Round 123: Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1 vs. New Kids on the Blecch

Round 123: 2F16 vs. CABF12.

2F16: “Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One” (Season 6 / May 21, 1995)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Jeff Lynch
Showrunner: David Mirkin

2F16 Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One

I like it.


CABF12: “New Kids on the Blecch” (Season 12 / February 25, 2001)
Written by Tim Long
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

CABF12 New Kids on the Blecch

Funniest part of the episode. I think it’s the first act break. Maybe it’s the second? They were both pretty great.

I don’t like it.

The winner: 2F16, “Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One.” Sorry, again, for being so short on words these days. But right now it’s either moving the tournament along without writing a lot, or not posting any new rounds at all.

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Round 90: Homer vs. Patty and Selma vs. Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words

Round 90: 2F14 vs. KABF19.

2F14: “Homer vs. Patty and Selma” (Season 6 / February 26, 1995)
Written by Brent Forrester
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Homer and Marge Simpson with Patty and Selma Bouvier

Love Homer’s forced smile.

Homer verges a bit on the too mean/too dumb side for my taste in this episode, and it’s not as flat-out funny as some of the season’s other episodes, but overall I like it. Bart’s ballet subplot is fun, as is the resolution to the Patty and Selma story (“And you, sir, are worse than Hitler.”).

  • I’m a bit disappointed by the Mel Brooks and Susan Sarandon appearances. I like both of them and wish they had been giving something better to do.
  • -“Rat Boy? I resent that.”

KABF19: “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words” (Season 20 / November 16, 2008)
Written by Tim Long
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean

Homer Simpson having a revelation in bed

Here’s something I didn’t expect: this episode isn’t terrible. Parts of it are quite funny (the In Memoriam segment especially) and there were almost none of the cringe-worthy moments that define other episodes from later seasons.

So, it’s not bad, but is it better than “Homer vs. Patty and Selma”?

Not quite. But it’s not that far off, really.

The winner: 2F14, “Homer vs. Patty and Selma.”

Round 63: Two Dozen and One Greyhounds vs. Behind the Laughter

Round 63: 2F18 vs. BABF19.

2F18: “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” (Season 6 / April 9, 1995)
Written by Mike Scully
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Santa's Little Helper in a parody of The Lady and the Tramp

I don’t even know what to write.

Perfect.

Next?


BABF19: “Behind the Laughter” (Season 11 / May 21, 2000)
Written by Tim Long, George Meyer, Mike Scully, Matt Selman
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson in black-and-white

“Mama Mia!”

I actually like this one. The immersion into the “Behind the Music” format works quite well, and I enjoyed all the visualizations of those overwrought phrases: “The Simpsons’ TV show started out on a wing and a prayer… but now the wing was on fire and the prayer had been answered by Satan.

  • -“This will be our last season.”

The winner: 2F18, “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds.”

Round 45: Skinner’s Sense of Snow vs. Radioactive Man

Follow and yell at me on Twitter at @SebastianNebel.

Round 45: CABF06 vs. 2F17.

CABF06: “Skinner’s Sense of Snow” (Season 12 / December 17, 2000)
Written by Tim Long
Directed by Lance Kramer
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Lisa Simpson, Martin Prince, and White Weasel.

Me watching this episode.

Why did I remember this as a pretty good episode? Maybe because it’s not quite as bad as some of the other episodes from the twelfth season – you won’t find it in this tournament, but “Homer vs. Dignity” is so god-awful, insulting and horrible that its mere existence almost makes me ashamed to call myself a Simpsons fan – but compared to episodes from the good years this just can’t hold up. It’s not funny. It features a few of the characters’ (especially Bart and Homer) worst qualities. I hated the whole Cirque du Soleil thing and it didn’t get much better from there.


2F17: “Radioactive Man” (Season 7 / September 24, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Zuff! Pan!! Snuh! Bort! Pooo! Newt! Mint! Zak!

Swartzwelder and Mirkin combined certainly gives us one of the most memorable episodes of The Simpsons. It’s the obvious winner here, and it will be interesting to see how it fares against more family-centered episodes in the future.

The winner: 2F17, “Radioactive Man.”

Round 21: Treehouse of Horror X vs. Bart the Mother

Round 21: BABF01 vs. 5F22.

BABF01: “Treehouse of Horror X” (Season 11 / October 31, 1999)
Written by Donick Cary, Tim Long, Ron Hauge
Directed by Pete Michels
Showrunner: Mike Scully

The Collector (Comic Book Guy) with Xena, Warrior Princess and Tom Baker as Doctor Who.

Loooong before YouTube, BitTorrent, eMule, Netflix, Hulu and other, spattered-on-the-spectrum-of-legality ways to enjoy TV shows on your computer, there was Cletus’ Farm (http://cletus.free.fr/, don’t bother, the link’s long dead, but you can relive the glorious flashstravaganza here), a website dedicated to offer Real Media (remember?) copies of new Simpsons episodes to fans who, like me, had no other way to watch them except a year later and dubbed into horrible, awful German.

As an avid reader and poster of the newsgroup (remember?) de.rec.tv.simpsons, I got wind of Cletus’ Farm in late 1999 and, in what must have taken my trusted 56k-modem the whole night, downloaded “Treehouse of Horror X.”

It wasn’t the first time I watched the show in its original language, but it was the beginning of the end of me watching The Simpsons – dubbed – on German TV, a thing that definitely stopped once the DVD sets started to arrive in 2001.

So what was the first thing I did after watching ToHX? Why, post a raving “review” to the newsgroup, of course. (It’s here, in German, and maybe the worst thing I or anyone has ever written, for so, so many reasons. Sometimes when I feel down I go back and read it to remind me of just how far I’ve come as a human being.)

The Usenet responded to my detailed plot summary by reminding me what an asshole I was for spoiling an episode that hadn’t even aired on local TV yet. I felt horrible. It was a whole big thing. Also I was 17 and spent most of my time talking to strangers online. As opposed to today, where I’m 30 and spend most of my time talking to friends and strangers online. Big step up.

But let’s talk about the episode. I didn’t think it was as hilarious as I did when I first watched it, but it’s not all that bad, either. The first segment has some nice staging going for it, but I didn’t laugh once. I quite like “Desperately Xeeking Xena,” it’s a fun Bart & Lisa story with a well used guest star and some good jokes. The third segment offers the funniest bit of the episode, when the guard tells Lisa she is only allowed to take one parent with her, and she, without missing a beat, opts for “Mom.” Perfect timing on that one.

Other random trivia and thoughts:

  • Comic Book Guy says his Star Trek phaser was fired only once, “to keep William Shatner from making another album.” Shatner did make two more after that, and 2004’s “Has Been” is actually pretty great.
  • One of the names CBG offers Lucy Lawless to call him on their wedding night is “Mister Mxyzptlk,” who “can be stopped only by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards,” as I’ve learned listening to this great episode of the Judge John Hodgman podcast.

5F22: “Bart the Mother” (Season 10 / September 27, 1998)
Written by David S. Cohen
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Special Guest Voice Phil Hartman

The last episode to feature Phil Hartman, the last full episode to be written by David S. Cohen. Two great losses for the show, which was already getting into some bad habits, best exhibited by Homer getting repeatedly and violently hit by baseballs.

Now, Homer has suffered through painful ordeals for as long as the show has been on the air (just take this hilarious moment from the third season’s “Lisa’s Pony”), but the baseballs scene and similar ones that would follow are just… not… that funny to me.

It’s a weird thing though. On paper, Homer getting hit by baseballs is no more gruesome than Homer repeatedly falling down Springfield Gorge, and while that scene does bother me, a little bit – did there have to be blood? – it doesn’t feel as gratuitous. (The sad, sad low point of the series in this regard, which you won’t find in this tournament, is when Homer is raped by a panda. Funny!)

“Bart the Mother” has more to offer than that one scene, of course, and most of it is actually quite good. (Although, as with many of the episodes made around this time, I laughed a lot more listening to the audio commentary than during the actual show.)

The winner: 5F22: “Bart the Mother”.

Round 6: The Trouble with Trillions vs. Simpsons Bible Stories

Round 6: 5F14 vs. AABF14.

5F14: “The Trouble with Trillions” (Season 9 / April 5, 1998)
Written by Ian Maxtone-Graham
Directed by Swinton O. Scott III
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson filling out his tax returns.

“Marge, if anyone asks, you require 24-hour nursing care, Lisa’s a clergyman, Maggie is seven people, and Bart was wounded in Vietnam.”

Did you file your taxes yet? The idea of starting the episode on New Year’s Eve, have Ned file his returns the next morning (“8:45? Here I am yapping away like it’s 8:35!”) and then fast-forwarding to April 15 is a great one. From there it’s a long way to Burns, Smithers and Homer on a raft returning from Cuba, but the episode gets there in a semi-believable way, so that’s okay.

  • This episode marks the first time in this tournament (but not in the series) that the Charles Nelson Reilly noise is employed (without the collar yank, though). Last month I asked Simpsons writer Matt Selman how they represent the Charles Nelson Reilly noise in the scripts. Answer: “[Charles Nelson Reilly noise].” Those crazy writers and their technical terms!
  • – “Daddy, what do taxes pay for?”
    – “Oh, why, everything! Policeman, trees, sunshine. And let’s not forget the folks who just don’t feel like working, God bless ’em.”
  • I would have never noticed it without Ian Maxtone-Graham pointing it out in the commentary, but ever since then Homer’s package magically turning into a ball of string makes me laugh every time I see it.
  • When Homer asks the guys in the bar to talk about crimes being committed, they specifically reference things he did in past episodes: running moonshine out of his basement, a telemarketing scam, and the time he beat up George Bush.

AABF14: “Simpsons Bible Stories” (Season 10 / April 4, 1999)
Written by Tim Long, Larry Doyle, Matt Selman
Directed by Nancy Kruse
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Reverend Lovejoy and a melting, chocolate Easter bunny.

Huh. I kinda remember at the very least not actively disliking this episode, and maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood today, but the thing is: watching it again, I didn’t laugh once. In fact, all that my notes say about “Bible Stories” is “didn’t laugh once” and “oh, look, it’s the Orb of Isis from ‘Lost Our Lisa.’ That was great episode.”

The winner: 5F14: “The Trouble with Trillions.”