Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best Latter Day Simpsons Moments

by Scott

[Scott takes a look at some of the best latter day Simpsons moments. Scott is not kidding -- his Simpsons Memory is kind of frightening. I add in some of my own along the way].

People have been lamenting the decline in quality of The Simpsons for over a decade and, while Seasons 3-8 are almost universally accepted as the show’s ‘golden age,’ people have been bemoaning its gradual decline since the 9th season (most point to that season’s ‘Principal and the Pauper’ as the first crack in the show's quality). I personally feel the show remained at it’s peak at least through the 10th and most of the 11th seasons. Having just purchased season 12 on DVD, you definitely get a sense that the show was not quite what it used to be. But what are you gonna do? The Simpsons has sort of passed that point of ‘just being a show’ and has now pretty much become an institution. What else are you going to watch Sundays at 8? I imagine it would kind of be like the funny pages not having Peanuts.

In the show's defense, it has never tried to be anything else or follow trends set by other popular cartoon shows: it doesn’t load itself with the random pop-culture references of Family Guy (think about how much of the ‘humor’ of Family Guy is just you recognizing some obscure pop-culture reference from your youth) or crassly (but always intelligently) overstepping boundaries like South Park. Also, while I don’t find myself laughing as much as I used to, the show can still deliver a great zinger or even the occasional all-around solid episode. In fact, some episodes are so good that, if you were unaware of what season you were watching, you might assume that you were watching a long-forgotten episode from somewhere in the show’s golden age.

So, I propose a challenge of sorts: What are some of your favorite latter day Simpsons moments or episodes? Any episode or moment after season 8 is fair game and bonus points if you can think of some from the last five years or so.

Here are a few of mine (I’ll list Season and Episode titles when I can remember them… as Geoff knows my encyclopedic knowledge of the show really only applies to it’s first 10 seasons or so):

Season 9

“Lisa The Skeptic”

This one is pretty well known; an archeological dig finds what appears to be the skeleton of an angel. Lisa, of course, refuses to believe. Because of this episode, whenever I hear “This is the End” I always want to say “The End of High Prices!”

“The Joy of Sect”

Homer joins the Movementarians. “Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Leader!”

Season 10

“Mayored to the Mob”

After becoming the Mayor’s bodyguard, Homer discovers the mobsters are supplying the school with rat milk; the image of hundreds of rats hooked up to tiny milking machines is one of the most disturbingly hilarious images in the show’s history.

Season 11

“Missionary Impossible”

Homer becomes a missionary. This of course gave us the classic line “But I don’t even believe in Jeebus!”… I also really like the part where, in the absence of beer, Homer resorts to licking toads…

“Behind the Laughter”

A Behind the Music style ‘expose’ of the family.

[This one has a great parody of VH1's Behind the Music's overwrought writing style, something along the lines of "but would the olive branch Homer was extending be accepted, or torn apart by woodpeckers of mistrust?" and "They were on a wing and a prayer, but wing was on fire and the prayers were answered ... by Satan." Oh, and at one point they go to commercial break on "But would this be the end of the Simpsons? No. No it would not." These are especially funny as they actually have the narrator from Behind the Music, I think. -- Geoff]

Season 12

“HOMR”

It is discovered that Homer’s stupidity is the result of a Crayon being lodged in his brain, after having it removed Homer attains the whopping IQ of 105 but, unable to be happy as the result of his newfound intelligence, has the crayon shoved BACK into his brain.

“Worst. Episode. Ever.”

After Comic Book Guy has a heart attack, Bart and Milhouse are left in charge of The Android's Dungeon. The two get into a fight after Milhouse orders 1000 copies of Biclops, “The World’s First Superhero with Glasses” (published by Lenscrafters!) and discover Comic Book Guy’s secret stash of Bootlegged Videos including ‘Gotfather III: Good Version.” (Interestingly, when I watched Godfather III for the first time I could not take it seriously since Joe Mantengna’s voice in the movie was EXACTLY the same as the voice he uses for Fat Tony on the Simpsons) This episode also has a great Ralph Wiggum line when, after wondering into the ‘adult section’ he exclaims, “Everybody’s Hugging!” [That is a great line.]

Season 13

“Treehouse of Horror XII”

Two great moments here: 1) Yoda officiating at the wedding of a Leprechaun and a Gypsy. 2) After not studying his homework in a Harry Potter parody, Bart creates a half-man/half-frog abomination which prompts Mrs. Krebaple to say “Lisa is casting spells at a tenth grade level, YOU have sinned against nature”

“Homer the Moe”

Homer opens his own bar out of his garage and, when guest stars REM learn that they have been tricked into playing there, Michael Stipe breaks a bottle and advances on Homer only to be stopped by Mike Mills saying, “No Michael, it’s not the REM way!” [I also like Homer singing "It's The End of the World as You Know It" with his own nonsense lyrics, the last one leading to the chorus is That's right, Flanders, I'm TALKING BOUT YOU!"]

“Weekend at Burnsies”

While the final act featuring Homer and Smithers pretending that a presumed dead Mr. Burns is still alive (thus the title) is pretty weak, the first two acts which feature a story in which Homer is prescribed medical marijuana are probably some of the funniest moments the show has seen in the last 10 years. My favorite: Homer ask Flanders, “Could Jesus heat a burrito so hot that not even he could eat it?” [Is this the one where Otto says "They call them fingers but I never seen them fing. Oh. Wait. There they go."]

Season 19

“That 90’s Show”

We get a glimpse of Marge’s ‘College Days’ in the bygone era of the ‘90s. There was a line in the episode that went something like “All penis shaped objects are oppressive”

And, there was a moment from a couple of years back that I can’t remember the anything else about the episode other than Bart is sent to a psychiatrist. At one point while he’s on the couch he says something like, “Last night I had a dream that I was part of a cartoon family and our show became the key to the success of a TV channel that would go on to be the cornerstone of a media empire that would include a cable news channel that was nothing more than a mouthpiece for the far right”

I’m sure I could think of a lot more… but I’ll leave that up to you guys.

[The only other one I can thing of right now off the top of my head is the one where Homer become part of a private security force or something, and at one point says something to Marge about how this is the most rewarding off all the jobs he has had: and then proceeds into a long list of the ABSURD number of jobs he has had since the show began.]

[I am also a big fan of the flashback episode that shows Homer and Marge kissing at camp when they were kids. We see all the cast when they were young and get little jokes like Selma starting smoking or whatever. At one point Moe gets a prank call and gets really angry about it, then calmly turns to the camera and says "Aaaaaand that's the origin of THAT!" which has become my perennial short hand for lazy "origin" easter eggs -- as in the Wolverine movie, where they felt the need to explain where the got the motorcycle jacket and bike from. Cause you can't just have a jacket without there being a story behind it about how this old couple had a son who died...]

17 comments:

ba said...

Was the homer missionary one where a butterfly lands on his hand, and he goes Awwww, and then the butterfly enters his skin - he freaks out as it moves up towards his head, then goes Ahhhh when it enters his brain? Because that was one of my favorite bits ever.

Also, the episode where they legalize marijuana, and Otto utters this line: "They call 'em 'fingers,' but I ain't never seen 'em 'fing.' Wait...there they go."

scott91777 said...

Ba,

Yes, that's the missionary one.

Geoff,

Ba is also right about the Marijuana episode being the one with the 'Finger' line.

I also love the ending of the "Behind the Laughter" where it says Next Week we take a look at Huckelberry Hound, it then cuts to Huckelberey Hound saying "I was so Gay..."

Andy said...

Season 12 “HOMR”
(crashing through the front window) Homer:"Who wants lotto tickets!?"

A line I constantly quote referring to those of lower intelligence

“Homer the Moe”
Carl:"I'm an Urban Lenny"
also Mike (Mills) tries to use the urinal, but can't with Lenny watching.

Scott is right there's still some great work post Season 8, just there are a few clunkers along the way. The episodes where they put the Simpsons and people of Springfield in historic or fantasy areas a BRUTAL.

Andy said...

also, love the self referential song about the writers running out of ideas:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BViobexQnzw

They'll never stop The Simpsons song!
Ullman shorts, Christmas show,
Marge's fling, Homer's bro,
Bart in well, Flanders fails,
Whacking snakes, Monorail.
Mr. Plow, Homer space,
Sideshow Bob steps on rakes,
Lisa's future, Selma's hubby,
Marge not proud, Homer chubby.

Homer worries Bart is gay,
Poochie, U2, NRA,
Hippies, Vegas and Japan,
Octuplets, and Bart's boy band.
Marge murmurs, Maude croaks,
Lisa's Buddhist, Homer tokes,
Maggie blows Burns away,
What else do I have to say!

They'll never stop The Simpsons,
Have no fears, we've got stories for years, like:
Marge becomes a robot,
Maybe Moe gets a cell phone,
Has Bart ever owned a bear?
Or how about a crazy wedding?
Where something happens, a-do-do-do-do-do.

Sorry for the clip show.
Have no fears, we've got story for years

My brother and I crack up at the mention of "Maybe Moe gets a cell phone"

Anonymous said...

Blasphemously, my absolute favorite episode is a latter-day episode called "Moe 'n a Lisa," in which Lisa ghost writes a bunch of poetry for Moe. Here are a few of things I love about it:

1. J K Simmons (Jameson from the Spider-Man movies) plays the editor of a poetry journal exactly like Jameson.

2. The whole episode climaxes at the "Wordloaf" literary festival featuring guest stars like Tom Wolf and Michael Chabon. "Chay-bone!"

3. There are a bunch of great gags, but Moe gets the best one: after Lisa gets angry and runs away from him he says, "What brought that on? Oh, right. My actions."

-Mitch

scott91777 said...

Mitch,

Another great literary latter day episode from Season 12, "Insane Clown Poppy" opens with a book fair full of priceless moments.

Krusty's autobiography is ghost written by "some guy" who turns out to be John Updike.

Lisa to Amy Tan: I really love how The Joy Luck Club shows how the mother daughter bond can overcome adversity.

Amy Tan: No, No, No, that's not what I meant at all... I couldn't be more embarassed for you.

Lenny ask a panel consisting of both Tom Clancey and Maya Angelou about the B-2 Bomber. When Tom Clancy begins to speak he says, "The Question was for Maya Anglou"

Maya Angelou's response is something along the lines of "The Black Bird rises in the morning dew..."

Prompting another character to say "Maya Angelou is Black?"

and, of course, on this blog how can we neglect the episode from a couple of years back where Jack Black opens a comic book shop across from The Android's Dungeon that is the very antithesis of comic book guys; where he is smarmy and condescending, Jack Black is welcoming and fun, where he is a perpetual virgin, Jack Black has a cute, hip girlfriend who also likes comics. A nice exploration of the much cooler neo-geek who has risen to prominence in the years since the show began.

Also, it features guest spots by Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman and Daniel Clowes who, when trouble arises, become a superhero team resulting in Spielelman donning a 'Maus' mask and saying "Maus is in the House!"

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode kind of sucked...

Jason said...

Bart: "Alan Moore! I really love the run you did on Radioactive Man!"

Moore: "So you liked it when I made him a heroin-addicted jazz musician who's not radioactive?"

(The "not radioactive" bit is a pretty brilliant little inside joke. Everything you thought you knew about Radioactive Man is a lie!)

Matthew J. Brady said...

I haven't watched the show consistently for years (in fact, the episode featuring the song in one of the previous comments was the one that made me give up the show), but I still catch it occasionally, and it's usually good for some laughs. I'm trying to think of some more recent moments that I liked; the first half of that episode where Moore, Spiegelman and Clowes guest-starred was pretty hilarious. There was the one where Homer went to rock and roll camp; the funniest bit I remember is when Elvis Costello tries to convince somebody to play bass instead of lead guitar and Homer calls him "poindexter".

The movie had some good bits too: "Why does everything I whip leave me?"

ScottMcDarmont said...

Homer also knocked away Costello's glasses prompting him to yell "My Image!"

There was also a great bit with Tom Petty teaching songwriting where he would alternate 'rock' lyrics with 'message' lyrics to the cheers/jeers of Homer and company.

gummi48 said...

The hip neo-nerd/cool comic shop thing is gold.

"Who likes Korean covers of Tom Jones songs?"

"My name is Strawberry.My purse is a lunchbox."

Dan Clowes:What I really want to do is draw Batman.

Milhouse:Mr. Moore, which of the Watchmen Babies is your favorite?*Holds up copy of "Watchmen Babies in V is for Vacation*

And Alan Moore singing about Little Lulu.

Maybe the funniest 10 minutes the show has had since seaon 11 or so.

KAW26 said...

REM also sweep up the shards of the bottle one broke and throw them in the recycling

Jonathan Rich said...

The Simpsons is a wonderful show, but I'm not sure if becoming an "institution" is a good thing for an artistic endevor to aspire to. I figure that having your cartoon institutionalized means that it has lost all its creativity, influence, and quality. The Simpsons is surely not a creator driven cartoon by any means, and is run more like an assembly line.

Once a show stagnates and characters remain in place for decades without changing, its lost me.

I much prefer the golden age principles of animation -- Warner Bros was bursting at the seams with creativy at every level of production, for every cartoon. I don't think that sort of production method is possibly in the world of TV.

PS: South Park "intelligent"??? No way. South Park is crappy drawings with right-wing social commentary. Not really my bag.

scott91777 said...

I don't think it's fair to categorize South Park as being 'Right Wing' ... They intentionally try to give mixed signals (the nearest anyone can figure is that Parker and Stone may lean libertarian)

Jordan said...

Just a note on that jacket point from Wolverine Geoff; notice how Logan isn't wearing it at the end of the movie because he left it in Gambits plane then told Gambit to get lost.

So the film-makers were so stupid as to create a ridiculous origin for a coat, then make it not make any sense at all!

neilshyminsky said...

scott wrote: I don't think it's fair to categorize South Park as being 'Right Wing' ... They intentionally try to give mixed signals (the nearest anyone can figure is that Parker and Stone may lean libertarian)

"Lean" libertarian? I haven't watched the show all that often since the sixth or seventh seasons, but Stone and Parker's writing has always seemed really obviously libertarian (and sexist and homophobic) to me.

What i despise most about them, though - despite actually enjoying South Park - is how they refuse to take any responsibility for the messages embedded in/projected on to their show. Whenever they're pressed they suggest that any meaning the audience takes away is entirely their own doing - that the show itself is without meaning. (Or, at least, without any meaning of than their stated intentions.) Which is bullshit, of course, and allows them to get away with pushing a lot of very troubling agendas and not having to answer for them.

Jonathan Rich said...

Scott,

Leaning libertarian is, by definition, far right-wing. Libertarianism is little more than a religious cult-like obsession of free-market capitalism, with a code of ethics based on the supposed virtue of selfishness. Trey and Matt's viewpoint is summed up by their quote: "I hate conservatives, but I really, really fucking hate liberals."

Neil,

well said. But isn't it true that most artists have a problem seeing the social meanings emcoded into their creations?

Joe Gualtieri said...

Of course there have been good episodes, at issue is the overall quality. The show slipped, I thought, when Futurama started and some of the writers switched shows, and improved for a time when Futurama ended, though I confess to not being completely up on who write what for the two shows.

It's also a bit hypocritical to condemn Seth MacFarlane for its pop culture references and then praise the Simpsons for theirs. Yes, the Behind the Laughter episode is brilliant and well done, but too often they drag out unfunny bits (like the Harry Potter one which I keep seeing get inexplicable praise) and aren't as timely as they should be. With MacFarlane at least, if you don't like the gag you can wait 30 seconds.

A good example of the problem-- the Simpsons episode skewered the Phantom Menace was pretty decent, but it came out around 2004.

Oh, and one of if not the best Simpsons of the last decade is the one where the whole family is condemned as un-American and sent to Alcatraz. That was one of the better skewerings of post 9/11 jingoism I've ever seen.