Monday, July 30, 2007

My Top Fifteen Simpsons Episodes

From the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous, my near-total enjoyment of The Simpsons Movie made me want to go back and do a little list-making, which was tough, considering there are now 400 episodes to choose from. The average Simpsons episode is smart, funny, and gently subversive; the best episodes are all of those, and warm and full of heart as well (for the most part).

In order in which they aired:

"Homer's Triple Bypass" (1992) Homer's mortality has never been played for such drama or realistic comedy as this episode, where he's saved by Dr. Nick Riviera and an assist from Lisa.

"Marge vs. the Monorail" (1993) This Conan O'Brien-inspired episode has a ludicrous premise, but it works thanks to Phil Hartman's Lyle Lanley and one of the best musical moments of the series.

"Cape Feare" (1993) This is the best Sideshow Bob episode, and one of the best movie parodies at the same time.

"Homer the Great" (1995) The Stonecutters episode, and a cutting satire of 'secret societies' as nothing more than frattish drinking clubs.

"Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)" (1995) The biggest Simpsons event ever was this cliffhanger with genuine drama stemming from Mr. Burns' most diabolical plot ever.

"Treehouse of Horror VI" (1995) The three episodes here - "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores", "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" and "Homer^3" - are the best all-around package of Treehouse of Horror shorts, climaxing with a CGI Homer wandering down a normal human street.

"Mother Simpson" (1995) The sage of Mona Simpson, Homer's mother, was told as a story of love and loss with one of the show's most bittersweet endings.

"A Fish Called Selma" (1996) Troy McClure shines as a fish fetishist who romances Selma to rehabilitate his career, including the musical version of "Planet of the Apes".

"22 Short Films about Springfield" (1996) Following on the heels of Pulp Fiction and its ilk, a deconstruction with some of the best character bits from the show's supporting cast.

"You Only Move Twice" (1996) Homer sacrifices the best job he could ever have (working for supergenius Hank Scorpio) in order to bring his family happiness.

"In Marge We Trust" (1997) Two words: Mr. Sparkle.

"Homer's Enemy" (1997) A great mid-series auto-critique of the series, with the hapless Frank Grimes pointing out all of Homer's flaws.

"The Secret War of Lisa Simpson" (1997) The best depiction of the relationship between siblings Bart and Lisa, as the two kids are sent to military school.

"Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" (1997) The show's best Christmas episode, with the family perpetrating a fraud on the entire town of Springfield.

"Alone Again Natura-Diddily" (2000) The show kills off Maude Flanders and her husband copes.

Even though the last episode on this list is seven years old, I'm not one of those rabid haters who insists that the show has been worthless for years; it's had its ups and downs, and the death of Maude Flanders was probably the last boat-rocking that the show will ever see, but the show is still in the upper ranks of anything on television, and substantially better than shows like The Family Guy.


erik said...

Good list, although I might substitute in the Stampy episode, Homer as the union kingpin or Mr. Burns Casino in there somewhere.

And yeah, I tried watching a new episode recently and it was pretty bad. That being said, I like the movie.

Jeff McMahon said...

It would seem that I've seen less than half of the episodes from the most recent season, but of those the only one that I thought was full-on bad was the episode that parodied "24" - largely because I've never watched a single episode of "24".

erik said...

The episode I saw was where Bart went to Utah to get married to the girl he met after he got his driver's license. Mostly it was bad because it just didn't make any sense at all, not even in the good, old fashioned Conan sort of way.

Jeff McMahon said...

Yeah, I saw that one. (Shrug)

Matthew Dessem said...

Seriously, you gotta reconsider leaving "Last Exit To Springfield" off this list. Anything that moves from Yellow Submarine to Batman to Citizen Kane that fluidly should make the top fifteen.

Jeff McMahon said...

Hi, Matt!

I am a fan of "It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times", and that episode would make it to a top 20 or 25 list, but it just doesn't thrill me as much as these others.

Shannon said...

Aw, I remember watching some of these episodes with you. Remember when we were trying to figure out who shot Mr Burns and you were the one who caught the "Pardon My Zinger" commercial in the back of Mo's?

christian said...

the movie evaporated from my head too after a few days tho i loved watching it.

altho i think the show kinda jumped shark when homer basically killed flander's wife. there are always good episodes that pop up but not so much lately...

Jeff McMahon said...

Hi Shannon! "Pardon My Zinger" was kind of obvious, the thing of Mr. Burns pointing to "M" and "S" was too contrived to really work as a clue except in a cartoon...which is why I didn't put "Who Shot Mr. Burns Part II" on my list.

colinr said...

I agree with your list but would add one of the most touching Simpsons episodes that came a couple of years into its supposedly poor period, in Season 12. The episode was Homr and had Homer becoming smart after having a pencil lodged in his brain as a child removed! The relationship with Lisa was extremely touching and whenever she reads smart Homer's final letter to her I always well up a little! One of the finest ever episodes of the series, and one that shows why even though the show might not be at its peak there is more than enough reason to keep watching.