Monday, June 2, 2008

Top 5 Simpsons Episodes

Here it is. The List To End All Lists. A list that has forced me to expand into a Bonus Top 10 (really this is cheating and a cowardly move to make myself feel better about excluding nos. 6-10 from the top 5...but even crafting a top 10 was difficult. This list looks strikingly different from the Top 35 list I made five years ago; given, though, when I made that list I was going solely on personal favorites. This time I've tended toward episode greatness, and, moreover, some of my old favorites have waned for me. (I wish I had a magic Simpsons iPod that tracked how many times I've watched particular episodes in my lifetime--Lisa the Vegetarian, for instance, has to approach 50 [at least].)

Tim suggested we do this list, and it was gnawing at me so I am posting it now in the hope that he doesn't mind...

Ryan's Top 10

1. Lemon of Troy, season 6 - I took a good amount of time setting out my rankings, and I had no idea this would be my #1 when I set out to do this list. Now that I'm done, I like it in this spot. This episode has a strong plot from start to finish, back when Simpsons episodes used to have plots rather than being a collection of pop culture references (which, don't get me wrong, are still better than most of the crap on television and certainly network television). This is yet another of the greats from seasons 6 and 7, the two best seasons. It also has the best Milhouse lines from any episode: "I feel like I'm going to explode here!" "This is what it sounds like, when doves cry!" Other gems: "This whole raid was as useless as that yellow lemon-shaped rock over there. Wait a minute... there's a lemon behind that rock!"

2. Homer the Great, season 6 - Nos. 1 and 2 were a toss-up, and this one could easily be on top without much argument. The Stonecutters' episode, like Lemon of Troy, is perfect plot-wise, start to finish. It also has one of the best songs in the series: "Who controls the British crown, who keeps the metric system down? We do! We do!" Other random, non-comprehensive gems:

Bart: Dad, remember those self-hypnosis courses we took to help us ignore Grampa?
Homer: Do I ever! It's five years later and I still think I'm a chicken. I'm a chicken, Marge!

3. You Only Move Twice, season 8 - This will doubtless rate high on other people's lists (I believe it's Tim's #1, unsure of Dan). And for good reason. Without having seen anyone else's list, I'll defer to them to dissect the greatness of this one further. I leave you with my favorite quotes from the episode:

Hank: Hammocks? My goodness, what an idea. Why didn't I think of that? Hammocks! Homer, there's four places. There's the Hammock Hut, that's on third.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Hank: There's Hammocks-R-Us, that's on third too. You got Put-Your-Butt-There?
Homer: Mm-Hmm.
Hank: That's on third. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot... Matter of fact, they're all in the same complex; it's the hammock complex on third.
Homer: Oh, the hammock district.

(OK, my favorite scene is the end, with the Denver Broncos. Now I'm done.)

4. Bart Sells His Soul, season 7 - Contains, among many great lines, the classic "In the Garden of Eden," by I. Ron Butterfly. Also Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag, which has street signs indoors and sunglasses on alligators. ("Now I've seen everything!") Gems (this time from memory, so forgive a misplaced word or two): "You know Bart, Pablo Neruda said that laughter is the language of the soul." "I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda." Excellence.

5. Homer's Barbershop Quartet, season 5 - I completely left this one off my last list of 35, and I have no idea why--obviously a complete lapse in memory. (I did make that list when I was working an 11pm-7am at the dorm.) Anyway, this episode features George Harrison as a guest star and has more of the best music in the series. This is another strong plot episode... I probably wouldn't even being saying things like that if the last few seasons weren't so random. Gem:

Bart: [incredulous] Barbershop? That ain't been popular since aught six, dagnab it.
Homer: [reproachfully] Bart, what did I tell you?
Bart: [abashed] No talking like a grizzled 1890s prospector...consarnit.


6. Mr. Plow, season 4 - Brilliant, and the less said, the better, probably. "The forecast calls for flurries of passion, followed by extended periods of gettin' it on."

7. Marge vs. The Monorail, season 4 - Losing Phil Hartman in 1997 really hurt the series, as his episodes/characters are some of the best. Here he stars as Lyle Lanley, the monorail swindler who put Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook on the map. Leonard Nimoy also guest stars: "A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on." "Does anyone want to switch seats?"

8. Itchy & Scratchy Land, season 6 - "Barclay"..."Barry"..."Bert"... "Bort"? Aw, come on. "Bort"?
Child: Mommy, mommy! Buy me a license plate.
Mother: No. Come along, Bort.
Man: Are you talking to me?
Mother: No, my son is also named Bort.

9. And Maggie Makes Three, season 6 - This one's gained prominence for me recently--it's another textbook plot-driven episode. I actually taught plot elements with this one in school--you can pinpoint the climax, when Maggie grabs Homer's thumb. It's also probably the best "heartwarming episode" and, of course, hilarious. "My marketing plan attracted a record number of police and fire officials, but few stayed to bowl."

10. Bart of Darkness, season 6 - Season 6 is fucking brilliant. This is one of my all-time personal favorites, in addition to being an all-around great episode. "'Tis a fine barn English but sure 'tis no pool!" "D'oh'eth!" Also, and this is impossible to verify, but it has one of the best signs-as-a-running-gag: POOL SHARKS -- WHERE THE BUYER IS OUR CHUM. Another of my all-time favorite lines: "I understand. Let us celebrate our arrangement with the adding of chocolate to milk."

Honorable Mentions, in no order:
- Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious
- Bart After Dark (the burlesgue house)
- Bart Vs. Australia (an all-time personal favorite, but I figured the trip to Australia was gimmicky enough to force its exclusion from the top 10)
- Bart Gets an Elephant (damn it, this should probably be on there)
- The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show (good but again, gimmicky...self-admittedly, to be fair)
- Lisa the Vegetarian (another personal favorite and owner of one of my favorite lines (the BBBQ)
- 22 Short Films About Springfield

Dan's Top 5:

1. 22 Short Films About Springfield - I love shows that follow a bunch of simultaneous story lines, and the Pulp Fiction references are priceless. "Do they have Krusty Partially Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based beverages?" "Yeah, they call 'em 'shakes.'" "'Shakes.' Hmph. You don't know what you're getting!"

2. Mr. Plow - "And now we play the waiting game... eh, the waiting game sucks. Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!"

3. Krusty Gets Cancelled - A million cameos in this one, though the true highlight is Krusty's rendition of "Send in the Clowns." Gains points because I saw it a number of times when I was into the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

4. Homer Goes to College - Classic take on the Animal House-style college paradigm, complete with a dean who's a jerk, and Homer mentoring three lovable nerds. In true Simpsons fashion, no one learns anything by the end of the show.

5. Treehouse of Horror VI - Included almost entirely because of "Homer^3." I actually remember the hype, even if it might have been entirely in my mind, for the Simpsons being 3-D. "'s like...did anyone see the movie 'Tron'?"

Honorable Mentions (read: A Top 10 with no commentary): You Only Move Twice, Flaming Moe's, Dancin' Homer, Homer to the Max, Last Exit to Springfield.

Tim's Top 5:
As Ryan said, I was working on this...for far longer than I would like to admit, but thankfully discussing it with some co-workers finalized my list today.

1. You Only Live Twice - I don't think that this is even close. Every character is amusing in this, and given my contempt for nearly any episode that substantively involves Lisa, that's saying something. Hank Scorpio is a brilliant merger of Bond villains with the new-wave CEO, the Denver Broncos are the perfect ending, and Bart's remedial class is one of the best use of supplementary characters in the series. Marge's drinking problem, Otto's squatting...yeah, this is a flawless episode.

Just a few moments:
Scorpio: Sugar? Sure. There you go. Sorry it's not in packets.

Apu: Hello. I am not interested in buying your house, but I would like to use your rest room, flip through your magazines, rearrange your carefully shelved items and handle your food products in an unsanitary manner. Ha! Now you know how it feels!
Homer: Thank you, come again!

Kid: I'm from Canada and everyone thinks I'm slow, eh?
Other kid: I fell of the jungle gym and when I woke up, I was in here.
Another kid: I start fires!

2. The Mansion Family - The greatest line in all of Simpsons history (Bart: “what does that satellite do?” Homer: “it rebroadcasts major league baseball with implied oral consent, not expressed written consent, or so the legend goes.”) is the key to this episode, but nearly all the moments are worth celebrating. Monkey knife fights, man-cow weddings (Rick Santorum was right), box socials, that’s all I ask of an episode. It’s funny that I love it so, because it gets terrible reviews from the people on But these are also the deranged people who enjoyed The City of New York v. Homer Simpson.

3. Marge vs. the Monorail - Conan O'Brien's shining hour has Phil Hartman at his best, has a great cameo from Leonard Nimoy ("Didn't I?") and a lot of good Homer moments ("Do you want to change your name to Homer Junior? The kids can call you Hoju!") and an unforgettable opening of Homer singing the Flintstones theme. A solid rendition of The Music Man, but fantastic for those who haven't seen it, too.

4. Homer the Great - The Stonecutters song is hands down the greatest musical experience in The Simpsons canon...and I'm mentioning this right after Marge vs. the Monorail, so I realize what I'm saying. The whole episode is fantastic, and few moments are as funny as "attach the Stone of Triumph!"

5. The Trouble With Trillions - "Well, if it's a crime to love one's country, then I'm guilty. And if it's a crime to steal a trillion dollars from our government and hand it over to communist Cuba, then I'm guilty of that too. And if it's a crime to bribe a jury, then I'll soon be guilty of that!" Homer's discussions while wearing a wire are among the best moments I can recall, and the entire story is entertaining enough to warrant mention here.

Honorable mention: Okay, I lied, I said I had items from both lists on mine, but that was when 22 Short Films About Springfield (now on this list) was at #5. But I have to go with The Trouble With Trillions. Homer vs. the 18th Amendment - "To alcohol, the cause of -- and solution to -- all life's problems!" I've always wanted to be a bootlegger, Dave Thomas does some of the best guest work for a guy who's not particularly famous to non-Canadians; Homer's Phobia - which gets major credit for not only being educational, funny, and really ahead of the curve on embracing (or tolerating) homosexuality, but gets even more credit since I got to interview John Waters about it; Homer At The Bat - "You just don't know when to quit, do you Saxy boy?" aside from its failure to recognize that clemens' downfall should be pedophilia, it's a sterling episode that destroyed many a baseball career; Lisa’s Wedding – this is by far the best of the Lisa episodes, it actually warrants mention not on that curve; Mr. Plow - "Oh yeah, what president is on it?" "Uh...all of them, they're having a party...Jimmy Carter is passed out on the couch."

I have a lot to catch up on, so Seinfeld is tomorrow's goal, as well as coming up with some more future lists.


Roughly Speaking... said...

I actually have shows from both of your top fives in mine that I'd had up to #4 with a handful of others to consider. I'll post when I get home.

Vulpes Ryanis said...

I've long thought Homer vs. NYC was one of the worst episodes. Of course, I started thinking this around season 11 or thanks to the last few seasons it's probably only in the bottom 100.