Thursday, January 27, 2011

10 FAVORITES (21) - The Simpsons Best Episodes PART II

Now we are in Part II of our 10 FAVORITES tribute to the greatest of The Simpsons episodes. I hope you enjoyed reading Part I of our Top 20 countdown, #'s 20-11, AND I hope that some of your favorites were listed there (and that many more of your favorites are listed below!). One more note about this list before I get into the Top 10. Some people have asked me if there are any of the Treehouse of Horror episodes listed in Part I since there were none in Part II. And to answer that: No they are not. And here is why: Now that The Simpsons have been on for over 20 years and they have been airing their annual Halloween episode since Season 2, there are enough of these episodes that they can exist as a whole 10 FAVORITES list unto itself. Also, because they technically fall under the TV trope of a "Holiday special" episode, the characters and their continuity (what little there is!) doesn't apply to those episodes. So, look forward to possibly another Simpsons-themed list when Halloween rolls around! With that said, on with our Top 10!

The photos used below are the copyright of the FOX Broadcasting Company and are reproduced on this blog for informational and identification purposes only.


Season 4, Original Airdate: May 13, 1993
A new Kids' TV star, Gabbo (a Charlie McCarthy-like puppet), becomes a sensation forcing Krusty the Klown out at the network. To help his career, Bart and Lisa endeavor to get the likes of Bette Midler, Luke Perry and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (but NOT Elizabeth Taylor!) to perform with him in a magnificent television special. This was a landmark episode, especially in FOX's advertising and handling of the series. It was a loving parody of the seminal 1992 episode of The Tonight Show in which Johnny Carson bid a fond farewell to his audience. Carson himself made a brilliant cameo appearance as one of the celebrities willing to help his old pal Krusty.

Season 5, Original Airdate: October 7, 1993
Sideshow Bob (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), the former sidekick of Krusty who was jailed for framing Krusty in a crime, is being released and has vowed vengeance on Bart Simpson, the boy who helped put him away. Therefore, the Simpson family must be entered into the FBI's Witness Protection Program to keep them safe from Bob's murderous clutches. There are so many good things about this episode: the fact it is a parody of Cape Fear (both versions), the whole Witness Protection thing (watch the FBI with Homer, classic!) and Sideshow Bob's rendition of the full score of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore (he even plays Buttercup!).

Season 7, Original Airdate: January 14, 1996
Evergreen Terrace is a-buzz as the home across the street is sold to a very famous couple: Former President and First Lady, George and Barbara Bush. Bush Sr. hits it off with everyone in the neighborhood except for two people: Homer and Bart Simpson (of course!). And a not-so-neighborly feud ensues. Homer and Bart are truly kindred spirits in addition to being father and son. The fact that these two people can annoy anyone is not that far-fetched and the fact that the person they annoy is Former President George H. W. Bush (who in The Simpsons world is just like Ned Flanders!) is an added bonus.

Season 1, Original Airdate: February 4, 1990
Bart is growing tired of being terrorized by the school bully, Nelson Muntz. With the help of Grandpa (and a surly gun shop owner) he begins to gather others to stand up to the brutish boy. This is the earliest episode to appear on this list (it was the 5th episode aired) and it was really where the fledgling show had really come into its own. Each character serves their purpose within this brilliantly written parody of the 1970 classic film Patton.

Season 8, Original Airdate: December 29, 1996
A hurricane approaches Springfield and, despite all the idiotic antics of the townspeople, everyone survives and nothing is destroyed, except for Ned Flanders' house. When the town gets together to rebuild his house, their shoddy work sends him over the edge and he throws an uber-tantrum/tirade. His anger disturbs him to the point where he checks himself in to a mental health clinic (apparently for the second time!). The idea that Ned Flanders is slightly insane has always tickled me. In this episode, we learn about Ned's childhood and we get to hear (through Ned's tirade aimed at the town) what people were thinking about the oafish behavior of many of the characters. Plus, this episode features Homer at his moronic best!

Season 6, Original Airdate: November 27, 1994
After a full (and adventurous) day at the Candy Convention, Homer takes the kids' babysitter home. But a misunderstanding (due to Homer's gluttonous behavior) leads to the babysitter accusing Homer of sexual harassment and a media firestorm is enacted. In the early 1990's, sexual harassment was one of the major phrases seen almost everywhere in the news media (e.g. The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill scandal, the William Kennedy Smith trial, etc.) and therefore it trickled into television. This episode played with that type of media coverage and lampooned it Simpsons-style (maybe a little too well!). But the most memorable part of this episode is when Homer (at the Candy Convention) steals the rare Gummi Venus de Milo and (in the style of an action movie) gets away from his pursuers. If you can find the clip online (possibly!), watch it because it IS a classic!

Season 7, Original Airdate: October 8, 1995
The plot is in the title: Bart sells his soul to Millhouse because he does not believe souls exist. He regrets his action as he begins to feel isolated and freakish by just the idea of not having a soul. The story of this episode seems very simple and the subject matter seems a little too serious for the writers to handle, but it is one of the best written episodes in the show's history (especially some of Lisa's speeches which are witty and philosophical). The best moment in the episode comes at the beginning where Bart plays a prank on the entire Church and makes them sing the Iron Maiden rock anthem "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," one of the longest songs (17 minutes in length!) in music history.

Season 4, Original Airdate: January 14, 1993
The town of Springfield is enthralled when a salesman comes to town and convinces them to spend newly earned money on a Monorail system. The one person against the idea, Marge, is suspicious of the salesman's antics and the system's bad business practices (Homer gets a job as the Monorail driver, 'nuff said!). Springfield may win the prize as one of the dumbest towns in pop culture history (Homer brings the town average down already!). It was inevitable that a sheister-salesman would take the town by storm and force them to forget about real problems. The salesman is so darn charming (voiced by the late Phil Hartman) and his Monorail song is so catchy (pure parody of the Broadway hit The Music Man!), it was just fate. This episode also features a great voice cameo by Star Trek alum Leonard Nimoy (but it's not the only time he made a guest appearance!).

Seasons 6 & 7, Original Airdates: Part I - May 21, 1995 & Part II - September 17, 1995
Mr. Burns has made an enemy of EVERYONE in the town from Springfield Elementary to the Retirement Home to Moe's Bar to his trusted assistant, Waylon Smithers (whom he fires!). At the end of Part I of this seasonal cliffhanger, Mr. Burns his shot by an unseen assailant in the dark...hence the title. I think I have made it very clear that The Simpsons are great at parody and this whole cliffhanger (Season Finale & Season Premiere) is a grandiose parody of the most watched television show in MY childhood, Dallas and their notorious "Who Shot J.R.?" episode. I won't spoil the ending for those who have not seen it but suffice it to say the writers magnificently used every TV trope you will EVER find in a Primetime Soap Opera (tropes that are STILL used today, I might add!).

Season 8, Original Airdate: January 12, 1997
A drunken Homer is stumbling home one night and happens upon what he believes is an alien lifeform. As his story gets around, two FBI agents (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny voice their characters from the FOX hit The X-Files) come to Springfield to verify the man's tale. As I said above, parody is The Simpsons strong suit. FOX was thrilled to have their two most popular shows cross paths and Groening's writers DID NOT disappoint in their delivery. From Anderson and Duchovny poking fun at their TV personas to Homer's behavior with them to the hilarious twist ending to Leonard Nimoy's brilliant cameo, everything in this episode is perfect. It is well-deserving of the #1 spot in my countdown!

It is interesting that a lot of my favorite episodes of the show come from Seasons 6 through 9 which aired from the Fall of 1994 to the Summer of 1998. Those years just also happen to be the years when I was in high school, which at that time seemed to be Groening and Company's target demographic. Despite that fact, these (Parts I & II) are THE TWENTY BEST EPISODES OF THE SIMPSONS. Next week, I begin AWARDS MONTH (in honor of the Academy Awards which announced nominations earlier this week) with a tribute to a surprise subject!

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