The long and winding d’oh: 20 can’t-miss Simpsons episodes
By Monty Ashley, TechHive
Turn on your TV any time over the next 12 days, and cable channel FXX will be showing The Simpsons. All of The Simpsons. In a row. Calling this a marathon actually underrates it pretty significantly, because most marathons are over in just a few hours; this is going to take nearly two weeks.
And even if you were to somehow miss The Simpsons running on FXX from 10 a.m. ET on Thursday through September 1—again, how would this be possible?—you’ve still got the October launch of the Simpsons World platform to look forward to. Between the cable TV marathon and the soon-to-arrive app, it’s almost certain you’ll be able to watch any Simpsons episode you want just about whenever you want.
What It’s About:Homer ruins the first of many, many Christmases, then redeems himself at the last second by getting the family a greyhound named Santa’s Little Helper (or sometimes Santos L. Halper). This is the first episode of the first season, so it’s where it all begins—except for those Tracey Ullman Show shorts. Many of the voices are barely recognizable, but it’s important to acknowledge history.
Memorable Line: “Maggie is walking by herself. Lisa got straight A’s. And Bart… well, we love Bart.”
When It Airs: Friday, August 22, 1:30 a.m. ET
What It’s About: Miss Hoover is replaced by the substitute teacher of Lisa’s dreams, who convinces her to stop hating her miserable life and father. (The teacher is voiced by an actor named Sam Etic, who sounds an awful lot like Dustin Hoffman.) He may or may not be doing her a favor, but no one knew at the time that Lisa would be trapped in this purgatory for another 23 seasons and counting. This Season Two episode is probably the most successful The Simpsons ever got at being sentimental.
Memorable Line: “He says there aren’t any easy answers. I say, he’s not looking hard enough.”
When It Airs: Friday, August 22, 8:00 a.m. ET
What It’s About: Homer invents a cocktail that employs cough syrup and fire, which naturally turns Moe’s Tavern into a huge success. In 1991, you could tell a bar was a huge success when it turned into a parody of Cheers while also attracting Aerosmith. This is also the episode where Professor Frink’s machine says that the secret ingredient is “love.”
Memorable Line: “When liquor in a mug
Can warm you like a hug
And happiness is just a Flaming Moe’s away”
Homer at the Bat
When It Airs: Friday, August 22, 11:30 a.m. ET:
What It’s About: Mr. Burns loads up the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s softball team with the very best baseball players that would agree to do a cartoon show. Some of them—Roger Clemens, Ozzie Smith, Ken Griffey, Jr.—are still famous. Others are Steve Sax. This is probably the best deployment of special guest stars in the history of television, since all nine of them get great comedic moments and there’s still room for Mr. Burns to explain how good managers play the percentages. In much the same way that it’s hard to go golfing without quoting Caddyshack, it’s hard to be a baseball fan without occasionally quoting this episode. (And if you’d like to impress friends and family with your vast Simpsons knowledge, you could always crib liberally from this extensive history of the “Homer at the Bat” episode.
Memorable Line: “It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited.”
A Streetcar Named Marge
When It Airs: Friday, August 22, 4:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: Marge plays Stella in a musical adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire while Maggie is trapped in a daycare facility inspired by the works of Ayn Rand. Marge’s plot involves some implausibly convincing songwriting and Maggie’s takes a detour into The Great Escape. This episode caused some protests because it was unkind to the city of New Orleans, which apparently doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Memorable Line: “Perhaps we’re all a little mad, we who don cap and bells, and tread beneath the proscenium arch. But tonight, you will all be transformed from dead-eyed suburbanites into white hot grease fires of pure entertainment! Except for you, you’re not working out.”
Marge vs. the Monorail
When It Airs: Friday, August 22, 9:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: In the part he was born to play, Phil Hartman sells a monorail to the town of Springfield, with disastrous results. The only thing that could make The Music Man better is the addition of a monorail. And the removal of the song “Shipoopi.”
Memorable Line: “We’re twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. Just tell us your idea, and we’ll vote for it.”
Last Exit to Springfield
When It Airs: Friday, August 22, 11:30 p.m. ET
What It’s About: The workers at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant go on strike over a dental plan. This leads to the Internet repeating the words “Lisa needs braces” and “Dental plan” over and over again. This also features a very solid Dr. Seuss parody and the only good performance of “Classical Gas” ever seen.
Memorable Line: “If only we’d listened to that boy, instead of walling him up in the abandoned coke oven.”
Homer’s Barbershop Quartet
When It Airs: Saturday, August 23, 2:30 a.m. ET
What It’s About: In one of the show’s many flashback episodes, we learn that Homer used to be in a wildly successful barbershop quartet. The sheer implausibility of this premise does not detract from how much fun it is to see a Beatles parody that involves Barney, Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner, and Apu de Bon Marché (née Nahasapeemapetilon). Are you really up at 2:30 in the morning to watch an episode of The Simpsons? Luckily for you, season five is really good, so you might as well stay awake to catch the next one.
Memorable Line: “You beat Dexy’s Midnight Runners.”
“Well, you haven’t heard the last of them.”
When It Airs: Saturday, August 23, 3:00 a.m. ET
What It’s About: Sideshow Bob gets out of prison somehow, so the Simpsons are sent off to witness protection and it all devolves into the movie Cape Fear, except with more rakes and Gilbert and Sullivan. If it weren’t for episodes like this, nobody would ever know how great Kelsey Grammer would be at villainy. And since you’re still awake, why not keep things rolling?
Memorable Line: “What about that tattoo on your chest? Doesn’t it say ‘die Bart die?’”
“No, that’s German for ‘The Bart The.’”
“No one who speaks German could be an evil man.”
Homer Goes to College
When It Airs: Saturday, August 23, 3:30 a.m. ET:
What It’s About: As you might guess from the episode’s title, Homer goes to college. Then he insists on living out some kind of Animal House fantasy in spite of the fact that he’s not really a jock, and the dean isn’t nearly stuffy enough to justify “pranks” like Homer running him over with his car. This is barely relevant to the plot, but it’s important to note that this is the episode in which a bee bites Homer’s bottom, making his bottom big. You can keep watching great episodes from season five if you want, but they won’t be officially sanctioned by this list.
Memorable Line: Apart from the bee biting Homer’s bottom? “I am so smart! I am so smart! I am so smart! I am so smart! S-M-R-T!”
Itchy & Scratchy Land
When It Airs: Saturday, August 23, 3:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: The Simpson family go to the violentest place on Earth: Itchy & Scratchy Land. After parking in the “Itchy Lot,” they go to Searing Gas Pain Land and endure a number of very amusing jokes about Disneyland. Then it turns into a story about killer robots, which is always fun.
Memorable Line: “Come along, Bort.”
“Are you talking to me?”
“No, my son is also named Bort.”
Sideshow Bob Roberts
When It Airs: Saturday, August 23, 3:30 p.m. ET
What It’s About: Sideshow Bob returns, and this time he’s running for office. He quickly becomes mayor and even though he’s probably less corrupt than Diamond Joe Quimby, Bart and Lisa expose his evil schemes. On his way out, he derides everyone’s truth-handling abilities. (“You can’t handle the truth. No truth-handler, you.”)
Memorable Line: “No children have ever meddled with the Republican Party and lived to tell about it.”
Homie the Clown
When It Airs: Saturday, August 23, 8:30 p.m. ET
What It’s About: Homer becomes a traveling Krusty the Clown lookalike, which makes sense what with the two characters having exactly the same face. The power goes to his head (apparently looking like Krusty carries with it a lot of power in Springfield), and the mob gets involved, leading to an epic stunt in which a tiny bicycle gets eaten in one bite. Also, a mobster says “I’m seein’ double! Four Krusties?!” and that’s probably the funniest line in the history of television.
Memorable Line: You cannot top “I’m seein’ double! Four Krusties?!” You simply can’t.
A Star is Burns
When It Airs: August 23, 10:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: Springfield puts on a film festival, which reveals that Barney is a pretty good director. And Mr. Burns hires Señor Spielbergo (Steven Spielberg’s non-union Mexican equivalent) to create a very Burns-centric movie. Some people complain about the intrusion of Jay Sherman, the Jon Lovitz-voiced character from The Critic, but those people are wrong to do so. You hear me, Matt Groening?
Memorable Line: “I was saying ‘Boo-urns.’”
22 Short Films About Springfield
When It Airs: Sunday, August 24, 12:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: Having drained most of the humor out of the Simpsons themselves, the focus shifts to a variety of secondary and tertiary characters. Cletus and Professor Frink both get theme songs; Nelson gets his comeuppance; and Principal Skinner embarks on the least convincing series of explanations ever. Even Bumblebee Man gets his time to shine, but don’t hold that against the episode.
Memorable Line: “Well, Seymour, you are an odd fellow, but I must say you steam a good ham.”
The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
When It Airs: Sunday, August 24, 9:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: To parody cartoons’ tendency to add characters, The Itchy & Scratchy Show adds Poochie, a proactive, in-your-face, skateboarding party dog. This is one of the most quotable Simpsons episodes ever. Even if it only contained the words “Worst. Episode. Ever.” its place in history would be assured.
Memorable Line: “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet.”
This Little Wiggy
When It Airs: Monday, August 25, 11:30 a.m. ET
What It’s About: Bart and Ralph Wiggum become best friends for a couple of days and nearly electrocute Mayor Quimby. This doesn’t have as many great Ralph lines as season four’s “I Love Lisa” (airing on August 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET), but you ought to watch some episodes after the golden age. At least Ralph calls a rat a “pointy kitty.”
Memorable Line: “I found a moon rock in my nose!”
When It Airs: Tuesday, August 26, 9:00 a.m. ET
What It’s About: Lisa gets a horse and then it turns out all jockeys are magical leprechauns or something. By Season 11, weird things were happening in Springfield, but this was the weirdest for quite a while. At the time, it was considered the Worst. Episode. Ever. That’s probably no longer the case, but it’s still interesting episode to watch what happens when “Betcha didn’t see that coming!” is the writing staff’s motto.
Memorable Line: “I stand by my disappointed groan.”
The Simpsons Movie
When It Airs: Friday, August 29, 6:00 p.m. ET
What It’s About: Homer ruins the environment of Springfield, so it gets put under a dome. There’s also a pig. There are more laughs in The Simpsons Movie than in an average episode, which might be partly due to it being four times as long. Kudos to the FXX schedule makers for managing to air the movie at a reasonable time, since it seems like it could easily have shown up in the middle of the night.
Memorable Line: “Spider pig! Spider pig! Does whatever a spider pig does. Can he swing from a web? No he can’t. He’s a pig.”
Moe Goes from Rags to Riches
When It Airs: Sunday, August 31, 8:30 p.m. ET
What It’s About: It’s been a couple of days since you’ve watched an episode. Maybe, in defiance of all reason, you just remembered that the marathon is still going on. This is where airing all the episodes in order kind of breaks down, because everything in the first ten seasons is better than what’s happening now. You might as well get it over with. In this episode, we learn the long history of… Moe’s bar rag. As told by the rag. Really. And after this, there are still three seasons to go. Don’t worry, though. Soon the Simpsons World app will come out and you can watch episodes in any order you want.
Memorable Line: “Moe! Moe, wake up! I don’t want to meet someone worse than you!”