It’s hard to believe, but The Simpsons is celebrating its 25th season this Sunday. Starting as a sketch for the Tracey Ullman Show, and on struggling network (FOX) in the late 1980s, the Simpson family burst on the scene December 17, 1989 to much acclaim. Simpson-mania soon followed as the show vaulted FOX into the upper echelon of television, alongside the Big Three networks – comics, video games, and a ton of other merchandise made the Simpsons one of the most lucrative franchises of the 1990s. Some say the quality has waned greatly since the early heyday, but others argue that the show has never lost the spark that once made it the cornerstone of FOX’s programming.
Here at Popblerd, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite episodes. Each participating writer has contributed a bit on their personal favorites – part one debuts today while you can view the other half next Monday after watching the return of your favorite Springfield citizens. Chime in with your favorite episodes in the comments!
All posts written by Tristan unless noted.
Lisa on Ice S6 E8
I’ve never had a sibling, so most of what I’ve learned about how to treat others has come from television. The Simpsons may not have been the most conventional teacher, but this episode is perhaps the best example of how strong the bond between two siblings can be. We start at a pee wee hockey game where Bart’s team loses yet again, but coach Apu notices that Lisa shows great aptitude at blocking shots (from Bart pelting litter at her). Apu brings her into the team, but when the team loves her more than Bart, he leaves for their rivals. From there begins one of the greatest sibling competitions depicted on television – threats are made, punches are thrown, childhood toys are ripped apart maliciously. Then the most wonderful thing happens – in their final game of the season, Bart and Lisa are pitted directly against each other when Bart is allowed a penalty shot against his sister during the final seconds. As they glare at one another with a few feet of ice between them, both contemplate their favorite moments together – and realize that there’s something more important than winning, their friendship. Bart ignores the shot and the game ends a tie. The best part is they realize it solely on their own, with no help from Homer and Marge.
Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish” S7 E22
What’s more exciting than a good war story? Well, as told by Abe Simpson, maybe just about anything. Recently, Abe has pretty much been off his rocker telling totally fictional stories to Bart and his friends. Thing is, Abe Simpson isn’t making anything up this time. During World War II, Abe’s squad (“The Flying Hellfish”) was part of a hush-hush mission at a German castle that uncovered a hidden cache of Nazi paintings. The surviving squad members made a pact to let the last living member take the spoils, dubbed the “Hellfish Bonanza”. When third-to-last member Asa passes on, it’s up to Bart to protect his grandpa from none other than Montgomery Burns, who was a private to Abe’s commander during the war. How exciting is boring old Abe Simpson now? It’s also telling that as ridiculous as this story seems, it’s nothing compared to the random misadventures the Simpson family endures in later seasons. An example of exemplary story-telling without being easily unbelievable, “Curse of the Flying Hellfish” is really about a grandfather hoping to earn respect in his wavering grandson – while having a kick-ass World War II story to boot.
Bart vs. Australia S6 E16
I believe this is where my healthy obsession with the Land Down Under first began. I thought the accents were the neatest, and the culture fascinating. I wanted to go there myself to experience firsthand the mysterious didgeridoo, or a kangaroo taking care of a bull frog. After several attempts to discover whether or not toilets flush the opposite way in the Southern Hemisphere, Bart pisses off a random Australian he’s collect-called. To dissuade any foreign dissidence between the two countries, the US government sends the Simpson family to the Australian Parliament for Bart to apologize in front of the nation for making fun of their country. Some hijinks ensue, mostly to the further humiliation of the Australian people. Oddly enough, I found this episode to be very patriotic, and actually quite informative on another nation’s culture. Simpsons was at its best when making pop culture references, and they were much more sly than their FOX counterpart Family Guy, who seem to pull them out mostly with non-sequiturs. Here they reference films such as Crocodile Dundee, Mad Max and A Cry in the Dark, much to the delight of this Australophile.
Cape Feare S5 E2
One of the greatest characters to come out of the Simpsons was Sideshow Bob. A Shakespearean-trained actor reduced to playing sidekick to Krusty the Clown on his afternoon kiddy show, Robert Terwilliger soon found himself with an arch-nemesis: Bart Simpson. Bob originally wanted to overtake Krusty’s show and make it a more educational program, he unfortunately chose to attempt Krusty’s displacement by framing him for armed robbery. Bart enlists Lisa’s help to uncover his treachery, and in subsequent appearances, Bob consistently is out for revenge against his pint-sized foil. In the best of Bob’s episodes, he is released from jail and accepted back into society’s good graces by pretending to have reformed his evil ways. Bart knows better though, that Bob is still out for blood. He convinces his family of this and they manage to get themselves into witness protection, beginning one of my favorite cutaway gags in the show’s history: a new title sequence introducing the family in their new locale as “The Thompsons”. Luckily it doesn’t last long, as Bob easily finds them in their new supposedly hidden home and attempts to murder Bart. Saving himself the only way he knows how, Bart plays into Bob’s ego and requests Bob’s rendition of the entire production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, which allows the Thompsons’ houseboat to easily float down the river to the waiting police force’s clutches. Never has the game of cat and mouse been played so hilariously.
From KJ: Twenty-five years of TV, it’s easy to forget or lump certain episodes together. However, when this list was introduced, I knew exactly which episode would be at the top of my list. It was thrilling (for a Simpsons episode), brought back Sideshow Bob, and was non-stop laughs: His parole granted after someone said, “Nobody that speaks German can be an evil man.” Homer not understanding that his witness-relocation name is going to be Mr. Thompson, the drive through the cactus patch, with Bob underneath the car, and the non-stop grumbling every time Bob stepped on a rake. Funniest. Simpson. Episode. Ever. To relive those laughs, check out someone’s crappy bootleg “highlight” reel here.
Flaming Moe’s S3 E10
Moe and Apu are easily two of my favorite characters. Hank Azaria does a magnificent job at portraying two of the richest side characters on a show full of them. I have several favorites between the two, but if I had to pick one, it would be Flaming Moe’s. When Homer escapes his house to avoid Lisa’s rambunctious slumber party, he heads to Moe’s bar, his usual refuge. It seems Moe is falling on hard times, and Homer offers him a concoction he developed another night he was out of alcohol himself. Mixing together the remainder of every liquor he has left, Homer also accidentally poured a generous amount of children’s cough syrup into the batch. His annoying sister Patty ashes her cigarette in his drink, but having lit the mix on fire seems to have given the drink its power. Moe attempts the same and upon discovering the drink will sell like hotcakes, attributes the drink to himself, naming it a “Flaming Moe”. From here the disgruntled Homer and the newly famous Moe find themselves at odds until Homer ruins a massive corporate deal that would make Moe rich beyond belief. Another favorite moment of the show has Homer hanging from Moe’s rafters exclaiming the whole thing was a sham – nothing more than “plain, ordinary, over the-counter children’s cough syrup!” Dan Castellaneta’s vocal performances have been the highlight of many an episode, but here he’s spot-on perfection. Fun fact: Besides Duff beer, you will be able to order a Flaming Moe’s at the new Simpsons World at Universal Studios in Florida. I think that’s a fantastic enough excuse for my next vacation!
Well that’s it for now, but stay tuned next Monday when more of our esteemed writers expound upon their favorite episodes!