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.