner: AABF15: “Mom and Pop Art”.