Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 FAVORITES (20) - The Simpsons Best Episodes PART I

The Simpsons is one of the most influential Television shows of the last 25 years (if not of all-time). The show debuted on the (at the time) fledgling network known as FOX back in December of 1989. It was a spin-off based on the animated shorts creator Matt Groening produced in between sketches on the short-lived and underrated The Tracey Ullman Show, which was also on FOX. It has now been over 20 years and the show is the pre-eminent Primetime Animated series. It influenced everything from King of the Hill to South Park to Family Guy and many many more. It certainly is one of my favorite shows of all-time having grown up with the entire series (whose characters DO NOT age!!!). So, this week AND next week's 10 FAVORITES, in honor of over 20 years of The Simpsons (AND this being my 20th 10 FAVORITES!), I am listing my 20 FAVORITE episodes of all-time. This week, I am doing Part I: Numbers 20-11.

One special note about this (and next week's) post: Due to FOX's strict copyright rules regarding their TV shows, it was too difficult to get a hold of video clips of my favorite episodes. Therefore, I decided to use pictures from my favorite episodes. And to not anger the FOX legal gods further: All photos are the property of the FOX Broadcasting Company and are reproduced for informational purposes only.

With that said, here are:


Season 9, Original Airdate: September 28, 1997
Principal Skinner is being celebrated by the Springfield Elementary school for his years of service until the party is interrupted by a man who is the REAL Seymour Skinner (voiced by Martin Sheen). It turns out that the real Skinner was the fake Skinner's commander in Vietnam and was thought to be M.I.A., so fake Skinner took his identity to spare Mrs. Skinner the pain of a dead son. It is a convoluted story and it makes no sense but it is absolutely hilarious especially when the rest of Springfield (including Mrs. Skinner!) are not pleased with the REAL Principal Skinner and want THEIR Principal Skinner back (he had left to live in Capital City under is real identity, Armin Tamzarian). The episode also features my late mother's favorite line from the entire series. When Superintendent Chalmers is sneaking around Springfield Elementary to plan the surprise party for Skinner (that's the FAKE Skinner people), he says: "Man, the rod up that man's butt must have a rod up its butt!"

Season 4, Original Airdate: February 11, 1993
It is Valentine's Day and the Second grade is enjoying passing out Valentines to everyone, that is until Lisa notices that poor Ralph Wiggum is not receiving ANY Valentines. To be nice, Lisa gives one of her spare ones to Ralph and, of course, Ralph being Ralph believes it means more than it does. It is a very sweet episode where Ralph develops his little crush on Lisa (not Fatal Attraction-type crush, just cute little impish crush). The best part of the episode is the school's President's Day pageant where Ralph gives a dynamic performance as George Washington to Lisa's Martha.

Season 8, Original Airdate: May 4, 1997
After seeing a TV report on him and his self-reliant strength, Mr. Burns hires "self-made hero" Frank Grimes at the Nuclear Power Plant. Immediately, the humorless Grimes' strong work ethic clashes with Homer's, well, let's just say idiocy and Grimes declares Homer his enemy. The hilarity just builds and builds as the more Homer tries to impress and befriend him, the more Grimes can't stand him and (especially) the way everyone just tolerates Homer's buffoonery. I always saw the character of Grimes as a representation of the critics who complained about Homer and his idiotic behavior being too much for audiences to believe. HELLO, it's a cartoon AND the character is surrounded by nut-jobs who can be just as stupid as the writers want!

Season 8, Original Airdate: April 6, 1997
At nerdy Martin's birthday party (to which he invited his teacher and his principal!), both Skinner and Krabappel secretly begin a romance. When Bart discovers this and they begin to use him to hide their romantic meetings, he reveals to the entire school the torrid affair. Both Skinner and Krabappel have some of their best lines in this episode and the reveal of their romance is quite funny. The episode also has one of my favorite lines but it is really too hard to describe without a video clip. Let's just say: Watch the episode and wait for the part where Helen Lovejoy confronts Skinner and Krabappel about their affair. It is priceless!

Season 5, Original Airdate: February 10, 1994
Homer is asked by a Hard Copy-like TV program to help reveal the tainted food practices at the local Kwik-E-Mart. When all is revealed, Apu is fired and forced to live with the Simpson family (in true sitcom fashion!) until he gets back on his feet. The episode features Homer at his idiotic best, a great cameo by James Woods (who applies as Apu's Kwik-E-Mart replacement) and a catchy musical number Apu sings with the Simpsons ("Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?"). It also features a Lawrence of Arabia-style quest for Homer and Apu (hence the title) to India to visit a famed guru who will help Apu get his life back on track. Of course, with Homer in tow, things don't quite work out that way.

Season 9, Original Airdate: September 21, 1997
Local drunk Barney is unfortunately (for him) chosen to be the designated driver at Moe's one night and, in anger, steals Homer's car and goes on a bender. Homer receives a fine from the City of New York stating that his car is illegally parked in Downtown Manhattan. Homer HATES New York City but the rest of the family is enthralled to go to the Big Apple. This episode has some of the best parodies (the Broadway show Marge and Lisa attend is Kickin' It: A Musical Romp Through the Betty Ford Clinic!) and Homer being constantly frustrated by the everyday life of New Yorkers (the Klau Kalash vendor!). This episode aired in September 1997, almost exactly four years before the horrors of 9/11 and it features (heavily) the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Since 9/11, this episode has been RARELY shown in reruns for obvious reasons.

Season 7, Original Airdate: January 7, 1996
Homer, Moe, Apu and Otto begin their own bowling team, but to get their winning team into a tournament, they need money so they con the money out of Mr. Burns. Burns, instead of crushing them, decides to join their bowling team: The Pin Pals. But there is one problem, Old Man Burns can't bowl. Burns is always funny when he tries to be a part of Homer's life, tries to be his buddy. And Homer, instead of being the complete moron he usually is, seems more like a typical sitcom father who is beleaguered by a frustrating boss (who apparently has leprosy and whose fingers are so flimsy they flap like paper when over an air conditioner!).

Season 6, Original Airdate: February 19, 1995
Bart places a crank call to a little boy in Australia and, it being a cartoon's version of Australia, this sends the ENTIRE country into an uproar. To smooth U.S. relations with the country Down Under, Bart (and the entire Simpson family) are sent to Australia so Bart can apologize for his wrongdoing. This episode is an irreverent and hilarious parody of Australian stereotypes (Knifey, Spoony!; A Prime Minister who lounges naked in a lake; etc.). Also, the Simpsons seem to work best when they travel. They've been to Australia, New York, D.C., London, Brazil, Peru, Japan, Canada, India, China, Amsterdam, France, Italy, Ireland (just to name a few!).

Season 9, Original Airdate: November 16, 1997
Apu, who is enjoying his full single life, is horrified when his mother arrives to force him to marry the girl he was promised to back in India, Manjula. To help him fend his mother off, Homer convinces him to pretend Marge is Apu's wife and hilarity ensues! It's a great episode because it uses a lot of the typical sitcom standards when there's a misunderstanding or a disapproving parent/in-law or a character has to lie about his or her life to someone (see Three's Company for all these tropes). It also established the character of Manjula, who, in end of the episode, becomes Apu's wife and they are now the parents of octuplet toddlers (they had them long before that Nadya Suleman did, but that's another episode!).

Season 8, Original Airdate: November 24, 1996
Bart accidentally destroys some property and Marge makes him work for the lady owner to make up for it. It turns out the lady uses her large Victorian manor as a House of Burlesque and Marge (along with Ned Flanders and Reverend Lovejoy) are none too pleased when they find out. Among this episodes best parts are the ways we discover the men of Springfield enjoying the house's many pleasures (several hilarious character bits) and an impromptu moment that became one the best musical numbers the series had to offer. When Marge and company want to destroy the house, Homer, Bart and the Madame (named Belle) lead a song titled "The Spring in Springfield" and it becomes a splashy, brassy Vaudeville-style musical sequence (this is where I wish I could have found a clip of the song on YouTube!).

Next week...PART II.

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