TV & FILM
brian-mcgee - August 17, 2018
Over the course of nearly thirty years, The Simpsons has produced some of the best that television has to offer. I'm sure that many of us love the same episodes, but there are honestly so many great episodes—especially in the first 13 seasons—odds are, we've all got completely different top fives.
Today's Open Post is a call for you to sound off on your favorite episode or episodes of the show, and as always, I'll kick off the conversation with my personal Top 5. This was no easy list to assemble and I could likely have made this a Top 25 without picking a single dud. You can find my choices below, and then it'll be time for you to sound off!
Long before NBC dicked him over, Conan O'Brien was a writer for The Simpsons and of the three episodes for which he received sole writing credit, this one is head and shoulders above the others. The town is given a three million dollar settlement from Mr. Burns for illegally dumping toxic waste and, in typical Springfield fashion, immediately squanders it by paying huckster Lyle Lanley (Phil Hartman) to construct a monorail around the town.
While the episode is a spot-on parody of the classic musical The Music Man, it's also one of the most brilliantly constructed. O'Brien's comedic stylings and writing chops were on full display as he crafted a multi-layered episode with one of the show's best cameos from Leonard Nimoy. It's also—like all of the best episodes—endlessly quotable, with such gems as "I call the big one Bitey," “I've sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum, it put them on the map!,” and this legendary exchange...
Mayor Quimby: And let me say, may the Force be with you!
Leonard Nimoy: Do you even know who I am?
Mayor Quimby: I believe I do. Weren't you one of the Little Rascals?
And let's not forget the Monorail song...
The crossover episode is one of the most cheap and shameless ways for two shows to increase their viewership, so how would The Simpsons handle one? Why by making it cheap and shameless across the board, of course! In this season six gem, The Critic's Jay Sherman (Jon Lovitz) comes to Springfield for a film festival, one that Mr. Burns is bound and determined to win.
Full of digs at the notion of independent cinema, film criticism, and crossovers in general, this has some of the best lines in any episode from Burns' declaration to get him Steven Spielberg's "Non-union Mexican equivalent," to Krusty's "Oops, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet." But, of course, there's one reason this episode endures and it's this scene right here...
Still ninety of the funniest seconds ever put on film, that scene alone earns this episode a spot on this list. Thankfully it's a damn solid episode in the other 20 minutes and 30 seconds.
Albert Brooks has had several roles on The Simpsons over the years, but none of them can rival his nuclear tycoon cum Bond villain Hank Scorpio who hires Homer in season eight's "You Only Move Twice." The Simpson family uproots to the town of Cypress Creek so Homer can take a job working for Scorpio's company Globex. Oblivious to his boss' villainous intents, Homer finally finds happiness in his work while the rest of the family flounders in this seemingly idyllic town.
This brings one of the show's most prevalent themes to the forefront: Homer sacrificing his personal happiness for his family's, and takes it to hilarious extremes. It's also got dozens of quotable moments, my favorite of which is this exchange between Scorpio and Homer...
Scorpio: By the way, Homer. What's your least favorite country, Italy or France?
Scorpio: (Laughs) Nobody ever says Italy.
There's also Homer's declaration to Marge that she just doesn't understand football when she tells him he should be happy to be the owner of the Denver Broncos. And of course, there's the extended conversation about hammocks...
Yes, "Homer at the Bat" is the better season three episode, but this was the episode that cemented The Simpsons as my favorite show and it's all thanks to Homer and his subliminal vocabulary building. Yes, the episode has some other great moments like Bart's short-lived playdate with Martin and Mrs. Krabapple's line before showing the Troy McClure narrated sex tape: "Ezekiel and Ishmael, in accordance with your parents' wishes you may step out into the hall and pray for our souls."
I think this was the moment when Homer became the star of the show, though, as he stole a Bart episode right out from under him. The writers of the series realized that Homer had a lot more potential for comedy than Bart, and most of it was untapped at the time. Focusing on the scamp was a time worn tradition, but the doltish patriarch wasn't, and once the writers figured this out, the show went through the roof.
There's not a dull line in all of Homer's dialogue from telling Lisa that subliminal learning is "a load of rich, creamery butter," to him telling Marge that "here in the boudoir, the gourmand metamorphosizes into the voluptuary." It's a goldmine of quotable lines guaranteed to net you a lifetime of laughs and loneliness. In fact, to this day, whenever I get ripped off, I can still be heard to say "Disingenuous mountebanks with their subliminal chicanery! A pox on them!"
Is it a cheat to have two season eight episodes on this list? Well, I don't care because I could've done an entire top ten on that season alone. Frank Grimes, Shari Bobbins, Rex Banner, "Can I Borrow a Feeling," Chief Wiggum's Guatemalan Insanity Pepper, Ned Flander's house getting destroyed, Larry Burns, the return of Unkie Herb... it's the best season of the show by a country mile.
One episode, however, stands above them all, and that would be what Comic Book Guy dubbed the "worst episode ever," "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show." The show is a scathing commentary on corporate interference and the desire to "give the people what they want." The episode has no shortage of great quotes which can be used to criticize shows or movies when it's become patently obvious that they've sold out from "I feel we should rastafy him by ten percent or so" and "Hey kids, always recycle... to the extreme!" to "That's why you're still kids, 'cause you're stupid!" and of course the immortal, "When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?"
There's not a single dud in the entire episode, which is true of many episodes, but it's never been quite as pointed as it is here. At a time when most shows are falling victim to all of the pitfalls mentioned in the episode, The Simpsons turned everything on its head by leaning in to these criticisms and throwing it back in the face of anyone who thought the show had outlived its relevance. It's sad that they haven't topped this episode in the 21 seasons that have followed, but name me any other show in history that had its best episode in season 8?
So now you've got mine, let's hear yours! Sound off in the comments section below with your favorite episode or episodes of The Simpsons!