Posted by: Alan | November 10, 2009

My Top 10 Simpsons Episodes

For the next few weeks, I’m going to focus my writings on things related to animation. So to kick it off I’ve decided to share my personal favorite episodes of The Simpsons. You know, that TV show that was one of the greatest cartoons ever made which soon devolved into one of the worst. The one that is still airing new episodes, even though its pretty unanimous that it sucks now. Well, most of us also know that during the so called ‘Golden Years’ (seasons 3-8 or so, although there’s some debate about the exact time the series went downhill) The Simpsons was churning out great television and some of the best jokes ever. So here they are, my ten favorite Simpsons episodes of all time. Take note: this was a difficult list to compile.

ptadisbands

10. The PTA Disbands

Season 6, Episode 21

This is one of those classic episodes that most people recognize, but rarely think of when trying to remember good episodes. After a failed school field trip, the teacher’s have enough and go on strike at Springfield Elementary. This in turn causes people from the neighborhood to take up the teacher’s positions. There’s a lot of good stuff in this episode, and Principal Skinner-focused episodes rarely disappoint. It’s also a less ‘zany’ episode than some of the ones on this list, and probably one of the most down to earth and approaches the subject matter with a keen intellect.

Highlights:

  • Principal Valiant
  • “Hey they’re trying to learn for free!” “Use your phony guns as clubs!”
  • “In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”
  • The man who jumps out the window, then back in when Ned assures him the PTA has not disbanded.
  • Bart ‘tricking’ Skinner to go to his office (“Go to my office? Highly irregular, but alright.”)

burnsverkaufen

9. Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk

Season 3, Episode 11

This is perhaps the episode I remember most clearly as being possibly the very first episode I ever saw. When some German businessmen want to buy the plant off of Mr. Burns, he reluctantly accepts (after exclaiming ‘woo hoo’ many times). Things change at the plant, especially for Homer, as he is the sole person let go from his job. I think I have always loved Burns-centric episodes because he really is one of the greatest characters on the show, and this was one of the first ones where he is shown as something other than the malevolent plant owner. Not by much though. The German’s are some of the best one-episode characters ever, especially Horst, as he is the most non-threatening.

Highlights:

  • Homer’s reason why they can’t fire him: “Because…” which soon turns into a very sad looking Homer.
  • The completely unnecessary announcement of all the employees laid off: “Simpson, Homer. That is all.”
  • The Land of Chocolate. And the transition afterward. “Oh, I’m sorry. We were talking about chocolate?” “Zat was ten minutes ago!”
  • “Do we have any alcoholics among us?” “Um, me?” “Right here.” “I’m drunk right now.”
  • And of course, the Germans trying to intimidate Mr. Burns, and his sarcastic rant “Oh no, the Germans are coming to get me!”

twobadneighbors

8. Two Bad Neighbors

Season 7, Episode 13

The Simpsons make a political episode, and barely talk about politics. Instead, they make George Bush Sr. a crotchety old man who happens to be an ex-president. It’s a genius way to openly mock Bush without talking about his politics at all. The episode itself actually stemmed off of a feud between the Simpsons writers and the Bush administration. I won’t go into it because it’s easy to read about almost anywhere else. But this episode quickly became one of my favorites, almost entirely because of the way they painted Bush as a character. It’s pretty fantastic.

Highlights:

  • Pretty much any interaction Bart has with Bush, specifically when talking about his presidential pajamas.
  • “Boys? Where are you going?”
  • Of course, Gerald Ford being just like Homer is pretty great.

lemonoftroy

7. Lemon of Troy

Season 6, Episode 24

This episode is awesome because instead of creating conflict within the characters we all know and love, the whole of Springfield bonds together against a common enemy: Shelbyville. While Shelbyville is referenced often throughout the series as being the quintessential anti-Springfield, it isn’t until this episode that we really get to see the city and the inhabitants shine. There are doppelgangers of many of the main characters and the interactions they have with the ‘originals’ are gold. Especially Milhouse.

Highlights:

  • Frink and the flying motorcycle (“You had your chance. Woah! Glavin!”)
  • Milhouse’s ‘other’ and saying ‘Radical.’
  • Celebrating victory by eating a lemon (see above picture).
  • The old man saying the Lemon Tree was haunted, and celebrating with Turnip Juice.

homeratthebat

6. Homer at the Bat

Season 3, Episode 17

I think this was likely one of the first episodes to have a veritable smorgasbord of guest stars in the story, but it actually suited the story. Not only that, but the fact that the guest stars were all baseball players and not actors is almost a benefit to the humor in the episode, as you have these professional athletes delivering hilarious lines almost deadpan because they don’t know how to act. I mean, some are better than others, but there’s no one terrible enough to ruin the jokes and sometimes they are even more funny that way. It’s such a ridiculous premise, but it pays off wonderfully and I love it. I’d almost say this episode (or near it) is when the Golden Age (un)officially begun.

Highlights:

  • Recruiting the various ball players
  • The subsequent losing of all the players in nine misfortunes.
  • Daryl Strawberry and everything he does. And of course, the single tear after being taunted by Bart and Lisa.
  • Bart and Milhouse picking teams, with the pros walking by at the right moment for Milhouse to pick them (“You got yourself a player.”)
  • Being hypnotized and still understanding that ‘110%’ doesn’t actually make sense.

homersenemy

5. Homer’s Enemy

Season 8, Episode 23

This is perhaps the most clever episode of Simpsons there is. It’s clearly a response to Homer as the person most American’s want to be, and the introduction of Frank Grimes as the ‘realistic’ American makes an incredibly astute contrast to the way things really are. This quote by Frank Grimes spells it really clearly:

“God, I’ve had to work hard every day of my life, and what do I have to show for it? This briefcase and this haircut! And what do you have to show for your lifetime of sloth and ignorance? Everything! A dream house! Two cars! A beautiful wife! A son who owns a factory! Fancy clothes and [sniffs air] lobsters for dinner! And do you deserve any of it? No!”

And in the end, what does meeting Homer do to Grimes? It actually is one of the darker endings of a (non-Halloween) Simpsons episode: It takes his life. Does Homer care though? Nope. He continues to coast through life, and everyone else just laughs it off. “That’s our Homer!” Of course, the episode is also really funny, so I love watching it. But it’s interesting to think about.

Highlights:

  • Burns making the dog his executive vice president.
  • “I’d say he eats more like a duck. Pigs tend to chew.”
  • Frank living on top of a bowling alley that is below another bowling alley.
  • “Ralphie get off the stage sweetheart.”
  • Frank Grimes. He’s one of the greatest characters ever, and only appeared in one episode.

margevsmonorail

4. Marge Vs. The Monorail

Season 4, Episode 12

This is unarguably a classic, and very few people will NOT cite this episode in a top ten list if they were to make one. Written by Conan O’Brien, and featuring another great Phil Hartman character (Lyle Lanley), this episode is brilliant from start to finish. Matt Groening himself said this episode has his favorite quote of all time (“I call the big one bitey.”) and the guest spot by Leonard Nimoy is just the icing on the cake. It’s perhaps one of the more ‘zany’ plots the Simpsons have had, but also one of the greatest. Easily made the list.

Highlights:

  • The Monorail song
  • “A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet, goes on.” “Does anyone want to switch seats?”
  • “Batman’s a scientist.” “It’s not Batman!”
  • “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”
  • Putting Ogdenville, Brockway and North Haverbrook on the map. Literally.
  • Nimoy celebrating his job well done, and when being told he didn’t do anything he chuckles and says “Didn’t I?” Then he disappears a la Star Trek.

capefeare

3. Cape Feare

Season 5, Episode 2

Remember when Sideshow Bob was not only an interesting character, but an amazing one? Who had dimensions to him and great characterizations? Well here is his best episode. There’s so much going on in this episode and I’d say it’s got the greatest ratio of laugh out loud jokes vs minutes of the show. Not only that but it’s a pretty spot on parody of the film Cape Fear. It really saddens me that they’ve turned Bob into a terrible character because he really was the best recurring character on the show, and Kelsey Grammar is always perfect in the role. Unfortunately they brought him back too much that it just because gimmicky and stupid.

Highlights:

  • Homer being scared someone is trying to kill him, until he realizes the letter is for Bart.
  • Ahahahahaha, Wipeout!
  • “Use a pen, sideshow Bob.”
  • Hello, Mr. Thompson.
  • Meeting Bob in the movie theatre, and “I’ll stay away alright. Stay away….FOREVER.” And Homer’s “Oh no!”
  • “Surely there’s no harm in laying in the middle of a public street!” Cue parade. “Not the elephants!”
  • The Rake sequence. Before Family Guy ruined those kind of jokes by overdoing it.
  • Homer scaring Bart twice in bed with brownies and a chainsaw.
  • Bart running to see a crocodile, then eels, then back to the croc. “Oh yeah.”
  • The complete score of the HMS Pinafore. “By Lucifer’s Beard!!!”

milhousedivided

2. A Milhouse Divided

Season 8, Episode 6

I think Kirk Van Houten is one of my favorite characters on the show. His voice, his mannerisms, and his utter lameness are all just brilliant. So of course this, one of the most Kirk heavy episodes, is one of my favorite episodes ever. Of course it does what the Simpsons do so well – take a real and sincere topic like divorce, and make it hilarious and heart warming. It’s also commendable that in the end, Luann does not take Kirk back to return things to the status quo. Milhouse’s reaction to the divorce is not touched upon as much as Homer’s reaction, which ends with a very touching moment in the series, as Homer and Marge rekindle their marriage. It was actually very very close to being my number one pick, but I just couldn’t do it.

Highlights:

  • The dinner party and the pictionary esque game. “It’s Dignity!” “That’s a door?” “Shut up and let the woman speak!”
  • Allied Biscuit
  • “I sleep in a racing car do you?” “I sleep in a big bed with my wife.”
  • Getting fired from the Cracker Factory “I don’t recall saying good luck.”
  • Hot dogs thawing in the sink.
  • Homer’s pained sounds after Bart hits him with a chair.
  • “Can I borrow a Feeling?” and Homer’s reaction to the tape.
  • Homer’s gentle sounds of the ocean to help Marge sleep, complete with foghorn, seagulls and a pirate.
  • And of course, Kirk’s rendition of his single and Luann’s reaction to it. “Ew, no.”

youonlymovetwice

1. You Only Move Twice

Season 8, Episode 2

This was a no brainer for me. I absolutely adore this episode and everything about it. Hank Scorpio is quite possibly my favorite Simpsons character. Not guest star, character. And just from one episode. He’s exactly the kind of person you’d need to be to successfully run an evil empire. I’ve always wondered why the bad guys in Bond films and others have so many flunkies, because they’re clearly evil. Well this episode explains all that. An affable, personable and friendly man bent on world domination, but treats his employees with the utmost respect. It’s brilliant and hilarious and easily the best episode of the series.

Highlights:

  • Smithers rejecting the job offer “Can’t a man walk down the street without being offered a job?”
  • The promotional video for Cypress Creek, and the homeless man turning into a mailbox.
  • “Ever seen a guy say goodbye to a shoe?” “Yes, once.”
  • “Don’t call me Mr. Scorpion. It’s Mr. Scorpio, but don’t call me that either.”
  • “I didn’t even give you my coat!” Cut to Scorpio wearing his coat – backwards.
  • Bart’s remedial class. “I start fires!”
  • Lisa meeting a chipmunk, and an owl, happily skipping away while the owl eats the chipmunk.
  • The hammock discussion, and the fact that there’s a ‘hammock complex’ and a ‘hammock district.’ On third.
  • Scorpio giving Homer some sugar (directly from his pockets), then asking if he wants any cream. “Um…no.”
  • The bridge collapsing, and the guy wanting to take a chance.
  • Homer stopping Mr. Bont, and then they just shoot him at point blank instead of putting him in another elaborate death machine.
  • The whole ending sequence where Homer quits, with pandemonium around him. So ingenious.

- Alan

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Responses

  1. Fantastic!

    This list had me laughing out loud. Sometimes I forget how The Simpsons was the best American satire ever made.

    The “Can I Borrow A Feeling” part is one of my favourite moments ever in this show.

    My top 5 briefly (in no real order):

    1. Who Killed Mr. Burns Pt 1 & 2
    (The Twin Peaks scene is what seals it)
    2. Homer The Great
    (The Stonecutters song. Need I say more?)
    3. Bart Vs. Australia
    (“Zany” as you would say, but amazing. The American-flushing toilet is just perfect.)
    4. Colonel Homer
    (The Lurleen story always jumps to mind when I think of the Simpsons. Made me realize the writers actually really care about the characters.)
    5. You Only Move Twice.
    (Hank fucking Scorpio as voiced by Albert Brooks)

    Honourable mention to any Phil Hartman-centric episode. A great read!

  2. Sorry, but Hank Scorpio alone just doesn’t sell me on his sole appearance. I’m gonna have to fall back on the standard “Last Exit to Springfield” as the best.

    Meanwhile, “Marge vs. the Monorail” (No. 3 for me), “Cape Feare” (No. 2) and “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” (No. 8) each get bumped up one rank on my list. Filling in would be “The Old Man and the Lisa” in fourth, “Lisa the Beauty Queen” at fifth, “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson” in Spot 6, “I Am Furious Yellow” hovering gently in No. 7, “Lisa the Simpson” at 9th and “Flaming Moe’s” in tenth.

    I can’t believe you totally ignored “Flaming Moe’s”, that episode is ALWAYS cited as a great one. On the other hand, I forgive your exclusion of all the others I just cited as some of my favoured installments (all of them except “I Am Furious Yellow” – whose 2002 original airdate quite understandably wouldn’t endear it to fans like yourself – are more obscure episodes from great seasons).

  3. 10: Mr. Plow (S4)
    9: I am Furious Yellow (S13)
    8: Rosebud (S5)
    7: Homer at the bat (S3)
    6: A fish called Selma (S7)
    5: You Only Move twice (S8)
    4: Lisa’s Wedding (S6)
    3: Marge VS the Monorail (S4)
    2: Cape Feare (S5)
    1: Last Exit to Springfield (S4)


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