Who of my generation remembers the years where The Simpsons was on at 6pm each night? Wasn’t that a great time of our childhoods? Every night, switching the TV to Channel Ten and trying to guess what episode would be on? Ok, ok, maybe only I did that. But I’m not ashamed to say that I love The Simpsons. Not so much the newer stuff, but the older seasons are comedy gold. It has great humour, razor sharp satire, unforgettable characters and defined so many people’s sense of humour. I for one, can quote entire episodes off the top of my heads, and I recently went through a phase where I watched entire seasons back to back, reliving the glory days (I was sick, ok? I had nothing else to do!).
Picking my ten favourite episodes is like trying to pick my favourite dog. But heaven knows, I have to try, so here goes.
By the way, the category I’m following here are the episodes I personally enjoy most. There’s a ton of great episodes that won’t make the list. You may not see your favourite episode here, and I’m not necessarily going by the general consensus either. These are my favourites. I will do other lists of Simpsons episodes in different categories. So if you don’t see an episode up here, there’s every chance it will appear in my future blogs about the show. Crack open a can of Duff beer, grab a donut and enjoy Part 1!
10. Bart’s Comet (Season 6, Episode 14)
After a prank, Bart is ordered to assist Principal Skinner in his astronomy. Bart discovers a comet about to hit Springfield. With the only bridge out of town destroyed due to a failed attempt to stop the comet, all of Springfield crams into Ned Flanders’ bomb shelter in a panic.
Bart’s Comet is one of those episodes with a ton of great jokes. From the weather balloon prank Bart pulls to the townspeople kicking Ned Flanders out of the bomb shelter, it kills me every time. It’s not a particularly complex or deep episode. I love it because of the scenario, the animation and overall, it’s downright funny.
“So there’s a comet. Big deal. It’ll burn up in our atmosphere and whatever’s left will be no bigger than a Chihuahua’s head,”
“Wow Dad, maybe you’re right,”
“Of course I’m right. If I’m not, may we all be horribly crushed from above somehow,”
And let’s not forget, Homer was right about the comet.
I’m scared too.
9. A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4, Episode 2)
Despite a controversial song about New Orleans, this episode is simply a classic. Marge auditions for Oh Streetcar!, a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. She wins the role of Blanche Dubois and finds the character in her relationship with Homer. Like many others, the majority of my knowledge of the world came from The Simpsons and this is no exception. This was the episode that introduced me to Streetcar (and many of the other viewers), and they mirror the Stanley/Blanche dynamic with Homer and Marge so beautifully. However, Homer has a lovely redemption at the end as usual, and he definitely isn’t as bad as Stanley. The songs are hilarious, guest star Jon Lovitz steals the show, and Maggie’s Great Escape side plot remains one of her greatest moments. What’s not to love?
“I’m Lionel Hutz, and I’m filing a class-action suit against the director on behalf of everyone who was cut from the play. I also play Mitch,”
8. Last Exit to Springfield (Season 4, Episode 17)
This episode usually tops Best Simpson’s Episodes lists, and for a long time, I didn’t really get why. I remembered watching this episode once or twice as a kid, and I didn’t find it especially hilarious or even that memorable.
Well, having re-watched it a few times through the more mature eyes of my early twenties, it is one of the most clever episodes they ever produced. Homer becomes head of the union at the nuclear power plant to save the dental plan. Through a series of very funny miscommunications, Mr Burns sees Homer as a legitimate threat, and the power plant workers go on strike.
There are so many great scenarios and potential for great jokes, and the writers take advantage of them all. From movie references and flashbacks to Mr Burns’ childhood, this is satire at its best. The episode is full of pop culture and historical references, but they never feel forced. Neither does the lack of a subplot, since Lisa needing braces is directly branched to the main story. Lisa’s dentist is a riot, and the climax mirroring How the Grinch Stole Christmas could not be more perfect. If you don’t remember this episode being particularly funny, go back and watch it. Even if you do think it’s funny, go watch it anyway. I guarantee there’s a joke or two you missed.
There’s only one thing left to say.
“Lisa needs braces”
7. Rosebud (Season 5, Episode 4)
Who doesn’t love Mr Burns? He’s one of the most enjoyably evil villains ever created for television. He concocts elaborately wicked schemes, his age makes for a lot of hysteria and his fawning assistant Waylon Smithers is a perfect sidekick.
Rosebud, from Season 5, shows us a hidden side to him. See, it turns out Mr.Burns had a happy childhood with a loving family and a teddy bear named Bobo, all of which he abandoned to live with a ‘twisted loveless billionaire,”. Years later, Mr Burns remembers Bobo and falls into a depression. When Bobo appears in the Simpson household, Maggie grows very attached to the bear and refuses to give it up.
The earlier seasons of the show had a great mix of heartfelt drama and comedy. The whole episode is obviously a parody of Citizen Kane, and it lends itself to a lot of hilarious scenarios. It’s really the first time we see Mr Burns as a human with feelings, and it’s over something we can readily identify with. Homer has one of his best parenting moments too, when he gives up a lifetime of riches so Maggie can keep Bobo.
Every joke hits the mark, the parody is great, Homer comes through for his daughter, and you actually feel a lot of sympathy for one of TV’s most dastardly bad guys. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and heart, and that alone makes it a classic.
6. Cape Feare (Season 5, Episode 2)
When I think of episodes that had me laughing the whole way through and continues to make me smile just thinking about it, I look no further than Cape Feare, and everyone who has seen this episode will know why. In a parody of the movie of the same name, Bart receives death threats in the mail, and the culprit turns out to be Sideshow Bob (voiced by the great Kelsey Grammar). The Simpsons go into the Witness Protection program only to be followed by Bob who thirsts for nothing but vengeance on his spiky-haired nemesis.
The previous appearances of Sideshow Bob were both mysteries (framing Krusty the Klown for armed robbery and attempting to murder Aunt Selma), but this episode wasn’t. Of course, the best thing about Sideshow Bob is that while he is a bloodthirsty maniac, it is juxtaposed with his highbrow tastes and love of good culture. I am a HUGE Frasier fan, and Kelsey Grammar is so utterly perfect as Sideshow Bob you can’t imagine anyone else in the role. It’s like they were made for each other. Bob is an excellent comic foil while also maintaining his diabolical edge, and his desire to get Bart is riveting.
Every joke in this episode hits a bullseye and remains ingrained in pop culture, that other TV shows to this day try to replicate (I’m looking at you, Family Guy!). Sideshow Bob singing HMS Pinafore, “BARTDOYOUWANTSOMEBROWNIESBEFOREYOUGOTOBED?”, “Hello, Mr Thompson,” It’s a comedic goldmine, and I’ll never get tired of it.
And of course, need we forget the most famous joke in the episode? No words necessary, just the picture….
Next Week: Part 2!