‘The Simpsons’ Top 10 Episodes of The First 10 Seasons
As you all know, I’m a die-hard fan of ‘The Simpsons’ and I’ve already posted quite a few articles about America’s favorite nuclear family. I’m also hoping to write a book arguing that Homer Simpson is the most human character ever created in the world of animation (and possibly ever in Prime-Time TV) (just as Hamlet is argued as the most human character ever created in literature.) I still challenge anyone to try to stump me in ‘The Simpsons’ trivia.
I’ve decided to share my top 10 episodes of The Simpsons from the first 10 seasons. This is from no official listing, just my personal favorites and why they have a special place in my heart.
10. (Season 10, Episode 11) “Viva Ned Flanders”: Ten years before the movie ‘The Hangover’, there was this episode. Lovable neighbor Ned Flanders realizes that his life has never had any real excitement. As Homer says, ‘Jeez Flanders, you’re sixty years old and never lived a day in your life.’ Flanders decides to recruit Homer as a sort-of twisted life coach to learn how to, ‘silence that little voice that says, “Think”‘ and learn Homer’s ‘intoxicating lust for life.’ Homer accepts Flanders’s request and takes him to Vegas where they both wake up from a drunken night where they can’t remember a thing and discover they’re both married to cocktail waitresses. Truly a very funny episode.
9. (Season 5, Episode15) “Deep Space Homer”: Can you imagine Homer in outer space? This episode starts off with all the employees of the nuclear power plant where Homer works assembled in the courtyard awaiting for Mr. Burns to announce the ‘Worker of the Week’ award. The wide shot of Burns emerging atop his balcony addressing the crowd a la, ‘Evita.’ He even starts off his speech by calling his workers ‘compadres.’ When Homer loses to an inanimate carbon rod, he feels that no one respects him. NASA, or as referred to by Homer, ‘Nassau’, is in the midst of another space launch but are upset over poor ratings and then they feel that they need to recruit a ‘blue-collared slob.’ With real-life Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon guest-starring who travels with Homer into space with some surprising cargo. Also guest-starring is rock star, James Taylor. Several other movies are parodied brilliantly such as, ‘Alien’, ‘2001: Space Oddysey’, and ‘Planet of the Apes.’ How does Homer get back? You’ll just have to watch and see.
8. (Season 4, Episode 1) “Kamp Krusty”: On the last day of school, Bart and Lisa remind Homer that if they get ‘C’ averages, he’ll let them go to Kamp Krusty. Lisa has no problem with that but does have a little meltdown when she gets her first ‘B’ ever and disputes it with her teacher. When Bart’s report card is far worse, he tries to bargain with his teacher and then to lie to Homer. After some hilarious bargaining, the kids get to Kamp Krusty but it turns out to be, in the words of Lisa, ‘a Dickensian work camp.’ Bart leads a team of campers to overtake the camp grounds a la ‘Apocalypse Now.’ While the kids are gone, Homer ends up loosing weight and regrowing his hair until the instant that he learns that Bart is the ringleader of the takeover. When Krusty finally does arrive, he has to convince Bart that he is the real Krusty and make up for his absence.
7. (Season 2, Episode 19) “Lisa’s Substitute”: In just the second season, the very young TV series was having a hard time getting guest stars, especially big-time actors, to lend their voice to Springfield. Such was the case for Mr. Bergstrom, voiced by Dustin Hoffman but credited as Sam Etic (Semitic, get it?) and even brilliantly parodies one of Dustin Hoffman’s greatest films, ‘The Graduate.’ When Lisa’s teacher gets sick and the class needs a substitute, Lisa’s first crush in the history of the show is introduced. Meanwhile in Bart’s class, Bart gets nominated to run for class president against the class brain, Martin Prince. This is one of the first episodes that has two separate storylines that get almost equal attention for story development. With the help of Homer, Bart has an advantage in the election for class president and Homer delivers one of his greatest lines in the history of the show, ‘Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.’ and Homer has the first mental argument with his brain for the first time in the history of the show. It’s a very touching and emotional story with a very touching ending that shows that The Simpsons isn’t always just about smart comedy and mindless dysfunctional family moments.
6. (Season 4, Episode 9) “Mr. Plow”: Even ‘Family Guy’ makes fun of this episode. (which is funny within itself because this episode guest-stars, Adam West, current regular voice actor on ‘Family Guy.’) With one of the catchiest jingles in the history of the show, this is the episode of the worst blizzard in the history of Springfield and Homer decides to use his newly acquired truck he bought at a car show as a snow plow to make extra money on the side. But when his best friend Barney decides to become his competitor, Homer is muscled out and outperformed by Barney the ‘Plow King.’ A flashback of Barney and Homer during their high school days reveal that Barney was bound for Harvard and mere hours away from his SAT exam before Homer introduced him to beer for the first time. The rest for Barney is history. With local reporter, Kent Brockman commenting how pollution could cause 70-degree winters one day because of Global Warming one day; an eerie and accurate prediction of the future years before the environment became an issue for politicians and humanitarians the world over.
5. (Season 6, Episode 25) “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part 1)”: The season finale of season 6 ended with the biggest cliffhanger (and only two-part) episode in the history of the show to date. Never in an episode has every second of the story mattered. In most episodes of ‘The Simpsons’, the entire first act is almost wasted just for jokes or getting an idea as to which character the episode will focus on. In this episode, virtually every resident of Springfield is shown, (often more than once), and each resident is having the worst day of their life, at the same time. When Groundskeeper Willie strikes oil, Mr. Burns decides to steal it from right under the school administration’s nose, literally. As a result, Moe loses his bar, Barney loses Moe’s bar, the school staff is denied their requests and ends up having to make budget cuts resulting in the firing of Willie and ending the Jazz program started by Lisa, Bart’s dog breaks his leg, the digging destroyed Grandpa Simpson’s retirement home, the firing of Burns’ assistant, and of course, Burns can never remember Homer’s name. If all that isn’t bad enough, Burns decides that in order to have complete control of the town’s energy consumption he is going to block out the sun to ensure that his electricity will be used constantly. After a town meeting declares that Burns must be stopped from his monopolizing of the town’s resources, he is shot in the chest. Dr. Hibbert asks the audience at home if they can solve the mystery of who shot him and the credits roll. Truly, one of the greatest episodes ever in the history of the show.
4. (Season 8, Episode 23) “Homer’s Enemy”: Quite possibly the darkest episode in the history of the show. Like #5 on this list, the story starts with the main story that we follow throughout the whole episode. When Mr. Burns sees a touching news report about a man named Frank Grimes, Burns decides to hire him at the Nuclear Power Plant. Needless to say, Homer’s attitude at work and overall professionalism (or lack thereof) leaves Grimes in shock. At first, Grimes is just annoyed with Homer but then sees that Homer’s overall life is so much better than his and proclaims that Homer is the poster child of ‘what’s wrong with America.’ Despite the sincerest of efforts of Homer trying to get Grimes to like him, he can’t seem to do anything right. By the end of the episode, Grimes is determined to show everyone that Homer is the stupidest waste of space to ever live.
3. (Season 8, Episode 2) “You Only Move Twice”: This episode contains one of the best single-episode-appearing characters in the history of the show:President of Globex Corporation and international terrorist, Hank Scorpio (who was voiced by veteran Simpson voice actor, A. Brooks.) After Smithers turns down a job offer to work for Globex, Homer, being the next senior employee in the nuclear plant, gets the offer and he accepts. The Simpson family is moved to a new city and upon arriving to their new house, Scorpio greets them with a fruit basket while in the middle of the town’s annual marathon. Bart and Lisa attend a new school complete with its own website posted on its sign. When each member of the family finds problems with living in the perfect little town, all but Homer want to return to Springfield who is actually doing very well at his new job. Homer even impresses Scorpio with his brilliant idea of finding business hammocks for the team he manages. Homer remains completely oblivious to his bosses ulterior motives and true persona. The episode also has some of the most improvised dialogue in the history of the show which is absolutely hilarious. Sadly, Hank Scorpio has never returned on ‘The Simpsons’ but websites exist dedicated entirely to his character with its own cult following.
2. (Season 6, Episode 1) “Bart of Darkness”: This is one of the greatest episodes revolving entirely around a parody of one of the greatest films of all time. After Bart breaks his leg, he is put in a wheelchair and confined to his room throughout all of summer vacation. When Lisa gives him a telescope, he decides to spy on the neighbors and witnesses what appears to be Flanders murdering his wife. At first even Bart believes that it can’t be what it looks like but continuing events make Bart more and more suspicious. He sends Lisa into Flanders’s house to look for evidence to prove his suspicions to only discover Flanders in his house heading toward Lisa armed with a giant axe. As you’ve no doubt already figured out, this episode is a brilliant parody of the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, ‘Rear Window.’ In fact, it’s almost like an homage.
1. (Season 4, Episode 7) “Last Exit to Springfield”: There is just too much to mention to express the hilarity, brilliance, parodies, and historical references in this episode. When Burns is sitting in his office waiting the union representative for the nuclear plant, Smithers responds that, ‘he hasn’t been seen since he promised to clean up the union.’ Jump-Cut to a wide receiver tripping over a bump on the ground in the exact shape of a human body a la the rumor of infamous union representative Jimmy Hoffa whose remains were mixed into the cement used in the construction of the stadium of the NY Football Giants. When Homer is elected the new union president, he expresses the happiest ‘Woo-Hoo’ ever when learns that the job only pays if he can be crooked. I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but consider some of the films, literary classics, and characters that are parodied just to name a few. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’, and ‘Batman.’ Next to the episode of Mr. Burns getting shot, he has never appeared so evil and stretches the “rubber band reality” that the show has been made famous in stretching over the course of the series.
Again, this is not part of any official list, just my personal favorites. These shows also deserve honorable mention, all within the first 10 seasons of the show.
“Homer’s Phobia”, “Tree-House of Horror”, “Homer The Heretic”, “Rosebud”, and “A Streetcar Named Marge.”
When the show finally ends, (whenever that may be,) I will make a top 10 list of my favorite Simpson episodes all-time. But truthfully, I see at least half of them being from this list I just posted.