Saturday, February 18, 2012

OPINION: My Personal Top 15 Simpsons Episodes

500 episodes is a huge milestone for any TV show, but when it comes to one of the most well known animated comedies ever, it's a huge deal. What’s been said about the Simpsons that hasn’t already been said? Hell, that line has already probably been said. There’s so much to talk about when it comes to this one yellow animated family which came to our screens in the late 80’s. When did Homer start being too dumb? When did the series start going downhill in quality? Why DOES Maggie fall over so much? And of course the most asked question I’ve come across, what are your favourite episodes?

That’s one that I’m intending to answer in this countdown of my all time favourite top 15 episodes of the series.

Note: before people start accusi
ng me of sticking to the seasons 3-10 golden era, I watched the first two seasons and seasons 11-15 in full in preparation for this list, even a few notable episodes after that (Mostly Emmy winning episodes), and this is what I came up with, so no bitching!

15. Simpson Tide

Season 9

Written by Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey Ventimili

Through out this article you’ll see me talk a lot about pure comedy episodes, or episodes with a bit of heart and a sweet spot, which there are plenty of in this list. To start out though, we’ve got one of the episodes which are just wall to wall great gags. With Homer in the navy, the amount of possibilities for great comedy was endless. Classic scenes include his training, and where the crew sings “In the Navy”, with an appearance from both The Village People and Smithers. Overall not great when it comes to story, but it’s one of those episodes you just sit back and laugh your self silly.

Best line(s):
Homer: Is the poop deck really what I think it is?
Captain Tenille: I like the cut of your jib!
Homer: What’s a jib?
Captain Tenille: Hah! Promote that man.

14. Lisa the Vegetarian

Season 7

Written by David S. Cohen

A great episode written by the Futurama co-creator David S. Cohen, this episode famously brings in one of Lisa’s biggest traits today, the fact that she’s a vegetarian. There’s some real emotion between Homer and Lisa and their differences on eating meat. Also, let’s not forget the guest star from one of the greatest people to have ever lived, Paul McCartney. That alone is worth an inclusion on the list.

Best line(s):
Lisa [reading invitation]: Come to Homer’s BBBQ, the extra B stands for BYOBB.
Bart: What’s that extra B for?
Homer: That’s a typo.

13. Krusty Gets Kancelled

Season 4

Written by John Swarzwelder

Some writers of the Simpsons have a style of comedy that’s all of their own, and Swartzwelder is one of the most notable. Swartzwelder’s episodes are full of insane physical jokes, and some of the most quotable lines from the series. This was one of the first of the episodes that just piles in the guest stars, like Homer at the Bat, Homerpalooza and How I Spent My Strummer Vacation. It follows the formula established in Homer at the Bat and once again they pull off a great episode. With everyone from Johnny Carson to Red Hot Chili Peppers guest starring in the episode, and loads of great humour to boot, this episode is a definite classic.

Best line(s):
Bart: Hey Moe, look over there.
Moe: What, what am I lookin’ at? I don’t see nuthin’. I’m gonna stop looking soon, what, is that it?
Homer: Hey Moe, can I look too?
Moe: Sure but it’ll cost ya.
Homer: My wallet’s in the car!

12. Lemon of Troy

Series 6

Written by Brent Forrester

I’m pretty sure this is the only episode to centre on the often talked about rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. When the kids of Shelbyville steal the Springfield lemon tree, all hell breaks loose as the Springfield kids enter Shelbyville to try and get back the tree. It’s a fine episode with great comedy all through out, and an episode of the kids just being kids, which there really should be more of.

Best line(s):
Ned Flanders: OK folks look, I called the police captain in Shelbyville, and he said he hasn’t seen our kids, but if they show up in the morgue he’s gonna fax us.

11. Homer at the Bat

Season 3

Written by John Swartzwelder

With Homer at the Bat, despite those other episodes loaded with guest stars being great in their own way, this was the best by far. Probably because the guests play roles which anyone could fill, you could redo the episode today with new baseball icons and it’d be exactly the same. What’s on focus is the great story, with eight of the nine guest stars suffering misfortunes that prevent them from playing in the final game, the hilarious gags, and the song that plays over the credits, one of the best Simpsons songs in the history of the series.

Best line (s):
Mr. Burns: You! Strawberry! Hit a home run!
Darryl Strawberry: OK, skip!
Mr. Burns: I told him to do that!

10. Homer’s Phobia

Season 8

Written by Ron Hauge

This is great episode which deals with a touchy issue, and one of the first episodes of television to deal with homosexuality in general. Homer develops a ridiculous paranoia to homosexuality, and the ever kind novelty store owner John has to show Homer that they are just like everybody else. With a solid writing through out, a great guest appearance by John Waters and a sweet bonding moment between Homer and Bart, this is definitely one of the best.

Best line(s):
Homer [to Bart]: Just remember son, whatever happens, I’ll always love you.
Homer’s brain: As? AS?
Homer: AS A FATHER! A regular father!

9. Radioactive Man

Season 7

Written by John Swartzwelder

Radioactive Man is another in a long line of shows from the most prolific writer of the series, John Swartzwelder. It showcases Milhouse and his resentment of stardom as Radioactive Man’s sidekick, Fallout Boy, and just how much the town of Springfield can be swept up in movie fever. This episode is packed with more absurd comedy, lots of clever visual gags, and is just from start to finish fantastic.

Best line(s):
Movie director: Congratulations Bart Simpson, you’re our new Fallout Boy! … That’s what I’d be saying to you if you weren’t an inch too short. NEXT!

8. Mother Simpson

Season 7

Written by Richard Appel

One of the most touching episodes of the entire series finds Homer discovering his mother, who he thought was dead, is actually alive. Her escapades as a radical in the 60’s put her in hot water as she runs across Mr. Burns who’s still bitter about what she and others had done to his germ lab. An episode with great references to the 60’s, and as usual the writing is wonderful through out. But of course that ending is one of the most poignant scenes in the Simpsons, and can make even the biggest man a little teary.

Best line(s):
Chief Wiggum: Put out an APB on a “Yuosdwiss R.Deewoh.” Uh, better start with Greektown.
Joe Friday: That’s Homer J Simpson, chief. You’re reading it upside down.
Chief Wiggum: Cancel that APB, but uh, bring back some of those giros.
Joe Friday: Uh, Chief? You're talking into your wallet.

7. Lisa’s Substitute

Season 2

Written by Jon Vitti

This is probably the most emotional episode of the entire series. It’s kind of light on the comedy, and when it appears it’s great, but the tender story is definitely the core. Lisa falls in love with a substitute teacher named Mr. Bergstrom who was played by Dustin Hoffman. Mr. Bergstrom is funny, nice, and intelligent, and quickly appreciates Lisa and her talents, becoming the father figure that Homer isn’t. But of course, Homer makes up for it in the end, and in one of the best scenes of the show, bonds with all of his children. A pure classic.

Best line(s):
Mr. Bergstrom [singing]: Home, home on the range…
[kneels down, whispering.] Actually the range was far from home, a very desolate place where danger and disease rode tall in the saddle.
[Gets up and starts singing again] Where the deer and the antelope play...
[kneels down again] But unlike the efficient Indians, cowboys used only the tongue of the antelope, and threw the rest away.

6. Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song

Season 5

Written by Josh Weinstein and Bill Oakley

I’ve talked about some of the crazier and wackier episodes of the series in this list, but on the flip side, this is one of the most down to earth. It takes the rivalry between Skinner and Bart, and turns them into friends, exploring the relationship between them as both friends and enemies. It’s not only great story with a heartfelt ending, but also jam packed with hilarious comedy, it’s one of the best.

Best line(s):
Ralph: Miss Hoover? There’s a dog in the vent.
Miss Hoover: Ralph, remember the time you said Snagglepuss was outside?
Ralph: He was going to the bathroom!

5. 22 Short Films about Springfield

Season 7

Written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Matt Groening, with writing supervision by Greg Daniels

One of the best things the Oakley and Weinstein showrunning team brought to the Simpsons was the fact that they were willing to play with the medium of the show. Some of the most experimental shows were from the seasons these two ran, and this is probably the weirdest, but thankfully it works, and wonderfully. The series of stories which are strung together are all hilarious and there’s not a dull moment in the episode. Top that off with some references to my favourite film, Pulp Fiction, and it’s a definite winner in my books.

Best line(s):
Superintendent Chalmers: Aurora borealis? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen?
Skinner: … Yes.
Chalmers: May I see it?
Skinner: No.

4. Last Exit to Springfield

Season 4

Written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky

Not having this episode on the list in some fans’ eyes would have been sacrilegious. Often called the best episode ever and while it’s up there, it’s definitely not the best. . The entire episode is pretty much quotable, with many of the series most well known lines come from this episode. But it’s certainly among the series craziest episodes, despite being a simple story about a strike at the power plant. With a cutaway or reference to popular culture every 30 or so seconds, it’s a definite blue print for animated comedies to come.

Best line(s):
Mr. Burns: Find the bathroom alright?
Homer: Uh… yeah…

3. Homer Goes to College

Season 5

Written by Conan O’Brien

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the wonderfully hilarious late night show host Conan O’Brien started out writing on the Simpsons. This episode actually used to be my number one for a while, but over time has gone down. It is a classic Homer caper, and it’s around the time Homer started to be the focus of the series instead of Bart. The episode centers on the escapades Homer gets up to when he befriends three nerds while he attends college, with Conan’s great writing making this episode water tight.

Best line(s):
Homer: … I swiped the cinder blocks from a construction site. [At a building site]
Builder: Sir, six cinder blocks are missing.
Boss: There’ll be no hospital then, I’ll tell the children.

2. Homer’s Enemy

Season 8

Written by John Swartzwelder

This is possibly the craziest episode to ever come out of the Simpsons, not because of zany jokes, or crazy off the wall stories, but because of how it’s based around one single person who dislikes Homer. A lot. Frank Grimes is like a guy from real life gets dropped into the world of the Simpsons and has to deal with Homer’s antics. You’d either love ‘em, or hate ‘em, and Grimey hates Homer with a passion. Despite not having much of an emotional core, the great script by the ever wonderful John Swartzwelder made this into one of the best.

Best line(s):
Chief Wiggum: Ralphie, get off the stage sweet heart!

1. Bart’s Comet

Season 6

Written by John Swartzwelder

In my opinion, this episode is perfect. Every joke hits the right spot, the story is exciting and big, and it feels natural in the Simpsons universe, despite not being able to be done on any other show except an animated show. There’s also a little bit of a sweet moment in it, and it all comes together at the end, with the comet destroying the balloon from the start and Flanders’ bomb shelter. With another great script from Swartzwelder, this episode couldn’t have been more perfect.

Best line(s):
Ned Flanders: I might go mad with fear out there, so Todd I want you to shoot daddy if he tries to get back in.
Todd [crying and cocking a shotgun]: OK Dad.

Runner ups and favourite tidbits:

Homer the Smithers
Marge vs. the Monorail
Bart Gets Famous
Homie the Clown
Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

Favourite season: Season 5
Favourite writer: John Swartzwelder
Favourite Treehouse of Horror: V
Favourite Sideshow Bob episode: Brother From Another Series
Favourite one off character: Frank Grimes