My Top 10 Simpsons Episodes

I’ve watched The Simpsons for over twenty years now. True, I’ve really scaled back on watching new episodes for the past couple of seasons, and I’ve also managed to almost completely stop using Simpsons references in everyday conversation.


But I still think Simpsons references. Whenever someone says they love something, I mentally add “… like I love Fresca!” Whenever someone talks about an odd food combo, I’m thinking “Nuts and Gum: Together at Last!” Whenever someone spazzes out, I wonder if they need to be put on Repressitol. Whenever someone mentions a bad movie, I think “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such films as Twilight and Bad Teacher.” Any time I have to enter my name into a video game, I have to fight, truly fight, the childlike urge to enter “THRILLHO”. And dammit… when am I gonna be able to buy a sixer of Skittlebräu?

Which is why I found it strange the other day when I realized that I rarely mention the show on this site. So let’s fix that! Without further Apu [groan!] here are my top 10 Simpsons episodes, in no particular order:

“Lisa the Greek”

Lisa the Greek

(Season 3, episode 14)

Plot: Lisa complains to Marge that Homer never spends time with her, so Marge suggests that she take an interest in something her Dad likes. Homer, who has lost scads of money on betting hotlines, asks Lisa to pick his games for him. Using her hippy-dippy logic, she picks winners almost constantly. Homer decides that every Sunday is “Daddy-Daughter Day”, and the two of them bond during football season. However, as the Super Bowl approaches, Lisa figures out that Homer’s only spending time with her for her picks. As soon as football’s over, Homer realizes the error of his ways and cancels plans to bowl with Barney so he can take Lisa hiking. Meanwhile, Marge dresses Bart up like a nerd, and he gets beaten up by the local bullies.

My Take: It seems odd, leading off with a “Lisa episode”. After all, Lisa episodes are known (and generally reviled by Simpsons fans) for being schmaltzy and preachy. But this is one of the good ones – the football bits had me in stitches, and the ending was sweet without being saccharine. In fact, this is the way all heartfelt episodes of The Simpsons should end.

“The Cartridge Family”

the cartridge family

(Season 9, episode 5)

Plot: Almost all of Springfield turns out to watch a soccer game between Mexico and Portugal. However, they quickly lose interest and riot out of sheer boredom. After the riot spreads throughout the town, The Simpsons decide to buy an alarm system. Homer balks at the cost and buys a gun instead, which terrifies Marge. Homer begins treating the gun like a toy, using it to get items off the roof or change the channel on the TV. Marge begs him to get rid of the gun, but he refuses, so she moves out with the kids. In her absence, Homer hosts an NRA meeting at the house, and members are shocked by Homer’s cavalier attitude about gun safety. They kick him out of the group, and Homer finds Marge and apologizes to her. He lies and says he’s gotten rid of the gun. But then Snake tries to rob the sleazy motel where Marge and the kids have been staying, and Homer pulls out his gun to try and stop the robbery. After Snake flees, Homer begs Marge to take the gun away, and we see her approach a trash can. She looks at herself with the gun in the can’s shiny lid, and she decides to keep it.

My Take: The interesting thing about this episode was how it offended people on both sides of the gun debate. NRA types objected to being portrayed as loonies (at the first meeting, they’re seen showing off ridiculous guns; after that they’re shown as responsible adults). Gun control advocates objected to the show “endorsing” gun ownership. But while a bit uneven, this episode still brought some serious laughs, from the Richard Gere blackboard joke to the name of the gun shop (“Bloodbath and Beyond”), to the fudgesicles argument (“fudge-sicles” or “fudg-i-cles”?), to the exchange with the alarm salesman (“But surely, you can’t put a price on your family’s lives? I wouldn’t have thought so either, but here we are.”), to Homer’s homemade sign for the NRA meeting (“Nachos! Rifles! Alcohol!”) to the Sleep-Easy Motel (where the burnt out neon spells out SL_E_-_AZY), to the repeated references to the King of England, this episode brought the funny. But what makes this a stand-out episode to me is the gun shop scene with Homer and Raphael:

Raphael: “Whoa! Careful there, Annie Oakley.”
Homer: “I don’t have to be careful, I got a gun.”
[Raphael takes the gun, then holds up several items in succession.]
Raphael: “Well, you’ll probably want the accessory kit. Holster…”
Homer: “Oh, yeah.”
Raphael: “Bandoleer…”
Homer: “Baby.”
Raphael: “Silencer…”
Homer: Mm-hmm.”
Raphael: “Loudener…”
Homer: “Oh…”
Raphael: “Speed-cocker…”
Homer: “Oooo, I like the sound of that!”
Raphael: “… and this is for shooting down police helicopters.”
Homer: “Oh, I don’t need anything like that… yet. Just give me my gun!”
Raphael: “I’m sorry, but the law requires a five-day waiting period. We’ve got to run a background check.”
Homer: “Awwww! Five days? But I’m mad now! I’d kill you if I had my gun.”
Raphael: “Yeah, well you don’t.”

“Brother’s Little Helper”

Brother's Little Helper

(Season 11, episode 2)

Plot: Bart floods the school basement, which leads Principal Skinner to have him diagnosed with ADD. Skinner says that Bart will either have to take a new medication called Focusyn or be expelled from school. Homer tries several tactics to get Bart to take the pills (including trying to use Tommy Lee, Brett Butler and Andy Dick as role models), but it’s Marge’s heartfelt plea that convinces Bart to start taking the drug. Bart quickly becomes a model student, even eclipsing a now-jealous Lisa. However, the drug makes Bart paranoid, and he becomes convinced that Major League Baseball is spying on the town. He goes to an army base, steals a tank and shoots down a satellite, which MLB has used to spy on the town. However, just as the spy data is revealed Mark McGuire shows up and distracts the townspeople by hitting a few balls.

My Take: A solid episode all around, and a good example of the subtle jokes that the show was once famous for. You can see Nelson watching an NC17 movie. Bart’s sombrero says “Old Mexico”. The paint-by-numbers animators appear to be Korean (just like the show’s real animators). Homer reads Chicken Soup for the Loser and Bart’s class is studying the poetry of Wordworth, Auden and Jewel Kilcher. There are also a few call backs: Homer looks like Mr Sparkle when he’s hopped up on Focusyn, and the female member of the Pharm Team has the same voice as the woman who works for the cell phone company (and also, the name is a play on “farm team”, a baseball term). But of course, the whole episode is a commentary on the notion of diagnosing normal kids as having some “disease” and giving them mind-altering medication. It was funny and thought-provoking at the same time.

“Homer at the Bat”

Homer at the Bat

(Season 3, episode 17)

Plot: It’s time for company softball season, and no one wants to sign up until Homer shows off his “secret weapon”: his homemade “Wonder Bat”. Thanks to Homer and his bat, the team makes it to the championship game. But then Mr Burns makes a million dollar bet with the owner of the Shelbyville nuclear plant and wants to hire ringers to ensure that he wins. Several MLB players are hired and given token jobs at the plant so they can play in the league. But then eight of the players have something bad happen to them. It all comes down to pinch hitter Homer… who is hit on the head with the first pitch, forcing a in run, securing the championship for Mr Burns and the Springfield Plant.

My Take: Hey… speaking of baseball! This was one of the funniest Simpsons episodes ever, and should be on any critics list of all-time best TV episodes about sports. Mr Burns wants to hire ringers, so he gives Smithers a list: Honus Wagner, Cap Anson, Mordecai Brown, Gabby Street, Pie Traynor, Harry Hooper, Nap Lajoie, Joe Jackson, and Jim Creighton. Not only are all these people dead, Smithers points out that Creighton died 130 years ago! So Burns lets Smithers pick modern players, and he gets Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey, Jr, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, José Canseco, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Scioscia. Only problem is, bad things start happening to the players after arriving in Springfield:

– Clemens visits a bad hypnotist and is “turned into” a chicken.

– Boggs gets knocked unconscious at Moe’s when he and Barney argue over the greatest British prime minister (for the record, Boggs said Pitt the Elder and Barney argued for Lord Palmerston).

– Griffey becomes hooked on a “nerve tonic” which gives him Sotos Syndrome.

– Sax is arrested by Springfield Police and charged with every unsolved crime in the city of New York.

– Smith disappears in the “Springfield Mystery Spot“.

– Canesco helps a woman rescue her baby from a burning house… then is asked to rescue her cat.. and her sofa… and her washing machine.. and her bed.. and her clothes… and…

– Scioscia, the only one who took his “token job” seriously, gets radiation poisoning from the plant.

– And, best of all, Mattingly is kicked off the team for refusing to shave his sideburns (which don’t actually exist, even though Burns told him to cut them multiple times).

Throw in references to The Natural, The Pride of the Yankees, “Talkin’ Baseball” (the “Talkin’ Softball’ spoof heard in the show was sung by original vocalist Terry Cashman, who says that he gets more requests for “Softball” than”Baseball” these days) and you have an episode that wins on every level. There’s even stuff for hardcore fans, too: Carl tries hitting with a piano leg, a reference to the Detroit Tiger’s Norm Cash, who once did the same against Nolan Ryan. This episode was just.. all kinds of awesome for sports fans!

“Marge vs. the Monorail”

Marge vs. the Monorail

(Season 4, episode 12)

Plot: When the City of Springfield comes in to $3 million, a town meeting is held to decide how to spend the money. Marge suggests fixing up Main Street, but her proposal is quickly forgotten when fast-talking huckster Lyle Lanley (Phil Hartman) shows up. Thanks to a slick song and dance number, he convinces them to build his monorail. However, Marge isn’t at all convinced by Lanley, so she visits North Haverbrook, a city he claimed to “put on the map” with a monorail. Meanwhile, Homer applies for, and wins, the job of monorail conductor. Marge rushes back from North Haverbrook – where the fake monorail has financially destroyed the city – just as Homer is launching the maiden voyage of the train. The controls fizzle out, leading to an out of control monorail. Homer, thinking quickly, grabs the metal “M” from the monorail’s logo off the side of the train and uses it as an anchor to save the train. Lanley, who left Springfield for Tahiti before the monorail left the station, is brutally assaulted by townspeople when his flight makes an unscheduled stop in North Haverbrook.

My Take: You didn’t think I’d miss a Conan O’Brien episode, did you? Because this episode is a classic on almost every level. To begin with, the much-missed Phil Hartman had a big role in this episode, and anything Hartman touched on The Simpsons turned to gold. And this episode showed how an animated series can do a spoof musical number the  right way (you listening, Seth McFarlane?). To this day, the opening line of Lanley’s musical number (a spoof of “Trouble” from The Music Man) just rolls off my tongue: “Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car Monorail!” And heck, that wasn’t even the only musical spoof in the episode (it begins with Homer singing a “personalized” version of the Flintstones theme).

“The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”

The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson

(Season 9, episode 1)

Plot: Barney is appointed designated driver at Moe’s one night, and Homer lends him his car to drive himself home. But Barney disappears for two months, returning to Moe’s with no memory of where the car is. Homer eventually gets a letter from the City of New York, saying that his car has been illegally parked at World Trade Center Plaza and will be thrown in the East River if it’s not moved soon. Homer and the family visit the Big Apple, and hilarity ensues.

My Take: This was an awesome episode! I love the fact that the gang at Moe’s is responsible for 91% of all traffic accidents in Springfield, and that Barmey can’t remember if his “guest lecture” was on a street corner or at Villanova. I loved Homer’s Entertainer-themed flashback, the Hasidic Jews Bart mistakes for ZZ Top, the call backs to the old (porn theatre filled) Times Square, the poking fun of “Ray’s” pizza, the fact that Homer prefers crab juice over Mountain Dew with his Khlav Kalash, the reference to Ben Hur during the carriage scene, and (most of all) the “Checking In” musical number spoofing Robert Downey, Jr. Sadly, thanks to Osama Bin Laden, this episode is rarely seen today, thanks to all the references to the World Trade Center, especially the “jerks in Tower 1” line. Also, this is one of the only “Simpsons go to a different city” episodes worth a damn, as later travel episodes seem to be thinly-disguised tourism brochures (like, say, the London episode).

“Deep Space Homer”

Deep Space Homer

(Season 5, episode 15)

Plot: The public’s interest in the space program has dwindled, so NASA makes plans to send an “Average Joe” into space. Just at that moment, Homer calls NASA to complain about the “boring” shuttle launch. NASA administrators think that Homer’s the type of person they want to send to space, so they track him down at Moe’s. However, Homer thinks he’s in trouble for the phone call, so he blames it on Barney. The NASA folks decide to try them both, although only one will go to space. At first, it appears that the now-sober Barney – who has recovered all his motor skills – is the top candidate. However when he toasts his selection as astronaut with a non-alcoholic drink, he reverts back into a drunken slob, so Homer wins by default. In space, Homer opens a smuggled bag of potato chips, which go everywhere in zero gravity. Homer flies around the cabin to eat them, but runs into a glass ant firm. The ants get into, and destroy, the navigation system. It’s proposed that the astronauts open a hatch to blow the ants out, but Homer wasn’t fully strapped in when the hatch was open. He grabs the door handle to keep from being blown away, but it breaks, meaning the door won’t close. One of the other astronauts, in a rage, attempts to push Homer out the hatch. However, Homer grabs a rob to defend himself and inadvertently closes the door, making it safe for the shuttle to return home.

My Take: Wow… where to begin with this episode? Of course we have the classic line “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords”, which has been spoofed by millions online and in real life. And then you have Homer losing Employee of the Month to an “‘inanimate carbon rod”.. and a similar rod saving the day at the end (and even ending up on the cover of Time magazine!). And of course, the references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Right Stuff are all kinds of awesome. But the most underappreciated line of the episode goes to American hero Buzz Aldrin, who, after seeing the chips fly out of the bag, says “Careful, they’re ruffled!”

“Marge Be Not Proud”

Marge Be Not Proud

(Season 7, episode 11)

Plot: Bart is dying to get his hands on the new, ultra-violent video game Bonestorm. But Marge says that it’s too expensive and too violent. Bart goes to the local Try-N-Save to check out the game, but Jimbo and Nelson plant the “shoplifting seed” in Bart’s mind. He puts the game in his coat and leaves the store. He thinks he’s free… until store detective Don Brodka stops him. Don calls Homer and Marge, but they are out, so he leaves a message. Don tells Bart that he’s banned from the store, and then lets him go. Bart races home and changes out the tape on the answering machine, so he thinks he’s safe. But then Marge says that they’ll be going to the Try-N-Save to have their Christmas picture taken. Bart tries to weasel his way out of it, and once inside the store he tries to hide from Don. However, he’s eventually caught, and Homer and Marge hear about his shoplifting. Marge, disappointed, excludes him from family activities like decorating the Christmas tree. Bart visits another Try-N-Save and has a nice picture of himself taken. When he gets home he stuffs it into his coat (because it’s a present for Marge) but she thinks he’s been stealing again. She makes him open his coat, and takes the bag… which contains the photograph and a receipt which says “Paid in Full”. Marge, overjoyed, gives Bart his Christmas present early, a copy of “the video game every boy wants”: Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. Bart hates the game, but is so happy to “have his mom back” that he tries to like it.

My Take: I don’t know why, but I love this episode. It’s just so gosh darn sweet! Sure, there was plenty of funny, including all the riffs on Mortal Kombat, the aforementioned THRILLHO on Milhouses’s game system, all the video game characters in Bart’s mind encouraging him to steal the game, Brodka saying “If you ever set foot in this store again, you’ll be spending Christmas in juvenile hall. Capisce?…. Well, do you understand?” and Bart’s reply: “Everything except capisce.” But the ending still gets me, when Marge opens up the bag and sees the picture with the receipt attached. I’ve seen this episode a hundred times, and still love it.

“Last Exit to Springfield”

Last Exit to Springfield

(Season 4, episode 17)

Plot: When the union leader of the Springfield Nuclear Plant mysteriously “disappears”, an angry Mr. Burns (who has been waiting for the leader to show up for a meeting) decides to revoke the union’s dental plan. At the same time, the Simpson kids are at the dentist, and it’s found that Lisa needs braces. Later, at a meeting of the “International Brotherhood of Jazz Dancers, Pastry Chefs and Nuclear Technicians”, Carl announces that their new contact drops dental coverage for a keg of beer. Homer is initially excited about the beer, but slowly realizes that he’d have to pay for Lisa’s braces without the dental plan. He tells the union members about the good the dental plan has done, so Carl suggests that Homer becomes the new union president, a measure that passes almost unanimously. At their first meeting, Homer mistakes Mr. Burns’ negotiating for sexual advances, and Mr. Burns is impressed by Homer’s resolve. But Homer is frustrated, and at another union meeting he tries to tell the union membership that he wants to resign. The membership, confused, call for a strike. Later, Mr. Burns turns off the power to the entire town, but finally agrees to restore power (and the dental plan) if Homer resigns as union president.

My Take: Another classic episode! There are hilarious references aplenty in this episode, from the Jimmy Hoffa allusion, to Mr. Burns dressed up as Buster Brown, to Homer as a mob boss from The Godfather II, to the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, to Citizen Kane, to Moby Dick, to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and to Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman. But the funniest single thing in the episode: Ralph Wiggum terrified by the Big Book of British Smiles. And yes, this episode had a “message”, and one I disagree with (I think unions are an outdated relic of a bygone age), but it was still handled well.

“Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment”

Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

(Season 8, episode 18)

Plot: Bart accidentally gets drunk on St. Patrick’s Day, and his drunkenness is shown on live local TV. The town, in an uproar, bans alcohol (which, it’s discovered, had already been banned for 200 years). Moe turns his bar into a speakeasy disguised as a pet shop, and Homer gets a new career as a bootlegger. He easily avoids Chief Wiggum, causing exasperated town leaders to fire him. Wiggum is replaced by U.S. Treasury agent Rex Banner. At first Homer, now known as the “Beer Baron”, eludes Banner as easily as he did Wiggum. But he has a problem: he’s run out of the confiscated beer he’d stolen from the town dump, so he starts building stills in the basement. Unfortunately, the stills start exploding… but just at that time, a depressed Wiggum comes to the Simpson house asking for any help they could give on the case. Homer realizes that his stills aren’t working. He also hates Banner and misses Wiggum, so he agrees to turn himself in to the Chief. Homer’s punishment is to be thrown by a catapult (presumably to his death). Marge tells the assembled townspeople that the law was unjust and should be repealed. Banner, as humorless as ever, begins to lecture the town about the evils of alcohol, but Wiggum cuts the line on the catapult, sending Banner flying through the air. Just then, the town historian notes that the Prohibition law had been repealed 199 years ago. Mayor Quimby asks Fat Tony if he can quickly get beer in the town, and Homer celebrates with the iconic line: “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

My Take: Probably my favorite single episode of The Simpsons! What’s not to love about this episode? The Irish blow up “John Bull’s Fish & Chips”! Banner spoofs Robert Stack from The Unouchables! The diner scene is an allusion to Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks! There’s just too much good stuff here to list, and not enough exclamation points to punctuate them! Of course, Homer’s “To alcohol!” line might be the most true thing ever said on the show, and I liked that Marge actually stuck up for Homer for once (even though Lisa, predictably, did not). But the lines! There are so many good lines in this episode:

Homer: “Awwww! It’s been St. Patrick’s day for hours and I’m still not drunk yet. Oh it’s never gonna be nine o’clock.”

Moe: “Listen up, this is the busiest drinking day of the year. Where are the designated drivers? Beat it! I got no room for cheapskates.”

Kent Brockman: “Top of the morning to ye on this gray, grizzly afternoon. Kent O’Brockman, live on Main Street, where today everyone is a little bit Irish, except, of course, for the gays and the Italians.”

Kent Brockman: “Ladies and gentlemen, what you are seeing is a total disregard for the things St. Patrick’s Day stands for. All this drinking, violence, destruction of property. Are these the things we think of when we think of the Irish?”

Chief Wiggum: “Ladies, please. All our Founding Fathers, astronauts and World Series heroes have been either drunk or on cocaine.”

Mayor Quimby: “Demand? Who are you to demand anything? I run this town. You’re just a bunch of low-income nobodies!”
Quimby’s Assistant, whispering: “Uh, election in November. Election in November.”
Mayor Quimby: “What? Again? This stupid country.”

Homer: “At first, I thought prohibition was a good thing. People were drinking more and having a lot more fun. Without beer, prohibition doesn’t work!”

Homer: “You see, boy? The real money’s in bootlegging! Not in your childish
Bart: “So many wasted nights.”

Homer: “We’re going out, Marge! If we don’t come back, avenge our deaths!”

Marge: “Why do you have so many bowling balls?”
Homer: “Ah, I’m not gonna lie to you, Marge.” [long pause] “So long.” [leaves]

Rex Banner: “Listen, rummy, I’m gonna say it plain and simple. Where’d you pinch the hooch? Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side?”
Barney: “Yes…?”

Rex Banner:”Are you the Beer Baron?”
Ned Flanders: “Well, if you’re talking about root beer, then I’m guilt-diddily-ilty as char-diddily-arged.”
Rex Banner: “He’s not the Beer Baron, but he sounds drunk. Take him in.”

Rex Banner: “Pet shop, eh?  Well, I just have one question. What kind of pet shop is filled with rambunctious yahoos and hot jazz music at 1 am?”
Moe: “Um…doh… duh… The best damn pet shop in town!”

Rex Banner: “Are you the Beer Baron?”
Comic Book Guy: “Yes, but only by night. By day, I’m a mild-mannered reporter for a major Metropolitan newspaper.”
Rex Banner: “Don’t crack wise with me, tubby!”
Comic Book Guy: “Tubby? Oh yes, tubby.”

Honorable Mentions:

“Homerpalooza” – For the scene when the tour bus come to the intersection for Cincinnati and Cleveland, and just turns around. Also: “Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”

“Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” – A good episode made classic by four words: “The Land of Chocolate”.

“E-I-E-I-D’oh!” – Tomacco. Enough said.

“Mr Plow” – Another classic episode with a solid story.

“Bart vs. Australia” – I fully support the work of the International Drainage Commission.

“Cape Feare” – Maybe the best Simpsons musical-themed episode.

“Weekend at Burnsie’s” – Weed, legal in Springfield? Yes, please!

“22 Short Films About Springfield” – Unless something’s changed, this is the only non-“Treehouse” episode of The Simpsons that explicitly displays the episode title.



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