Monday, December 14, 2009

‘Tis The Season…. To celebrate the Simpsons Turning 20!

[Scott on the Simpson's 20th. Jesus Christ, that show is like Law and Order. Two thirds of my LIFE you know what I am saying? OF MY LIFE.]

It was 20 years ago that the first full length episode of the Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, debuted on Fox thus inaugurating the beginning of one of the most influential shows ever to grace the airwaves. It is no secret that I am a HUGE Simpsons fan, Geoff can testify to the fact that my knowledge of the show (at least the first 10 seasons) is downright encyclopedic. A short while back, I challenged the blog to think of their favorite latter day Simpsons moments, those from the era when most considered the show past its prime; however, prompted by TV Guide’s recent list of the ’20 Best Episodes’ , a list that feels like it was almost contractually obligated to shoehorn newer episodes with true classics, I’ve decided to compile a list of that , I feel, is truly more representative of the best episodes from the show’s golden age.

It was a trickier job than it might seem as there are easily 50 episodes that can be considered among the show’s best and all of those are just about equally great. So, what it really comes down to as far as which shows I chose and the order that I placed them, is my own particular fondness for certain episodes. I encourage everyone to weigh in with their own lists, or even single favorite episodes, and, perhaps, we may even be able to determine what seems to be the favorite episode(s) here on the blog.

I am personally quite partial to season 4 (my list includes 5 episodes from that season-Season 5 is the closest runner up with 4 episodes). It’s not surprising to me either that this is the only full year that Conan O’Brian was a writer for the show. While he only received the ‘written by’ credit on a couple of episodes, his uncredited contribution of many gags during this period definitely helped shape the shows sense of humor at a point when the show was just hitting its stride. Also, season 4 is often considered the beginning of the show’s golden age (I would argue that it actually started about midway through season 3) and was the beginning of the show realizing its full potential.

So, without further ado, here’s my list:

20. The Joy of Sect (Season 9- Homer and family join the Movementarians)

19. Grandpa’s Girlfriend (Season 2- an early classic)

18. Stark Raving Dad (Season 3- Interesting Anecdote: By now we all know that, while uncredited, Michael Jackson provided his own voice for this episode. What is less commonly known is that he did not provide the singing voice for this episode but brought along his own ‘designated singer’ for the recording)

17. Who Shot Mr. Burns? Parts 1 & 2 (Seasons 6 and 7- The best two part episode in the shows history…. Also the only two part episode in the shows history)

16. El Viaje Misterioso De Nuestro Homer (Season 8- The one with the ‘Insanity Peppers’ and Johnny Cash as Homer’s coyote spirit guide)

15. Last Exit To Springfield (Season 4- Homer leads his co-workers in a strike against the power plant. This also has one of my all time favorite moments: “Why must you turn my dentist’s office into a house of LIES!?!”

14. King Size Homer (Season 6)

13. I Love Lisa (Season 4)

12. Homer Goes To College (Season 5)

11. Krusty Gets Kancelled (Season 4)

10. Lisa’s Rival (Season 6- “I bent my wookie!”)

9. Flaming Moe’s (Season 3)

8. Homer and Apu (Season 5- “Who Needs the Quik-E Mart?”)

7. Deep Space Homer (Season 5- “I, for one, welcome our insect overlords!” My mantra whenever changes in administration occur at work -- [editor's note -- and now mine as well. Thanks Scott])

6. You Only Move Twice (Season 7- Homer works for Hank Scorpio. Most. Congenial. Super-Villain. Ever!)

5. Lisa’s Substitute (Season 2- perhaps the show’s earliest masterpiece and, quite possibly, the reason I went into teaching)

4. Homer The Great (Season 6- The Stonecutter one)

3. Cape Feare (Season 5- Best. Sideshow Bob Episode. Ever.)

2. Marge Vs. The Monorail (Season 4- wherein Conan O’ Brian introduces us to the sea captain whose original purpose was a single gag in which he says, “Arrrr, ye call that an anchor?”

1. Homer the Heretic (Season 4- Wherein Homer meets God)


Gary said...

"That's game, Hendrix!"

The moment when I realized that for all intents and purposes, animation has no budget and no constraints.

Word Verification: likestim. I want it made clear that I don't know which Tim this is talking about.

scottmcdarmont said...

Yet another reason that's my number 1 episode, Gary :)

neilshyminsky said...

I'd add at least two to the list, probably bumping some off the bottom. (It's pretty much impossible to disagree with most of these, though.)

Season 3 - Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington
Season 5 - Rosebud

Looking at the list of Season 5 episodes, though... man, you could pull more than half of the top 20 from that season and it would work.

Jason said...

"Last Exit to Springfield" is the one with the parody of Tim Burton's Batman, right? Lisa seeing her face and smashing the mirror? I loved that as a kid.

Also, making fun of the monkeys-creating-Shakespeare cliche, and Lisa playing "Classical Gas"... and the people-start-rioting-the-moment-the-power-goes-out bit.

That one's my #1, I think.

scottmcdarmont said...


Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington! Excellent pick! That should go on there. Definitely one of the most fully realized examples of the show's satire.


Yes, that's the one! Chris Turner agrees with you, in his book 'Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation', he names that as the all time greatest episode of the show. It also has several great gags, in addition to the ones you mentioned Smithers and Mr. Burns attempting to run the plant themselves, ordering robot works then fleeing from them as they go beserk (as robot workers inevitably do)... and grandpa telling the story of how was wearing an onion (which was the style at the time)...

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

One omission from the list: the one when Burns opens a casino and turns into Howard Hughes, and Marge turns into a degenerate gambler.

"That's an excellent model, sir"

"I said...get in the plane"

Matthew J. Brady said...

Nice list. My personal favorite episodes are:

Homer works for Hank Scorpio (already mentioned)

Homer tells the story of Maggie's birth.

Homer meets his mom.

But there are tons and tons of other great ones. I liked the recent ranking that MGK did of all the Halloween episodes, with the one where Groundskeeper Willie keeps getting killed with an axe being pretty much the undisputed number one. But the best single segment is probably the one where Kang and Kodos impersonate Clinton and Dole in the 1996 Presidential election, which is one of the best examples of the show's satire ever.

Man, I need to get back to watching the show more regularly. I stopped watching new episodes at least five years ago, and I only occasionally catch reruns. I miss it.

Christian said...

I'm not a big list person, so I likely won't contribute with something of that sort, but the Simpsons have forever formed me as a person. I'm only two years older than the show itself (I guess that makes me the Maggie generation) and I can't hardly go a day without making a Simpsons reference or some such. From introducing myself in the vein of Homer, when he mets Billy Corrigan:

"Billy Corrigan, Smashing Pumpkins."
"Homer Simpson, Smiling politely."

To standing at the Comic Shop counter, when I was working there and constantly quote Comic Book Guy, it's by far the most influential show of my life.

I'm not the biggest fan of the "zany" episodes (Homer gets a job at whatever (the exception being the Hank Scorpio ep.) or The Simpsons travel to whereever), but even when it's weak, it's usually pretty good. And the show had heart. I really miss episodes like the one where Bart has to study for a history test to avoid repeating the third grade or the one, where Lisa meets Bleeding Gums Murphy and so forth. I don't really feel like there are a lot of those episodes anymore.

Christian said...

Hell, today, when I was finishing up my group project about Franz Kafka's The Trial, 3 months in the making, and the printing fail, the very first thought in my head and first words out of my mouth was:


scottmcdarmont said...

Matt J.

And Maggie Makes Three just barely missed my list... The moment where we discover that the reason that there are no pictures of Maggie in the family albums is because Homer keeps them at work to cover up his 'You Are Here Forever' sign so that it reads 'Do It For Her' is one of the most heartwarming in the show's history.

There are a lot of great quotes here, which brings up another idea: What are your favorite Simpson quotes? A few that I use on a regular basis are (in addition to the insect overlords one):

"I call the big one bitey"

"Trying only leads to failure. The lesson: Never Try"

"Facts are meaningless: you can use facts to prove anything remotely true"

"My cat's breath smells like cat food" (whenever a conversation goes over my head)

"Remember, we're parked in the itchy lot" (whenever parking in large parking lots)

"I dunno, somewhere in the back" (whenever asked where in the something that I'm referencing that the thing I'm referencing is)

Even recent episodes have given me new catchphrases for myself. Just a couple of weeks ago Homer said, "Awwwww, why do my actions have consequences?" a quote I immediately stored for future use

Also, this makes me think that The Simpsons is, quite possibly, the most quotable show in the history of television. In fact, other than Seinfeld, I can't think of another show that comes close (apart from catchphrases a la 'Whatchu Talkin Bout Willis?') Can anyone else think of another show that even approaches the Simpsons?

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

Probably my favorite simpsons quote of all time:

"Me fail English? That's unpossible!"

Totally appropriate whenever I or someone else or completely in denial about something brutally obvious.

scottmcdarmont said...


I can't believe I forgot that one since, as an English teacher, it crosses my mind at least five times a day.

Anonymous said...

Best Simpson moment... Bart walks by bookshelf while muttering 'Stupid books'