Abridged Post-Classic Simpsons - REDUX

B-Boy

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Abridged Post-Classic Simpsons - REDUX

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Preface

The golden age of The Simpsons lasted for eight glorious years and comprised nearly 200 episodes, becoming an indelible part of our collective consciousness. Only a relatively small number of scripted television shows last half as long and even fewer can claim to have had such a seismic cultural impact or sustained such stratospheric standards of excellence. Yet nothing lasts forever and all good things must come to an end. Even The Simpsons was no exception to that rule. The eighth season stretched the show to its creative limits and, in doing so, created the first noticeable chinks in what had once been an impregnable armour. The subsequent decline was swift and inexorable. During season nine, it became increasingly clear that The Simpsons had reached the end of its natural lifespan.

The show should have ended there, closing up shop and walking gracefully into the sunset with its head held high. It would have been almost peerless in its consistency of extraordinary quality, legendary in its calibre of satirical hilarity, and a pinpoint accurate snapshot of late 20th century America. Yet The Simpsons endured into the 21st century. Somehow, astonishingly, it continues uninterrupted to this day. A mind-boggling 24 seasons – 500 episodes and change – have aired since 1997 when the warning signs first appeared, dwarfing the venerated classic era three to one. Seasons 33 and 34 are in the pipeline, further renewals seem almost inevitable, and no end appears to be in sight. Even as its live ratings dwindle and what remains of its cultural relevance evaporates, the show perseveres and one wonders whether anything save the fall of civilisation will stop it at this point.

The last two decades of The Simpsons have been widely and summarily dismissed by casual and hardcore fans alike. Almost everyone agrees the show fundamentally changed for the worse in the late '90s and is now less than a shadow of what it once was. That assessment is true – The Simpsons has unquestionably aged and deteriorated in every way – but does this mean that every episode from the last two decades is instantly and intrinsically bad or that the show has been entirely devoid of value since the turn of the century? I'm not so sure. Would that not be akin to claiming that life becomes meaningless or worthless when we get older and inevitably discover that our bodies are not as strong and our minds are not as sharp as they once were? Okay, I realise that’s a bit fallacious, but l like the principal and think it can be applied to the show.

Like us, The Simpsons will never be able to recapture the glory of its youth. Yet even now it still has flashes of vitality, creativity, humour, and warmth which makes it worthwhile. This is why a small contingent of dedicated viewers continue watching. It’s not because they think the show is as good as ever (well, some do and they’re nuts) or live in hope that another golden age will come around (it won't) – it’s simply that the stories and characters as they are can still make them smile and laugh. I myself still find joy and meaning in some of what the show has to offer. Rejecting the entire body of work that constitutes post-classic Simpsons is unfair and dogmatic. All it needs is some, admittedly significant, modifications such as removing its worst transgressions and reassembling the leftovers.

That really gets to the heart of what I want to achieve here. Disney+ has made The Simpsons more accessible than ever, but having to tolerate mounds of trash to find the occasional gem isn't motivating. My goal is to condense the post-classic era into a more palatable form by compiling twelve seasons and excising most of what I consider to be the worst episodes. This will be broken down into two seasons run by Mike Scully (analogous to his predecessors), four SD seasons run by Al Jean, and six HD seasons run by Jean and Matt Selman. A seventh isn’t out of the question (after all, the show is still on the air and additional episodes worthy of inclusion may present themselves), but isn’t currently planned.

My posts will contain scores and comments for each episode that elucidate my reasoning for its selection. I welcome comments of your own and I hope this will generate some lively discussion about post-classic Simpsons. I like to think that this will cast the post-classic era of the show in a slightly more favourable light and offer an abridged version worthy of at least cursory interest. I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about most of the time, but I love this show and its characters with every fibre of my being. Maybe that's enough?
Addendum (04/10/21): As is usually the case, the start of a new season revitalises my enthusiasm for The Simpsons. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be re-posting my work from the previous version of this thread with the long-awaited second half of season 14 to follow shortly thereafter (I promise!). Please note that every existing entry up till now has been edited or modified to some extent - you'll find an addendum like this one at the bottom of each listing the changes. For this post:
  • Completely rewritten from scratch a couple of months ago to better express my thoughts and goals.
  • Changed the screencap at the start.
 
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B-Boy

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Season 9

Part 1

My version of season nine isn't too dissimilar from the one we have now. I consider season nine to be semi-classic – a rather strange yet curious interbellum that signalled the end of the comparatively brief golden age and the dawn of the interminable post-classic era. Only a few minor adjustments seemed necessary. As such, this will be the least interesting of my revised seasons. Some episodes have been re-positioned and others have been replaced with analogues plucked from later Scully seasons.

Without further ado:

1. The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Jim Reardon

Writer: Ian Maxtone-Graham

IMDB Score: 9.1 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
The last great premiere and probably my favourite ‘travel’ episode of the series. It's surreal to think that this show was nearing the end of its first decade on the air and the twin towers still existed. As such, it feels atypically dated for a classic episode and generates some rather uncomfortable feelings especially during the scenes set at the towers themselves. In any case, as a season eight holdover, The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson unequivocally qualifies as a classic episode and I see no reason to change it.

2. The Principal and the Pauper

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Ken Keeler

IMDB Score: 6.8 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Another season eight holdover and therefore deserving of a place regardless of its problematic nature. The Principal and the Pauper has attracted significant controversy over the years and earned an unfair reputation for heralding the decline of the show, but this is only in light of what follows and I can still appreciate Ken Keeler’s attempt at deconstructing our basic assumptions of one of its characters even if that did create a dangerous precedent. Like Homer’s Enemy, the thesis may have worked better had the show ended when it was supposed to.

3. Lisa the Simpson

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Susie Dietter

Writer: Ned Goldreyer

IMDB Score: 8.0 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Lisa the Simpson - the third and final season eight holdover - originally aired as the 17th episode of season nine. It was a bizarre choice, effectively separating it from the body of work Oakley and Weinstein produced and conflating it with Scully's. The relevance and potency of the episode's themes are also diminished as a result. Disney+ has corrected this anomaly, repositioning the episode to third spot which is exactly where it should be – where it should always have been.

For all intents and purposes, Lisa the Simpson is the swan song of the classic era. It's a lovely meditation on the fear of getting older and the inevitability of decline. It's the show reflecting on its mortality, anticipating its downfall, imploring its successors to not rest on its laurels, and ardently warning against compromise. I believe this to be one of the best episodes Oakley and Weinstein produced and it's arguably the last breath of the golden age firing on all cylinders.

4. Treehouse of Horror VIII

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: Mike Scully, David X. Cohen & Ned Goldreyer

IMDB Score: 8.2 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
One of the best all-round Halloween specials of the post-classic era. The third segment is a bit weak, but the overall package is pretty strong and I felt it was unnecessary to chop and change it.

5. The Cartridge Family

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 8.2 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
One of the best Scully episodes. Despite some heavy-handed satire, the comedy is off-the-chain and the ending does enough to redeem a clueless rather than Jerkass Homer (who isn't really any worse than he was in, say, Homer Goes to College or Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood).

6. Bart the Mother

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: David X. Cohen

IMDB Score: 7.6 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
My first big change. The original episode here, Bart Star, indulged in many of the egregious excesses we now associate with the Scully era – including, but not limited to, Jerkass Homer and a pervasive mean-spiritedness. Bart the Mother fares much better. The characters are more likeable and the focus on the mother/son relationship is refreshing (even if it’s a slightly poorer retread of Marge Be Not Proud).

7. The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Richard Appel

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
A straightforward sitcom story with all the typical clichés therein, but little of the mockery that previously defined the show. It’s an important episode though, permanently shaking up the status quo. Most of these early Scully episodes are more restrained and easier to stomach which, in turn, makes it easier to gloss over their shortcomings. I really enjoy this one for the most part despite its relative banality and it’s easily the best of the Apu/Manjula stories.

8. Lisa the Skeptic

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Neil Affleck

Writer: David X. Cohen

IMDB Score: 8.1 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
I understand why this episode rubs some people the wrong way. Lisa is intensely unlikable with her dismissive, dogmatic and disdainful attitude. That characterisation is a deliberate choice though and it's not presented as flattering. I think the heart and mind of the episode is in the right place – the execution is just very heavy-handed again. I quite enjoy the satire about easily influenced masses, the power of superstition, and predatory commercialism. Plus, Homer’s get-rich-quick scheme isn't too overplayed and the ending is nice.

9. Realty Bites

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Swinton Scott

Writer: Dan Greaney

IMDB Score: 7.6 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Not bad for a post-classic 'Marge Gets a Job' episode. What I like about it is that it's less about her feeling lonely or wanting to shake things up and more an examination of her ethics and integrity. Phil Hartman is great as always and even Homer's wacky antics don't spoil things too much for me so I’m happy to include this episode in the list.

10. Grift of the Magi

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Writer: Tom Martin

IMDB Score: 7.3 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
A bit weak, but I want a Christmas episode here and this is probably the best Scully produced (Miracle on Evergreen Terrace notwithstanding, but I'm saving that). The corporate satire is serviceable, the Springfield Elementary scenes are pretty good, and the sequence with Homer and the kids stealing the Funzo toys is, well, fun.

11. Lisa’s Sax

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Dominic Polcino

Writer: Al Jean

IMDB Score: 8.1 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
If we're going to spend time looking back at the past, I'd much rather it be an actual flashback than a perfunctory clip-show hence why I've excised All Singing, All Dancing and re-positioned Lisa's Sax here. It’s probably the weakest of the classic flashback episodes, but I still love the story and it caps off a stellar pentalogy that began with The Way We Was. Homer is in top form, the story effortlessly juggles multiple character threads, and the ending is very affecting.

12. Homer to the Max

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 7.8 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
A thin and directionless story lifted by some great humour in its memorable first half. I really enjoy the Police Cops stuff and even though the third act loses me a bit, there are still plenty of laughs (the Clinton appearance is especially good).

Addendum (04/10/21): Mostly minor edits and general cleaning up of the comments. Some slightly more extensive changes to the comments for 'Lisa the Simpson'.
 
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CousinMerl

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Really glad to see this thread back for a re-do. I was a little worried when you had the old one closed, but I understood the problem with there being room for less words in each post on this board and the old one which made a reformatted remake a must. Gonna be nice to read through all of this again (with all the new and/or updated bells and whistles) before getting to the brand new stuff.
 

B-Boy

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Season 9

Part 2

13. The Joy of Sect

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Steve O'Donnell

IMDB Score: 8.4 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Run by David Mirkin, The Joy of Sect could easily slot alongside his other work in seasons five or six and is an instant inclusion as far as I'm concerned. The critique of cults is hilarious and the episode is an absolute 'joy' to watch. I also quite like how Marge is one of the few people resistant to the Movementarians, suggesting a strength of mind and character at least partially forged through the many trials of raising her dysfunctional family.

14. Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Mark Ervin

Writer: Larry Doyle

IMDB Score: 7.8 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Y’know, I don’t mind Das Bus, but it’s unquestionably outlandish and has no real conclusion. I’m still not sure what, if anything, that episode is about aside from being a collection of lazy references to Lord of the Files. It’s also hampered by yet another Homer gets-rich-quick-scheme. Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken, on the other hand, is significantly better with its equally prominent focus on the children of Springfield. The satire is clear and purposeful, the musical number is truly memorable, and the ending is a stroke of comedic brilliance that mocks the absurdity of the curfew.

15. The Last Temptation of Krust

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Writer: Donick Cary

IMDB Score: 7.5 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Low-key one of the best episodes of season nine with some great satire of stand-up comedy and an excellent (almost definitive) character study of our favourite hack comedian. The celebrity guest stars are abundant, but their presence feels natural rather than gratuitous and their idiosyncrasies are captured quite well. The Canyonero advertisement at the end is among my favourite skits of the entire series.

16. Dumbbell Indemnity

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Dominic Polcino

Writer: Ron Hauge

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Mostly unremarkable, but it represents a significant turning point for Moe as a character. If The Love-Matic Grampa was a test to see how successful Moe could be as a sympathetic lovelorn outcast rather than just an unsavoury bartender, then this is the full commitment to that direction – one that defines the character in the post-classic era for better or worse. It therefore has its place even if it doesn’t rise above middling due to a stock sitcom story, a flat guest character, and an excess of ‘sidekick Homer’ shenanigans that are all too common in the Scully era.

17. Lisa Gets an ‘A’

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Bob Anderson

Writer: Ian Maxtone-Graham

IMDB Score: 8.1 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Lisa struggles with an internal dilemma and has to make a decision about what kind of person she is. It sounds like Lisa the Simpson, but it isn’t. Instead, it’s probably my favourite episode from season ten. I’ve always loved Lisa Gets an 'A' – it's quite distinctly a Scully episode, but does a decent job at approximating a classic one. The Pinchy B-plot is a bit ridiculous and the ending is mildly unsettling, but it’s just so wholesome and never fails to bring a smile to my face.

18. This Little Wiggy

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Neil Affleck

Writer: Dan Greaney

IMDB Score: 7.9 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Really good up until one of the most disgraceful endings of the series. I love the pairing of Bart and Ralph, the bullies are put to great use, and Ralph himself is in fine form. That is, until things unravel in the final moments when the show makes the shocking suggestion that he’s psychotic and violent. It was completely unnecessary, deeply offensive and irrevocably harmful. Still, I really like the episode up until then and it’s probably the best use of Ralph in the post-classic era (he never really recovered from this). Just turn it off before the leprechaun appears.

19. Simpson Tide

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Milton Gray

Writer: Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey Ventimilia

Personal Score: 4/5

IMDB Score: 8.2 / 10

Comments:
Some truly classic moments in this episode (including the “it’s my first day” gag that bookends the episode and the Grampa interview) weighed down by heavy contemporary references and some moments that seem better suited to The Critic than The Simpsons.

20. The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace


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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 8.2 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
I debated whether to retain The Trouble with Trillions or substitute it with this, both of which are unremarkable and problematic for different reasons. I ended up choosing this if only because it has a more grounded third act and an actual resolution that doesn’t expect the viewer to do the work. Plus, Homer is relatively tame in this - there are certainly more egregious examples of his Jerkass behaviour throughout the Scully era.

21. Girly Edition

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: Larry Doyle

IMDB Score: 7.9 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
A criminally underrated episode. It's mind-boggling that Scully and the team were capable of producing episodes of such quality (not classic-era levels of greatness, certainly, but more than good enough for a show a decade old) yet flew off the handle so quickly in a matter of months. Girly Edition is a lot of fun, making great use of the sibling rivalry dynamic. The soft news satire is just as relevant today, Crazy Cat Lady’s inaugural appearance is one of her best, and the B-plot is hilarious.

22. Hungry, Hungry Homer

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Nancy Kruse

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 7.6 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
In Trash of the Titans, Homer goes on a populist crusade against public office and callously destroys the town with his ineptitude. In Hungry, Hungry Homer, he goes on a moral crusade against corporate greed and heroically saves the local baseball team from being relocated. I know which one I prefer to watch. I'm not convinced Homer's entirely genuine (“that’s the kind of guy I am this week”), but it's still hilarious watching him commit so strongly to doing the right thing and it seals the episode as one of the best that Scully produced over the course of his four-year tenure.

23. King of the Hill

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 8.3 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
I’m a sucker for episodes where Homer genuinely strives to be a better husband and/or Dad and I think this is a good example of that trope. Though reminiscent of Deep Space Homer, it stands well enough on its own with its focus on the father/son relationship, some fantastic bait-and-switch gags, and an ending of understated sweetness and levity. Swartzwelder sure took a nosedive after this.

24. Lost Our Lisa

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: Brian Scully

IMDB Score: 7.8 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
I really like this episode, but I won't deny it's problematic. A thrill-seeking Homer who enjoys life too much to care about the consequences of his actions is completely antithetical to everything the character is supposed to represent. The first half is stellar, but the second half definitely has issues. At least Homer isn't an asshole so, despite his out-of-character behaviour and some sitcommy elements, I find Lost Our Lisa very watchable.

25. Natural Born Kissers

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Klay Hall

Writer: Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 8.1 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Matt Selman’s inaugural script is a winner for me. Natural Born Kissers is a great variation of the marital troubles trope without any of the contrived conflicts. The story rings true, the adventure is hilariously bold, and the set-pieces are suitably epic for a finale. Plus, I won’t lie, I piss myself laughing every time Homer slides up the Church. I’ve got simple tastes.

Addendum (04/10/21): Again, mostly minor edits and general tidying up of the comments. 'Lost Our Lisa' was altered the most - score was lowered from a 5 to a 4.
 
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CousinMerl

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I think that is a respectable and agreeable season 9. There is a lot of great choices in there overall (and some good replacements) and not really any I'd outright disagree with, even if there's one or two here and there I'd have switched out for another episode. Nice job done overall with this redone first outing of this post-classic series.
 

Szyslak100

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Yeah, it's great to see this thread on the road again. We have already discussed season nine in the old thread so no need to go deep replying to it. It's the strongest post-classic season strengthened here by some of the best Scully's episodes from season 10 to 12 so, if season 9 is already semi-classic for some people, with this version the decline would be less prominent, if existent.
 

Wile E. the Brain

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Still really liking this project and happy to see its great return. If this season wasn't altered much, I'm looking forward to the next ones and the switches you decided to make (and the comments going along with the episodes).

Also, it's King of the Hill that I find a bit underrated personally. One of the best uses of the "Homer gets himself into wacky / dangerous situations" trope by far, because there's a solid reason for this here, and the Homer/Bart dynamic is so charming.
 

CousinMerl

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I am positively surprised some episodes that never really get such a high rating got some love here. 'King of The Hill' is one of those for sure (an explosively funny and memorable episode) but I also like how 'Hungry Hungry Homer' is held up as a highlight (another strong Swartzwelder script from which moments and lines often pops up in my head. Definitely one of the finest episode of the later Scully era).
 
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B-Boy

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Season 10

Part 1

Now things start to get interesting.

Let me say upfront that I dislike at least two thirds of the 72 episodes from the season ten, eleven and twelve production cycles. It was no easy task whittling that number down to 26. There are only five episodes from this era I would consider instant inclusions and three of them are already in my version of season nine. Quite a few of the episodes that survived barely qualify as more than watchable and nearly all of them suffer from the problems that are endemic to the Scully era. I think this selection (two episodes notwithstanding) represent what I believe to be the strongest work from the era – which isn’t saying much, but them’s the breaks. I’ve tried to strike a balance with the selection and sequence of episodes here – a tall ask you can imagine given how Homer-dominant these three years were. Let me know what you think!

1. Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Jim Reardon

Writer: Donick Cary & Dan Greaney

IMDB Score: 8.0 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
A family-centric travel episode with a high-stakes plot, celebrity guest stars and a litany of fun gags seems as good as any to start with. I've never been a big fan of Simpsons travel episodes and the Scully era is full of stinkers. This is probably the best of the lot (a low benchmark indeed) and the only one included in this list. Don’t expect to see Kill the Alligator and Run or Simpson Safari. No siree Bob.

2. Brother’s Little Helper

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: George Meyer

IMDB Score: 7.5 / 10

Personal Score: 2/5

Comments:
No single episode can be singled out as solely responsible for or representative of the decline of The Simpsons. Rather, it was a series of cascading failures over the course of three or four years after which things mostly settled and plateaued. From the listless humour of The Canine Mutiny and the lazy parody of Das Bus to the character assassination of Homer in Trash of the Titans and the sickening reverence of celebrity in When You Dish Upon a Star, different episodes from season 8 through to season 11 dismantled and distorted different elements of the show as it once was. Bart Simpson, once emblematic of the show's counter-cultural spirit, isn't spared and the damage he sustains in Brother's Little Helper is both severe and permanent. There are few other Bart episodes in the Scully era that are any better than this one so I'm forced to include it by default if I want to keep things balanced.

What happened to the rebellious yet fundamentally goodhearted 10 year old whose worst premeditated behaviour involved tagging school property or spitting off the overpass? He no longer exists at the start of this episode, replaced by a hyperactive sociopath hell bent on causing wanton destruction and mayhem with no regard for others. As for chalking it up to ADHD? Ooo, ahh, hmm. I mean, yeah, I can see that being the case as Bart has demonstrated serious attention and impulse control issues as far back as Bart Gets an 'F' and Bart the Daredevil. However, I have serious issues with the way it's presented. Examining neurodiversity and mental health issues requires sensitivity and subtlety and the show simply isn't up to the task, grossly misrepresenting ADHD and treating it with a flippancy that borders on offensive. The first and third acts are horrible mostly, but the second isn't too bad relatively speaking. The few scenes with Bart as an attentive student are good, buoying what might otherwise have been a total shipwreck, but there's little to salvage on either side of those and the ending is completely baffling.

3. They Saved Lisa’s Brain

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 7.3 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Competent and watchable, but quite anaemic overall. The humour is really flat and, despite some astute characterisations and sharp observations, I walk away feeling a bit ambivalent. Compared to other Scully episodes, They Saved Lisa's Brain displays some modesty and restraint which certainly goes in its favour. I think it qualifies for inclusion on that basis alone.

4. Treehouse of Horror IX

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: Donick Cary, Tim Long & Ron Hauge

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
I actually found it a bit challenging to choose just three Halloween segments from the remaining twelve in the Scully era. I'd say half of those are worthy of consideration, but alas. I've decided to stick with X, so I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did, Desperately Xeeking Xena, and Life's a Glitch Then You Die. Honorable mentions to Hell Toupee, The Terror of Tiny Toon, and Starship Poopers from IX. I care little for any of the segments from XI or XII.

5. Mayored to the Mob

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Swinton O. Scott III

Writer: Ron Hauge

IMDB Score: 8.2 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
'Homer gets a job' episodes proliferated during the Scully era and most were awful. Mayored to the Mob is arguably the best of a bad lot with some fairly decent gags, set pieces and character moments. Plus, Mark Hamill is also one of the better post-classic celebrity guest stars and there's no wacky third act.

6. Marge Simpson in “Screaming Yellow Honkers”

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: David M. Stern

IMDB Score: 7.3 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Now it’s Marge’s time to shine. This is my second favourite Marge episode of the Scully years. Her aggression and hostility might seem wildly out of character, but I like it. Unlike It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge, I think it's rationalised and developed reasonably well. I also like that Marge gets to participate in the action and save the day which doesn’t happen very often.

7. I’m With Cupid

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Bob Anderson

Writer: Dan Greaney

IMDB Score: 7.3 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Our gaze widens to the greater Springfield population with the second best Apu and Manjula episode. It’s not a bad take on the marital troubles trope for two reasons. Firstly, it's not about anything Homer does but what he doesn't do that disappoints Marge. Secondly, Homer and Marge aren't the only couple in the spotlight. The gang of upstaged and disgruntled Springfieldian men working together to sabotage Apu is entertaining and there are some freaking great quotes (“Manjula means some kind of spaceship”). I think Homer fighting with the skywriter is stupid and over-the-top, but the unintended romantic gesture that follows is brilliant. The closing moments with Apu and Manjula are also lovely – sadly, it’s all downhill from here for both characters.

8. Days of Wine and D’oh’ses

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Neil Affleck

Writer: Deb Lacusta & Dan Castellaneta

IMDB Score: 7.4 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Our focus on other Springfield residents continues with one of the very few truly worthwhile episodes of season 11 and probably the best of the episodes penned by Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta. I really like this one even if it was indicative of a show that had run out of things to do with its characters. The focus on exploring and adding some depth to a tertiary character is closer in spirit to the Oakley and Weinstein era. While the comedy is flat, the character work is pretty good and the ending (in which the A-plot and B-plot converge) is deftly executed for this era.

9. Eight Misbehavin’

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 7.0 / 10

Personal Score: 2/5

Comments:
We return to the Nahasapeemapetilons in a follow-up episode that I wouldn’t include if I didn’t have to. It starts off okay, but eventually falls off a proverbial cliff once Larry Kidkill is introduced and the octuplets become a literal zoo attraction. It’s disappointing that it wasn’t more down-to-earth (rather surprising for a Selman-penned episode), but it’s essential for continuity reasons. I have nothing more to say about it.

10. Skinner’s Sense of Snow

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Lance Kramer

Writer: Tim Long

IMDB Score: 7.9 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Might this be one of the last episodes in which Principal Skinner feels like a genuine authority figure with backbone? Anyway, Skinner's Sense of Snow isn’t too bad. It’s got some great quotes (“That’s the last time you’ll slap your Willie around”) and even though the sub-plot is more of the usual Captain Wacky stuff, it’s at least underpinned by some heroic goals and motivations.

11. The Blunder Years

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Ian Maxtone-Graham

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Look, I know, this is one of the least consequential flashback stories of the series. There are quite a few oddities, inconsistencies, and bizarre moments. In fact, it’s very Jean-like with its flat humour and languid storytelling. But, gosh darnit, I’m strangely fond of it. I must have seen this as a teenager when I first discovered The Simpsons and it left an impression. I like that the entire family is involved (even though Homer is at the centre of things as usual), the mystery elements are entertaining (even though they’re quite impotent), Chief Wiggum is used well (even though it feels a bit tacked on), and I enjoy the Burly intro (especially how it becomes relevant later on).

12. Lisa the Tree Hugger

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 7.2 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
We begin a second round of episodes focusing on individual members of the Simpson family. For a late Scully-era episode, it's quite down-to-earth both in terms of humour, character and storytelling. I like that Lisa isn’t too pushy and acts like an eight year old (something Matt Selman gets right more often than not). The episode clearly and correctly supports environmentalism but, to its credit, doesn’t exclude the teenage activists from mockery which stops it from being too preachy. It’s a muted and overlooked success.

13. Homer vs. Dignity

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Neil Affleck

Writer: Rob LaZebnik

IMDB Score: 7.0 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Surprise! Weren’t expecting this one right? Homer vs. Dignity sure has one hell of a reputation. Personally, I'm far less incensed by it than others, many of whom predicate their distaste for it on what is now the infamous ‘panda rape’ scene. Sure, it’s the worst scene of the episode, but y’know, like they say, it’s not what you think man and in my opinion it has been vastly overblown (I mean, come on, Homer wasn't actually raped). There are some thoughtfully considered if imperfectly executed ideas here, most notably Homer sacrificing his dignity in public to earn the respect of his family and provide for them. It's a fairly interesting take on a well-worn trope in that Homer is willing to subject himself to some pretty demeaning things to ensure they're financially supported. He takes their perception and opinion of him quite seriously, which is evident when Lisa expresses her dismay and he immediately refuses to continue humouring Mr. Burns.

It’s good stuff and I think it humanises Homer in a way that doesn’t happen very often during this era. The bait-and-switch ending is very effective for this reason - based on everything Homer has done during the Scully era up to this point, there's no reason to think he wouldn't acquiesce to Burns and do something despicable. We're talking about the guy who callously destroyed the town, left his father to die twice, got Maude killed, and shot his wife with a tranquilliser dart. It’s almost surprising and certainly heartening to see him do the right thing instead when it truly counts. When I walk away from a Scully episode feeling good about Homer and not experiencing whiplash from an absurd third act that came out of nowhere, that’s a minor miracle. Admittedly, wanting a prank monkey seems beneath Mr. Burns, but it’s consistent with his cruelty. Plus, gotta say, love the intro with Bart revealing how he got an ‘A’ (“It was like a whole different kind of cheating”).

Addendum (05/10/21): The following changes have been made:
  • Lowered the score of 'Brother's Little Helper' from a 3 to a 2. The comments were also re-written from scratch.
  • Removed 'Hell Toupee' from 'Treehouse of Horror X' and replaced it with 'Life's a Glitch, Then You Die'.
  • Extensive edits to the comments for 'Homer vs. Dignity' which were previously pretty shoddy.
  • Minor edits to and general tidying up of the comments for every episode.
 
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Financial Panther

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Girly Edition is indeed one of the most underrated Scully episodes. It’s absolutely hilarious, and you’re right about the news satire not being outdated one bit. Biggest disagreement is probably The Last Temptation of Krust, but I’m generally not huge on most Krusty-heavy episodes.
 

B-Boy

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Season 10

Part 2

14. Pokey Mom

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Bob Anderson

Writer: Tom Martin

IMDB Score: 7.2 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
I was reluctant to add this, but I thought the season needed another Marge episode to balance things out and, well, there aren’t many to choose from. This is 'marginally' (get it? lol get it?) better than what remains on the cutting room floor with some decent characterisation. It doesn’t leave a sour note in my mouth and that's more than I can say for other Scully episodes.

15. A Hunka, Hunka Burns in Love

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Lance Kramer

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 7.0 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Pretty much the Mr. Burns equivalent of Dumbbell Indemnity, but with a more dynamic guest character and fewer Homer-related antics of a questionable nature. Burns is a bit meek and the comedy is flat once again, but it’s a fairly decent story and I like Snake so it's good to see him get some screen-time. Even the ending, with the Simpsons walking into the sunset with Burns, is quite nice and understated for a Scully episode. Interestingly, it feels more like a Jean episode than a Scully one, but I suppose the same can be said for most of the season 12 holdovers.

16. Mom and Pop Art

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Original Season: Season 10

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Al Jean

IMDB Score: 7.6 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Surely this episode deserves inclusion for the barbecue scene alone, right? I maintain there are no classic ‘episodes’ beyond season nine, but there are still some classic 'moments' from time to time and Homer's hilariously botched attempt was certainly one of them. Mom and Pop Art has a surprising number of sharp jokes and insightful observations about the art community. In addition, Homer is much closer to his well-meaning yet clueless classic-era self. He’s still a bit of an ass, but his evil doppelganger has yet to assume complete control. I also really like the ending. Yes, yes, I know, Homer destroys the town - its resemblance to Trash of the Titans (which I hate) is not lost on me. However, it feels less nefarious because Homer has acted with good intentions, he humbly concedes that Marge will always be the artist of the family, and other Springfieldians are happy with the results. It’s totally absurd, but also a pleasant note to end on.

17. Bye, Bye Nerdie

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Lauren MacMullan

Writer: John Frink & Don Payne

IMDB Score: 6.6 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Bye, Bye Nerdie is a middling episode elevated by some stellar direction from Lauren MacMullan who has earned a reputation as one of the best directors the show has ever had. Francine isn’t a particularly good one-time character, but she’s certainly a memorable one and I think the effective horror-like tonal/atmospheric elements are part of the reason for that. Homer’s subplot is okay – he’s much more tolerable in the Scully era when used in small doses.

18. Alone Again, Natura-Diddily

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Jim Reardon

Writer: Ian Maxtone-Graham

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 0/5

Comments:
Alone Again, Natura-Diddily is the nadir of the series for me. I hate it with a passion, but have no choice but to include it for the sake of continuity. It’s appallingly repugnant, unforgivably callous, and irrevocably damaging. It represents the zenith of Jerkass Homer, permanently alters the status of Ned, and fundamentally perverts the world of Springfield. I’ve already explained my issues with it at length and have nothing to add.

19. Worst Episode Ever

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Writer: Larry Doyle

IMDB Score: 7.4 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Worst Episode Ever is among several season 12 episodes that feel like a cross between Scully and Jean. Relative to other Scully episodes, it’s kind of flat narratively and comedically though still funnier and more dynamic than a typical Jean episode. It’s not a bad thing, believe me, but I do find it interesting. I’ve always liked Bart and Milhouse running the comic book store – there are some good moments and gags. The Comic Book Guy stuff is hit-or-miss and pairing him with Agnes is a weird choice, but it kinda works up until the ending at which point it fizzles out.

20. Day of the Jackanapes

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Michael Marcantel

Writer: Al Jean

IMDB Score: 7.2 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
As the only Sideshow Bob episode of the Scully era, I feel compelled to add this and I actually really enjoy it. Given where we left the character at the end of Brother from Another Series, bringing him back for yet another by-the-numbers revenge plot is derivative and regressive, but I admit there’s something about the way it all links back to Krusty Gets Busted and Bob’s original grievances (along with his feud with Bart) that works for me. Bob himself is also in fine form.

21. The Parent Rap

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: George Meyer & Mike Scully

IMDB Score: 7.1 / 10

Personal Score: 2.5/5

Comments:
I’ve swung back and forth on The Parent Rap over the years. There are times when I dislike it and others when I don’t mind it. It’s a guilty pleasure. Honestly, one has to make quite a few concessions for the episode to work on some level and even then it never wins you over. The leaps of logic can be quite extreme and Judge Harm is over-the-top. Plus, Homer and Marge try to prove how not shitty they are as parents by doing some pretty shitty things. So why include this one? For one, there are few episodes of this kind in the Scully era and there are some decent elements despite the poor overall execution. The second act is probably the best with farcical yet funny moments that aren’t quite as extreme as other Scully episodes. I also like the ending with Bart taking some responsibility even though I agree that his speech feels unearned and none of the characters suffer any consequences.

22. Insane Clown Poppy

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Bob Anderson

Writer: John Frink & Don Payne

IMDB Score: 6.9 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
I reckon Krusty was one of the few characters spared at least some of the damage wrought by Scully. In the case of Insane Clown Poppy, he’s more or less consistent with his classic-era characterization. Honestly, however, this episode is trite – you can’t get more clichéd than Krusty discovering he’s a parent and disappointing his daughter and redeeming himself. That said, I find the story enjoyable for the most part and like the use of the mafia though I could certainly do without more Captain Wacky antics.

23. HOMЯ

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Writer: Al Jean

IMDB Score: 8.2 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
I used to love HOMЯ. For years, I was convinced it was a classic episode. Suffice to say, I feel much less generous nowadays. The ending – a rare moment of humanity and sincerity in the otherwise perverse, nihilistic and anarchic version of The Simpsons that Scully cultivated – is easily one of the best of seasons 10-12, but it does a lot of the heavy lifting and cannot quite redeem the missteps that precede it. Homer is just as infuriatingly obnoxious and obtuse. He’s not disliked and ostracised by his fellow townspeople because of his intellect – it’s because he’s an asshole caught up in his own elitism and pretentiousness. Still, I’m rather fond of this one. The ending certainly helps, but the first half is also fairly decent and the crayon reveal is certainly among the most memorable moments of the post-classic era. HOMЯ is a highly flawed episode saved by some good humour and a lovely ending.

24. Trilogy of Error

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Original Season: Season 12

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Writer: Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 8.6 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Does this one need any explanation? Trilogy of Error regularly if not always tops best-of lists and for good reason – the storytelling is inventive, a range of secondary characters are put to excellent use, the comedy is great, and every member of the family gets their moment to shine. This is one choice I expect few, if any, people will disagree with. It’s a lot of fun and very memorable.

25. Behind the Laughter

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Original Season: Season 11

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: Tim Long, George Meyer, Mike Scully & Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 7.9 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Not quite as universally adored as Trilogy of Error, but still highly regarded and often considered a candidate for series finale. I don’t think Behind the Laughter quite works on those terms – it would be akin to saying “it’s all been a dream” and, as a final statement, would come perilously close to negating the history of the franchise (although that would certainly be consistent with Scully era nihilism). It didn’t work with one character (The Principal and the Pauper) and it wouldn’t work here. However, as a paradoxical and tongue-in-cheek reflection on the longevity of the show, it works very well on its own terms and would be a suitable penultimate ‘what if’ episode. I loved it and consider it one of my all-time favourites of the post-classic era.

26. Miracle on Evergreen Terrace

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Original Season: Season 9

Director: Bob Anderson

Writer: Ron Hauge

IMDB Score: 7.6 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
What if Scully had only produced two seasons like his predecessors? Of all the episodes he ran during his four-year tenure, which would be the best candidate for a series finale? For me, it’s unquestionably Miracle on Evergreen Terrace. It mirrors Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire in more ways than one, referencing specific scenes and mocking wholesome Christmas specials as well as blending cynicism and sincerity. It would have made a worthy end for the show. Perhaps, in an alternate reality, it was and it did.

Two Scully era episodes narrowly missed out on inclusion: The Old Man and the ‘C’ Student for the hilarious Springy subplot and Pygmoelian which has some good Moe moments.

Addendum (05/10/21): The following changes have been made:

  • Lowered the score of 'The Parent Rap' from a 3 to a 2.5 to better reflect my thoughts.
  • Lowered the score of 'Insane Clown Poppy' from a 4 to a 3 and extensively modified the comments.
  • Lowered the score of 'Alone Again, Natura-Diddily' from a 1 to a 0.
  • Re-wrote part or most of the comments for 'Bye, Bye Nerdie', 'Worst Episode Ever', 'Day of the Jackanapes', and 'Miracle on Evergreen Terrace'.
  • General fixes and edits to the comments for every episode.
 
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Szyslak100

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I am kind of surprised you removed Hell Toupeé in exchange for Life's a Glitch, Then You Die. I think the former includes one of the two greatest appearances of Snake (a character who deserves more time), delivers some funny moments between Homer and Bart, and has that wacky style that makes Scully's Treehouse of Horror upsetting. The latter is all right, it has its moments and a very good premise, but it features so many guest stars and is an outdated experience now.

Also, that first paragraph of your comments on Brother's Little Helper is pure gold, man. I think it's a perfect answer for those who say The Principal and the Pauper ruined the show, ha. Although, seeing its big problems, it's still one I enjoy watching.

From the Scully era, I am missing the most Das Bus, which I think is ludicrous and funny, with the spotlight on the Simpsons kids in a different context, and, to my surprise, two episodes from season eleven: Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner? and E-I-E-I-D'oh (I can see why they didn't make the cut, anyway). Oh, also the aforementioned Hell Toupeé along with G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad and Night of the Dolphins, but there's no place for all the good segments from the Scully era. There are some other episodes I like that are missing, but they're all expendable, I guess.

Laughed out loud when I realized you downgraded Alone Again, Natura-diddly from a 1/5 to a 0/5.

When I have free time (probably in summer if you ended the SD era by then) I will try to give this abridged seasons a watch to live the experience.
 

B-Boy

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I am kind of surprised you removed Hell Toupeé in exchange for Life's a Glitch, Then You Die. I think the former includes one of the two greatest appearances of Snake (a character who deserves more time), delivers some funny moments between Homer and Bart, and has that wacky style that makes Scully's Treehouse of Horror upsetting. The latter is all right, it has its moments and a very good premise, but it features so many guest stars and is an outdated experience now.

Also, that first paragraph of your comments on Brother's Little Helper is pure gold, man. I think it's a perfect answer for those who say The Principal and the Pauper ruined the show, ha. Although, seeing its big problems, it's still one I enjoy watching.

From the Scully era, I am missing the most Das Bus, which I think is ludicrous and funny, with the spotlight on the Simpsons kids in a different context, and, to my surprise, two episodes from season eleven: Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner? and E-I-E-I-D'oh (I can see why they didn't make the cut, anyway). Oh, also the aforementioned Hell Toupeé along with G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad and Night of the Dolphins, but there's no place for all the good segments from the Scully era. There are some other episodes I like that are missing, but they're all expendable, I guess.

Laughed out loud when I realized you downgraded Alone Again, Natura-diddly from a 1/5 to a 0/5.

When I have free time (probably in summer if you ended the SD era by then) I will try to give this abridged seasons a watch to live the experience.
I'll explain my reasoning for swapping out Hell Toupee for Life's a Glitch. When I was editing the post, I was running into the exact same problem I had the first time around - struggling to choose the three best Scully THOH segments from IX to XII. So I decided to make things simpler and just choose what I consider to be the best first, second and third segments. I think I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did is better than Hell Toupee so it got squeezed out. It was a tough choice - I like Hell Toupee a lot.

I think I may have said in the previous thread that I actually don't mind Das Bus on a superficial level, but couldn't really find room to include it. It's entertaining, sure, but the references to Lord of the Flies are really lazy and it comes across as an extended anthology short (which I rarely care for). Not to mention the lack of a conclusion (James Earl Jones' narration doesn't count). It's one of the most pointless episodes of the first 9 seasons as far as I'm concerned.

I personally struggle with Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner. I just can't stand bipolar Jerkass Homer and there's a lot of him in that episode. I have the same issue with E-I-E-I-D'oh though not quite to the same extent and, in fairness, there are some really funny moments. I just tend to avoid the overly wacky and cartoony stuff. Not only because it doesn't align with my own sensibilities, but because it can be extremely polarising in general. I'm trying to keep my selections palatable for as many people as possible. I guess you could criticise me for not being based enough haha.

Forgot to note that downgrade in the addendum! Glad it gave you a laugh.

What other Scully episodes would you have included?
 
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CousinMerl

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This version of season 10 seems quite good overall and better than the actual one as it is more colorful (with less of an overreliance on Homer and his wacky misadventures, which always kind of bothered me with 10. Sure, 11 is worse, but it at least felt way more diverse with the plotlines than almost all Jerkass Homer/Captain Wacky stories).

I see some inspired choices and I like a few that rarely get any love getting attention here (such as the often overlooked and underrated 'Lisa The Treehugger' and the silly but very amusing 'A Hunka Hunka Burns In Love', which has the hilarious pocket fox joke among other things). Also interesting to see some mixed opinions on some usually liked ones (such as 'HOMЯ').

Regarding the Treehouse of Horror', I would have kept 'Treehouse IX' as is ('Hell Toupee, 'Tiny Toon' & 'Starship Poopers') or just swapped the dated 'Life's A Glitch' (which I never really liked. Lisa being a callous sociopath in the end always bothered me, even though it was only a 'Treehouse' episode) with 'Hell Toupee' (like @Szyslak100 said) but your variant works.

It sucks you had to include 'Alone Again, Natura-Diddly' as it isn't anything good (though surprisingly, I've seen more forgiveness toward it in recent years which I find weird. I'd sooner forgive 'Kidney Trouble' than that one). As for your positivity about 'Homer Vs. Dignity'... Well, you do seem to be reeking of panda love so you must have some good points regarding it.  (though seriously, I don't think it's that awful either) .

A lot of the selections are a given (such as 'Trilogy Of Error' and 'Behind The Laughter', the latter of which I would've chosen as season finale instead of 'Miracle On Evergreen Terrace' which I think would've sucked as a finale, as I felt it took the subversions way too far). Even though some good ones (in my opinion) are missing, I cannot really disagree too much with the final result here.
 
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B-Boy

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This version of season 10 seems quite good overall and better than the actual one as it is more colorful (with less of an overreliance on Homer and his wacky misadventures, which always kind of bothered me with 10. Sure, 11 is worse, but it at least felt way more diverse with the plotlines than almost all Jerkass Homer/Captain Wacky stories).

I see some inspired choices and I like a few that rarely get any love getting attention here (such as the often overlooked and underrated 'Lisa The Treehugger' and the silly but very amusing 'A Hunka Hunka Burns In Love', which has the hilarious pocket fox joke among other things). Also interesting to see some mixed opinions on some usually liked ones (such as 'HOMЯ').

Regarding the Treehouse of Horror', I would have kept 'Treehouse IX' as is ('Hell Toupee, 'Tiny Toon' & 'Starship Poopers') or just swapped the dated 'Life's A Glitch' (which I never really liked. Lisa being a callous sociopath in the end always bothered me, even though it was only a 'Treehouse' episode) with 'Hell Toupee' (like @Szyslak100 said) but your variant works.

It sucks you had to include 'Alone Again, Natura-Diddly' as it isn't anything good (though surprisingly, I've seen more forgiveness toward it in recent years which I find weird. I'd sooner forgive 'Kidney Trouble' than that one). As for your positivity about 'Homer Vs. Dignity'... Well, you do seem to be reeking of panda love so you must have some good points regarding it.

A lot of the selections are a given (such as 'Trilogy Of Error' and 'Behind The Laughter', the latter of which I would've chosen as season finale instead of 'Miracle On Evergreen Terrace' which I think would've sucked as a finale, as I felt it took the subversions way too far). Even though some good ones (in my opinion) are missing, I cannot really disagree too much with the final result here.
Totally agree with your observation about season 10. The show fell off the cliff that year and that was due in no small part to Captain Wacky whose antics completely dominate the season. I think there are Sixteen episodes that feature stories where Homer gets a new job (Mayored to the Mob), tries a new get-rich-quick scheme (Lisa Gets an ‘A’), or is at the centre of some other wacky adventure involving a secondary character (I’m With Cupid).

Starship Poopers is fun, but in choosing the third segment, I wanted one that exemplified the anarchy of the Scully years and I think Life's a Glitch was the best (except for Night of the Dolphin, I guess, but that was too batshit insane).

I think fan opinion on Scully has shifted ever so slightly towards the positive in recent times (he's considered 'based') so I wouldn't be surprised if people are more forgiving of Alone Again. Your panda love jab made me lol - my appraisal of Homer vs. Dignity is definitely in the minority.

What episodes do you think are missing? I'm keen to read your thoughts!
 

Szyslak100

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This version of season 10 seems quite good overall and better than the actual one as it is more colorful (with less of an overreliance on Homer and his wacky misadventures, which always kind of bothered me with 10. Sure, 11 is worse, but it at least felt way more diverse with the plotlines than almost all Jerkass Homer/Captain Wacky stories).
I agree with this. This abridged season is of course better than any of the seasons 10-12 and I think the main reason is it has less of Jerkass Homer. It's hard to believe how imbalanced those seasons were and you notice it when B-Boy had to scratch half-cooked material in PokeyMom to get a second Marge-centric episode.

I also want to mention I don't hate Alone Again, Natura-diddly (please, don't kill me). Points taken, the characterizations are horrible because there is a lot of mean-spiritism and the send-off to Maude was quite disrespectful. But sometimes I am in the mood for it. If you ignore that you are watching a show that once was sweet and tender and forget how changed the characters are, such a touchless episode that treats funerals and mournings so loosely and trivially might be kind of funny, and I can digest some of the dark/cynical moments and some of the Jerkass Homer's scenes as well. I am not saying it is a good episode by any means, but at least the awful characterizations and disgusting moments aimed at something, unlike, I don't know, Take My Wife, Sleaze, where the sacrifices of watching a twisted version of The Simpsons has no recompense.

I also have a but for the argument that it destroys the Flanders. Yeah, they never were the same after this, but I am sure that ending where Ned meets Rachel was indeed to relieve the damage generated on Ned and on the family. If that didn't happen it was because no other episode in the future believed in the potential there was in that couple. If something, I blame I'm Goin to Praiseland for the irreversible damage. There Ned Flanders is weirder more Flanderized than he was when Maude died, and becomes definitely a sad widower who didn't rebuild his life.


What other Scully episodes would you have included?
I don't think any of the absences are notorious. None of them is a must-watch. Not even Das Bus that would enter in my personal TOP25 of the Scully era (if that is saying something). All the "obligatory" inclusions are there and I only could mention episodes that are not on your list but I am happy they exist nevertheless. Since you asked...
  • D'oh-in' in the Wind. The little arc of Homer investigating his second name is beautiful – I loved the wordplay of J/Jay and it was a very touching moment for me. Then the episode gets wacky (surprise, we are in the Scully era) but I think it's permanently funny and nothing that bad in comparison to other episodes. I bet you don't like it because it has a lot of Jerkass/obnoxious Homer and I'd agree with that, but I find it entertaining.
  • Little Big Mom. I guess somebody could argue it deserves inclusion due to the Stupid Sexy Flanders scene alone. But I found this episode constantly funny beyond that, with a ridiculous yet interesting exploration of The Simpsons Family.
  • Last Tap Dance in Springfield. The subplot of this episode is quite good despite I feel it had more potential to be better. The main plot was a bit sweet until the dumb twist when Lisa gets the smart shoes but I don't think that was bad enough to ruin the episode for me.
  • The Computers Wore Menace Shoes. Well, this is a guilty pleasure that has grown on me the latest times I revisited it. The first two acts are hilarious (the script has Swaltzwelder's sign after all) and the third act, eh, what can I say? I get used to it despite being totally outplaced and silly.

I dunno, I don't feel proud of myself for enjoying these episodes. They all have in one way or another some of the most problematic characteristics of the Scully era, but I guess I give them a free pass (or at least I don't think of them that much) because it has more great moments than other episodes and at least they are a highlight in the sea of mediocrity those seasons were. You don't even need to explain why they are absent. The most I think the most I can see are guilty pleasures.
 

CousinMerl

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What episodes do you think are missing? I'm keen to read your thoughts!

Well, looking at the episode listing for the Scully seasons and comparing it to your two seasons, I don't find many essential missing ones as you have already picked most of the best episodes so the essentials are already there, pretty much. Still, I'm gonna try pick out that I think could have been on there or could have substituted for some of the lesser episodes (and I'm including some that aren't all that good either, considering you do have a mix of episodes of different quality).

@Szyslak100 have mentioned three already (two of them before I had a chance to to post this) and those are 'D'oh-In In The Wind' (well, we do find out a lot of about Homer's backstory in this one so that makes this interesting), 'Last Tap Dance In Springfield' (one of the better S11 episodes) & E-I-E-I (Annoyed Grunt), which you already explained yourself about.

'Lard Of The Dance' (entertaining early S10 romp; I could see this one instead of some lesser one on the list), 'Make Room For Lisa' (I have a soft spot for this Lisa-Homer story, despite Homer being an ass), 'Simpsons Bible Stories' (memorable anthology episode), 'Hello Gutter Hello Fadder' (decent Homer-Maggie tale), 'Pygmoelian' (pretty decent Scully era Moe story), 'The Great Money Caper' (I know it is hated but I kinda enjoy it. Guilty pleasure maybe?), 'Simpsons Tall Tales' (pretty entertaining) & Homer The Moe (another all right Moe story. Could see either this one or 'Pygmoelian' in there but it depends on which one that is preferred).

Some extra ones that come to mind are 'Bart Carny' (decent episode with a great finale), 'Viva Ned Flanders' (I recall it has its moments though my least fav of all these I'm mentioning), 'The Mansion Family' (ridiculous but pretty amusing. Also, Burns at the clinic is a S11 highlight), 'I'm Going To Praiseland (the "good" version of 'Alone Again, Natura-Diddly') & 'Children Of A Lesser Clod' (has definite problems but I always thought it was fun).

Mind you, I don't think any of these are "must haves"/essential picks so this listing is just for a bit of fun.
 
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Szyslak100

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Lard of the Dance and Make Room for Lisa are good calls. Lard of the Dance is a standard Lisa-gets-a-friend episode that makes a slight spot on the girls of Springfield and the friendship between them and Lisa, while Make Room for Lisa is an appealing Homer and Lisa episode, even though it features the deplorable Homer of this era. Pygmoelian is all right but I think the post-classic era has much better Moe's episodes and we'll see a lot of him in these abridged seasons, I guess, so I am glad B-Boy picked other secondary characters over him here. And The Mansion Family is another entertaining one (I am surprised I am bringing on so many season 11's episodes) but if there's no place here for cartoony episode it's better to be off the list, I guess.

Something that really works in this project is that the seasons feel natural. It's not just "the best of the Scully era" is a thoughtful and careful selection of what could make ideal seasons or the closer to it. If you ask me which Lisa episode is better between Lard of the Dance or Bye Bye Nerdie, I would probably pick the first one. It's a tie at best. But looking at the list I think "Nah, Bye Bye Nerdie fits here". Or when I think of Little Big Mom only comes good memories, but again, I check the list and I think it would be prejudicial for the season somehow (maybe because the tone is different to the selected episodes, which tend to be more grounded and down-to-earth). That's the merit of B-Boy in this thread (without intentions to sound like a suck-up, it's just what I see haha).
 

CousinMerl

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@Szyslak100, 'Lard of The Dance' and 'Make Room For Lisa' was probably the first two omissions I was thinking about, especially the first one which I think would've been a given choice. I also do miss seeing at least one anthology episode in there so I was thinking either 'Bible Stories' or 'Tall Tales' could've been neat, but I understand there are better and more important episodes to include).

Both 'Pygmoelian' and 'Homer The Moe' are alright and I think either of them could've been chosen, but there is already a decent Moe episode in here with 'Dumbbell Indemnity' and like you say, it is nice to see other secondary characters prioritized instead; the focus on Apu over Moe I do think is an interesting choice but I like it (and yeah, there are better Moe episodes down the line).

Also, I know these seasons is aiming for less cartoonish and wacky episodes, but as some are in there I thought 'The Mansion Family' could've been a good alternative for one of those, just like those others I have mentioned (such as 'Great Money Caper', 'Viva Ned Flanders', 'I'm Going To Praiseland' & 'Children Of A Lesser Clod', all of which did come to my mind as sillier ones).

As usual I respect that the final selections are those of @B-Boy's and I agree with them for the most part as a majority of the episodes are well chosen with good arguments for them being on there.
 

B-Boy

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  • D'oh-in' in the Wind. The little arc of Homer investigating his second name is beautiful – I loved the wordplay of J/Jay and it was a very touching moment for me. Then the episode gets wacky (surprise, we are in the Scully era) but I think it's permanently funny and nothing that bad in comparison to other episodes. I bet you don't like it because it has a lot of Jerkass/obnoxious Homer and I'd agree with that, but I find it entertaining.
  • Little Big Mom. I guess somebody could argue it deserves inclusion due to the Stupid Sexy Flanders scene alone. But I found this episode constantly funny beyond that, with a ridiculous yet interesting exploration of The Simpsons Family.
  • Last Tap Dance in Springfield. The subplot of this episode is quite good despite I feel it had more potential to be better. The main plot was a bit sweet until the dumb twist when Lisa gets the smart shoes but I don't think that was bad enough to ruin the episode for me.
  • The Computers Wore Menace Shoes. Well, this is a guilty pleasure that has grown on me the latest times I revisited it. The first two acts are hilarious (the script has Swaltzwelder's sign after all) and the third act, eh, what can I say? I get used to it despite being totally outplaced and silly.

I dunno, I don't feel proud of myself for enjoying these episodes.
You needn't feel shame for enjoying any of these episodes!

D'oh in the Wind was one I considered including very early on. I also quite enjoy the stuff with Homer discovering his middle name. You're right about why I don't like the rest of it though - Homer is too obnoxious, destroying their livelihood and taking the hippie lifestyle way too far. There are definitely worse episodes though.

Little Big Mom I find similarly distasteful. Homer and Bart go out of their way to make life miserable for Lisa. Sure, they get their comeuppance (well, sorta, they get a tropical vacation out of it, so maybe not actually), but I can't stomach their cruelty.

I strongly considered The Computer Wore Menace Shoes at one point. The Mr. X stuff is great as is the commentary about spreading misinformation on the internet which is even more relevant today, but I've already included enough Homer episodes. Any more and the balance would be out of whack.

Last Tap Dance in Springfield isn't horrible, but there are better Lisa episodes throughout the Scully era so it didn't make the cut.

'Lard Of The Dance' (entertaining early S10 romp; I could see this one instead of some lesser one on the list), 'Make Room For Lisa' (I have a soft spot for this Lisa-Homer story), 'Simpsons Bible Stories' (colorful, memorable anthology episode), 'Hello Gutter Hello Fadder' (nice Homer-Maggie tale), 'Pygmoelian' (pretty decent Scully era Moe story), 'The Great Money Caper' (I know it is hated but I kinda enjoy it. Guilty pleasure maybe?), 'Simpsons Tall Tales' (pretty underrated and entertaining) & Homer The Moe (another all right Moe story. Could see either this one or 'Pygmoelian' in there but it depends on which one that is preferred).

A few others that come to mind are 'Bart Carny' (decent episode with a great finale), 'Viva Ned Flanders' (too wacky, but I think it is OK), 'The Mansion Family' (ridiculous but pretty funny. Also, Burns at the clinic is a S11 highlight), 'I'm Going To Praiseland (the "good" version of 'Alone Again, Natura-Diddly') & 'Children Of A Lesser Clod' (has definite problems but I always thought it was fun).
Thanks for sharing!

There are a few episodes you listed that were shortlisted but ultimately excluded. Part of the reason for that was (as I mentioned above) to maintain some balance. I didn't want too many Homer episodes (there were so many in the Scully era) or Lisa episodes and thus had to ignore some of the lesser ones. I'll go over your picks in more detail:
  • Lard of the Dance - I also have a soft spot for this, but there were better Lisa episodes to include with the limited space I had available. I find the voice acting for Alex too off-putting (Lisa Kudrow is the first guest star to voice a one-time child character that sounds way older than they are). The subplot is fun (and funny), but Bart's role as Homer's sidekick (which happens a lot in s9-12) rubs me the wrong way.
  • Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder - Homer tries to commit suicide because his 10 seconds of fame are over - yeah, no thanks. That whole sequence really sours me on this episode, but the perfect game and the Maggie stuff is all right.
  • Pygmoelian - Just missed out. If it weren't for Eight Misbehavin', I reckon this would have made the cut. It's one of only a handful of season 11 episodes I can tolerate.
  • The Great Money Caper - This actually made the cut the first time around, but I swapped it for Homer to the Max if I recall correctly. Flawed, but entertaining - times like this I'm tempted to make 30 episode seasons just so I can fit in the outliers, but that would be cheating. 😄
  • Homer the Moe - Not bad, but flat. Feels like a Jean episode.
  • Children of a Lesser Clod - I wanted to include this just for that scene with Arnie Pye reporting on Homer running from the police which is goddamn hilarious, but again everyone's just really shitty to each other and I'm just not interested in seeing that.
The other episodes you listed were never in the running. Make Room for Lisa seems well-liked in general, but Homer does some rotten things and it's super bizarre to me that Lisa is the one who feels guilty and wants to apologise. Stockholm Syndrome much? Simpsons Bible Stories is one of the better non-Halloween anthology episodes of the series, but they're disposable at best and take up a slot that could be used for other episodes. Same goes for Simpsons Tall Tales. Viva Ned Flanders is one of the worst episodes of the series for me - aside from the usual issues I have with Jerkass Homer, I personally find it offensively sexist. The Mansion Family has its moments (including Burns at the clinic), but I can't look past the Jerkass Homer bullshit and the pirate stuff. I'm mostly ambivalent about Bart Carny and I'm Goin' to Praiseland.
 
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B-Boy

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Season 11

Part 1

The Jean era begins. Time to whittle 155 episodes down to 91.

My season 11 – the first of four standard-definition Jean seasons – consists of 22 episodes selected exclusively from seasons 13 and 14. Despite all the criticism that Al Jean has received for his role in contributing to the stagnation and decline of The Simpsons, I firmly believe there was a noticeable improvement at least briefly. Calling it the start of a renaissance would be overstating it (even the best work produced under Jean rarely measures up to the golden age of the show), but the overall quality of the stories and characterizations (sans comedy) is beyond that of the Scully era.

1. Half-Decent Proposal

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Lauren MacMullan

Writer: Tim Long

IMDB Score: 7.3 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Jon Lovitz returns as Artie Ziff for the first time since The Way We Was. I think Half-Decent Proposal makes for a great premiere, serving as a genuinely worthwhile sequel to one of the best episodes of the series. It showcases the strengths of the early Jean era including more grounded stories and less offensive characterizations. This episode also represents the best use of Artie in the post-classic era and there are some truly stellar moments that contain great character work and humour. It might also be the best episode written by the notorious Tim Long and is almost certainly one of the best martial stores of the past 20+ years. Not to mention the magnificent direction of Lauren MacMullan. The only questionable bit is the third act pivot with Homer going to work on an oil rig with Lenny (whose relationship with Carl has gotten weird at this point), but it’s a fairly short diversion and it doesn’t spoil the episode which otherwise ends on a really high note. It’s episodes like this that make me glad The Simpsons lived past its first decade.

2. I Am Furious (Yellow)

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Chuck Sheetz

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
I Am Furious (Yellow) is another fantastic and memorable episode – easily the best penned by John Swartzwelder since at least King of the Hill four earlier and, arguably, his last great contribution to the show before his departure a year later. What I love about the Angry Dad cartoon most of all is that it seems to be consciously mocking the brutish and destructive caricature that Homer became during the Scully years. Whether this was intentional or not remains unclear, but it’s great from start to finish regardless of your reading. It makes for a great second episode that reflects on the previous era of the show in addition to satirising the animation and comic industries so that the self-parody isn’t too on-the-nose. Stan Lee is a fantastic celebrity guest star – one of the best the show has ever had. We get nowhere near this level of self-deprecation anymore. A real post-classic triumph.

3. Jaws Wired Shut

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Nancy Kruse

Writer: Matt Selman

IMDB Score: 7.3 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Jaws Wired Shut is an episode I used to love, but now merely like. Homer listening to and empathising with other people is quite pleasant - by making it the third episode, it almost plays out like a course-correction after the Scully era. However, things get strange during the third act. The excitement and adventure that Marge inexplicably craves is very out-of-character and her suggestion that the family needs a “live wire” in order for anything interesting or entertaining to happen doesn’t sit well with me. Marge would have no issues with the tediousness (not to the point of recklessly acting out at least) and it’s a thesis that seems more in line with the perverse Scully years than the classic era. It’s more the show commenting on itself rather than examining her or Homer as they are (or should be). The humour is also strange with several cringe-worthy sex jokes among other gags that are atypical of The Simpsons (although I like the Popeye parody at the end). Like I said, it’s decent but peculiar.

4. Treehouse of Horror X

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: David Silverman

Writer: Marc Wilmore, Brian Kelley & Kevin Curran

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
The Jean era tends to take the path of least resistance which is a pretentious way of saying it has a tendency to be lazy. The Halloween specials are emblematic of that attitude. Most segments barely even qualify as parodies, featuring little more than condensed summaries of the source material from which they were inspired. They consist of only the most basic details stripped of their original context with Simpsons characters lazily transposed and little to no commentary or subversion. This works from time to time on the most superficial level, but your mileage will vary.

Send in the Clones is one I enjoy despite my better judgement. Other people generally seem to like it as well and I can sorta see why. There’s a novelty to Homer interacting with other versions of himself and the ease with which all the clones are herded to their deaths isn’t entirely devoid of laughs either. However, the jokes are of the lowest common denominator and there’s no substance underpinning them. Maybe they’re trying to say something about how post-classic Homer can be a destructive force, but I’m not convinced. It’s really just a bunch of cheap lowbrow gags.

The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms is better. The anarchy it revels in more closely resembles the Scully era and I think Tyler eloquently summed up why it succeeds on that front. The Island of Dr. Hibbert is a bit of a snooze-fest, but I like how it exaggerates Hibbert’s established oddities and there’s some novelty in seeing how so many secondary characters translate into animal form. So Treehouse of Horror XIII isn’t terrible and I think it can stay intact.

5. Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Tim Long

IMDB Score: 7.1 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Bart vs. Lisa vs. The Third Grade is a pale shadow of Lisa on Ice and other classic-era sibling rivalry episodes, but it's not without its moments and I think my season benefits from it in terms of balance. The plot is about as sit-commy as you can get, but I don't mind all that much. I'm more put off by the unlikability of the characters - Lisa simply can't handle not being fawned over as the best student, Bart is malicious and vindictive, and McConnell is totally incompetent (and not in a satirical way). I like the intro with the satellite system as well as Lisa and Bart bonding after they get lost. Nothing too offensive, but nothing great either.

6. Sweets and Sour Marge

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Mark Kirkland

Writer: Carolyn Omine

IMDB Score: 6.9 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Sweets and Sour Marge is a competent and enjoyable episode with some decent satire and possibly the best use of Marge as a centric character since, gosh, In Marge We Trust nearly five years earlier. In many ways, this is an amalgamation of previous (and, admittedly, better) episodes such as Itchy & Scratchy & Marge and Homer vs. the 18th Amendment. Marge goes on a crusade, a staple of society gets banned, Homer smuggles it back into town, and a public official reverses the prohibition at the last second. I don’t mean for this to sound like a criticism – others may take issue with the repetition, but I have few problems with it so long as the details are permuted and the overall execution works which I think is the case here. It may not surprise viewers familiar with the show, but predictability isn’t inherently a bad thing. This isn’t a standout by any means, but it’s comfortable and serviceable. I always have a pleasant time watching it.

7. The Old Man and the Key

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Lance Kramer

Writer: Jon Vitti

IMDB Score: 6.5 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
My estimation of The Old Man and the Key has increased over the years. I thought it was dreadfully dull once, but now I think it’s quite delightful in an understated way. Grampa has some good moments, displaying some backbone as opposed to being a fragile push-over. I also like how the roles are reversed with Homer and Abe – the former being a responsible parental figure and the latter behaving like a rebellious teenager. The musical goes on too long and a few jokes fall flat, but it’s an entertaining outing overall. Plus, it gave us a meme for the ages.

8. Weekend at Burnsie’s

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Michael Marcantel

Writer: Jon Vitti

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
Weekend at Burnsie’s is another one of those episodes I’m fond of if only because it aired around the same time I was first getting into the show. This is undoubtedly one of Vitti’s weakest efforts with its vapid storytelling and cheap slapstick humour. It’s unfortunate because there was a great opportunity to mock both sides of the legalised marijuana debate, but nearly all of that potential goes to waste. The closest it gets to genuine satire is the overly exaggerated hallucinogenic effects Homer experiences when smoking the joint and all the stoners forgetting about the vote. The final act is really bizarre for reasons I probably don’t need to elaborate on. Not a good episode, but not horrible either (Homer is actually pretty funny while stoned). It’s another guilty pleasure for me.

9. Little Girl in the Big Ten

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Lauren MacMullan

Writer: Jon Vitti

IMDB Score: 7.1 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Look, I don’t want to wax lyrical about Lauren MacMullan every time I include one of her episodes, but golly The Simpsons was lucky to have her on board even if only briefly. Her work was consistently exceptional and Little Girl in the Big Ten is another unmitigated success. Her use of framing and shadow is among several techniques that give the episode a cinematic quality, elevating what might otherwise have been a good but unremarkable effort. It certainly helps that she was given a strong script from Jon Vitti that was almost worthy of the late-stage classic era.

10. She of Little Faith

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Bill Freiberger

IMDB Score: 7.1 / 10

Personal Score:
4/5

Comments:
When Jean took over from Scully, the improvements were immediately evident. She of Little Faith has a sensible plot with grounded characterisations, decent commentary on the commercialisation and moral bankruptcy of religious institutions, and a warm ending. Even the parody of 1950s sci-fi movies at the start is clever. Peculiarly, the episode avoids mocking Buddhist transitions and the story has a slightly disjointed structure. Plus, Richard Gere is another in an ever growing number of superfluous celebrity guest stars, but these are mostly minor complains.

11. Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge

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Original Season: Season 13

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: Dana Gould

IMDB Score: 7.8 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Even a show as elastic and robust as The Simpsons will struggle to find new ground to cover after 13 years on the air. The bag of new tricks will be much lighter and the well of new stories much drier. Repeating itself was almost inevitable. Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge is a rehash of Homer the Vigilante, but this is one of the few occasions where the rehash might be as good if not superior to the original. This is a fantastic episode that categorically succeeds on all three main fronts – story, character and comedy. The third act in particular is a laugh riot and of such a high calibre that it could have been lifted from an earlier era of the show. There are wall-to-wall laughs (including the best use of a ‘list joke’ in the entire series). Homer is in top form and the ending is a hoot. It’s a total success from beginning to end and one of the best season finales of the post-classic era.

Addendum (06/10/21): The following changes have been made:
  • Extensively modified the sequence of episodes to separate the DAB/EAB episodes and more clearly delineate the transition to digital ink and paint animation. All the DAB episodes are now in this first half rather than jumbled with the EAB episodes.
  • Removed 'The Lastest Gun in the West' after some reflection and taking feedback from the previous thread into consideration, replacing it with 'Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade'.
  • General edits and tidying up of the comments for every episode.
 
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CousinMerl

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The other episodes you listed were never in the running. Make Room for Lisa seems well-liked in general, but Homer does some rotten things and it's super bizarre to me that Lisa is the one who feels guilty and wants to apologise. Stockholm Syndrome much? Simpsons Bible Stories is one of the better non-Halloween anthology episodes of the series, but they're disposable at best and take up a slot that could be used for other episodes. Same goes for Simpsons Tall Tales. Viva Ned Flanders is one of the worst episodes of the series for me - aside from the usual issues I have with Jerkass Homer, I personally find it offensively sexist. The Mansion Family has its moments (including Burns at the clinic), but I can't look past the Jerkass Homer bullshit and the pirate stuff. I'm mostly ambivalent about Bart Carny and I'm Goin' to Praiseland.

Point taken about those. Aside from 'Make Room For Lisa' and 'Bible Stories' and a few others, these were essentially late additions I thought of (and that is without having rewatched them recently so of course, some are worse than I remember).

'Make Room For Lisa' is divisive due to Homer's behavior but as far as season 10 Homer stories go I think it's fine. The two anthology episodes are indeed on the disposable side (but felt that one of them could've been included). I was torn on mentioning 'Viva Ned Flanders' as I'm not a fan, but against my better judgement I included it as an alternate bad one and since I at least remember some good elements from it (but yeah, it is pretty dire and typical Scully nonsense & useless unless you're including 'Brawl In The Family'. I feel bad for even mentioning it now. Sorry). 'The Mansion Family' I think is a better outing among those really insane Scully episodes but it is not to everyone's liking & yes, 'Bart Carny' & 'Praiseland' I also feel kinda ambivalent on (they're just okay in my book).

Haven't checked out your redone first Jean season but will get back to commenting on it once I have.

(By the way, you don't have to quote our entire posts to answer, just give us a mention (@CousinMerl, etc.)
 
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B-Boy

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Season 11

Part 2
12. Special Edna

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Bob Anderson

Writer: Dennis Snee

IMDB Score: 7.0 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Special Edna is a lovely character driven episode and perhaps the last great use of Edna. It’s quite an understated affair (the best work under Jean often is) and I really like the elegant way it doubles as a vacation episode without the pitfalls typical of those. For one, the destination mostly serves as a backdrop for a couple of tasteful and clever gags rather than a gratuitous checklist that overshadows everything else. The episode isn’t quite as emotionally resonant as it could be and the resolution is a tad clumsy, but the story and pacing is pretty good from start to finish. It’s such a shame that Edna and Skinner broke up at the behest of the writers a year later.

13. The Strong Arms of the Ma

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: Carolyn Omine

IMDB Score: 6.8 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
The Jean era has a frustrating tendency to sabotage itself. Quite a few episodes start promisingly up until the second or third acts, at which time very strange and inexplicable writing choices tarnish all the good work that has been done. Other episodes start poorly and take too long to get into their stride, at which point there’s too little time for the good ideas to reach their potential. The Strong Arms of the Ma is a great example of the former and it’s a real shame because the first half is terrific.

You can tell this episode is a cut above when Marge gets mugged. It’s the way the situations feels genuinely threatening and scary, the way the camera zooms in on the handbag she forgets on the ground, and the way she loses her composure when Bart expresses concern after she returns to the car. It’s very realistic, directed with skilful sensitivity and contains fantastic voice acting from Julie Kavner. The second act where Marge develops agoraphobia is even better, taking her trauma to the next believable step. This kind of natural story flow is highly unusual for the post-classic era. Plus, it deals with some really heavy stuff yet still maintains the right amount of levity.

In fact, the scene with Homer and the kids slowly taking Marge outside is fucking hilarious, rivalling the classic era at the height of its comedic powers. Like, they genuinely think that strapping her to a chair, covering her with ridiculous amounts of protective gear, and taking point with baseball bats will calm and comfort her rather than put her more on edge. That’s funny enough on its own let alone Homer talking about the “queen of something”, setting fire to a bee hive, and sprinting past the kids as they all retreat back inside the house while Marge verbalises absurd levels of anxiety (“12, 15, 703, RUN!!!!). It kills me. Every. Single. Time.

Unfortunately, things go downhill pretty quickly during the third act. Marge taking steroids to feel powerful and compensate for her sense of weakness isn’t a poor writing choice necessarily, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is two-fold – firstly, the episode was an intimate character story about assault that suddenly turns into a cautionary tale about steroid use. Secondly, things escalate too quickly and her transformation into a domineering, abusive and murderously aggressive person lacks the building blocks to feel believable. It’s jarring and a stark contrast to what had been a meticulously paced and well-crafted episode.

The ending with Homer talking Marge down is quite sweet, but the fact she could walk away after having attacked so many people without any consequences is too much of a stretch and leaves a sour aftertaste. What’s the ultimate message here? That people who are assaulted end up assaulting others in turn? I really hope not, but that’s sorta the note we end on. It’s not quite enough to spoil all the great work that preceded it – it just prevents a good episode from becoming a great one.

14. Pray Anything

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Michael Polcino

Writer: Sam O'Neal & Neal Boushell

IMDB Score: 6.7 / 10

Personal Score: 3/5

Comments:
An uneven episode that few people seem to like. I won’t deny that Pray Anything has some serious problems during the second half in particular (Homer suing the Church on false pretences is one of several objectionable acts), but it’s not all bad and there’s some good stuff peppered throughout the first half in terms of mocking religious institutions and traditions. Homer’s early prayers are fairly innocent and the joke about his perception of the distance of the TV is a good one that’s consistent with his classic-era laziness. Ned is also characterized well and the sense of inadequacy that Homer feels in his shadow is very much in line with their classic-era dynamic which I appreciate. Neither the good nor the bad outweigh the other for me and so I’m inclined to give the episode a passing grade.

15. I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Nancy Kruse

Writer: Kevin Curran

IMDB Score: 7.2 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
Several EABF episodes feel like conscious attempts to recapture the ethos of the classic era, but lack the careful craftsmanship and comedic sharpness to really hit the mark or leave a lasting impression. I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can is one of those episodes. It sorta approximates the down-to-earth stories and characterizations of the early years, but has no weight or bite. In so many ways, this episode reminds me of Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington except its soft, mushy and domesticated. It has nothing interesting to say, avoids anything challenging, takes the path of least resistance, and settles for a facile conclusion. People are right when they say that the show under Jean rides on the coattails of its earlier success. For all his transgressions as showrunner, Scully at least kept the fire burning (even if the smoke had turned toxic). Don’t get me wrong, I like this episode and quite enjoy it on its own lightweight terms. It’s just formulaic and ephemeral – easy to watch, but inconsequential and a reminder of everything the show lost after its first decade on the air.

16. A Star is Born Again

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Michael Marcantel

Writer: Brian Kelley

IMDB Score: 6.9 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
A Star is Born Again marks the full debut of writer Brian Kelley and it’s a strong inaugural episode. Sara Sloane is a decent one-time character and her brief yet passionate romance with Ned totally works for me. Her attraction to him makes a helluva lotta sense – he’s the complete opposite of everything she’s familiar with. He’s polite rather than brash, modest rather than ostentatious, and conservative rather than exhibitionist. I like how the episode highlights the tensions that emerge from these differences and it’s amusing to see Ned wrestle with his desires and beliefs. However, things wrap up a little too quickly and neatly. I’m left with the impression that Ned hasn’t really learned much about himself even though he should have. Still, I like this one.

17. Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Lance Kramer

Writer: John Swartzwelder

IMDB Score: 6.8 / 10

Personal Score: 3.5/5

Comments:
Of the last 20 episodes that Swartzwelder wrote, I’d say only five were any good and this was one of them. It’s probably the sharpest and funniest political satire the show has produced in twenty years, but that’s not saying much. Several gags fall flat (the plane crashing into the house is stupid) and the final act feels rushed, but these shortcomings are offset by great use of Krusty and the entire family as an ensemble (particularly each of their contributions to the resolution). It’s not exactly a gem and it could have been better, but I think it’s pretty good for the most part.

18. C.E.D’oh

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Writer: Dana Gould

IMDB Score: 7.2 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
C.E.D’oh is a messy and over-plotted episode that constantly threatens to crumble apart, but is kept together by the theme that connects each act – Homer trying to improve himself. It’s mostly a gag-fest (some of which are funny), but there are also some decent character moments (including Homer expressing his feelings about Mr. Burns at the dinner table). Homer deposing Burns and becoming CEO of the power plant at the expense of time spent with his loved ones is a fairly straightforward cautionary tale about the price of ambition. It’s uninspired and simplistic, but that’s par for the course at this point. I’m a sucker for Homer self-improvement episodes and this one is okay with some solid humour and a nice ending (despite the disjointed nature of the story).

19. ‘Scuze Me While I Miss the Sky

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Writer: Dan Greaney & Allen Glazier

IMDB Score: 7.1 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
‘Scuze Me While I Miss the Sky is another episode that could have been better and had more impact with extra work and magic. The story is engaging, the focus on Bart and Lisa both as individuals and as a team is refreshing, and there are some inspired character flourishes (such as Lisa looking for a single vocational path to follow). I also really like Declan Desmond (his first and best appearance on the show) and the documentary material at Springfield Elementary. Sadly, the episode is let down by more Jean-era frothiness along with some really stupid and distasteful Family Guy-esque gags (Moe implying bestiality and Groundskeeper Willie eating shards of glass).

20. Brake My Wife, Please

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Pete Michels

Writer: Tim Long

IMDB Score: 6.7 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
I expect this choice will raise some eyebrows. Brake My Wife, Please is a good examination of Marge and her circumstances. Living with Homer (especially post-classic Homer) would make nearly anyone in their right mind murderous. Keeping the family stable and functioning has been a thankless job and at the expense of her own wellbeing. I can totally see how all the stress and anxiety has built up over the years to such a level that she subconsciously wants to lash out and hurt him. Homer himself is difficult to stomach, but his stupidity and insensitivity is largely the point so fair enough I guess. He realises the error of his way and tries to make it up to her and, yeah, not gonna lie, I like it.

21. The Bart of War

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Michael Polcino

Writer: Marc Wilmore

IMDB Score: 6.6 / 10

Personal Score: 4/5

Comments:
The Bart of War is an episode packed with great material that can take multiple viewings to recognise and appreciate. It’s a relatively clever and subtle satire that examines the various ways violence has become deeply entrenched in our society, warping even the noblest causes. Nearly everything that occurs revolves around and services that idea – from Bart and Milhouse running amok and causing chaos after watching violent cartons to the two ostensibly peaceful peer groups waging war against each other to the sudden riot at the baseball game. The Native American material is thematically relevant and it’s all capped off with Bart’s closing remarks aimed at the Bush Administration. A very underrated episode.

22. Moe Baby Blues

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Original Season: Season 14

Director: Lauren MacMullan

Writer: J. Stewart Burns

IMDB Score: 7.7 / 10

Personal Score: 5/5

Comments:
Lauren MacMullan directed all but one of her seven episodes during the Jean era and I think each of them rank among the greatest episodes of the last two decades. Moe Baby Blues might just be the cream of that eminent crop, featuring an unusual yet inspired pairing of characters. It’s a really well-plotted and emotionally resonance episode, showcasing both Moe and Maggie at their best. This was the first Simpsons script written by J. Stewart Burns who, alongside MacMullan, crafts a post-classic tour de force. It’s one of only a handful of episodes universally regarded as one of the best in the last 20 years. It was a wonderful finale for season 14 and serves that role just as well here.

Addendum (06/10/21): The following changes have been made:
  • Major changes to the sequencing. The EAB episodes are now all in the order they originally aired which I think works well.
  • Re-wrote part of the comments for 'The Strong Arms of the Ma', 'I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can', and 'Brake My Wife, Please'.
  • Lowered the score of 'Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington' from a 4 to a 3.5.
  • Lowered the score of 'The Bart of War' from a 4.5 to a 4.
  • Yup, you guessed it, edits and tidying up of the comments for every episode.
 
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CousinMerl

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Now that season 11 is one I can get behind.

Going from your two Scully seasons into the early Jean era (which I do think is a little underrated and get too much crap as "zombie Simpsons" or whatever) is quite the difference and an improvement, especially story wise: While the Scully material usually was funnier and more memorable in a sense, I think a majority of plots and directing for these was an improvement, with talents such as Lauren MacMullan being around (and as for her, she, if any post-classic director, deserves to be waxed lyrically about).

The selection here is well balanced and with a lot of great choices (The likes of the greatly plotted 'Half-Decent Proposal', the neat Lisa episode 'Little Girl In The Big Ten', the almost perfect 'Moe Baby Blues', the very entertaining 'Poppas Got A Brand New Badge' & 'I Am Furious Yellow, which might be one of the funniest post-classic episodes, all get their due) and a lot of just good ones as well ('Scuse Me While I Miss The Sky', 'Special Edna', 'Bart Of War', 'C.E. D'oh' & 'I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can' are all good picks among others). 'Treehouse Of Horror XIII' being kept as is I agree about, even though I look at it a little more favorably than you do).

The middling ones are well selected too, with not really any Iwould immediately think are poorly chosen. Speaking of disagreements, I must do so with your positive assessment of 'Strong Arms Of The Ma' as that one has a lot of problems that I just cannot overlook. It has a greatpremise but it is full of some seriously wacky and bizarre Scully-like stuff, becomes kinda unlikeable with a problematic characterization of Marge (and her raping Homer and it being played for comedy is pretty unforgiveable) so I'd substitute that one with the in my opinion much less troublesome and generally more likeable 'Large Marge'.

Some season 13 & 14 that I'd likely have chosen myself (if this was my project) are 'The Bart Wants What It Wants', 'The Sweetest Apu', 'The Great Louse Detective', 'The Dad Who Knew Too Little' & 'Dude Where's My Ranch?' but you have still made a great selection so the omission of those is not a problem at all here.
 
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Szyslak100

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Wow, you are going very fast now. Three seasons in a matter of a few days was something unexpected to me. But I am not complaining haha.

Extensively modified the sequence of episodes to separate the DAB/EAB episodes and more clearly delineate the transition to digital ink and paint animation. All the DAB episodes are now in this first half rather than jumbled with the EAB episodes.
Honestly, I haven't realized that detail at all, but I'm glad you could fix it to make the seasons more realistic.

Removed 'The Lastest Gun in the West' after some reflection and taking feedback from the previous thread into consideration, replacing it with 'Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade'.
I think this change was for the better. Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade is far away from greatness. The rivalry between Bart and Lisa is taken to an extreme and there are some sweet moments when they reconciled. Sure, it's subpar to their best episodes, but it's an entertaining one to watch.

I really like this eleventh season except for (wait for it) Brake My Wife, Please. I think that one is mean-spirited and it is just terrible Marge tried to kill Homer. I would believe it if Louis tries to kill Peter in Family Guy, but Homer is not as exasperating and Marge is not a murderer, so it fails in the most basic levels for me (a story that doesn't fit in the show and wrong characterizations). I also think the third act of The Strong Arms of the Ma is terrible enough to spoil the episode and it's one of my least favorite of the season for that, but I buy the argument of including it for its first two acts (after all, I recommended The Computers Wore Menace Shoes yesterday). I am with CousinMerl in this one, Large Marge is less troublesome than them, even if not a great episode either, and although it is a DABF episode.

I am also wondering what's your opinion on How I Spent My Strummer Vacation? I think that, except for some mean-spirited moments in the beginning, I find an all-around strong episode. And I am not even a fan of The Rolling Stones. I never had clear if it was a Scully episode or a Jean episode, but I am asking because it could be a good alternative for both... and being realistic and trying to think as a producer, such an episode is a gem in terms of marketing.
 

CousinMerl

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@B-Boy, I figured as much. There was no way that all of those I mentioned there last would be forgotten about (and those two you called out are probably the best, most obvious picks of the five).

@Szyslak100, I'm also in a bit of disagreement regarding Brake My Wife Please', as I have a hard time getting over Marge intentionally hitting Homer with the car (I understand that it was due to all the pent up annoyance over the years, but seriously, she actually tried to run him over to kill him and that is unforgiveable), but mostly I just think its a meh marriage crisis.

Regarding 'How I Spent My Strummer Vacation', it is one of those middling episodes I feel ambivalent about but i guess it could've been on there instead of some 3/5 episode or such.

Also, is there an issue with 'Large Marge' being a DABF episode? A lot of the selected ones are DABF as well so I don't know why that one should be any kind of problem?
 
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B-Boy

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@Szyslak100 & @CousinMerl

I just...I can't do it. I can't let Strong Arms go. You're both absolutely right, the third act is atrocious, bottom of the barrel trash. What were they thinking!? It's like they came up 7 minutes short, but had no story left to tell and tacked on all the steroid bullshit. Large Marge is...okay. Certainly more inoffensive, but also much blander. I can't bring myself to swap them though - I love the first 14 minutes of Strong Arms. All I can suggest is to switch it off after Marge takes vengeance on her attacker? :P

With regards to Brake My Wife, I think it's important to remember that Marge acting out-of-character is precisely the point and that her attempts to hurt Homer are happening on a sub-conscious level. She doesn't pre-meditate her 'attacks' (for lack of a better word) and as soon as she realises, she's quite horrified with herself. It reminds me of that Frasier episode where Niles hurts Martin because he wants Daphne to remain a roommate.

Strummer Vacation is 100% a Scully episode. He produced it. It's fun and all, but the reverence for The Rolling Stones makes me want to gag. There are some token jabs at their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but overall it's all just one massive suck up.
 

Brad Lascelle

A Fixture in Online Simpsons Fandom Since '93
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How to craft one quality Simpsons episode out of 3 pieces of garbage... take the opening acts of Little Big Mom, Strong Arms of the Ma and then add in the mattress subplot from The Boys of Bummer.

There ya go... one great episode full of wonderful Marge moments with none of the drek.
 

Szyslak100

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It's perfectly fine if you think The Strong Arms of the Ma deserves a spot and Large Marge doesn't. It's your project and your list, all I do here is making suggestions and just point out if I think something could be better, but of course you have the last word.

Brake My Wife, Please is still awful for me even if Marge does what she does unconsciously. I can't buy she would try to kill Homer even if it is not on purpose. You don't try to kill your husband even if you are stressed or anything. The entire episode is uninspired and boring for me, beyond Marge's role, probably one of the weakest of the earliest Long's episodes that weren't that bad.
 
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