It feels like just yesterday that I was writing one of these lists, and yet here I am once again. But you know what? I could think of worse things to do.
Look: this is week 5 of these lists being churned out. If you don't know what we're doing yet, go back and take a look. It's all explained in the first week when we did numbers 100-91. You can find that list here. Then there's 90-81, 80-71 and finally 70-61. And now we're back here. So enjoy this week's article, won't you?
60) One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish (Season 2, Episode 11)
This is one of the oldest episodes on the list but also one of the episodes with the most heart ever. Holy smokes is it ever touching.
Cliff notes: The Simpsons go to a sushi restaurant (missing pork chop night, much to Homer's chagrin. I mean; they haven't missed pork chop night since the great pig scare of '87!) While there, Homer literally tries everything on the menu, including Fugu, the potentially poisonous blowfish. As a result, he fears he only has 24 hours to live so he tries to make the most of it. End of cliff notes.
What I find best about this episode is the question we've all asked ourselves: If we only had a set amount of time on this earth, what would we do with it? What would be priority? Would you bury the hatchet with an old rival? Who would you call to tell you loved them? Homer's list is a sort of grab-bag of things to do but it helps us understand what is most important to him in this world.
I'm really glad this episode made the list. And quite frankly, it pleases me that it was so high on the list. I wasn't expecting it to be in the top-50, but to be honest, I'm just glad it's here at all.
Top moments include:
- Bart and Lisa singing Shaft. It's so bad but so good. Every time I hear that song, now, all I can think about is them singing it.
- Poison, poison, tasty fish! all the way through Homer's 5 stages of grief.
- The entire scene with Homer and his dad.
- The Good Book on tape, narrated by Larry King.
- I love at the end, after Homer vows to live life to its fullest, when he's sitting on the couch watching bowling. I always appreciated that, but what I never picked up is that the bag of pin rinds he's eating is Pork Rinds Light. Hilarious.
59) Lisa's Sax (Season 9, Episode 3)
Another flashback episode, but such a good one. As much as I like the episodes where Marge and Homer are young and we see their budding relationship, I really dig seeing the kids grow up too. This episode is great for that because we see a younger, cuter Bart, along with the rest of his class and they're all essentially wearing their regular clothes, only they're smaller and cuter. And in one case, they still have crests on them, only not a skull;
I find it so fun seeing the journey the family takes when confronted with their problems. Bart is having trouble at school, Lisa is a budding young mind in search of mental nourishment. What do you do as parents? How can you help your kids? And that's where the sax comes in.
This is a very well crafted episode. It's full of jokes, it has a wonderful narrative arc, it's touching. It's no wonder it made the list.
Some of my favourite moments include:
- Homer: Now son, on your first day of school, I'd like to pass along the words of advice my father gave me.
Abe: Homer, you're dumb as a mule and twice as ugly. If a strange man offers you a ride, I say take it!
- Homer playing foosball against famous works of art
- Despite the fact that I haven't seen the show (yet), I love the Twin Peaks reference.
- Marge: So just when things looked their worst
Abe: I realized I could make money by selling my medication to Deadheads!
Marge: Grampa, what are you talking about?
Abe: Uh… Nothing...
- The Baker Street ending
58) When You Dish Upon a Star (Season 10, Episode 5)
This episode is great for so many reasons. For one, it's hilarious. Homer working as an assistant to Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger (and, to a lesser extent; Ron Howard) is hilarious. There are so many classic moments. But beyond that, it illustrates our absurd fascination with celebrity. Sure, it's cool that they make our favourite movies and there's something almost transcendent about them. But when it comes down to it, they're people just like you and me. When the town mobs to the house to just catch a glimpse of the three celebrities, it's such a statement on our society. But because it's done in animated form, it seems to be accepted.
Some of the best moments of this episode:
- The opening scene where Homer is Yogi Bear. The spoof is great but mauling Ranger Ned is hilarious.
- Boat Attendant: There you go. And I assume you read the boat safety manual.
Homer: Oh yeah. I couldn't put it down. Come on, boy, let's get me a six-pack.
Boat Attendant: Sir, you can't operate a boat under the influence of alcohol!
Homer: Oh, that sounds like a wager to me!
- Homer: Ronnie, are you also my close friend?
Ron Howard: (sniffing) Do I smell vodka… and wheat grass?
Homer: It's called a lawnmower, I invented it. You want one?
Ron: Yeah, okay!
Kim Basinger: And I'll have a rum and zinc.
Ron: Oooo, I'll have one of those too!
- Alec Baldwin running around yelling about the shuttle-cock.
- Homer: The only person that understands me is the guy who married Martha Raye. (I never got this joke, so I Wiki-ed Martha Raye to discover she had been married 7 times. And therein lies the joke!)
- Brian Grazer: What else you got?
Ron: Uhhh.. Well there is this one thing. It's about a killer robot driving instructor that travels back in time for some reason.
Brian Grazer: I'm listening…
Ron: Uh, okay, okay, well, you see… this robot he's got a heartbreaking decision to make about whether his best friend lives… or dies.
Brian Grazer: (indifferent) Eh
Ron: His best friend is a talking pie!
Brian Grazer: Sold! Howard, you've done it again!
(Hands Ron Howard two bags of cash as the Happy Days theme plays)
57) Krusty Gets Kancelled (Season 4, Episode 22)
There are a number of episodes where Bart and Lisa help out Krusty; they save him from a wrongful conviction, they reunite him with his father. There are plenty of good episodes with the three. This one has to be the funniest, best written and most star-studded of any of them. (The latter one, I can say for sure.) What I mostly love about this episode is it marks the second time Elizabeth Taylor has voiced a character on the show (although only the first time she plays herself…)
Without question, the three best moments of the episode:
56) Separate Vocations (Season 3, Episode 18)
This is a great episode. Right from the beginning it's solid. But as we go along and we see the role reversals between the two siblings, it gets even better. This is one of those episodes that it so well crafted, it doesn't need a B-plot so we just get to focus on the aftermath of the Career Aptitude Normalizing Tests (or… CANT) and what it does to the Simpson kids.
- Seriously. The first 3 minutes are some of my favourites in the entire series. It has, without question, my favourite 2-word Ralph Wiggum moment, as well as some great leading questions in the aptitude test.
- All of Bart's moments being on the side of the law are pretty great (including his stealth photos of Homer eating the cake)
- Bart as a witness, voice disguised as Steve Allen
- That last scene, where Bart takes the fall for Lisa, is incredible. It shows the human in him. His explanation to Lisa is so heartfelt, and then turns funny, but it shows what a big brother is willing to do to protect his little sister. It's so heartwarming.
55) The Front (Season 4, Episode 19)
So I was writing this one when my computer froze, causing me to lose 3 episodes that I had written about without saving, so I lost all that work. I've made it back here now, and won't be making the same mistake again.
This is a great episode. Unlike the previous episode on the list, this one has two very distinct plots. Plot A is obviously Grampa acting as the writer of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons, while Bart and Lisa are the ghost writers. But the B-plot, which I always forget is in this episode, is Marge and Homer's high school reunion when we discover he hasn't graduated high school. It's so, so good and so, so overlooked, that it makes sense why this episode nearly cracked the top-50.
- Lisa: That's as bad as the Itchy and Sambo cartoons of the 30s!
- Homer: I never passed remedial science 1A
Marge: And you're a nuclear technican?
Homer: Marge! Ixnay on the uclearnay echniciantay!
Marge: What did you say?
Homer: I don't know! I flunked latin too!
- Lisa: Poor old predictable Bart; always picks rock.
Bart: Good old rock, nothing beats that!
- Reunion Emcee: And now the award for the person who gained the most weight: Homer Simpson!
Homer: Oh my god!
Reunion Emcee: How'd you do it, Homer?
Homer: I discovered a meal between breakfast and lunch!
- With the exception of the first cartoon that makes Bart and Lisa decide to write cartoons, all the Itchy and Scratchy episodes are amazing. What's best is that generally we'd only get one or two per season. But a whole episode revolving around them is amazing.
- Grampa: Hello, son! I was just on my way home from work and thought I would stop by to say hello!
Homer: Ohhh, you have a job, eh?
Grampa: They pay me $800 a week to tell a cat and mouse what to do!
54) King Sized Homer (Season 7, Episode 7)
Holy crap does this episode ever make me laugh. Beginning to end, I think it's just tremendous. Who hasn't harboured some sort of dream of living alone? I know when I was freelancing, I spent a lot of time working from home. Let me tell you something: it. was. awesome. Now I have a stupid real job (if anybody from Lunchbox is reading this: Just kidding, I totally love my job! Please don't fire me!) and I have to go to a windowless office every day. OH GOD: I'M PART OF THE MACHINE!!!
Some highlights of this wonderful episode include:
53) Lisa on Ice (Season 6, Episode 8)
It's no secret that I love hockey. We have talked about it once on the podcast (as nobody seems to press us for hockey related topics) but I mention my love of hockey somewhat regularly. So any episode where there's hockey is an instant classic in my book.
I'm fairly certain that there was a plethora of Canadian staff writers for the Simpsons during their heyday. Every now and then there would be a joke directed at Canada which would just seem too cheeky if it weren't written by a Canadian. I actually figured this episode was written by a Canadian, because let's be honest: what American writer would write about hockey? Mike Scully, apparently. But he grew up in Massachusetts so that's pretty much like Canada. I'll let it slide. (Also, according to his Wiki page, he wanted to be a "musician or hockey player" so now we know why he wrote this episode.
Anyway. This episode is great:
- God. That last scene. So touching and then so, so funny.
52) I Love Lisa (Season 4, Episode 15)
Man. I haven't seen this episode in forever. We all know the one: Lisa feels bad for Ralph because he doesn't get a Valentines day card, leading to his broken heart and she decides to give him one. Well, that was ill-advised because he fell hard for her, and, well, the rest is history. A perfect combination of emotion mixed with jokes, this episode is truly fantastic. But there are a lot of things about this one I forget.
Some of the best parts include:
- Skinner's Vietnam flashback. I say this because anytime there's a Vietnam flashback, it's hilarious.
- I love that it's February, so... winter... but the kids are all walking home in short sleeves. I legitimately think they did the episode of heartbreak stories (Another Simpsons Clip Show - Season 6, Episode 3) so that Lisa could go on to explain "It was an unusually warm February 14, so the children walked home without jackets." and it would save face for some of the writers on this episode.
- So... Do you like... Stuff? (Seriously, I've used this line so often when I'm feeling particularly awkward.)
- Bart: You shouldn't go. It wouldn't be honest! I'll go disguised as you!
Lisa: What if he wants to hold hands?
Bart: I'm prepared to make that sacrifice.
Lisa: What if he wants to kiss?
Bart: I'm prepared to make that sacrifice.
Lisa: What if he-
Bart: You don't know how far I'll go. (Side note: what the hell was Lisa going to ask there?? What could a grade 2 child possibly want to do beyond kissing??? I don't think I want to know...)
- Principal Skinner: Good evening everyone and welcome to a wonderful evening of theatre and picking up after yourselves...
- The entire President's Day pageant. But seriously; how many times does Skinner complain about no money, and yet they can blow thousands on stage hydraulics and a fly tower to have a massive Mount Rushmore come in?
- Bookending the episode with Monster Mash is the ultimate icing on the cake.
51) Mayored To The Mob (Season 10, Episode 9)
As I watch this episode and chuckle, I am struck by how many times the town of Springfield has broken into a riot. I mean, two of the last three episodes have had major brawls in them. What a caustic town! But it's worth it, because you often get good episodes out of it. Like this one. Where Homer becomes the Mayor's bodyguard. After saving him from the aforementioned riot.
- Frink: Alright, step away foolish amateurs, just keep back, keep out of it. The role is mine. With the acting, and the groupies and the "Luke, Luke save me!" With the lightsabre and the vwing, vwing, vwinngggg.
Willy: That's not how you vwing! (Punches Frink and then the riot starts)
Quimby: Oh god, can't this town go one day without a riot?
- Quimby: Where are my bodyguards?
(Cut to bodyguards on hood of car)
Bodyguard 1: Is there anything fluffier than a cloud?
Bodyguard 2: If there is, I don't want to know about it!
- The instructor at Bodyguard Bootcamp aiming at the podium from a grassy knoll
- The concept of rat's milk is absolutely vile. But what a great idea for a storyline!
- Kent Brockman: Any words for Mayor Quimby?
Fat Tony: Hello Mayor Quimby, I would like to remind you that accidents will happen. Like the killing of you. By us.
- Homer: I'm going to take you somewhere you can relax and forget about gangsters.
(Cut to the outside shot of Guys and Dolls)
- Also, their production of Guys and Dolls is heinous and amazing all at the same time.
We are literally halfway through this list, friends. You know what that means, right? There are still 5 weeks until you discover what ended up being our top-10 episodes. I'm sure, now that we're halfway through, you'll notice that there are some obvious choices missing. So it probably means these episodes are higher up! But you're going to have to wait and see where the rest fall.
Thanks for reading the lists thus far. We hope they've been as much fun to read as they have been to write.