Culture of Pop

‘The Simpsons’ Smarch Madness: Sweet Sixteen, Part 1

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Stupid Smarch weather calls for an accompanying bracket. This, by all means, is not an extensive ranking of The Simpsons episodes. If it were, we would be here all day rabble-rousing trying to find out the all-time Simpsons episode like we were all crammed in Springfield City Hall. That would make me Mayor Quimby, only I am not illiterate.

Let’s get started! This is the first in a series of posts, with 16 episodes in the running. The episodes were compiled with the help of the PCS editors and a few people from Twitter. Whichever episode wins will be dubbed the arbitrary title of Smarch Madness winner. It will be the big one out of the 569 current episodes aired, which means I will refer to the episode as Bitey from hereon in.

(1) “And Maggie Makes Three” vs. (16) “Last Exit to Springfield”
“And Maggie Makes Three” takes the difficult task of creating a Maggie-centric episode. The Simpsons writers have made it an artform, and no other episode offers as much substance and emotion as “And Maggie Makes Three.”

“And Maggie Makes Three” offers a glimpse into Marge’s third pregnancy. It turns out that despite their comedically squalid living conditions, the Simpson family had it good when Homer just had to support a wife and two children. He was even able to afford quitting his job at the nuclear plant to live his dream of working at a bowling alley. Alas, the pregnancy derailed Homer’s dream and he was forced to go back to the plant, only this time he’s forced to be there forever.

What resulted was one of the most tender moments in Simpsons history.

While “And Maggie Makes Three” offers a quintessential moment, “Last Exit to Springfield” is the perfect example of a Simpsons episode. In it, Homer becomes the head of the plant’s union. Meanwhile, Lisa needs braces (dental plan). The episode is a great combination of emotion and comedy that blends both the A and B story into one solid narrative. This episode shows Mr.Burns at his most evil (and offers a great allusion to How The Grinch Stole Christmas)

Because “Last Exit to Springfield” offers countless moments and was regarded by the Simpsons writers as one of the greatest Simpsons episodes, it gets the huge upset and defeats “And Maggie Makes Three.” Mr. Burns will be ecstatic to hear the news.

Winner: “Last Exit to Springfield”

(8) “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” vs. (9) “Colonel Homer”
A matchup between an eight seed and a ninth seed is always great considering that the one competitor is only slightly better than the other. This is definitely the case for “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” and “Colonel Homer.”

While the former is a glimpse into what the Simpsons later became – a beacon of absurdity with pop culture references mixed throughout – “Colonel Homer” only teases the otherworldliness when Homer decides to manage a rising country star in Lurleen Lumpkin. She ends up falling in love with Homer, and he ends up being conflicted throughout the episode, but eventually sticks with his wife.

“Colonel Homer” seems rough in comparison to “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious,” where it’s obvious that the show’s writers found a way to keep the momentum going. I’ll tip my hat to “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious.” Though “Colonel Homer” is great in many regards, moments from that episode aren’t as memorable as all of Shary Bobbins’ scenes with the Simpsons family, save for Lurleen’s music. Having said that, Shary Bobbins even refutes with a set of small tunes of her own.

Winner: “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious”

(5) “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2” vs (12) “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”
From BallerMindFrame and PCS editor Aaron Lanton:

Everyone had a motive to kill resident billionaire Mr. Burns, although the true shooter was definitely a safe choice. Moe Szyslak is among the few who we might actually buy doing the deed. Police hooked him up to a lie detector test and the only thing that checks out is the most important answer.

Mysteries are always fun and the insanity of The Simpsons just made it all more fun.

[In “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”], Mr. Burns runs for governor of Illinois to keep his nuclear power plant open after a three-eyed fish is caught by Bart and the mutation blamed on the leaking radiation from the nearby, under code power plant. Bribing the state inspectors doesn’t work, so Burns decides to become their boss. How does a hated man become an elected official?

Sounds about right.

It’s only fitting that an episode that features Mr.Burns is in the first round of Smarch Madness. Aside from the immediate Simpson family, there is no other central figure more flexible in terms of constructing a narrative than the eccentric billionaire. The matchup boils down to the first glimpse of Mr.Burns’ evil to the apex of his dastardly acts. Spoiler alert: Maggie did it.

Burns is a plausible villain in “Two Cars…,” but he is as close to a super villain as he has ever been in “Who Shot Mr.Burns?”  Because of this, and because it created a huge buzz when it aired, “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2” edges “Two Cars in Every Garage…”

Winner: “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2”

(4) “Homer’s Enemy” vs. (13) “Marge Be Not Proud”

Homer versus Marge. The matchup is as old as time itself (at least playfully in The Simpsons universe). “Homer’s Enemy” proved to be a very meta view of Homer. We, as fans, were accustomed to loving Homer for being a lazy slob that gets into crazy adventures and professions without any real consequences. After all, the family simply resets to their normal routine once the episode is over. That is why introducing downtrodden Frank Grimes is so impactful to how we view Homer. Grimes forces us to realize that the character we all love is a terrible human being who should not be glorified. Much to Grimes’ chagrin, Springfield overlooks this and loves Homer anyway. This famously leads to Grimes’ insanity and imminent death.

“Marge Be Not Proud” proves to be the antithetical “Homer’s Enemy.” Like in most episodes, Marge plays the voice of reason. Her role as the symbol of morality becomes problematic for a rebellious Bart, who shoplifts his favorite game (buy me Bonestorm or go to hell!) and gets caught. In the end, Bart makes up for it by apologizing and surprising Marge with a makeup photo to complement the family portrait he ruined.

Unfortunately, this matchup is not as close as it was on paper. “Homer’s Enemy” wins.

Winner: “Homer’s Enemy”

A big thank you to Aaron Lanton, Lenny Burnham, EJ Feddes, and Wesley Mead for the picks and blurbs.

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