We at The Guys From have taken on one hell of an undertaking. Over the next 10 weeks, we will be counting down our collective top-100 episodes of, arguably, the greatest show of all-time; The Simpsons. Or at least it was until they didn't quit while they were ahead. (See Shaun's article about that topic here.)
How did we come up with a collective 100 episodes of all time, you ask? Simple. Well. Not simple. It was actually quite the process.
To start, Shaun and I both had to pick our personal top-100 episodes of all-time. According to Wikipedia, there have been 596 episodes of The Simpsons. This means we had to choo-choo-choose 1/6 of all the episodes that we consider our personal favourites and, of those 100, rank them in order of what we considered our favourites. This alone is no small task. It's like trying to rank your favourite children! There's way more pressure here than you'd think. Trying to figure out, "do I like this episode better than that one? Where would this rank? I like the beginning of the episode a lot, but it kind of falls off in the latter part. Does that make it higher or lower than this one which might not have as many overtly funny moments, but is actually more consistent throughout the entire episode?" It's a painstaking process.
So we both had our lists ranked 1-100. What we (read: Shaun) did after was take the ranking number and combined them to come up with a total number. (Pretend, hypothetically, I had an episode ranked 23rd and Shaun had it ranked 42nd, that would give that episode a total number of 65.) If I had an episode on my list, but Shaun didn't, (or vice-versa) we would add 200 points to it, to ensure that it didn't rank lower than something that was on both of our lists. Once all the points of all the episodes were tallied, we had a list. And it's a doozy. There are some absolute gems on here.
And so, without further Apu, (Oh, I have been zinged and I love it) I am proud to present part one of a 10-week series of articles on The Simpsons.
100) Flaming Moe's (Season 3, Episode 10)
What a way to kick off the full list. I also felt that the image was perfect. One of my favourite parts of this episode is the beautiful reference to the opening credits to Cheers so when I reached for Flaming Moe's images on the Googles and saw this, I had to put it up.
This is one of those episodes where there's really only one plot. Often in The Simpsons, you have story A and story B. This one really just focuses on Moe stealing Homer's drink recipe and getting massive, albeit brief, success.
I feel like it seems silly to rehash the plot of every episode on this list. There are people who can do it way better justice than I can. Plus I feel like most people who are reading this are likely Simpsons fans already, and I don't need to discuss the plots of the shows episodes because they know them already. Instead I think I'm just going to mention my highlights of the episode.
- The aforementioned Cheers reference(s) as there are several.
- Homer's Phantom of the Opera-esque reveal of the secret ingredient.
- "The secret ingredient is… LOVE? Alright, who's been screwing with my machine?"
- Hugh Jass
- "I'm sorry, Mrs. Simpson but you can't copyright a drink. This all goes back to the Frank Wallbanger case of '78. How about that! I looked something up! These books behind me don't just make the office look good, they're filled with legal tidbits just like that!" (God I love Lionel Hutz)
99) Bart Gets Famous (Season 5, Episode 12)
This episode is amazing for so many reasons. I'm not sure I can even go through my highlights of it (Which is probably false. I'm sure I'll be able to) but even going through the photos to try and find the best photo, I came across so many stills that made me smile. The best part about this episode is that they brought Conan O'Brien back to portray himself after being a staff writer for so long. And the best part was that he was such an ass as himself; "Sit perfectly still. Only I may dance."
Other highlights include:
- Anything to do with the box factory. Particularly just how excited Martin and Principal Skinner are when they're there. Also; Skinner's reveal of where they're going on the field trip is pretty great.
- The whole danish bit. I don't know why The Simpsons' writers had a thing for danishes but they did. Anyway, Kent Brockman refusing to go on until he has his danish and being promptly replaced by Bumblebee Man is just delightful.
- Homer's first after school job.
- "All you gotta do is say 'I am waiting for a bus.' Then I hit you with pies for five minutes."
"I am waiting for a bus?"
"Makes me laugh!"
- The end scene.
98) Homer The Heretic (Season 4, Episode 3)
This is one of those episodes that I'm not sure has any overtly "hysterically funny" type moments, but beginning to end, it's just so solid.
It's also interesting because of its take on religion. It begs the question; if somebody has faith but elects not to go to church, does that make them a bad person in the eyes of God? Homer didn't become an atheist, he just didn't want to leave the comfort of his house. And who can blame him? Which one of us hasn't had somewhere to be on a cold, blustery day and wished we could just stay bundled up in bed? I think Homer is on to something here, friends.
Other things I love about this episode:
- God has 5 fingers
- Homer's patented space-agem out of this world moon waffles. (Incidentally, there's a website called eatslikeaduck.com which, amazing reference notwithstanding, might be the best site ever, as they attempt recipes of things eaten on The Simpsons. They definitely tried this recipe. And then gave it a cromunlence (another amazing reference) rating of 7/10.)
- "I was born a snake-handler, and I'll die a snake handler"
- The whole fire scene is pretty great. Particlualry when the Flanders' house lights on fire and then is immediately extinguished by a miraculous rain shower (despite it being winter outside)
97) $pringfield (or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) (Season 5, Episode 10)
If there's one thing that making lists like this are good for, it's making me realize how great some episodes are and just how seldom I see them. This is one of those episodes. Remember way up there when I was talking about Flaming Moe's and said it was basically a one-plot episode, this one is kind of the opposite. It's so busy but everything ties in together; Burns opens the casino, and then becomes a Howard Hughes-style germophobe, Homer becomes a blackjack dealer (his life-long dream) Marge is addicted to gambling and Bart opens his own casino. Beginning to end, this episode is amazing. I'm actually surprised it didn't rank higher. And yet here we are! Anyway.
- "Things aren't as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for Philosophy majors - useful people are starting to feel the pinch."
- The Rainman reference (see above photo) is hilarious.
- The title alone is a phenomenal tip of the cap to Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atomic Bomb.)
- The James Bond moment at the blackjack table. It seems a lot of classic parts of this episode surround Homer as a blackjack dealer.
- Henry Kissinger's lost glasses.
- Lisa's "Floreda" costume for her pageant, and finally
- Milhouse getting thwapped with Robert Goulet's mic
96) Treehouse of Horror II (Season 3, Episode 7)
The first but (spoiler alert, I guess) not the last of the "Treehouse of Horrors". The first few seasons of Halloween specials were so good. This one was no exception. While I love the first one with the Raven (one of the many Poe references on The Simpsons) and all that, this one was so good in a different way. Maybe it was the way they got into the stories; under the old guise of saying too much candy before bed leads to nightmares. Regardless, it makes for a pretty great trilogy of shorts: Lisa's Nightmare which is the Monkey's Paw episode, Bart's Nightmare which is the one where he has telekinesis and finally, Homer's Nightmare where he has his head surgically attached to Burns' body. All three are just so classic.
Last Halloween season, I wrote an article about my top-10 THOH segments and two of these ones made the list. Because of that, I don't feel like I need to get into heavy details about any segment on its own. I will say that I do so love this episode as a whole.
A snapshot of highlights though:
- Lisa's costume. (Selected not for mobility, but as a salute to the noble Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest)
- "Tonight I'm going to suck…
- The changing of the name of "America" to "Bonerland"
- The football sequence (The ball is turning into a fat, bald guy!)
- The board with a nail in it. I reference this about as often as possible.
- And finally, that damned turkey sandwich.
95) Bart After Dark (Season 8, Episode 5)
This is one of those episodes I'm disappointed is this low on the list. I find this episode so unbelievably funny. You all know the one: the one where Bart starts working at that house that takes the brains out of zombies and puts them in the heads of other zombies, creating a race of super zombies. Or something like that.
The more I watch this episode (I've actually got it on as I write this) the better I think it is. This was one of those great episodes right in the middle of the prime of The Simpsons where the writers were on-point. Take for example the whole town meeting scene. (Before I go on, I feel like any episode where there's a town meeting is an instant classic. All the best things happen in town meetings in Springfield.) Anyway; when Marge starts talking about the house and people keep asking about its problems, they're all thinking architectural. The back-and-forth between the townsfolk and Marge is a thing of beauty. Then they follow it up with the slide-show. Beginning to end, it is without question, the best scene of the episode.
That's not to say the following aren't also great:
- We Put The Spring in Springfield
- "Sleazy entertainment and raunchy jokes will never be as popular as sobriety and self-denial."
- "Oh this isn't about Jesus is it??"
- Grandpa Simpson's entrance into the house (Principal Skinner's is also pretty great)
- Either scene at the beach
94) Selma's Choice (Season 4, Episode 13)
I feel like this is one of the more underrated of many Simpsons episodes. I always forget about this one. Of all Simpsons episodes I've seen more than once (in the sense that many of the new episodes have been one-and-done for me) I bet this is one of the ones I've seen the least. That's not to say I don't like it. I just never consider watching this one. (Also, it never seems to be on TV. Granted, it seems as though there's nothing but new, lame episodes on reruns now. But I digress.) After putting it on to have while writing (I find it's easier to write about an episode when it's fresh in one's brain) I have to say it's very well crafted. Each act is funny, well written and thorough. The first act being the trip out to Gladys' funeral, the funeral itself and then the postmortem with a terrific Lionel Hutz cameo. The second act is Selma trying to figure out a way to have a baby, whether it is with dating or artificial insemination. Much hilarity ensues there. Finally, the third act, is the much anticipated trip to Duff Gardens (which Homer isn't able to do because of his need to perpetually eat a leftover 10' hoagie that eventually gives him food poisoning.)
As the credits roll on this episode, I find myself really happy that it's on this list, for reasons including, but not limited to:
- The buzzing "The Buzzing Sign Restaurant" sign
- Hooray for Everything singing a kid-friendly version of "Walk on the Wild Side"
- Lisa's descent into madness and eventual incarnation into the Lizard Queen
- The Molemans:
93) 30 Minutes Over Tokyo (Season 10, Episode 23)
Man I love doing this. I get to watch old episodes I haven't thought of in far too long. For some reason, I always combine this episode with Fear of Flying and think they're the same ones. But I'm clearly wrong. This one is much better. I mean, where else would I have learned about solid gold dancers?
One of the reasons I find this episode so endearing is because of all the fun they have at traditional Japanese culture. It's not in a spiteful way, but in a way in which they show off the vast differences between the two countries. It also shows just how outrageous Japanese game shows can be (also, seeing Homer get whacked with piñata sticks is so fun.) It kind of makes me want to go to Japan and also be on a Japanese game show. I also love that it was George Takei who played the game show host.
The fun little moments in this show I enjoy:
- The Monopoly Guy being at the cost savings meeting
- Cool Ranch Soda at the $0.33 store.
- The toilet cam and the screams from the other room
- Ripping the Canadians who are afraid of scorpions. Any Canadian jokes in this show are funny to me.
- Moderate Godzilla-related turbulence and all the various other monsters wreaking havoc with the takeoff
All in all, it's a wonderful episode. Very cheeky, but very Simpson family oriented. I like when you see the family work together and the episodes are not just focused on one person. (Granted, I like those episodes too but I do like the ones when you see the family dynamic.)
92) The PTA Disbands (Season 6, Episode 21)
Holy crap, you guys. I love this episode. Right from the get-go it's an instant classic. The entire first scene at Fort Springfield is a great way to kick off the episode. Therein lies the beauty of The Simpsons writers in the shows' heyday. They could write a tremendous opening scene that just hooked you right in. There are so many clever jokes and one-liners that make it funny immediately. And damned if Bart isn't so good at manipulating both Edna and Skinner. Good lord. I can't stop laughing.
One of my favourite parts is the scene after the teachers announced the strike and seeing the fallout. Bart instantly goes into overload, Lisa and her strike preparedness kit, of course Milhouse's parents already hire a tutor, Bart in the construction site, and then the kids instantly causing traffic jams because they start playing right in the middle of the street. As the episode goes on, we find Bart and Lisa going further to each extreme as a result of all the time off.
- "Come on boys, those white flags are no match for our muskets!"
"And the Springfielders heroically slaughtered their enemies as they prayed for mercy."
- "Oh come on Edna, we both know these kids have no futures!"
* awkward silence *
"Haha, prove me wrong kids! Prove. Me. Wrong!"
- I love that the gym teacher (who we've never seen) is named Mrs. Pommelhorse.
- "Relax? I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent or… or… Only two synonyms? Ugh. Oh my god! I'm losing my perspicacity!"
- "Oh the taxes! The finger thing means the taxes!"
- Jasper as a substitute is just spectacular. Why do you think I used that as my title photo for this episode.
- Finally: the list of books in the classroom:
There are so many tremendous moments. I had to stop my list somewhere else I would have just quoted the entire show. If you want to see the other great moments, just track the episode down. It's worth it.
91) And Maggie Makes Three (Season 6, Episode 13)
Ahh, flashback episodes. Once a thing of such tenderness, now they're much harder to do, as the seasons evolve, so do the origin stories. When we first learned about how Homer and Marge met, it was in high school. But as the seasons went on, apparently Marge went off to college and Homer was in a moody grunge band. Remember? Now, I don't dislike that episode. As far as newer episodes go, it wasn't bad. But it definitely changed the history of Marge and Homer, which I didn't love. That said, they're still the same age now as they were in 1989, so of course they have to keep the story evolving. Which makes sense; I mean, if the characters aged at the same rate as real people, Bart and Lisa would both be older than me. (Seriously: if Bart was 10 in 1989 when the show first started, he'd have been born in 1979. Bart would be 37 right now. How crazy is that to think???)
Anyway. I really do like a few of the flashback episodes, including this one. They can just be so touching. I mean; there are some really funny moments in this episode (like Homer re-enacting the way a sperm fertilizes an egg.) But I think where the charm truly lies in this episode is in the heart. Homer quits a job he hates to do something he truly enjoys only to get sucked back into the power plant with the arrival of Maggie. And that last image:
It just kills me every time. It's a wonderful, wonderful episode. It tugs my heartstrings every time I see it. I'm also pretty sure, if I ever have a kid, it will get to me even more. Damn you Simpsons writers. Damn you.
Other parts that aren't necessarily as touching, but are still great:
- "Ohhh; every week there's a canal"
"Or an inlet"
"Or a fjord"
- The symbolism of Homer burning the bridge as he drives over it is just too delicious.
- "Hey Homer; Way to get Marge pregnant!"
"That's a little abstract, but thank you! I do love working at the bowling alley!"
- The way they cut to commercials at the end of the second act is amazing. It's so subtle, I didn't originally pick it up; "You can't expect us to sit here for a whole half hour without getting something to eat or drink!" "I'll stay but I'm going to think about products I might want to purchase. Ooo. Ahhh. Oh, I don't have that…" Commercial. Gold.
- Homer's marketing ploy. I don't know how shooting a shotgun into the air and yelling "bowling!" wasn't enough to attract new business!
Well friends; that's it. The first group of 10. This is the beginning but nowhere near the end. This has been a hell of a project thus far...
Shaun will be writing numbers 90-81 for next week. I have no idea if he'll follow the same format as me. To be honest, I don't think it matters. I also feel as though different styles might be fun to read going back and forth week to week. All I know is I'm glad he's taking next week. Knowing the length of time this took me, I'll be happy to have two weeks to get through it.
Anyway. I hope you enjoyed this week's list. Happy Wednesday, friends!