Category Archives: List

Top 10 Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

I’ve been waiting a long time to do this list! The Simpsons is without doubt my favourite TV show of all time. I don’t watch it much anymore (lack of pay TV), but on the rare occasion I do catch it, it’s not that bad. Of course, the show is nowhere near as good as it was but I wouldn’t call it terrible. The characters are still there, I still laugh, and there’s the occasional good joke.

But of course, what we’re talking about today is the Halloween episodes. When I was growing up, Halloween was purely an American tradition, and all I really knew about it came from, you guessed it, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.
Even today, the Halloween specials are a must. From parodies to an all-out cartoon gore-fest, we wonder what the writers will do this year. And I’m going to count down the best segments today.

A quick disclaimer. This was probably the hardest list to select. They’re that good. ALL of the segments are great in their own way.
These are the ones that I personally enjoy the most. For a moment to qualify, I need to have seen it entirely.

What will be on the list? Let’s get started!

10. The Shinning (Treehouse of Horror V)

the-shinning

The family become winter caretakers at Mr Burn’s hotel. However, he has cut off the cable TV and destroyed any Duff Beer in the house, causing Homer to go crazy.
The Simpsons have done hundreds of great parodies over the years but this is one of their best. Even people who have never seen The Shining are able to appreciate the jokes.
From the blood in the elevator to the iconic “No TV and No Beer Make Homer Go Crazy”, there’s never ending laughs while still paying homage to Stanley Kubrick.

9. Easy Bake Coven (Treehouse of Horror VIII)

easy-bake-coven

In the year 1692, the town of Springfield is now Salem in the grip of the infamous witch trials. At a town meeting, Goody Simpson is accused of being a witch, and later at her kangaroo trial, it’s revealed that she actually is. Marge joins her fellow witch sisters Patty and Selma, and they plan to eat the town’s children. Thanks to the Flanders’ quick thinking, the witches start asking for treats instead, thus beginning the trick or treat tradition of Halloween.
Maybe it’s because The Crucible is one of my favourite plays, or maybe it’s the fact that as an Australian I never got to go trick or treating as a child. But this segment really does make me laugh years later, and I get more of the references now that I’m in my twenties.
Incidentally, is there an age restriction on trick or treating? Now that Halloween has come to Australia in a big way, I may just get my chance…

8. Time and Punishment (Treehouse of Horror V)
time and punishment.jpg

Remember this classic? Homer, while repairing the family toaster, accidentally creates a time machine. Despite his best efforts, he manages to alter the future in horrifying ways. Swatting a mosquito makes Ned Flanders the maniacal world dictator. Accidentally killing all the dinosaurs causes a seemingly perfect world, but donuts apparently don’t exist.
Yes, like everyone else, the scene where Homer misses that donuts rain from the sky absolutely breaks my heart every single time. And I will always laugh at “Oh, I wish I wish I hadn’t killed that fish,”
The scenarios the writers and animators come up with here are beyond ingenious and hysterically funny. James Earl Jones’ cameo as Maggie’s voice is great. And you really do wonder how Homer is going to get out of this mess. The ending of course, is perfect and while it’s unlikely any of my readers haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it here. It’s just a wildly creative and fun segment.

7. Homer3 (Treehouse of Horror VI)

homer3.jpg

How could I not put this one on the list? It may be a tad dated now, but the computer animation of this episode was absolutely groundbreaking for 1995.
While attempting to hide from Patty and Selma, Homer stumbles upon the third dimension behind the bookcase, but sadly makes the world collapse on itself and he ends up in – how could we ever forget? – the real world.
The set up is great, the animation still looks cool, the background is crammed with in-jokes and easter eggs, and it’s still hilarious 21 years on. Homer’s foray into our world is probably the most memorable in the history of the show and despite the lack of closure in the ending, nobody really cares. It’s one of the most famous segments in all the Halloween episodes and for good reason.

6. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Treehouse of Horror IV)

the-devil-and-homer-simpson.jpg

For a long time, this was my favourite Treehouse of Horror segment. While I may have changed my mind about that, I still adore this segment.
Homer, in sheer desperation, sells his soul to the Devil (Ned Flanders), for a donut. Later, when the Devil comes to claim what is his, Lisa asks for a fair trial. But Homer first has to spend a day in Hell, where he is subjected to eating all the donuts in the world (we all know where that would end up). By the end, Homer’s soul is legally found to be Marge’s property.
I love this episode for the set up, the clever jokes and the scenes where Homer is in Hell. Even the deleted scenes revealed in ‘The Simpsons’ 138th Episode Spectacular’ are a riot. I may have a new favourite now, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this one.

5. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (Treehouse of Horror VI)

nightmareonevergreenterrace.jpg

I will freely admit that I have never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street because I am too much of a coward. And when I first saw this episode at twelve, it did freak me out slightly (I was a sensitive child, ok?)
But now that I’m older and slightly braver (well, brave enough to not get spooked by The Simpsons), I can appreciate the merits of this segment. The parody. The hilarious indifference and bureaucracy of the parents and teachers at the school. The scenarios where the children die, and how Maggie ultimately saves the day with her trademark pacifier. It’s a ton of fun every time.

4. Nightmare Cafeteria (Treehouse of Horror V)

nightmarecafeteria.jpg

Yeah, I know I’ve put all three segments from Treehouse of Horror V on, but hey, give me a break. It’s arguably the best Halloween Special of all.
Due to budget cuts and overcrowded detention halls, Principal Skinner and the faculty at Springfield Elementary start cooking and eating the misbehaving students, and soon only Bart, Lisa and Milhouse remain.
This one is just straight up funny. Despite the horrifying scenario and gore, the jokes come thick and fast. And they’re all great. The Joy of Cooking Milhouse. The free-range children. Grade F meat. And of course, one of my favourite jokes involving Marge ever!
“Listen, kids, you’re eight and ten years old now. I can’t be fighting all your battles for you…no buts! You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say ‘Don’t eat me!'”

3. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (Treehouse of Horror IV)

bart-simpsons-dracula

The Simpsons are invited to dinner at Mr Burns’ mansion. Lisa begins to suspect that Burns is a vampire. Bart and Lisa stumble upon his secret lair, and Bart is turned into a vampire.
Vampires are a staple in horror, and The Simpsons take full advantage of all the possibilities here. And of course, there’s some of the most memorable jokes in the show’s history here.
“Kill my boss?!? Do I dare live out the American dream?”
Oh Lisa, you and your stories. Bart is a vampire. Beer kills brain cells. Now…let’s go back….to that building thingy…where our beds and TV….is,” the attempt to kill Mr Burns and then of course the ending where the head vampire is revealed.

2. Dial Z for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III)

dial z for zombies.jpg

While attempting to resurrect Lisa’s dead cat, Bart accidentally unleashes zombies….sorry, the living-impaired, on the town. The citizens are turned one by one and it’s up to the Simpson family to reverse it.
There’s little need to go into detail here. We all know this episode. We all know the jokes. We all know every single moment. It’s just a complete riot.

It’s time to unveil number one, which you may have already guessed, but first, some

Honourable Mentions

Monkey’s Paw (Treehouse of Horror II)

monkeys-paw

 

Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)

BartVsGremlin.jpg

 

Attack of the 50ft Eyesores (Treehouse of Horror VI)

attackofthe50fteyesores.jpg

 

Desperately Xeeking Xena (Treehouse of Horror X)

desperately-xeeking-xena

 

1. The Raven (Treehouse of Horror I)

the-raven

Admit it. You all knew this one was coming. And how could I not select this as my number one? Ask anyone in my generation and I guarantee that this episode is how we know about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.

A simultaneous parody and homage to a masterwork, The Raven manages to give us everything we love about the Halloween Specials right at the very beginning. It’s funny, full of clever references and still maintains that slightly spooky feel which keeps us on edge. It satirises the work but never to a point that’s insulting or degrading. It managed to give us a genuinely new take on a very old work and keep it alive in our memories to this very day.

With Halloween well and truly dusted and a nasty horror story looming over America for the next four years, I can’t help but wonder what the Simpsons will have in store for next Halloween….

Top 10 Dr Seuss books

March 2nd, 2016 marks Theodore Seuss Geisel’s 112th birthday. As my regular readers and friends will know all too well, Dr Seuss is my all-time favourite writer. The master of rhyme and rhythm, he inspires imagination through endearing morals, clever words and his signature art style. He made reading fun for generations of children.
As a child, I devoured his books. He felt like a friend to me. Now in my glorious early twenties, I love his books more than ever.

Dr Seuss believed in the intelligence of children and treated them as equals. “I write for myself,” he once said. “Children are just as smart as you are. The main difference is they don’t know so many words. If your story is simple, you can tell it just as if you’re telling it to adults,” 
With this in mind and in honour of Dr Seuss’ birthday, here are my ten favourite Dr Seuss books.

10. Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)/Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

In Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton the elephant is scammed by a bird named Mayzie into sitting on her egg while she takes a vacation (she doesn’t return). Horton is mocked by the Jungle of Nool and ends up being sold to a circus. However, he is unwavering in his resolve, saying “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”
Seuss came up with the concept for the book when he left a window open in his office one day and returned to find a transparent sketch of an elephant had blown onto a tree. 
The titular elephant made a reappearance in the sequel, Horton Hears a Who! Horton hears the tiny planet of Who on a dust speck, and swear to protect him, despite the entire Jungle of Nool believing Horton to be insane. It’s a common belief that the story was a comment on abortion, but it was actually about how the Japanese were treated post WWII. Seuss was very active during the war with drawing propaganda cartoons. As the grandson of German immigrants, Seuss was very keen to prove his patriotism. When a pro-life group used Horton’s line “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” for their campaigns, Seuss was enraged and received a retraction from the group.
Overall, these are two very basic moral stories which even adults can learn from. Horton is a great role model, there’s a lot of creativity in the narratives and Seuss doesn’t shy away from drama and comedy, knowing exactly where and how to mix both.
Of course, there was a very sub-par film adaption starring Jim Carrey in 2008, and if you haven’t already read my thoughts on the movie, you can check it out here.

9. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958)
yertle-the-turtle-and-other-stories

The chaplain at my second high school was a massive Dr Seuss fan, and sometimes he’d use the books in Scripture class. That’s where I first discovered this gem. Yertle the Turtle, possibly the greatest middle finger to Hitler ever, tells a great story of King Yertle who forces his turtle subjects to stack on top of his rock so he can be king of “all that he sees”. Of course, the lone turtle at the very bottom, Mack, stands up and topples the chair over, leaving Yertle to be king of the mud.

It’s an allegory to Nazi Germany, but in all seriousness, Yertle could be applied to a number of people and situations. Yertle is every bullying monster with delusions of grandeur and a sense of entitlement the size of the Soviet union.

Can’t imagine who this could apply to. At all.

images (19)

 

When a message is based on a historical event, yet is hidden enough to be unnoticeable and still holds up sixty odd years later, that’s the sign of a skilled and wise writer.

Gertrude McFuzz and The Big Brag deal with themes of vanity, self-image and the futility of comparing yourself to others. All three are great stories and considering how long I searched to find a copy of the book, I’d say it’s definitely worthy of a spot on the list.

8. There’s a Wocket in my Pocket! (1974)

wocket

In this book, Dr Seuss shows his wildly creative drawing and rhyming style. I remember reading this book as a little girl and laughing out loud at the absurdity of these creatures living in this house. Frankly I don’t think I’d mind having a Noothgrush on my toothbrush.

With a title like that, at first glance it would appear this was a hilarious mistake, but personally I doubt that very much. Though known and revered for his unique take on the English language, Seuss was in reality a quiet man of few words, preferring to let the work speak for itself. This didn’t stop him from having a very wicked sense of humour however. To ensure his editors were actually paying attention, he inserted an extra page into the manuscript of Dr Seuss’ ABC. For the letter X, a large-chested woman brandished the words

Big X, little x,
X, X, X
Some day, kiddies, you will learn about SEX.

A note scrawled in the corner read “If Bob Bernstein sees any sales problems inherent in this concept, I won’t object to substituting my alternative suggestion. Signed, T.S.G”
Another time, at an event in a large department store, Seuss grew weary of the crowd and vanished. He was found in the women’s shoe section, marking down the prices.

7. The Cat in the Hat (1957)/The Cat in the Hat Comes Back! (1958)

Doubtless the titular character is the Seuss mascot, instantly recognisable to all. Both books written to address the crippling illiteracy in young people, Seuss created a highly memorable and fun book while still managing to be educational. Too bad the movie was not.
“Hollywood is not suited to me, and I am not suited to it,”  Seuss said after the disaster of The 5000 Fingers of Dr T, the only feature film of his work made in his lifetime.
Seuss himself may have known this. Sadly, Hollywood has not learned. After that trainwreck film adaptation in 2003, which I absolutely ripped to shreds, Audrey Geisel (Ted’s widow) refused to allow any more live action films of her husband’s work.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1982)
grinchcover

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! One of the most iconic Christmas villains based on Seuss himself, the Grinch has ingrained himself in the holiday season.
The movie isn’t perfect, but as I’ve said before, it’s a guilty pleasure.

5. Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
greeneggsandham

As if I even need to go into much detail. If there’s anyone who hasn’t read this book I haven’t met them.

Green Eggs and Ham came around when Seuss’ publisher Bennet Cerf bet Seuss $50 that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. It took him a year but considering it remains one of the highest selling books ever and still has a good message about trying new things, I’d say Seuss won that bet.

If you’re wondering, the 50 words are:

A, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs,fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

For the record, Bennet Cerf never paid up.

4. The Butter Battle Book (1984)

The_Butter_Battle_Book_cover
Now, I doubt many of you have ever read or even heard of this book. It was rather controversial and copies of it are very hard to find but trust me, it’s one of Seuss’ finest.

The Yooks and Zooks are fighting a terrible war….over, you guessed it, butter. The Yooks eat bread butter side up while the Zooks commit the terrible crime of eating bread with the butter side down. Gasp! Both sides despise and mistrust the other while vying to build bigger and better weapons to deter their enemy. But this ends in an unresolved climax with the leaders of both armies trying to drop highly destructive bombs on the opposite town.

As you might have figured out, the book is a not-so-subtle stab at the Cold War. The satire is obvious, as is the message. But when viewed from this perspective, we are once again reminded of how futile a lot of conflict is.

If you can manage to get a copy give this a read, watch the animated special or listen to the audio book. You’ll likely end with chills.

3. I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965)

sollasollew

After a very bad day filled with various troubles, our unnamed protagonist is invited to move to Solla Sollew, where troubles are few. He proceeds to travel along with a variety of companions, each getting him into worse scrapes and detours as time goes on. The only thing sustaining him is the thought of finally reaching the paradise of Solla Sollew.

I read this book at the age of about eight and I still remember every bit of emotion as I turned the pages. And it has stayed with me ever since. This might not be the most original of stories. We’ve all seen road trips and travels. But it’s what Seuss does with the storytelling that makes it so powerful. Speaking of which, the ending is so perfect I will not dare spoil it for you. It has to be read to be fully appreciated.

So what are you waiting for? Get your hands on this gem and read it!

2. The Lorax (1971)

the-lorax

I must admit, when I first picked up The Lorax, I had my doubts. I grew up watching Captain Planet and Pocahontas, and overall I’m not exactly fond of environmental themed media. Thankfully this is a shining example of subtlety and brilliant writing, making everyone who reads it come away with an unshakeable realisation of how fragile life is. It’s a sad and grim warning of greed and misplaced priorities without pointing the finger of blame and anyone in particular. There’s no villain, just characters. The ambiguous nature and truth of the story brings people back over and over with the choices they can make. There’s no question. This book is about as flawless an environmental and morality tale as you can ever find. 

And while the 2012 film adaptation isn’t as bad as Cat in the Hat, it’s definitely the one I hated the most, and for good reason.

 

The time has come to unveil my favourite book by my favourite author. But first, some honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960)

one-fish-two-fish-red-fish-blue-fish.jpg“If you never did, you should.
These things are fun, and fun is good,”

Fox in Socks (1965)

fox-in-socks

When tweetle beetles fight, it’s called a tweetle beetle battle
And when they battle in a puddle, it’s a tweetle beetle puddle battle

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (1973)

how lucky you are

“When the news is all bad, when you feel sour and blue,
When you start to get mad, you should do what I do.
Just tell yourself Duckie, you’re really quite lucky.
Some people are much more, ever so much more,
Oh muchly-much-much more unlucky than you!”

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1937)*
mulberrystreet.jpg

“That can’t be my story. That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a zebra was pulling the cart!”
*Seuss’ first book, rejected by 27 publishers. He was on his way home to burn the manuscript when he ran into an old friend who worked in publishing. Seuss said if he’d walked on the other side of the street that day, he would have ended up in the dry cleaning business.
I’m very glad he didn’t.

McElligot’s Pool (1947)

itspossible.jpeg

“Oh the sea is so full of a number of fish.
If a fellow is patient, he MIGHT get his wish,
And that’s why I think that I’m not such a fool,
When I sit here and fish in McElligot’s pool!”

 

1. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990)

oh-the-places-you-ll-go.jpg

Is it a coincidence that my favourite Dr Seuss book is the final one published in his lifetime? Probably not.

This book is a masterpiece and I will argue this til my dying day. Written in second person, the reader is the protagonist receving commentary and advice on the journey of life.

How often do you see that?

This was the farewell message Dr Seuss wanted to leave to the world. He is open and honest about the ups and downs of being human. He doesn’t shy away from reality. He is completely honest that life is not easy. Not everything turns out the way you expect or want. But at the same time, he gives a message or hope and encouragement. 

The book is again very high on the all time best sellers list, with sales going up around graduation season every year. I myself used this book as the basis for my graduating recital when I finished my music theatre degree in 2014. I know people who read this book not only to their children, but to adults as well.

I’m not kidding when I say everybody needs to read this book regardless of age. It’s a masterpiece of writing. It showcases Dr Seuss’ infinite wisdom to absolute perfection. I still re-read this book whenever I’m feeling down. It always manages to give me a lift. It remains not only at the top of my list here but also on my favourite books of all time.

“On and on you will hike and I know you’ll hike far, and face up to your problems, whatever they are.”

Next week: What’s happening to Australian theatre?

Top 10 Touching Simpsons Moments Part 2

5. Lisa’s Wedding (Season 6, Episode 19)

lisa'swedding

How could I not put this entire episode up? I can’t pick just one moment from Lisa’s Wedding. They’d take up half the list.
Lisa runs into a fortune teller at a medieval fair who tells her the tale of her apparent first love. In 2010, Lisa becomes engaged to the charming Hugh Parkfield. Hugh tries to fit in with the Simpson family but is continually injured, annoyed and genuinely frightened by them. However, once Lisa discovers Hugh plans to move back to London, essentially cutting Lisa off from her family, she is completely outraged and calls off the wedding.
Everything about this episode is done perfectly. The framing device of a fortune teller, The Simpsons’ version of what the future might look like (they got Skype somewhat right!), Maggie being a talented singer and chatterbox that we still never hear talk. Every reveal of what happened to the characters is a riot, particularly the revelation that Martin Prince has become the Phantom of the Opera. Hugh, voiced by acting legend Mandy Patinkin, is a very enjoyable character. Granted, he isn’t the nicest guy, but you really sympathise with his reactions to the Simpson family and he has some good lines here and there. It’s an extremely funny episode because of the subject matter and the choices they make in telling this story.
However, what makes this episode stand out as one of The Simpsons’ finest is Lisa’s fierce loyalty to her family, and how she would never abandon them no matter how much irritation they cause her. The scene between her and Homer is absolutely stunning and heartfelt. But the line that sums up Lisa best in this episode is an exchange between her and Hugh.

Hugh: But Lisa, you’re better than this place. You’re like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt.
Lisa: That’s a horrible thing to say!
Hugh: Oh come on. You complain about them more than anyone.
Lisa: Maybe, but I still love them. And I don’t think you understand that. 

Any way you slice it, Lisa’s Wedding is one of the most emotional and memorable episodes ever and more than earns its place on the list.

4.  After the prom (The Way We Was, Season 2 Episode 12)

waywewas.jpg

The family’s beloved TV blows up, so they pass the time by telling the story of how Homer and Marge met.
Homer and Marge met in high school, where Homer pretended to be in need of Marge’s tutoring in order to get to know her. Once Marge discovered the deception, she went to the prom with resident genius Artie Ziff. However, after the festivities Artie wouldn’t take no for an answer, leading Marge to realise who she should have chosen as her date. What follows is a simple scene of beautiful romance.

Marge: Why so glum?
Homer: I’ve got a problem. As soon as you stop this car, I’m going to hug you. And kiss you. And then I’ll never be able to let you go. (Cut to the present) And I never have.

3. Do It For Her (And Maggie Makes Three, Season 6 Episode 13)

do it for her

Wondering why there are no photos of Maggie in the family albums, Marge and Homer tell the story of Maggie’s birth.
Homer quit his hated job at the power plant to take up his dream role of working at the local bowling alley. However, while ‘celebrating’ their new life, Marge became pregnant with Maggie, forcing Homer to return to the plant. As punishment for quitting in the first place, Mr Burns installed a demotivational plaque at Homer’s workstation reading DON’T FORGET: YOU’RE HERE FOREVER.
However, when Maggie was born, Homer was enraptured by his daughter. It’s revealed that he has all her photos at work, strategically placed over the plaque so it reads DO IT FOR HER.
This is definitely one of the most famous moments in the entire series and for good reason. For all Homer’s flaws and stupidity, he truly has a lot of kindness in his heart. This is also an episode which shows real life struggles. Having to support a family. Making sacrifices for the good of those around you. Sometimes you have to work a job you don’t like because it’s the only option. There’s no rosy ending here. Homer has to live with the situation, but still finds the motivation and joy to keep going in his daughter. Definitely worthy for the third spot on the list.

2. Lisa and Bart Montage (Lisa on Ice, Season 6 Episode 8)

lisa on ice

Lisa discovers she is failing gym class at school. Desperate to avoid failing, she tries her hardest at junior sports. She discovers a natural talent for ice hockey and quickly becomes the star player of the Kwik-E-Mart Gougers. However, Bart is the star player on the opposing team, the Mighty Pigs. Homer’s favouritism and overall idiocy pins the two siblings against each other until they have to face off in the final game.
Of course this episode is hilarious. Homer is at his douchebag finest, there’s the iconic fist fight between Bart and Lisa and Ralph Wiggum’s unforgettable quip (Me fail English? That’s un-possible). There’s plenty more jokes I could mention, but that’s not why we love this episode. We love it because of the ending.
After spending the entire episode at odds, Bart and Lisa come to the final, deciding shot of the game. The entire crowd is screaming for blood. But then, Bart and Lisa begin to remember all the times they shared when they were little. They both step aside and the match is declared a draw.
Again, this is why we love this show. We can laugh at and relate to it. Bart and Lisa may be very different people, but they are siblings first and foremost and share a very fierce bond. The scenarios shown in the montage are all very simple and sweet, and it’s all done through music and visuals. In the end, they make the big choice and decide their relationship is more important that who wins. It’s a case of blood being thicker than water, or rather, a petty sports match.
Of course, the hilarity with the ending is how the town riots over a mere children’s hockey game but again, that shows the maturity and love between Bart and Lisa, and gave us the moment which still tugs at the heartstrings.

Before I unveil the top pick, here are a few honourable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Maude Flanders’ Death (Alone Again, Natura-Diddly S11 Ep14)
maude

Homer’s Note to Lisa (HOMR, S12 Ep9)
HOMR

Lisa and Bleeding Gums Murphy (‘Round Springfield, S6 Ep22)
'Round_Springfield_121

1. Night Sky (Mother Simpson, Season 7 Episode 8)

mother simpson

Homer’s long presumed-dead mother Mona returns to Springfield after being on the run for many years. In the 60s, Mona was part of a hippie group which destroyed Mr Burns’ germ warfare lab. Mona was the only one to be identified as a suspect and was subsequently forced into hiding to protect her family. The whole family and especially Homer embraces Mona with open arms. But when Mr Burns discovers Mona’s whereabouts, she’s once again forced to the underground.
As if I even need to go into much detail. This moment is so famous it’s still talked about. Homer’s goodbye to his mother is nothing short of iconic, and the dialogue is some of The Simpsons’ finest writing.

Homer: At least this time I’m awake for your goodbye.
Mona: Oh Homer. Remember, whatever happens, you have a mother, and she’s truly proud of you.
Homer: Don’t forget me!
Mona: Don’t worry Homer. You’ll always be a part of me. (Hits head) D’OH!

Glenn Close is of course perfect as the guest star, and it’s fun to finally learn a few secrets, such as where Lisa’s intelligence comes from. But that final shot of Homer staring at the sky is seared into our memories. Even the production team decided no promotions should be played over those credits because the moment was so touching. This was absolutely the right choice.
For all these reasons and more, the ending of Mother Simpson earns the top spot.

Next Week: Is RENT a masterpiece?

Top 10 Touching Simpsons Moments Part 1

Since 1989, The Simpsons have been making us laugh and redefining comedy and satire. But as we all know, the earlier seasons not only gave us sheer hilarity and biting social commentary, it also  gave us some of the most heartfelt and tear-jerking moments in television. And I’m going to bring out the tissues while counting them down today (actually, it’s very unlikely I’ll get teary since I’m a total robot when it comes to crying in movies and TV shows. Just ask my boyfriend).
The only rule for this list is I have to have seen the episode in it’s entirety for the moment to qualify. Obviously there’s spoilers for the two of you out there who’ve never seen the show, but I’m going to assume if you’re reading this, you’ve seen the show too many times to count. Anyhow, prepare yourself to cry all over again, as we count down the Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.

10. Homer sells his ride on the Duff Blimp (Lisa the Beauty Queen, Season 4 Episode 4)

Lisa_the_Beauty_Queen_26.JPG

In this classic from Season 4, Lisa becomes highly insecure about her looks after an unflattering caricature. Homer, eager to prove to Lisa how beautiful she is, decides to enter her in the Little Miss Springfield beauty pageant. However, he can’t afford it, so he sells his winning ticket for a ride on the Duff Blimp.
The scene where Homer looks in his wallet and sees a picture of Lisa beside the ticket is one of the most lovely images in The Simpsons history. He chooses his daughter’s happiness over something material that meant the world to him.
Homer gets criticised both on and off screen for being a bad father. But this is one of many shining examples of Homer showing how loving he truly is. It’s summed up beautifully at the end.

Lisa: Do you remember why you entered me in that pageant?
Homer: I don’t know. Was I drunk?
Lisa: Possibly. But the point is you wanted me to feel better about myself. And I do.
Homer: Will you remember this the next time I wreck your life?
Lisa: It’s a deal

It’s certainly not a moment we’re likely to forget anytime soon.

9. “You are Lisa Simpson” (Lisa’s Substitute, Season 2 Episode 19)

you are lisa simpson

I’ve put this one pretty low on the list since I talked about it on my Top Ten Episodes blog, but it really is a gem in the show’s history. The scene where Lisa says goodbye to Mr Bergstrom, the only person to ever truly understand and encourage her is genuinely heartbreaking. She feels that her life will have no meaning without his validation. But Mr Bergstrom says “When you feel like you’re alone, and there’s no-one you can rely on, this is all you need to know,”

You are Lisa Simpson.
We all know Lisa is one of the best characters on the show but this was the first time she’d been given the assurance that she is enough.
Every time the episode plays, there’s not a dry eye in the house. Except me. Because I’m a robot.

8. “Daddy” (Lisa’s First Word, Season 4 Episode 2)

maggie's first word

Bemoaning Maggie’s inability to talk, Marge decides to tell the story of Lisa’s first word. It turns out Bart had a serious case of jealousy when Lisa was born, but this changed when Lisa’s first word is “Bart”.
There’s a number of classic moments in this episode. America winning the Olympics, the gymnast landing on a broken leg, Bart staying at the Flanders’ house, then trying various schemes to get rid of Lisa. Personally my favourite is the terrifying clown bed Homer builds to please Bart.  But as great as the episode is, that’s not why we remember it. See, both Bart and Lisa called their father ‘Homer’ as infants, something which always bothered him. But in the last few seconds, Maggie is the one to finally call Homer what he always wanted: Daddy. It’s simultaneously heartfelt and infuriatingly sad, since Homer never hears it.
But maybe in the end that’s what makes it so memorable. We keep coming back to the episode hoping it will have a different outcome. It never changes but still gives us a moment we will never forget.

7. Bike Ride (Duffless, Season 4 Episode 16)

duffless

Homer is arrested for a DUI and Marge persuades him to give up beer for a month. Homer faces terrible temptations and attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings only to be kicked out, but manages to keep his promise to remain sober.
Of course, there’s a very funny side plot involving Lisa testing and unknowing Bart’s intelligence against a hamster, but the heart of Duffless is the relationship between Homer and Marge. At the end of the episode, Homer eagerly rushes back to Moe’s, ignoring Marge’s request for a bike ride. However, once he sees what his alcoholic friends have been reduced to, he decides to join Marge for a bike ride after all.

This moment gets overlooked a lot, but it’s a very beautiful scene. No words necessary, just a really lovely example of Homer putting his wife first, and it leads to one of the most romantic moments in The Simpsons.

6. Bart’s Breakdown (Bart Gets an F, Season 2 Episode 1)

bart gets an f

I’ll admit it’s not my favourite episode, but it’s still one I have a lot of respect for. Bart, having failed too many times, is told he may have to repeat Year 4 (4th grade for any American readers). He studies insanely hard to the point of practically torturing himself, and even appeals to God for a blizzard so he has one more day to study. But despite everything, he doesn’t appear to pass his exam.
Bart’s resulting devastation is probably the saddest thing you’ll ever see on The Simpsons. He truly works his hardest and still doesn’t succeed (I’m aware there’s a happy ending, but let’s leave that for now). This is a very hard lesson to learn and there is zero sugar coating of it here. It’s not heightened, it’s not surreal. It’s a tough slice of reality. We see the struggle Bart goes through, we feel the bitter disappointment of failure despite his efforts and we rejoice at his eventual triumph. 33 million viewers went through it for the first time on October 11th, 1990. As of 2016, Bart Gets an F remains the highest rated episode of The Simpsons.

Halfway through the list with plenty more tear-jerking moments to come!

Next Week: Part 2!

Top Ten Simpsons Episodes Part 2

Bart’s Comet, A Streetcar Named Marge, Last Exit to Springfield, Rosebud, Cape Feare. What will be in my top 5?

5. Who Shot Mr Burns Part 1 & 2 (Season 6, Episode 25 & Season 7, Episode 1)

whoshotMrBurns

“Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to ‘alive’,”

I know it’s a bit of a cheat, putting two episodes in the same space, but hey, let’s be realistic here. When an oil well is discovered below Springfield Elementary, Mr Burns pirates the oil and builds a giant machine to block out the sun. The town goes into an uproar, with many swearing revenge. Mr Burns is subsequently shot by an unseen assailant.
The episode was famously a competition for the viewers to solve between seasons. The producers of the show went to incredible lengths to keep the culprit’s identity a secret. Even the director was kept in the dark, and only one animator knew. Thankfully this was before the days of the internet.
Aside from the fact that there’s a ton of great jokes and character moments, this is a genuinely good mystery. It’s well paced, nicely developed, there’s a great deal of suspense, and the mystery is actually solvable. There’s a ton of very clever clues peppered throughout Part One. It’s actually a lot of fun to go back and watch the episode to see the hints and red herrings.
But even if you know who shot Mr Burns (and come on, we all do!), it’s still an excellent episode which remains one of a kind. To date, this is the only two part episode The Simpsons has ever produced.

4. Hurricane Neddy (Season 8, Episode 8)

hurrican neddy

“Well my family and I can’t live in ‘good intentions’, Marge! Oh, your family’s out of control, but we can’t blame you because you have GOOD INTENTIONS!”

Hurricane Barbara sweeps through Springfield, but only the Flanders’ house is destroyed. The townspeople rebuild the house in the most inept fashion imaginable, and Ned Flanders finally cracks. His resulting breakdown causes him to commit himself into a mental institution, and it’s up to his childhood therapist to find the root of Ned’s trauma.
This was actually the very first episode of The Simpsons I ever watched, aged 6. I didn’t get three quarters of what was going on and I was genuinely worried that Lisa was going to be in a pie.
It might have been my age, but Ned Flanders and his outburst was completely lost on me. Of course, as I grew older, I realised what a truly inspired episode this is. My older brother used to say “Be a Christian, but don’t be Ned Flanders,”
The comedic value of Ned Flanders is his nauseating optimism, and his unshakeable faith in God. He’s the perfect neighbour, and Homer hates him for precisely no reason.
This is the episode where we finally see Ned become a three dimensional character. Sure, they’ve had a couple of other episodes where he shows an emotion other than optimism (When Flanders Failed, Dead Putting Society), but here is the first time he actually loses his temper. It’s hilarious to see Ned finally put the town in their place, and the flashbacks to his childhood are always a riot. Not only was it a milestone from a character point of view, it was the episode which sparked the fire in me, however insignificant it seemed to me at the time. But it’s a fire that rages inferno to this day.
Confession: Reciting Ned’s massive rant is currently my favourite party trick.

3. Marge vs. the Monorail (Season 4, Episode 12)

margevsthemonorail

“Mono….D’OH!”

This episode needs no introduction. Mr Burns is fined $3 million for illegally dumping nuclear waste in the park. A smooth talking con-man (Lyle Lanley) convinces Springfield to build a monorail, and Homer becomes the conductor. However, Lanley embezzles the money and creates a faulty monorail, putting everyone on board in danger.
Marge vs. the Monorail is the quintessential example of everything that makes The Simpsons great. Tons of jokes that hit bullseyes, a hilarious set up, parodies and pop culture references that actually work in the world of the story, and a perfect celebrity cameo from Leonard Nimoy.
I don’t need to say anything else about this episode. You all know the song, you all know the jokes, you can all quote these lines. It’s just brilliant from beginning to end.

2. Lisa’s Substitute (Season 2, Episode 19)

lisa's substitute

“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand”

Lisa’s Substitute is usually touted as the most touching episode, the most dramatic episode, the most heartfelt. And….yeah. It really is.
Miss Hoover is replaced by  substitute teacher Mr Bergstrom while she recovers from Lyme disease. Mr Bergstrom nurtures Lisa’s intelligence and vivacity and she develops a crush on him.
Lisa is probably the most three dimensional character in the series. Creator Matt Groening has said Lisa is his favourite character as she is the “only one with a hope of escaping Springfield”. But that’s a discussion for another blog.
I identify with Lisa a lot in this episode. She feels isolated from people because she’s different. Her brain and creativity separates her from everyone. Mr Bergstrom teaches her that her uniqueness is something to be embraced, not hidden. He recognises her frustration with Homer. He encourages her. And when he leaves, it’s genuinely tragic.
We’ve all lost important people in a variety of ways, and seeing this episode can bring it all flooding back. Mr Bergstrom has to go, and he doesn’t ever reappear in the show. And you know what? That’s life. That’s how it works. People can appear in your life for only a season.
Homer of course has a beautiful scene with Lisa where he finally shows the kindness in his heart. But Marge has one of her finest parenting moments in this episode too, and it’s always overlooked. I would like to call attention to Marge’s brilliant line right here and right now.

“Homer, you’re not allowed to have hurt feelings right now! There’s a little girl upstairs who needs you. Her confidence in her father is shaken and no little girl can be happy unless she has faith in her daddy,”

Bravo Marge. Bravo. This is a mothering lesson to behold. She recognises Lisa’s need is far greater than Homer’s, and she refuses to let him wallow in self pity or elicit sympathy from her. She makes him step up and be a man.
Yes, Homer ideally should do this himself but that’s not the point. The point is that Marge sides with her daughter over her husband, and basically forces him to take responsibility. Go Marge.

With Lisa’s SubstituteThe Simpsons showed us why we love the show. They have this ability to splice crazy scenarios which could only exist in the world of animation with dramatic touching life lessons. This episode will always have a very special place in my heart, and the hearts of fellow fans.

you are lisa simpson


The time has come to unveil my number one favourite episode. But first, the runners up. 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Radio Bart

radiobart.png

Blood Feud

bloodfeud

Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy

lisavsmalibustacy.png

Bart vs. Australia

bartvsaustralia

The PTA Disbands

theptadisbands

Homer’s Enemy

homer'senemy

 

  1. THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS HOMER SIMPSON (Season 9, Episode 1)

“I’m getting out of this town alive if it kills me!”

cityofnewyorkvshomer

Barney is designated driver one wild night at Moe’s and afterwards disappears for two months with Homer’s beloved car. Homer discovers the car is illegally parked in New York, between the Twin Towers. Having had a bad experience years ago in New York, Homer reluctantly travels with the family to retrieve the family sedan. Marge and the kids have a magical experience in the big city, but Homer has the worst day of his life.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of this episode for a long time. The episode was immediately pulled from syndication following the 9/11 attacks, and only appears on TV with several jokes permanently edited out.
All that aside, this is the episode which kills me. Homer stuck in New York doesn’t sound like a particularly funny concept, but believe me, it is. The simplicity of the setting allows for a number of hilarious scenarios pulled directly from real life. Homer is trapped with a car that he can’t drive anywhere. Having had my first flat tyre experience this year, I can now join the club of the Stranded Motorists. Homer has to wait for a government official. Again, we’ve all had to wait for someone to turn up who was taking their sweet time. And finally, he becomes increasingly desperate for the bathroom.

Raise your hand if you HAVEN’T been in that situation.

*looks around, crickets chirp* I didn’t think so.

The best kind of comedy comes from misery, and is based in truth. We have ALL been where Homer is in this episode. The pain of those memories allows us to laugh along with him and share his agony. Interweave Homer’s terrible situation with the rest of the family having the time of their lives, and you have an episode which is side-splitting. The way Homer gets the boot off his car absolutely kills me every time. No other Simpsons episode makes me laugh like this. And the really amazing thing is that it was the opening to season 9. What a way to open!
The City of New York vs Homer Simpson is just as hilarious now as it was the first time I watched it all those years ago. And that alone is enough to make it my number one episode.

Didn’t see your favourite episode here? Wondering why I didn’t talk about the Halloween specials? Well, stay tuned.  2016 will be kicking off with the Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.

Next week: Best and Worst Disney Princesses!

 

Top Ten Simpsons Episodes Part 1

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)

SimpsonsWaldo.png
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)

A_Streetcar_Named_Marge

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)

lastexit

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.

“DENTAL PLAN!”
“Lisa needs braces”

7. Rosebud (Season 5, Episode 4)

Rosebud

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)

cape feare

 

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….

rakes

Next Week: Part 2!