As I said in my first blog, there are three fandoms that I am super-obsessed with: Pro wrestling, Star Wars, and the Simpsons. This is something that will likely never change, and I never want it to change. I love the world of Star Wars and I love the professional wrestling business. However, one love came first, and that’s the love I share with Springfield’s most famous family. I’ve watched the show ever since it was a short on the Tracy Ullman Show. I remember watching “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” when it first aired, and all the subsequent episodes that followed. For those keeping score, there are now 523 episodes of the show that have aired.
With so many episodes in the can, it was difficult to narrow down my top 10, let alone my top 30, but I’ve done it. The task is complete, and parts 1 and 2 have been written. It’s time to put this blog to bed, and finish the countdown.
Get ready, Simpsons fans, here they are:
MY TOP 30 FAVORITE EPISODES OF THE SIMPSONS, PART 3 (10-1)
10. Itchy & Scratchy Land (Season 6, Episode 4)
I love satire, especially when it’s at the expense of the Walt Disney Company. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Disney fan, and I was an employee of the mouse for six years. But Disney is a company that, at times, deserves to be mocked. Especially the theme parks. Well, here’s the Simpsons take on a popular characterized theme park, where nothing could possib-lie go wrong.
Err, possibly go wrong.
That’s the first thing that’s ever gone wrong.
Bart and Lisa convince their parents to take their family vacation to Itchy & Scratchy Land, where the kids can have fun while the parents hang out on Parent’s Island. Marge is cautious, because she already planned a trip to the bird sanctuary, and always ends up embarrassed after every trip. However, she relents, and the family is off on vacation! After parking in the Itchy Lot, and traveling via helicopter to the park itself (Jurassic Park style), the family experiences all the magic of the park, with some of the BEST Disney jokes of all time. However, after Bart and Homer are arrested for harassing the characters, the trip turns dark as the robots revolt due to chaos theory (did John Hammond design this place?) The family manages to stop the killer robots, and proclaim it the best vacation ever.
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Everything is a shot at Disney, from the rides to the animatronics, and even the attitude of the employees. They rip off Disney films with Itchy & Scratchy versions, and even have the “Rogers Myers Experience” which is a direct ripoff of the One Man’s Dream museum at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They have a 12:00 robot parade, an area just for parents that spoofs Disney’s former Pleasure Island, and even rip on the antics of costume characters. Among the Disney gags is the classic Bort License Plate joke, a staple of Simpsons fandom, and Maggie suffering in the ball pit of doom. The jokes fly hard in this one, and while it’s a great episode for the average Simpsons fan, it’s downright perfect for those of us who love Disney.
Next time you’re bored and want to watch an episode of the Simpsons, may I kindly suggest taking a trip back to Itchy & Scratchy Land? I don’t think you’ll leave disappointed.
9. You Only Move Twice (Season 8, Episode 2)
What if your boss was the nicest guy in the world, but was actually a supervillain bent on global domination? Okay, so all Hank Scorpio wanted was the East Coast, but still, he treated his employees like gold!
Homer is offered an exciting new job in a town called Cypress Creek, a planned community that is too good to be true. Homer excels at his new job, and is beloved by his new perfect boss, Hank Scorpio, who seems like the perfect guy to work for. Voiced brilliantly by one of the Simpsons best (and oldest) guest stars, Albert Brooks (Nemo’s dad is a villain!!!), Hank Scorpio became one of the greatest one-time Simpsons characters ever with his one appearance. While Homer is happy, the rest of the family isn’t. Marge becomes so bored by all the automatic features in the house, that she develops a drinking problem (in her eyes anyway). Lisa is allergic to everything around her, and Bart is put into a remedial class simply because the school is better than Springfield Elementary. They begrudgingly tell Homer they want to return to Springfield, which he does for the good of his family. However, Hank Scorpio buys Homer a farewell gift to help him get closer to his dream of owning the Dallas Cowboys – the Denver Broncos (d’oh!)
As I mentioned earlier, this episode is made by the Hank Scorpio character. He’s a jovial and witty fast-talking boss who really values his employees, and treats them like family. Unfortunately, he’s a diabolical villain too, and is on a mission to seize control of the East Coast. The family lives in luxury, but all experience downfalls that make them miss their old home and old life. Their side stories are the perfect counter to Homer’s new life. It’s a good message that Homer will still choose his family’s happiness over his own, even when everything is going his way. The James Bond references get mixed in, and the final result is a great Simpsons episode.
No Mr. Bont, I expect you to die and for it to be a cheap funeral. You’re gonna die now!
8. Marge Vs. The Monorail (Season 4, Episode 12)
It’s the monorail episode.
The town acquires $3 million after fining Mr. Burns, and holds a meeting to decide how to spend it. A mysterious salesman named Lyle Lanley shows up, and tells the citizens that he can get them on the map by selling them a monorail. After all, it worked for Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook. The town builds the monorail system, and Homer gets a job as a monorail pilot. The inaugural ride is celebrated with a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy, but it’s soon discovered that the train was built was faulty equipment. Lyle skips town with the money, and Marge goes to North Haverbrook to get help. She brings a citizen back with her, as Lyle’s plane makes an unscheduled stop in one of the town he ruined (where he’s presumably beaten to death). Homer uses the giant ‘M’ on the monorail as an anchor to save the day, as Springfield celebrates yet another failed venture, like their popsicle stick skyscraper, 300-ft. magnifying glass, and escalator to nowhere.
It’s the monorail episode. It has an iconic song, is fondly remembered by fans, and was written by Conan O’Brien. I have nothing else to say that can possibly add to this episode’s greatness.
Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona-fide, electrified, six-car monorail!
7. Homer’s Enemy (Season 8, Episode 23)
Doug Walker, better known as the Nostalgia Critic, summed up this episode perfectly when he said it was one of the darkest Simpsons episodes of all time, and that’s what made it so great.
Meet Frank Grimes, a man who has struggled through literally everything in life, and worked hard every single day for the very little he has. Mr. Burns is inspired by this, and hires him as part of the nuclear power plant team. Frank then meets Homer Simpson, the lazy oaf who has had everything handed to him in life. Frank is enraged at Homer’s mere existence, and after Homer’s incompetence gets him in trouble, Frank proclaims them as enemies. Homer is saddened by this, and tries to make amends with Frank by inviting him over to his house. This makes matters worse, as Grimes becomes baffled at Homer’s big house, beautiful family, and achievements such as outer space travel and his Grammy award. Grimes tries to make the whole plant see what a buffoon Homer is by tricking him into entering a power plant design contest for children, but when Homer wins and his peers cheer him on, Grimes slips into insanity. His resulting rampage to be oafish like Homer costs him his life, and the episode ends with everyone laughing at Homer sleeping DURING THE FUNERAL.
What an incredible episode. Frank Grimes, much like Hank Scorpio, becomes one of the best – if not THE best – one time Simpsons character ever. The episode tells a story that many of us can relate to. Sometimes, hard-working individuals get screwed over, while lazy stupid people succeed at everything. The writers make you really feel bad for Frank Grimes, while still not managing to really like him, because he can be a total dick too. His death is surprising, but how they close the episode is downright mean. It’s by far one of their darkest episodes, and it’s absolutely amazing.
Poor Grimey. Poor, poor, Grimey.
6. Lisa the Vegetarian (Season 7, Episode 5)
While Homer is by far my favorite character, and Bart is somewhat of an icon to the show (especially in its early years), one of the least appreciated characters, and one of the best written, has to be Lisa. She’s the intelligent middle child whose gifts go overlooked, and whose moral beliefs get her into trouble. This episode marks a serious turning point in her character development. It’s probably the best Lisa-centric episode there is.
The family travels to Storytime Village, a fairy tale themed park for babies, so Maggie can enjoy something for once. While visiting, Lisa falls in love with a baby lamb at the petting zoo area. That night, as the family sits down to a dinner of lamb chops, Lisa becomes conflicted about eating the animal. She becomes uncomfortable with worm dissection in class, and upset that the school offers no vegetarian selection. As she struggles to come to terms with her newfound vegetarianism, Homer plans a huge barbecue party to counter the Flanders’ family reunion. Lisa tries to protest Homer’s party, but her pleas go ignored. She finally snaps, and ruins the party by driving off Homer’s stuffed pig. She ends up storming out of the house, and fails to fight temptation after seeing meat everywhere. She succumbs and eats one of Apu’s hot dogs, but they turn out to be tofu, as Apu is also a vegetarian. With a little helpful advice from Apu and Paul & Linda McCartney, telling Lisa to tolerate others rather than judge them, she and Homer forgive each other and Homer gives her a veggie-back ride home.
This episode works for two reasons: its character development, and its hilarity level. Lisa is by far the most complex character of the family, and she often makes decisions that last for the long-run, such as becoming a Buddhist. This episode marks a big turning point for her, as she renounces eating meat and becomes a champion of animal rights. On the other side, the jokes come at you fast and hard, and they all hit the mark. The conversation at the dinner table, all the way to the BBQ antics, cement this episode as one of the best in the series. Few episodes manage to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, and manage to develop a major character in a serious and meaningful way. This episode hits the mark on every joke. It’s one of the best.
Come to Homer’s BBBQ. The extra B is for BYOBB.
What’s that extra B for?
That’s a typo.
5. Homer the Great (Season 6, Episode 12)
It’s the Stonecutters episode. Seriously, do I need to deliver the monorail spiel here too? I guess I already did.
Homer becomes curious as to why Lenny and Carl are never around Wednesday nights, and why they always seem to have nicer stuff than him. He stalks them to a secret society called the Stonecutters, and becomes anxious to join. He gets in as the son of a Stonecutter, and becomes enamored with his new life. After all, all this society does is get drunk and act like morons. However, at a great rib feast, he destroys their sacred parchment, and is banished. But, shocking, it’s discovered that he’s actually the Chosen One, whom the sacred parchment said would lead them to glory! Homer abuses his power, until he realizes how much it’s isolating him from everyone. Lisa advises him to get the group to help other people instead, which makes Homer feel rewarded, but the society itself doesn’t want that. After all, they just want to act like morons and drink beer. So they form their own secret society, the Ancient Mystic Society of No Homers.
Featuring the best musical number on the show next to the Monorail Song, this episode has it all. It’s one of the funniest episodes, with some of the best gags, and tells a story that really hits home. Organizations like this exist, with the people contributing literally NOTHING to society. This is the Simpsons take on how ridiculous this concept really is. The perks they get for being members are outrageous, and the fact that all they do is act like a fraternity despite being “ancient and great” is a brilliant concept. Of course, the Chosen One gag that leads to the Stonecutters downfall is the real highlight, especially the No Homers gag. Homer is once again reminded that’s family over…well, stupid bullshit like this. It’s an episode that works on every level and is a classic by every sense of the word.
Did I mention Number One is voiced by Patrick Stewart?
Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We do, we do!
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps? We do, we do!
Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do, we do!
Who robs cavefish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night? We do, we do, we do!
4. Cape Feare (Season 5, Episode 2)
While Bart may have been the rapscallion icon of the early 90s, he was little more than a modern day, raunchier Dennis the Menace. However, there is one thing about Bart that defines him more than anything else – his moral enemy, the articulate, brilliant, and downright insane Sideshow Bob. This is the quintessential Sideshow Bob episode, and it’s AMAZING.
Bart is starting to receive death threats in the mail, written in human blood. They are coming from Sideshow Bob, the man Bart put away for framing Krusty the Clown and trying to murder his aunt Selma. Bob, stewing in anger, is up for parole and ready for revenge. He becomes such a threat that the family is put into witness protection, but Bob follows them to their new houseboat on Terror Lake. Bob executes his plan by cutting the house loose and tying up the family, before finally going to finish off Bart. Bart, in real mortal danger, plays to Bob’s ego and singing voice by getting him to sing the score to the HMS Pinafore. The song buys Bart enough time to ride back into Springfield and get caught by the police (thankfully they drifted by a brothel) where Bob is locked up once again.
Like any great episode of the series, you mix in a great story with great humor, and you hit a home run. First off, lets analyze what’s really happening here – someone is trying to murder Bart. And not just anyone is looking to do the deed, it’s an evil genius who is justified in doing so (in his own mind). Bob isn’t your run-of-the-mill psychopath, he’s cultured and intelligent, which makes him that much more dangerous. It also makes it that much more impressive when he’s stopped by a ten-year-old boy multiple times. Sideshow Bob is one of my favorite characters, especially since he’s voiced by Kelsey Grammar. Almost every Sideshow Bob episode is great, even if his motives get a little loony at times.
But after you get past the chilling story of someone chasing Bart with a butcher knife, you get the jokes. The jokes in this episode are the BEST. This episode still manages to make me laugh hysterically at everything. These include, but are not limited to: the cactus patch, the Germans being evil reference, Bob doing aerobics, why Bart can’t jump off the ship, the elephant parade, the song number, Homer barging in to Bart’s room, and THE RAKE. THE MOTHERLOVING RAKE!!! Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch this episode. It really is one of the best for a reason.
Side-note: the season eight episode where David Hyde Pierce plays his brother Cecil is an honorable mention for this list.
3. Homer at the Bat (Season 3, Episode 17)
I love baseball. I’ve been a huge baseball fan for as long as I can remember. While pro wrestling is my favorite sport, baseball is my favorite “legitimate sport” (are you happy now, wrestling haters? Ugh). And what could be better than nine major league ringers playing their own voices, and being tricked into playing on a company softball team, just so rich Mr. Burns can win a bet?
Homer convinces his power plant coworkers to sign up for the company softball team, when he reveals he has a secret weapon this year. His “magic bat” makes the team have their best season ever, so Burns makes a million dollar bet with rival power plant owner Aristotle Amadopoulos. In order to guarantee victory, Burns recruits nine major league players to work at the power plant, and join the team. They replace all of the regular players, but as the big game approaches, they succumb to a hilarious series of misfortunes. The end result sees the plant regulars take the field, except for right fielder Homer Simpson. However, in order to ensure his victory, Homer is sent in to pitch hit with bases loaded. Homer is hit by the pitch, signaling a walk, and the winner runner walks home. The episode ends with the BEST scene in the series history.
Seriously, what’s better than Homer playing baseball? The major league players are hilarious, and really tie into this episode’s success. They use everyone in a fantastic role, and really hit a home run (ahem). This episode just works.
And now, a countdown of all nine misfortunes!
-Steve Sax is pulled over by the police, and sent to jail after being unable to answer for New York City’s unsolved crimes, facing three consecutive life sentences.
-Mike Scioscia gets radiation poisoning after gleefully enjoying his job at the powerplant, and may not even live through the night.
-Ken Griffey Jr. gets gigantism after overdosing on nerve tonic.
-Jose Canseco assists a lady in recusing her baby and cat from a burning building, but then gets held up removing literally EVERYTHING from her home.
-Wade Boggs is knocked unconscious in a bar fight with Barney over who England’s greatest prime minister was.
-Ozzie Smith visits Springfield’s Mystery Spot, and disappears off the face of the planet.
-Don Mattingly is fired after Mr. Burns tells him to shave his nonexistent sideburns (but he still likes him better than Steinbrenner)
-Roger Clemens is hypnotized into thinking he’s a giant chicken, thanks to Mr. Burns’ attempt to “motivate” his players goes awry.
-Darryl Strawberry, the resident kiss-ass, arrives and plays perfectly, replacing Homer until Burns decides to pitch hit Homer in his place.
Genius all the way. And did I mention the closing credits song number is perfect too?
2. Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part 1: Season 6, Episode 25 – Part 2: Season 7, Episode 1)
To date, this is the only true two-part episode the series has ever done. Not only is it a great mystery story that’s written exceedingly well (they really do a great job making you wonder whodunit) but it was also THE talk of the summer of 1995, with an intense cliffhanger that led to several contests for fans to participate in.
If you want to chastise me for “copping out” and blending two episodes into one position, note that if I had to choose, I would rank Part 1 only and leave Part 2 off the list altogether. If you’re anal like that (some of you are).
Groundskeeper Willie strikes oil underneath Springfield Elementary, and the school becomes insanely wealthy. However, Mr. Burns is outraged that a school could make that kind of money, and forms a plan to drill the oil himself. He ends up outraging everyone in the community in the process. His sabotages the school’s future, and destroys or shuts down almost every local business in town. He also outrages Homer by never remembering his name. His plan reaches full insanity when he decides to block out the sun, making the town entirely reliant on his energy plant. This pushes Smithers, Burns’ closest ally, completely over the edge. When Smithers refuses to fall into line, he’s fired, and becomes a drunken wreck. Everyone attends a town meeting, bearing firearms, to discuss action, but no one has the guts to actually stop Burns when he calls them out. As he skips away, he’s mysteriously shot, and the entire town becomes a suspect.
Following the summer with everyone wondering who could possibly be behind it, the clues fall into line as Chief Wiggum does his job (for once) and they nail Homer for the crime after Smithers mistakenly confesses. Homer confronts Burns, and after he comes to, he explains what really happens – it was just an accident when his gun slipped into Maggie Simpson’s hands. Thus, Maggie shot Mr. Burns.
Part one is perfect. They really establish Burns as an evil old man in this episode. And once the town is calling for his blood, they set up dozens of reasons why people want revenge. Everyone in the family has a good reason to pull the trigger, as do Moe, Barney, Skinner, Willie, Smithers, and of course Tito Puente. The jokes are great, especially with Homer trying to get Burns to remember his name. The scene where Homer gets the thank you letter without his name on it is one of the best. This episode also creates a real dramatic moment between Smithers and Burns, as Smithers proves to be more than just a yes man. Part two isn’t as good, but it still tells a good story as they rule out various suspects in hilarious fashion (especially Moe on the lie detector). They end up identifying Homer due to Burns having brain damage, and those being the only words he can say, after finding an eyelash with Simpsons DNA. Finally, they end with the big reveal, which some saw as a letdown, and others saw as a brilliant twist. It doesn’t bother me. It’s not my favorite, but I don’t have any real problems with it.
Great jokes exist here, but this two-parter excels in storytelling and delivers one of the better cliffhanger endings in television history. The Simpsons were pretty iconic by this point, and the contest to guess who shot Mr. Burns was one of the first to incorporate the internet into prominence. Not only that, but they even ran a special America’s Most Wanted episode to analyze the clues and suspects, to really hit this episode home. In the end, this episode became an incredible journey on the Simpsons roller coaster, and is something they haven’t come close to duplicating throughout their history.
1. Treehouse of Horror III (Season 4, Episode 5)
And now we come to my number one favorite episode of the Simpsons to date. I said in my first part that I did sort of purposely exclude the Halloween episodes, but I couldn’t just force them all out for a good reason. That reason is because the third Halloween installment of the series is my number one favorite episode that they have ever done.
It’s a Halloween party at the Simpsons house, and the party goers share scary stories and play ghastly games. Lisa shares a story about a killer Krusty doll that Homer buys from an occult shop, which tries to murder him but acts lifeless when the family is around. The Twilight Zone inspired short then leads into a King Kong parody, told by the elderly Abe Simpson. Marge plays the role of Ann Darrow as Mr. Burns travels to Ape Island to capture a giant ape (Homer). Homer is put on Broadway, but runs amuck in downtown Springfield, and ends up marrying the girl he fell in love with (is that even legal?). Finally, Bart ends the night with a zombie tale, where he accidentally raises the dead, and the family has to fight them off.
Sound generic? Well, that’s because I REFUSE to spoil this episode for anyone who hasn’t seen it. It’s the best piece of Simpsons storytelling out there. Every single element of this story works. All three shorts have insanely funny highlights and moments, but what seals the deal is that the narrative itself (the Halloween party) is just as funny as the shorts. There isn’t a single joke that fails, and even the ones that don’t get the belly laughs are cut out of syndication anyway, so the episode runs BETTER on TV, believe it or not.
I won’t even say any more. Go watch this episode, and laugh as hard as I did the first time I saw it, and every subsequent time I’ve watched it since.
Dad! You killed the zombie Flanders! (You know what comes next).
Well, there you have it everyone. I’ve just counted down thirty episodes of my favorite television show of all time. It was a lot of fun reliving these memories, but it’s even more fun going back and watching them again! In fact, I’m going to have a marathon of just this list soon. Anyone care to join me?
What is YOUR favorite episode of the Simpsons? Did I include it? Did I leave your favorites out? Let me know in the comments! And please subscribe for more blogs!
Thank you for reading! JERSEY RAIN!