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Friday, July 27, 2007


Best. Episodes. Ever.

Unless you're living under a rock or are a senior official with the Bush Administration, you're probably aware that The Simpsons Movie is opening today. I'm stoked. I'm giddy with anticipation. I'm hyped up on coffee, too, so you can factor that in. I love this series, as all right-thinking people do. I've seen most every episode from the first, let's say, nine seasons at least a dozen times each. The last ten years or so, my viewership has been spottier, largely because the quality hasn't been equal to the glory days and I don't want my cherished memories tarnished.

And that's where I am this morning: basking in my cherished Simpsons memories. I've spent--literally--the last two hours looking through an episode guide and whittling down the vast amounts of genius to my favorite ten episodes. While this might sound, to some (hello, honey), like a colossal waste of time, it's actually something of a Herculean challenge.

After picking my top twenty--ten hours of television the repeats of which could sustain humanity through all eternity--I had to look deep, deep within my soul to find the episodes that mattered most to me. Eight leaped out right away. These are the eight episodes that, frankly, I cannot live without. If these episodes were removed from the face of the earth, my belief in the inherent goodness of humanity would be destroyed and I'd have to hang myself in grief.

That left me, though, with twelve. Twelve from which I could pick only two. It was like Sophie's Choice, but without Meryl Streep or Nazis. Eventually, with many tears and a couple of ham steaks, I did it. So here it is. My top ten Simpsons episodes ever. I have listed them in chronological order, because, having picked my top ten, I couldn't endure the further agony of having to rank them.
  • A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4)--The best Simpsons song-writing ever. Marge stars as Blanche DuBois in a musical version of Streetcar Named Desire. Genius Line: "Will this bewitching floozy seduce this humble newsie? Oh, what's a paperboy to do-o-o-o?" (Sung by Apu)
  • Marge vs. the Monorail (Season 4)--Featuring stellar work by Phil Hartman. A Harold Hill-like salesman convinces the people of Springfield to invest in an unnecessary monorail. Genius Line: "I call the big one Bitey!" (Homer)
  • I Love Lisa (Season 4)--Lisa's pity-valentine to Ralph Wiggum causes him to develop a crush on her. Genius Line: "...and the doctor said I wouldn't have so many nosebleeds if I just kept my finger out of there." (Ralph)
  • Last Exit to Springfield (Season 4)--Ye Gods, this one's basically perfect. Homer becomes a union boss to fight for his dental plan because "Lisa needs braces." Genius Exchange: "Gummy Joe, where would you be without the dental plan?" "Well, I wouldn't have ol' Chomper here, that's for sure." (Homer & Gummy Joe)
  • Homer's Barbershop Quartet (Season 5)--I believe this one might be the first appearance of Disco Stu. Flashbacks reveal that Homer once had a Grammy-winning group, The Be Sharps. Genius Moment: Jasper singing "The Theme from A Summer Place".
  • Cape Feare (Season 5)--Truly, Kelsey Grammer's best work ever. Seriously, it almost makes me forgive him for Up Periscope. A paroled Sideshow Bob comes after Bart, forcing the family to go into the Witness Protection Program. Genius Line: "That doesn't say 'Die, Bart, Die.' It's German for, "The Bart, The." (Sideshow Bob)
  • Treehouse of Horror IV (Season 5)--This was a really tough one, because most of the Halloween specials are fantastic. But this one really does set the standard. Three stories for the price of one: Homer sells his soul for a donut; Bart is the only one who can see a gremlin destroying the school bus; Mr. Burns is a vampire. Genius Line: "Would you care for a bite of my Vengelerstrasse bar? I also have Marzipan Joy Joys!" (Uter)
  • The Last Temptation of Homer (Season 5)--If I was forced, at gunpoint, to pick a favorite episode ever, this one might be it. Homer and a sexy new co-worker teeter on the brink of an affair during a business trip to Capitol City. Genius Exchange: "We're out of the 'New Love' fortune cookies!" "Uh, open the 'Stick with Your Wife' barrel!" (Restaurant workers)
  • You Only Move Twice (Season 6)--The best of all of Albert Brooks' guest spots. Homer moves the family away from Springfield when he gets an amazing job opportunity with a James Bond villain. Genius Line: "Oh, in the Hammock District." (Homer)
  • The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson (Season 7)--No better tribute to the World Trade Center exists than the fact that it was immortalized in this episode. Homer and the family have to retrieve their car from New York. Genius Exchange: "Mountain Dew or crab juice." "Ewww! I'll take the crab juice." (The Khlav Khalash Salesman and Homer)

I would need to think about this a while to come up with my own list, but this is a really solid selection. A couple of first thoughts that popped into my head:

I'm a big fan of Treehouse of horrors VI for the Homer in 3D sequence. Brilliant lines from that are:
Hibbert: Homer, this is your physician, Dr. Julius Hibbert. Can you tell us what it's like in there?
Homer:'s like...did anyone see the movie "Tron"?
Hibbert: No.
Lisa: No.
Marge: No.
Wiggum: No.
Bart: No.
Patty: No.
Wiggum: No.
Ned: No.
Selma: No.
Frink: No.
Lovejoy: No.
Wiggum: Yes. I mean -- um, I mean, no. No, heh.

And the Rosebud episode with Burns trying to get Bobo back from Maggie is just great. Favorite moment from that would have to be:
Homer: Mmm...sixty four slices of American cheese.
[Takes the stack to the table and sits down]
Sixty four...[eats it]
Sixty three...[eats it]
[Next morning]
Two...[eats it really slowly]
One...[eats it]
[Marge walks in]
Marge: [incredulous] Have you been up all night eating cheese?
Homer: [slurred] I think I'm blind...

And I of course love the prohibition episode. Greatest "being stoned while watching the Simpsons" moment had to be the cat being slung by the catapult. And it has the brilliant line by Homer at the end, "To Alcohol! Cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."

Not my favorite episode, but my favorite Homer moment ever comes from "Monty Can't But Me Love".

Burns: I need your help. I want to be loved.
Homer: I see... Well, I'll need some beer...

Great series of features on the AV Club re: The Simpsons; but particularly this debate over whether the series' time has come. Rabin argues that the last few seasons are actually better than the previous 4-5 seasons.
I have to say I pretty much concur with everything Rabin argues in that piece.

OK, so if someone had my nuts in a vice and wouldn't stop squeezing until I named my favorite episode I would probably name (at least today, it could change tomorrow) Behind The Laughter. Pure brilliance. But I always liked the different episodes a lot, like The Simpsons Spin Off Showcase (Moe and Grandpa the love tester with a "live audience" is awesome) and 22 Short Films About Springfield.

And some great lines, such as:

Homer: I want to set the record straight -- I thought... the cop... was a prostitute.
while i love the simpsons, i'm not as savvy with recall as you. but my two favorite moments from the past include:

homer: gotta get me some of that sweet sweet can ...

and the one where homer gains weight and says something like:

i'll take the mumu, i don't want to look like a freak or anything.
The Last Temptation has my favorite of the bizarre psychadelic moments. When Homer and the hottie order room service and a light goes off in Burns' office, and he attempts to send the flying monkeys after them.

I loved that moment even more when I noticed they cut it from reruns.
OK, well I thought of a couple of more. (I could probably keep doing this all year)

The episode where Homer buys a gun is just brilliant.

Marge: You lied to me!
Homer: But Marge, I swear, I never thought you'd find out!

And the Lisa becomes a vegetarian episode is one of the sweetest episodes out there. I'm a Lisa fan in a big way.

And the Ned goes crazy episode (the hurricane). The flashback to his parents is classic.

"You gatta help us. We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas."
Pretty much any Ralph moment is my favorite.
Especially "wiggle puppy"

I would put the Homer eating the insanity pepper episode in my top 5, mostly for the "who wears short shorts" ending.
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