“Bart the Daredevil”
“Bart Simpson and Skateboard”Twentieth Century Fox
In “Bart the Daredevil,” Bart embarks on a life of death-defying feats when he sees a daredevil perform at a Monster Truck Rally. This episode makes my list mainly because of Homer’s long, painful fall down the cliff… twice. “Bart the Daredevil,” like other early episodes, isn’t as much about Homer being a doofus, as a father whose trying his best, fails, and then redeems himself.
Air Date: Season 2, 7F06
“Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”
“Mr. Burns”Twentieth Century Fox
In “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” (translated means “Burns Selling That Power Station”) Mr. Burns sells the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to a group of Germans. While I enjoyed the humor of Homer and the other workers either sucking up to or alienating their new German bosses, the best part of the episode has nothing to do with corporate takeovers or job loss: Homer in the Land of Chocolate. Homer imagines a Land of Chocolate, in which he prances through, eating even a passing dog. He gets excited about a 50% off sale, when the chocolate is all free. Who wouldn’t love the Land of Chocolate?
Air Date: Season 3, 8F09
“Sideshow Bob”Twentieth Century Fox
In “Cape Feare,” Sideshow Bob is at his devious best. The Simpson family enters the FBI’s Witness Relocation Program to escape Sideshow Bob when he is paroled from prison. But Sideshow Bob, determined to get to Bart, follows them, which leads to a final showdown on a houseboat. Bart is only saved when his last request before dying is to hear Sideshow Bob sing the entire score to H.M.S. Pinafore. Sideshow Bob replies, with his usual wit, “Very well, Bart. I shall send you to heaven before I send you to hell.” Who else but Kelsey Grammer could play Sideshow Bob, with his rich baritone and elegant elocution?
Air Date: Season 5, 9F22
“Homer Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
I can’t think of another primetime comedy that appeals to all ages where alcoholism is the punchline. In “Duffless,” Marge asks Homer to give up beer (not “deer,” beer) for a month after he’s arrested while driving drunk. We see Homer attending AA-like meetings (Ned Flanders drank schnapps!) and riding Lisa’s bike when his driver’s license is revoked. The subplot involving Lisa using Bart as a hamster substitute in her science experiment brings home the rivalry between syblings. This is a well-rounded, hysterical episode, ending with Homer choosing Marge over beer.
Air Date: Season 4, 9F14
“A Fish Called Selma”
“Selma Bouvier”Twentieth Century Fox
“A Fish Called Selma” showcases the considerable talent of Phil Hartman as Troy McClure. Troy McClure’s agent (Jeff Goldblum) encourages Troy to be seen in public with a woman in order to boost his career. (There are rumors he does strange things with fish!) Troy starts dating Selma, and it pays off. Eventually they marry, but Selma, who really is in love, realizes that it isn’t working. But during Troy’s comeback, one of the best musical scenes of all Simpsons episodes has McClure starring in Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off! Sing with me, “I hate every ape I see, From chimpan-a to chimpan-zee.”
Air Date: Season 7, 3F15
“Maggie Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
Marge freaks out from the stress of taking care of her family, and sends herself to Rancho Relaxo. Lisa and Bart stay with Selma and Patty, and Homer is left with Maggie. I can relate to Marge’s breakdown. I, too, fantasize about ordering alcohol and a hot fudge sundae from room service while I’m relishing a bubbly bath. I also belly laugh at Bart giving his aunt a bunion rubdown. Yecch. But the scene I enjoy the most is after Maggie has crawled away from home, and Homer can’t find her. He phones the missing children hotline. When he’s put on hold he hears Player singing, “Baby Come Back.” Hysterical!
Air Date: Season 3, 8F14
“Homer: Bad Man”
“Groundskeeper Willie”Twentieth Century Fox
“Homer: Bad Man” originally aired in 1994, and sexual harassment was a hot issue in America. Only on The Simpsons could we watch an episode that begins at a candy convention and ends with Homer narrowly proving his innocence in allegedly sexually harassing his babysitter by showing a video made by a Scot named Groundskeeper Willie. (Homer only wanted to grab the rare Gummi Venus de Milo, which was stuck to her behind.) The end of “Homer Bad Man” provides great opportunities for trivia and the pause button: TV magazine Rock Bottom’s fast-scrolling list of corrections.
Air Date: Season 6, 2F06
“Homer the Great”
“Homer Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
“Homer the Great” is ridiculous, musical and features a wonderful guest star. Homer is inducted into the Stonecutters, a secret and exclusive group who have powerful means and influence. My favorite things about “Homer the Great:” The Stonecutters song (We do! We do!); the sly joke about Number One referring to the leader, who is played by Patrick Stewart, a.k.a. Captain Picard from Star Trek: Next Generation, (stay with me) who referred to his second in command as Number One; the birthmark that declares Homer is the Chosen One; and the secret tunnel that allows Homer to zoom to work, bypassing a huge traffic jam.
Air Date: Season 6, 2F09
“Ned Flanders”Twentieth Century Fox
In “Hurricane Neddy,” Ned Flanders’ home is the only one destroyed by a hurricane. It shakes his faith in God and sends him to the psych. ward. I love the crazy, dilapidated home Springfieldians put together for Ned, including the hallway that gets narrower and shorter, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. I also love seeing Ned go off his rocker, giving his neighbors a piece of his mind. It’s one of the only times we’ve seen him crack. The best scene, though, is the flashback to his childhood, where we get to see his beatnik parents.
Air Date: Season 8, 4F07
“The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show”
“Itchy and Scratchy”Twentieth Century Fox
Another favorite episode of mine from the eighth season is “The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show.” In this episode, Homer is hired as the voice of a new character on the “Itchy and Scratchy Show” named Poochie. Though Homer, and his writers, try to make the character cool and hip, Poochie is rejected. The entire story, though, is also played out as a new character, Roy, moves into the Simpson house. As Poochie is canceled and leaves Itchy and Scratchy to visit another planet, Roy leaves the Simpsons. The entire episode is a tongue-in-cheek take on the business of making cartoons.
Air Date: Season 8, 4F12
“Last Exit to Springfield”
“Lenny”Twentieth Century Fox
“Last Exit to Springfield” finds Homer Simpson the head of the union at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Because Lisa needs braces, he fights for the employees keep their dental plan. The episode is filled with great moments, such as Ralph Wiggum being shown “The Big Book of British Smiles” to get him to brush his teeth. Then there’s Homer’s “train of thought” when he hears Lenny shouting, “Dental plan!” and then Marge, “Lisa needs braces!” Mr. Burns asks, “Who is that firebrand, Smithers?” Why, it’s Homer Simpson, Union Boss.
Air Date: Season 4, 9F15
“The Last Temptation of Homer”
“Mindy Simmons”Twentieth Century Fox
In “The Last Temptation of Homer,” Michelle Pfeiffer guest stars as Mindy Simmons, the new employee at the power plant. Homer falls for her because she’s gorgeous, loves donuts and burps frequently. In the end, Homer realizes he loves Marge too much to cheat on her. Michelle Pfeiffer is so elegant and beautiful, that the irony of her playing a burping love interest for Homer Simpson is funny enough. Also, the thorny issue of adultery is tackled in a way only The Simpsons could. Though Homer is contemplating cheating, he’s a sympathetic and almost innocent character.
Air Date: Season 5, 1F07
“Life on the Fast Lane”
“Marge Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
When Homer gives Marge a bowling ball as a birthday present, Marge vows to take up lessons. (At Bowl-a-rama, she declines a lane saying, “No thanks, I’m just here out of spite.”) But she finds herself attracted to the charming instructor, Jacques (Albert Brooks). On her way to his apartment, she changes her mind, and my favorite scene of the episode takes place: In a parody of An Officer and a Gentleman, Marge marches through the power plant to find Homer. Then Homer announces, “I’m going to the back seat of my car, with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”
Air Date: Season 1, 7G11
“Marge vs. Monorail”
“Mayor Quimby”Twentieth Century Fox
“Marge vs. Monorail” has many scenes and moments that are considered classic by Simpsons fans. For instance, Lyle Lanley’s Music Man-inspired song and dance at the town hall meeting. Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) serving as Grand Marshall while confused Mayor Quimby exlaims, “May the force be with you!” And the line my husband frequently quotes to me, much to my chagrin, occurs when Homer is considering what to use as an anchor for the runaway train. As he is regarding Bart, Bart says, “Think harder, Homer.” There are too many sight gags to list, and seeing so many of Springfield’s characters is always fun.
Air Date: Season 4, 9F10
“Barney Gumble”Twentieth Century Fox
In “Mr. Plow,” unlike other episodes, Homer starts a business that becomes successful. But his snow plow business is so successful, his friend Barney starts one, too. The competition becomes too fierce, but in the end, their friendship proves to be more important than money. The crowning glory of “Mr. Plow” is the jingle Homer composes for his late-night commercial. What fan can’t sing, “Call Mr. Plow, That’s my name, That name again, Is Mr. Plow?” Who needs Linda Ronstadt?
Air Date: Season 4, 9F07
“Natural Born Kissers”
“Homer and Marge Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
Homer and Marge re-discover passion when they start making love in places where they could get caught. There aren’t many couples on TV who work hard at staying together. It’s heartening to see even if a cartoon couple dealing with the same issues everyone else does. My favorite scene is the one at the miniature golf course, with Ned, Maude and everyone else poking into the windmill, trying to retrieve a golf ball. Then, Homer and Marge flee, escaping in a hot air balloon. But during the ride, Homer winds up hanging onto the rope, being flown over Springfield in the buff. Naked Homer Simpson is always funny.
Air Date: Season 9, 5F18
“Milhouse Van Houten”Twentieth Century Fox
Milhouse is one of my favorite characters, and he gets more than his 15 minutes in “Radioactive Man.” In this episode, Milhouse wins the part of Fallout Boy in the Radioactive Man movie that’s being made in Springfield. But Milhouse finds that movie-making isn’t much fun. “Radioactive Man” focuses on the friendship between Bart and Milhouse, which is endearing and touching. The episode also pokes fun at Hollywood very effectively. To top it off, funny favorite characters Rainier Wolfcastle (“My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”) and Lionel Hutz (Phil Hartman) are also in the episode.
Air Date: Season 7, 2F17
“Maggie Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
“Rosebud” focuses on Mr. Burns, a favorite character on The Simpsons. Mr. Burns searches for a stuffed bear from his childhood, Bobo. Back in season five, Homer wasn’t as crass and shallow. When he discovers Maggie’s bear is Bobo, he lets her keep it instead of taking $1 million from Mr. Burns. Though Mr. Burns makes Homer’s life miserable, including depriving him of TV and beer, Homer never gives in. Finally, sweet Maggie gives back the bear. Also in this episode, we begin to learn Smithers’ true feelings for Mr. Burns, and suspicions about his sexuality are, shall we say, aroused.
Air Date: Season 5, 1F01
“Lisa Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
In “Selma’s Choice,” the family goes to the funeral of Aunt Gladys, who, in her video will, warns Selma and Patty that she should marry and have children before it’s too late. Selma takes it to heart, but when she takes Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens, she changes her mind. “Selma’s Choice” is an example of an episode of The Simpsons dealing with real life issues, big ones, in a humorous and touching way. Scene after scene is full of jokes, from the funeral home, to Selma’s experience with the dating service, to the entire disastrous visit to Duff Gardens.
“A Streetcar Named Marge”
“Marge Simpson”Twentieth Century Fox
“A Streetcar Named Marge” not only showcases the musical talents of composer Alf Clausen and the singing talents of the cast, but also the buff upper body of Ned Flanders. Who knew! Why this episode? Let me count the ways. Jon Lovitz as director Llewelyn Sinclair. Apu ending his scene as the newspaper boy on a high, sad note. Maggie’s covert liberation of everyone’s pacifiers at the Ayn Rand School for Tots. Genius all!