My 6 Favorite Episodes of The Simpsons
I can still remember watching the first episode of The Simpsons in 1989, the Mills family huddled around our living room for another night of quality prime time television. I don’t remember what I thought about the episode or the show. I don’t remember what prompted us to even watch it. But we were hooked from that very first episode, and I have been a lifelong fan of The Simpsons ever since.
Even if I haven’t seen a new episode in years…
I will let historians and poets write a bigger, better recap of The Simpsons‘ cultural impact. I’m just a guy who loved a cartoon, alongside the rest of the entire world. What I can do – aside from playing Simpsons Tapped Out on my phone – is buy the DVDs and watch oodles upon oodles of old episodes. And one thing I’ve learned is that all of the episodes I devoured in syndication had amazing extra scenes and jokes cut out of them that are fully restored on the DVDs! It’s like finding new gems in the old classic episodes!
I hope The Simpsons never goes away. And in celebration, let us reminisce on our favorite episodes! Please share your own in the comments!
6. Deep Space Homer
The One Where: Homer joins NASA and goes into outer space.
Why I Love It: I love the scope of this episode, and that sort of thing plays into a lot of my favorites. I love it when The Simpsons went above and beyond their routine and really put their characters out there – this time, quite literally. The idea of Homer becoming an astronaut is insane, but the show makes its work by taking Homer through the try-outs and then astronaut training. It’s all very realistic, especially once they’re up on the shuttle floating around. And that realism just sells the episode. This isn’t Homer as Flash Gordon.
The humor, of course, is top notch. The ant jokes are amazing, both on the shuttle and with Kent Brockman on Channel Six. “I for one welcome out new insect overlords” is part of the cultural lexicon now! As is the inanimate carbon rod. Everything about the astronaut training is a joy to watch, especially with a sober Barney along for the ride, and the NASA guys are funny too. Plus, I just like knowing that Homer can always brag about the time he went up into outer space.
5. Cape Feare
The One Where: Sideshow Bob follows the Simpsons into witness protection.
Why I Love It: Almost all Sideshow Bob episodes are instant classics, but Cape Feare is by far the best, even if I’ve never seen the actual movie it parodies. Bob has never before or since been so menacing, and the ominous music cues throughout the episode really play up the danger. And, of course, that ending is musically amazing, with a delightful medley of Bob singing the score from the H.M.S. Pinafore. Kelsey Grammer has some real pipes on him.
The bit with the rakes is a legendary scene, and might as well be taught in some sort of comedy class. I also love the parade that tramples Bob while he’s lying in the middle of the street. And I think my favorite bit is while the family is driving across the country and Homer takes a vote over who wants to drive through a cactus patch. Homer just takes it at face value that Maggie’s voice is suddenly deeper, darker and more grumbly than he might remember.
4. Two Bad Neighbors
The One Where: Former President George Bush moves in across the street.
Why I Love It: Even though George and Barbara Bush don’t voice themselves, this is still my favorite celebrity guest appearance of all time. I love the very idea that Homer gets into a fistfight with a former president. That it’s super square George Bush is just icing on the cake. Their battle in the sewer is epic. The struggle between Bush and Homer is the heart of the episode, but Bart’s monkeyshines in a Dennis the Menace pastiche are also pretty funny.
Bush’s mannerisms are hilarious throughout. Plus one wonders if the Simpsons writers purposefully made Bush as pollyanna as possible after he denounced them in that speech that one time. I wouldn’t put it past the Simpsons writers to enjoy a nice dish of cold revenge. Though, of course, an appearance like this could only boost Bush’s Q rating. Those are still a thing, right?
3. Bart Sells His Soul
The One Where: Bart sells his soul.
Why I Love It: There is no more haunting episode than Bart Sells His Soul. Say what you will about all of the Treehouse of Horror episodes, it’s this one that has stuck with me as being truly otherworldly. The moment Bart runs out into the darkness of the city, The Simpsons reaches a deeper version of itself. It helps that Homer is shouting for him to run (so he can steal the boy’s Spaghetti and Moe-balls, of course). From there, Bart is on a true journey through the depths of his own beliefs, facing a Springfield that is darker and more dangerous than we’d ever seen it before.
On top of that darkness is a meaningful exploration of the existence of the soul, which is kind of deep subject matter for a cartoon series, and which is why The Simpsons became so popular. Lisa caps off the episode with an inspiring speech about the soul, one that still sticks with me to this day.
Plus the episode had an alligator in sunglasses, so it had everything.
2. You Only Move Twice
The One Where: Homer goes to work for Hank Scorpio and the Globex Corporation.
Why I Love It: Hank Scorpio is my favorite one-off character in the history of The Simpsons (followed a close second by Jimmy Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo). He’s a Bond (or Bont) villain come to life, but what makes him truly great, and this episode especially, is the way The Simpsons injects the mundane into Scorpio’s villainous goal to take over the world. Homer gets a job at Scorpio’s company and the episode mostly follows Homer working in the office, hanging out with co-workers, and talking to Scorpio about hammocks, sugar and office freeloaders.
I love this trope. Heck, this very trope, treating the henchmen like real people working real jobs, is the very inspiration of my blog’s name! Using Homer Simpson in that role is a stroke of genius. As far as Homer’s concerned, he’s just doing his job – and actually loving it for once. The juxtaposition with Scorpio’s bigger plans is the stuff of comedy gold.
The rest of the family all get storylines too, but they’re not as interesting. Still funny though.
And on another note, not bringing back Hank Scorpio for The Simpsons Movie was a crime against humanity. Russ Cargill my ass.
1. Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’
The One Where: Bart and Grampa battle Mr. Burns for the treasure of the Flying Hellfish
Why I Love It: The action and adventure, the sense of history, that awesome tattoo; there’s just something about the Flying Hellfish episode that has always stuck with me. Maybe even some admiration for my own grandfather. But mostly I just love the story, and the way Grampa’s secret history unfolds for the viewer. Abe Simpson has a million stories of his life, many of which contradict with this episode, but the idea that Abe’s service in WWII was basically Sgt. Rock and the Howling Commandos is just awesome.
The battle against Mr. Burns is pretty great too, and that’s where the action gets turned up to 11. For some reason, I don’t think most Simpsons episodes had this level of action. It’s a neat sequence as the good guys and bad guys chase each other on boats, and the treasure really feels like more than just a macguffin. Grampa Simpson earns that treasure after a lifetime of secrecy! Though it was probably inevitable that he’d lose it immediately to some German guy who already had a cell phone in the 90s. Isn’t that just a metaphor for life?
Honorable Mentions: Homer’s Enemy, Last Exit to Springfield, Marge vs. the Monorail, Homer’s Barbershop Quartet, Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes, Like Father Like Clown, Bart vs. Australia, King-Size Homer, Summer of 4 ft. 2, The Springfield Files, The Secret War of Lisa Simpson, Lisa the Skeptic and so on and so forth.