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.”

128th-Final, Round 6: Itchy & Scratchy Land vs. Bart Sells His Soul

128th-final, round 6: 2F01 vs. 3F02.

Itchy & Scratchy Land vs. Bart Sells His Soul

2F01: “Itchy & Scratchy Land” (Season 6 / October 2, 1994)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

vs.

3F02: “Bart Sells His Soul” (Season 7 / October 8, 1995)
Written by Greg Daniels. Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

Both episodes belong in the Simpsons pantheon, but I can only choose one right now, and I’m going with “Itchy & Scratchy Land.”

If I had to come up with a reason I’d argue that 2F01 works better as a whole, while “Bart Sells His Soul,” with the B-plot about Moe’s family restaurant, feels more like two separate stories stitched together. Which is not not a bad thing, at all, but these two episodes are of such a high quality that directly pitting them against each other means coming up with even the tiniest “flaws,” as it were.

So long, 3F02. We’ll always have I. Ron Butterfly.

The winner: 2F01, ” Itchy & Scratchy Land.”

128th-Final, Round 5: The Homer They Fall vs. Lady Bouvier’s Lover

128th-final, round 5: 4F03 vs. 1F21.

4F03: “The Homer They Fall” (Season 8 / November 10, 1996)
Written by Jonathan Collier. Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein

"No running!"

“No running!”

I think if I had never started this tournament I’d happily file this one under “masterpiece” and move on, but since I’m comparing episodes I can’t help but note small things that, for lack of a better rationale, would seem out of place in what I’d picture as a “perfect” Simpsons episode. Tiny moments like Homer dragging Marge into the gadget store against her will (“Homer, please, you’re hurting my arm.”) just don’t sit right with me. And I already got into my problems with Homer being a human punching bag for most of the episode last time I watched it.

  • Janie saying “No running!” in the hallways is one of those things I probably missed the first 20 times I watched the episode but now think is one of the funniest things ever.
  • -Michael Buffer: “Due to popular demand, we will forego our national anthem.”

1F21: “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 / May 12, 1994)
Written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer. Showrunner: David Mirkin

Grandpa Abe Simpson in 1F21 Lady Bouvier’s Lover

How good is this episode? I was so enthralled watching it that I completely forgot that I was supposed to take down notes or think about it critically in any capacity. I was just enjoying it from start to finish. And while I do like “The Homer They Fall” very much, the choice here is clear:

The winner: 1F21, “Lady Bouvier’s Lover.”

Round 121: Treehouse of Horror XIX vs. Bart the Daredevil

Round 121: KABF16 vs. 7F06.

KABF16: “Treehouse of Horror XIX” (Season 20 / November 2, 2008)
Written by Matt Warburton
Directed by Bob Anderson
Showrunner: Al Jean

KABF16

Season 20? I don’t have that! That’s not online! Is it good? Did I think it was good? Did I even see it? I think I did, when it first aired? There’s a one minute clip of it online. I watched it. Made me wish I watched “Peanuts” instead.


7F06: “Bart the Daredevil” (Season 2 / December 6, 1990)
Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

The Simpsons 7F06 Bart the Daredevil

Fun episode. My favorite part is definitely Lisa’s school recital. There are a few minor things that will probably mean it won’t stay in the tournament until the final rounds, but here it’s the clear winner.

The winner: 7F06, “Bart the Daredevil.”

Round 117: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire vs. Bart vs. Australia

Round 117: 7G08 vs. 2F13.

7G08: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (Season 1 / December 17, 1989)
Written by Mimi Pond
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Homer Simpson in the snow

What I love most about The Simpsons Christmas Special is how on its surface it looks like a pretty typical family-sitcom holiday episode – the family’s in dire straits, the father doesn’t get his bonus, Christmas is ruined! – but then goes on to completely subvert any lesson or resolution the audience (especially one from that time, when not everything on TV was subversion) might have expected to happen.


2F13: “Bart vs. Australia” (Season 6 / February 19, 1995)
Written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunner: David Mirkin

A man on the roof of a house floating in lava answering a payphone

While the few minor complaints I have about this episode (mostly Homer’s a bit too aggressively jerky behavior) could hurt its chances in upcoming rounds of the tournament, and even though I do like “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” quite a bit …

… the winner is 2F13, “Bart vs. Australia.” For Lava Guy alone.

Round 114: Three Men and a Comic Book vs. Homer Defined

Round 114: 7F21 vs. 8F04.

7F21: “Three Men and a Comic Book” (Season 2 / May 9, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

Black and white still of the planet blowing up in an old Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy film strip

Good stuff. It takes a while to get going, the pacing of the plot and the jokes clearly mark this as a second season episode, but the climactic moments in Bart’s treehouse are every bit as awesome and beautiful as you remember.

  • Love how Bart basically turns into an old-timey gangster at the end. “Real friendly-like.”
  • -Bart: “We ended up with nothing because the three of us can’t share.”
    -Milhouse: “What’s your point?”
    -Bart: “Nothin’. Just kind of ticks me off.”

8F04 “Homer Defined” (Season 3 / October 17, 1991)
Written by Howard Gewirtz
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunners: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon

-Homer: "What? What is it? What are you doing?" -Lisa: "Looking at you with quit awe." -Homer: "Well, as long as it's quiet."

-Homer: “What? What is it? What are you doing?”
-Lisa: “Looking at you with quiet awe.”
-Homer: “Well, as long as it’s quiet.”

Wonderful. Mark Kirkland brings such a good eye to his direction. The angles, the lighting, the shadows, the staging. I am again sadly reminded of the time the guys from Robot Chicken did the show’s couch gag, and in the making of they describe the look of (today’s) Simpsons as “two-dimensional,” “flat,” and “even lit.” It wasn’t always like that, as episodes like “Homer Defined” demonstrate masterfully.

The winner: 8F04, “Homer Defined.”

Round 105: I Married Marge vs. New Kid on the Block

Round 105: 8F10 vs. 9F06.

8F10: “I Married Marge” (Season 3 / December 26, 1991)
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Jeffrey Lynch
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Springfield at night, nuclear power plant, grid, car, headlights

Love this one. It’s an episode that I haven’t seen many time for some reason, so it felt kinda new and exciting. These flashback shows (origin stories?) are a lot of fun when done right, as this one certainly is.

  • -Homer: “I bet the guy she was singing that about was real happy.”
    -Marge: “Mh, actually, she was singing about God.”
    -Homer: “Oh, well, he’s always happy. … No, wait, he’s always mad.”

9F06: “New Kid on the Block” (Season 4 / November 12, 1992)
Written by Conan O’Brien
Directed by Wes Archer
Showrunners: Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Bart Simpson's heart getting ripped out

I hate to say this about an episode written by my hero Conan O’Brien, but, man, this one’s all over the place, plot-wise. There are a few good elements, but as a whole I’m not a big fan. It feels rather unfinished, like it needed a few more rewrites. Or maybe it had too many. Who knows.

  • -Bart: “Dad, I have some questions about women.”
    -Homer: “Uh, can’t you see I’m reading the, uh, cultural calendar? … Ooh! ‘Mostly Mozart‘ is in town.”

The winner: 8F10: “I Married Marge.”