Abridged Post-Classic Simpsons - REDUX

GlitterCat

can still boogaloo
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I find it interesting reading these very detailed write ups of post classics. I do respectfully disagree on D'ohbot, the subplot was just too sad for me, but that's affected by being a cat owner myself and having said goodbye to our oldest tom, Aslan. We loved him.

For some reason I liked Monkey Suit better than Lisa the Skeptic, not entirely sure why, maybe because Lisa seemed less motivated to "prove others wrong" and more wanting a scientific approach for science sake, and Ned with his well known fundamentalism made a more logical opponent than Marge believing in angels. (although Homer the Heretic did hint that Marge does go to church out of more than just obligation, genuine belief.)
 

B-Boy

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Now that I’ve reached the midpoint of this obsessive-compuls…I mean passionate fan project, I thought I’d do a breakdown of what I’ve done thus far and provide additional observations and insight. What SD-Jean episodes did I consider that weren’t included? What writer, season and production cycle is represented the most? How do I come up with my personal scores? I find these details and stats interesting to examine not just in terms of what they say about the show itself, but also what it reveals about my own biases and inclinations. I hope you find them interesting as well.

SD-Jean Episodes That Didn’t Make the Cut

I’ve already gone over Scully-era episodes that didn’t make the cut (the explanations for which you can read here) so I thought I’d do the same for the SD-Jean era. Looking at my notes and skimming through the episode list of seasons 13-20 one last time revealed almost 20 that I briefly or seriously considered. The following didn’t survive very long before being thrown out of contention:
  • How I Spent My Strummer Vacation
  • Old-Yeller Belly
  • Today I Am a Clown
  • The Bonfire of the Manatees
  • See Homer Run
  • Kiss, Kiss Bang Bangalore
  • Stop! Or My Dog Will Shoot
  • The Homer of Seville
  • Sex, Pies and Idiot Scrapes
I’ve not much to say about any of these. They all hover between a score of 2 and 3 for me so they’re all average and unremarkable at best. Strummer Vacation is one that some people really like but, as with other Scully episodes, Homer is too much (to put it mildly) and it bothers me how he’s absolved and rewarded for doing some horrible things. Today I Am a Clown might have been included if the A-plot was funnier and less dull, but no dice and the B-plot is crap. In fact, most of these are tainted by varying degrees of unpalatable Homer antics (jeesh, I sound like a broken record sometimes).

Several other episodes lasted a bit longer before being dismissed, including:
  • The Bart Wants What it Wants
  • The Sweetest Apu
  • Large Marge
  • The Fat and the Furriest
  • Regarding Margie
  • Rome-Old and Juli-Eh
I find all of these watchable to some extent, but too flawed and/or mediocre to earn a spot. I have a particular fondness for The Bart Wants What it Wants and The Fat and the Furriest, both of which I watched many times when I was a teenager. However, if I’m being honest with myself, Bart behaves out-of-character (or far too much like an angsty adolescent) in the former (which also has the stupid Olympics intro and a messy final act that doubles as a trite ‘vacation’ plot) while the latter is compromised by equally stupid and messy Homer shenanigans (see? as I said, broken record).

I’m also fond of Regarding Margie, but that episode is as platitudinous as they come. It’s also one of the best examples of the Jean era taking the path of least resistance and squandering any potential it may have, failing to unpack Marge as a character and examine her choices. The other three I’m more or less apathetic about – Large Marge and The Sweetest Apu are extremely dull in my opinion while Rome-Old and Juli-Eh is all kinds of weird and uncomfortable (the subplot is cute or at least until its conclusion at which point things get wacky with the overly straight Lord of the Rings parody).

Three other episodes either made the cut in the previous iteration of this thread or were taken out at the eleventh hour:
  • The Lastest Gun in the West
  • The Seven-Beer Snitch
  • Double, Double, Boy in Trouble
The Lastest Gun in the West got substituted out on the basis of its atrocious first act while The Seven-Beer Snitch is a mess with little thematic relevance to warrant inclusion. Double, Double Boy in Trouble got extremely close, but I realised (or, more accurately, finally admitted to myself) late in the process that the only reason I was keeping it was because of the nice ending scene which amounts to, what, 15 seconds? There was no other reason to keep such a train wreck so it got pulled.

The Representation of Seasons & Production Cycles

I was curious about this and discovered some interesting things. Unsurprisingly, season 9 and the 5F production cycle has the highest representation in terms of the number of episodes with 19 out of 25 (76%) and 17 out of 24 (70%) respectively. Season 10 and AAB episodes see a massive decline in representation with 11 out of 23 (48%) and 10 out of 23 (43%) respectively, lining up with the precipitous collapse of the show that year. It also comes as no surprise to me that representation of season 11 and the BAB cycle is squarely in last place with only 7 out of 22 (32%) and 8 out of 22 (36%) episodes respectively, corresponding to what I consider to be the nadir of the show.

More favourable representation of the next five seasons and production cycles illustrates my claim that the show experienced a minor upward swing in the early to mid-noughties. 11 out of 21 (52%) and 12 out of 22 (55%) episodes from season 12 and the CAB production cycle are included which is a big improvement. Season 13 and the DAB cycle is about on par with 12 out of 22 (55%) and 11 out of 22 (50%) episodes included. Season 14 and the EAB cycle has higher representation than I expected with 15 out of 22 (68%) and 16 out of 22 (73%) episodes included.

The numbers for the next two seasons and production cycles surprised me a bit. With regards to the number of episodes included, 14 out of 22 (64%) from season 15 are included while 16 out of 20 (80%) from season 16 made the cut. That didn’t line up with my personal aggregate score for these seasons (15 scores better than 16 overall for me), but a closer look explained the discrepancy. Season 15 has more standouts than 16 while season 16 has fewer duds than 15. The FAB and GAB cycles are mostly equal with 16 out of 22 (73%) and 15 out of 21 (71%) respectively. In terms of the ratio, season 16 surpasses even season 9 and the 5F cycle in terms of representation. Go figure!

Seasons 17 and 18 see a marked dip in representation, lining up with my view that the post-classic era peaked with seasons 15 and 16. 11 out of 21 (52%) and 10 out of 21 (48%) episodes from each season are included. Slightly more from season 19 made the cut – 12 out of 19 (63%), but only 2 out of 9 (22%) holdovers from season 20 are included. In terms of production, the HAB and JAB cycles are neck and neck with 10 out of 21 (48%) included while the KAB cycle fares one better with 11 out of 21 (52%). Not sure if any of this stuff interests you, but I thought I’d share the numbers nonetheless.

*The Halloween specials for seasons 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 weren’t included in the tallies as only one or two segments from each were selected.

The Representation of Writers & Directors

This is what interested me the most. Let’s start off with the writers:

Should it surprise me that Matt Selman is the writer with the highest representation? 13 of the 17 (76%) scripts he was credited/co-credited for between seasons 9 and 20 are included. The inimitable John Swartzwelder comes in second place, but his ratio is much worse. Only 9 of the 23(!) scripts he penned after season 8 are included, equating to just 39% of his post-classic output. To my surprise, three writers with less-than-stellar reputations (Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and John Frink) tie for third place, each of whom have 8 credits out of 15 (53%).

Fourth place goes to Michael Price who has 7 out of 8 credits so almost a 100% inclusion rate. He was a slightly stronger writer in the SD-era and I can confidently say his HD-era ratio will look much worse. Carolyn Omine, Dana Gould, J. Stewart Burns, Dan Greaney, Don Payne, and Joel H. Cohen tie for fifth place with 6 credits apiece out of a total of 11, 7, 7, 8, 14, and 13 respectively. Gould and Burns boast the highest inclusion ratios of these writers at 86%. Greaney falls just behind with 75% followed by Omine with 55%, Cohen with 46% and Payne with 43%.

In joint sixth place is Marc Wilmore, Kevin Curran and Jon Vitti with 5 credits apiece from 7 (71%), 7 (71%), and 6 (83%) respectively. Al Jean and Ron Hauge follow in seventh place with 4 out of 7 (57%) and 4 out of 5 (80%) credits. I was a bit surprised by Jean’s relatively low ratio given what I thought was a reasonably good track record as a writer. I double-checked to make sure nothing was amiss and, yup, all 7 of the episodes he penned were under Scully three of which didn’t make the cut. For some reason, I tend to forget he wrote Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder and Children of a Lesser Clod.

Other writers who are represented multiple times include Brian Kelley with 3 out of 4 (75%), George Meyer with 3 out of 4 (75%), David X. Cohen with 3 out of 5 (60%), Mike Scully with 3 out of 6 (50%), Donick Cary with 3 out of 6 (50%), Larry Doyle with 3 out of 7 (43%), Matt Warburton with 3 out of 8 (38%), Allen Glazier with 2 out of 2 (100%), Ned Goldreyer with 2 out of 2 (100%), Tom Martin with 2 out of 3 (67%), Daniel Chun with 2 out of 5 (40%), and Bill Odenkirk with 2 out of 5 (40%).

Of the writers who are represented only once, 10 have additional credits that didn’t make the cut. This includes Richard Appel (1), Steve O’Donnell (1), Brian Scully (2), David M. Stern (2), Rob LaZebnik (2), Billy Kimball (2), Stephanie Gillis (2), Deb Lacusta & Dan Castellaneta (3), and Jeff Westbrook (3).

Now in terms of directors:

Expectedly, the tireless Steven Dean Moore (19 of 32), Mark Kirkland (16 of 32) and Bob Anderson (14 of 23) comprise the top trifecta. Mike B. Anderson (13 of 19) and Matthew Nastuk (11 of 21) round out the top five. No one else is represented in the double digits, but noughties stalwart Nancy Kruse comes close with 9 of 21 who is closely followed by Pete Michels (8 of 10), Lance Kramer (7 of 11), and Lauren MacMullan (7 of 7). Of the directors who are represented five or more times, only MacMullan has a 100% inclusion rate. How I wish she’d done more episodes…

Michael Marcantel (5 of 7) and Raymond S. Persi (5 of 8) tie for ninth place while Neil Affleck (4 of 6), Jim Reardon (4 of 7), Chuck Sheetz (4 of 6) and David Silverman (4 of 4) tie for tenth place. It’s worth pointing out that Silverman only worked on Halloween specials during the SD-Jean era and at least one segment was selected from each of those so he’s included by default. Eleventh place goes to Michael Polcino (3 of 13) whose inclusion rate is abysmal at just %23, well below any of his peers. Susie Dietter, Swinton Scott, Dominic Polcino, Ralph Sosa, and Chris Clements have two credits each.

Of the remaining five directors who are represented only once, three have additional credits that didn’t make the cut including Mark Ervin (2), Matthew Faughnan (2), and Rob Oliver (1). The latter joined towards the end of the SD-era, starting his tenure on the show with the abominable Boys of Bummer. Not a good first impression, but hardly an accurate one as his later work will attest.

The Reasoning behind My Personal Scores

With the HD-era looming on the horizon, it’s pertinent to explain if not defend my personal scores. I have no doubt people have already gawked at me for giving many Jean-era episodes scores of 4 and higher so I can only imagine their reaction to me doing the same for HD episodes. Let me make this absolutely crystal clear; the main thing my scores communicate about an episode is how watchable I consider it to be on its own terms. Sure, that judgment takes various elements into account, but it doesn’t involve a scientific process or ticking off specific criteria. Just because I’ve given, say, Crook and Ladder a score of 4 doesn’t mean it’s comparable to, say, Homer Goes to College which I also score a 4. I don’t think of it as grading on a scale – not exactly anyway; it’s just a number that aims to give you a preliminary sense of what my sentiments will be as expressed in the comments.

Basically, I think of my scores as more or less communicating the following:
  • 5/5 - I’m enthusiastic about watching it again.
  • 4/5 - I’m happy to watch it again.
  • 3/5 - I’m ambivalent about watching it again.
  • 2/5 - I’m disinclined to watch it again.
  • 1/5 - I’m opposed to watching it again.
I hope this provides some clarity about my choices thus far before we venture into the HD-era.
 
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CousinMerl

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Those are some interesting breakdowns and statistics of the pre-HD Jean era you've put together, @B-Boy (maybe especially in regards to the directors, of which I like how all the MacMullan episodes ended up on there, but it is also interesting to see how many of the writers' efforts and how many episodes from each season made it). I also like to see your criteria for how you rate the episode. I didn't expect that it'd be such a lengthy post either but hey, like before I'm not complaining about it but remain impressed.

As for those episodes that didn't make the cut, I think most of the choices are understandable as to why not they got left out, especially those in the first and last batch, but the middle one do have some decent episodes that I think would've made for some good alternates ('The Bart Wants What It Wants' & 'The Fat And The Furriest' are two, but you did say you wanted to focus on less silly episodes and those are a little over the top. Also, I think this is the first time I've seen anyone use the word "platitudinous" (which I had to look up in Google) in a post instead of something like "hackneyed", but then again, using more complex words usually make a post look more refined ;).

It is interesting how Homer's antics ruin so many episodes for you (maybe especially seeing as most seem to think that he is usually more palatable in the SD Jean era than in the Scully era), but I can see how it can be really bothersome even then (he does get a bit much at times and I don't like how whiny he became, but still often better than Scully's sociopathic jerkass.)
 

Szyslak100

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Oh, that was a curious and unexpected post, to be honest. I am particularly interested in the episodes that were close to being included but failed at the end. Most of the episodes listed had some decent ideas and good intentions but for some reason or another didn't reach the potential they had. It's a real shame when post-classic Simpsons have the right ideas but fail in the execution.

I guess most of our heaviest discrepancies find a justification in Homer's antics. Personally, I do have a problem when his behavior is damaging for the story, but not in any circumstances. I think The Fat and the Furriest is way more profound than a man doing dumb stuff. They are peripheral and I don't mind them, but I understand if it spoils the episodes for you, though.
 

B-Boy

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Also, I think this is the first time I've seen anyone use the word "platitudinous" (which I had to look up in Google) in a post instead of something like "hackneyed", but then again, using more complex words usually make a post look more refined ;).
I tell myself I'm not pretentious, but then go and use a word like that. I should just admit I like to sound smarter than I actually am! 🤣
 

CousinMerl

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@B-Boy, I don't think there's anything wrong with using words like that. Sure, it can be made to appear to sound more intelligent but sometimes it can be done for fun (now I hope to be able to use "ubiquitous" and "pusillanimous" at some point).
 
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