With all the sequels and “summer blockbusters” that have been released this year, perhaps the movie I’m most excited about comes out later this month: The Simpsons Movie.
I remember being 11 or 12 years old, living in Georgia, and my family gathering around to watch the Tracy Ullman Show on Fox in the late 80s … not because we necessarily liked the show (it had its moments), but because of the Simpsons clips intertwined in the show.
And ever since December of 1989, I’ve pretty much made it a habit to watch The Simpsons. For years, my Sundays have meant NFL football during the day, The Simpsons at night.
There’ve been 400-plus shows in the past 17 years, but I’ve picked what I believe to be my 11 favorite (Why 11? Why not?). I know I’m missing some … but scanning the show lists, these are the ones that really stick out to me. Enjoy, and feel free to comment on your own favorite episode.
11) Hungry, Hungry Homer (March 4, 2001)
Plot: When Homer tries to help Lenny by getting him a refund on his tickets for the Springfield Isotopes, Homer encounters the Isotopes’ owner Howard K. Duff VIII. The owner refuses to give Homer a refund but in his haste to leave, Homer discovers evidence that the Isotopes are moving to Albuquerque. Duff insists that they are not moving and he has Duffman drug Homer to cover up the truth.
Homer is shocked and attempts to alert the media to the plan, but Duff removes all traces of the evidence Homer found. The journalists dismiss Homer’s story and call him a liar.
In response, Homer stages a hunger strike in which he chains himself to a pole near Duff Stadium in order to force the owners of the team to admit they are moving to Albuquerque. He attracts a great deal of attention so the team decides to move him into the ballpark and exploit his popularity using the name “Hungry, Hungry Homer.”
My favorite scene: This episode if full of sight gags, and Homer says my wife’s and my favorite line, “I’m sooo hungee…” while on a hunger strike. It’s a line Jennifer and I use constantly when we’re hungry now.
10) Bart’s Comet (Feb. 5, 1995)
Plot: Bart, while on detention and forced to go star gazing with Principal Skinner, tampers with the telescope and accidentally locates a comet, which he is credited with the discovery of, after phoning the coordinates in to the local observatory.
Bart earns praise for discovering a new comet. Even the school nerds, the “Superfriends”, invite him to have lunch with them. However, his praise is dashed when scientists discover that the comet is heading straight for Springfield.
Springfield is left with only six hours before impact. Congress proposes a bill to evacuate Springfield, but it is defeated when another bill concerning taxpayer money being allocated to “the perverted arts” is added onto it.
One hour before Springfield is destroyed, almost everyone in town demands a place in a bunker in Ned Flanders’ back yard; however, Homer is unable to close the door and someone has to leave. After going through a list of who should stay several times, Homer says that the “world of the future” will not need left-handed stores and tells Ned to go. While everyone is trying to pass the remaining time, Homer feels guilty and leaves; all then do the same. As the comet enters the atmosphere, it burns up from the extra thick layer of pollution.
Bart and Lisa then become frightened, as the comet burned up to the size of a chihuahua’s head… exactly as Homer had predicted earlier. Everyone cheered and they decided to destroy the observatories in Springfield to prevent this from happening again. Bart and Lisa admitted that Homer was right about what will the comet look like in the end, and got scared. Homer said he knows, proving that he’s scared too.
My favorite scene: Springfield fires a rocket to destroy the meteor, yet it misses and destroys the only bridge out of town.
9) Homer’s Phobia (Feb. 16, 1997)
Plot: Needing money for a new clothes dryer, the Simpson family visits “Cockamamie’s”, an offbeat antique shop, hoping that it will purchase one of the family’s heirlooms. While there, Homer meets John, the antiques dealer, who explains that a lot of the merchandise is there because of its camp value. Marge hints that John is a homosexual, and when Homer finally understands he is horrified.
Homer’s attitude towards John changes completely, and he turns against him, refusing to join his tour of Springfield. The rest of the family join John and have a good time, and Homer is upset with the family upon their return. The rest of the Simpsons continue to enjoy John’s company, especially Bart, who starts wearing Hawaiian shirts and dancing in drag. This makes Homer ill at ease, and he soon starts to fear that Bart is gay.
Homer endeavors to make Bart more masculine by forcing him to look at a cigarette billboard featuring scantily-clad women, but this fails to work. Homer then escorts him to see a steel mill’s muscle-bound workforce, only to find that the factory in question moonlights as The Anvil, a gay disco.
My favorite scene: The scene at The Anvil (posted above).
8 ) Homer’s Enemy (May 4, 1997)
Plot: In an edition of “Kent’s People”, Kent Brockman tells the story of Frank Grimes, a “man who had to struggle for everything he got in life”. After seeing the show, nuclear power baron Mr. Burns is so touched that he asks his right-hand man Waylon Smithers to hire Grimes as his Executive Vice President.
Immediately, Grimes is demoted to Sector 7G where he must work alongside slackers Homer, Lenny, and Carl. Grimes takes an immediate dislike to Homer and is irked by his abrasive cheerfulness, poor work ethic, and general irresponsibility.
At the power plant, Grimes becomes increasingly annoyed by Homer’s antics, which include eating Grimes’ lunch, chewing Grimes’ monogrammed pencils, and ignoring basic safety warnings. Despite his frustration, Grimes rises to prevent Homer from drinking a beaker of sulfuric acid, dramatically slapping it out of Homer’s hands into a wall. A passing Mr. Burns misunderstands the situation and admonishes Grimes for destroying the wall and spilling his priceless acid. However, Burns is convinced by Smithers to give Grimes a second chance, albeit at a much reduced salary and status. An angered Grimes marches into Homer’s work area and declares that he is now Homer’s enemy.
Long story short, Grimes dies at the end, and Homer is still loved by everybody.
Why I liked it: Homer snoring at Grimey’s funeral, and Lenny proclaiming, “That’s our Homer!” … man, what a dark episode.
7) Homer at the Bat (Feb. 20, 1992)
Plot: The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team has gone through their season undefeated, and in the championship game, they will face the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant. Homer is the team’s leading hitter, thanks to his homemade bat.
Mr. Burns makes a million dollar bet with Aristotle Amadopoulos, owner of the Shelbyville plant, that his team will win. To secure victory in the game, Mr. Burns wants to hire major league stars, but Smithers tells Mr. Burns that the players he picked are all dead. Thus, Mr. Burns orders Smithers to find some current superstar players and hires several Major League Baseball players to “work at the plant” and to play on the team, much to the dismay of the plant workers who got the team to the championship game in the first place.
However, the night before the game, all the players except for Darryl Strawberry have different incidents that prevent them from playing. Mr. Burns is forced to use actual employees, but keeps Homer on the bench because Strawberry plays his position. Homer does get in, though, with the score tied and bases loaded in the 9th inning, when Burns wants a right-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher. The very first pitch hits Homer in the head, rendering him unconscious and forcing in the winning run. Homer is then paraded as a hero, still unconscious.
My favorite scene: Bart taunts Darryl Strawberry with “Darrylllll, Darryllllll” … it brings a tear to his eye. Classic.
6) Homer’s Barbershop quarter (Sept. 30, 1993)
Plot: At the Springfield Swap Meet, Bart and Lisa notice Homer’s face on an album cover. Homer explains that he recorded an album in 1985.
Homer says that he, Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner, and Apu formed a barbershop quartet which quickly found national fame. Their career paralleled that of the Beatles in many ways. This development came after an agent, Nigel, offered to be their representative on the condition they expel Chief Wiggum, who was too “Village People.” When the barbershop trio returned to Moe’s, they heard Barney’s singing in a beautiful Irish tenor, and recruited him as the new member.
When Marge got a “Baby on Board” sign, Homer wrote a song inspired by the fad. “Baby on Board” appeared on their first album, Meet the Be Sharps, and became a number one hit. The group arrived in New York City in 1986 to perform at the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. The Be Sharps also won a Grammy for “Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word, or Barbershop Album of the Year”, and Homer met George Harrison.
The name of their second album was Bigger than Jesus. Unfortunately, while the Be Sharps were becoming popular, Marge had problems raising the children, and the Be Sharps also had their own problems. They had creative disputes, and Barney left the group in all but name. Barney’s girlfriend was a Japanese conceptual artist (bearing strong resemblance to Yoko Ono) the two recorded a song in which the girlfriend repeatedly says “Number 8” over tape loops of Barney’s belches.
The group lost its popularity and realized they were done after reading that they were no longer hot, according to the latest issue of Us Weekly’s, What’s Hot and What’s Not. The group ultimately splits up, with Principal Skinner returning to Springfield Elementary School, and Homer returned to his job at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant after a chicken named Queenie took his place. He ate the chicken.
After Homer takes another look at the album, the group reunites to perform a rooftop concert (similar to the Beatles’ famous rooftop concert) at Moe’s singing the number one hit “Baby on Board”.
My favorite scene: While it’s a hilarious episode, I love the ending … the B-Sharps gather on the roof of Moe’s to sing one last song, and George Harrison drives by in a limo, frowns and says, “It’s been done.”
5) You Only Move Twice (Nov. 3, 1996)
Plot: Homer, the second most senior man at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, is offered a job at the Globex Corporation. He informs his family that the new job pays better, but involves moving the family over to Cypress Creek.
After arriving at their new house, Homer’s new boss, Hank Scorpio, introduces himself. Scorpio, who seems like the perfect boss, takes a shine to Homer and places Homer as chief motivator in the Nuclear division. Homer decides to motivate his team by buying them hammocks and he visits Scorpio to ask where he can get some business hammocks. Scorpio begins to tell Homer of “the Hammock district” but is interrupted by some urgent business.
He turns to a screen and threatens the United Nations Security Council by blowing up a bridge and saying they have 72 hours. Homer remains oblivious to Scorpio’s evil genius tendencies, which include work on a giant laser and attempting to kill a “Mr. Bont,” presumably a spy of some sort. He is impressed by Homer’s ability to motivate his crew though, and flippantly adds another story to the new Simpson house as a reward.
Scorpio also listens to Homer’s secret dream of owning the Dallas Cowboys football team with interest and tells Homer not to lose hope — his dream may someday come true.
At dinner, Homer proudly tells of how well he is doing at work, but he discovers that his family wants to go back to Springfield. Dejected, Homer goes to visit Scorpio as US Special Forces assault Globex HQ. Homer asks Scorpio what to do and Scorpio advises that Homer should do what’s best for his family. Scorpio straps on a flamethrower and continues fighting while Homer sadly walks away.
The next day, the family returns to Springfield and Homer receives a present from Scorpio – The Denver Broncos. A recent newspaper on their doorstep shows that Scorpio now controls the US East Coast.
Favorite scenes: Aside from Homer wearing Tom Landry’s hat and wanting to own the Dallas Cowboys, I love the on-running gag of Scorpio’s controlling the world and Homer being completely obvlivious to it all.
4) Home Goes to College (Oct. 14, 1993)
Plot: It’s another lazy day at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, with the employees taking naps at their work stations (e.g, Lenny in a cot, Homer Simpson asleep at the control panel, Mr. Burns asleep at his desk, Smithers curled up like a dog at his feet).
Their naps are rudely ended when inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission show up to conduct a surprise inspection and evaluation of the plant’s employees. When Homer’s turn comes, Burns and Smithers claim that Homer is attending a conference in Geneva, Switzerland (they had locked him and two other marginal employees in the basement with a bee in a jar Smithers had told him to watch); however, Homer accidentally smashes the jar, chases the bee, and inadvertently shows up anyhow, with a bee sting to his buttocks. The inspectors place him in a test module and simulate an emergency situation.
Homer has no idea what to do and, after he panics, presses buttons on the module at random. He somehow manages to cause a nuclear meltdown, even though there was no nuclear material inside the van. A glowing green Homer emerges and wants to destroy mankind but quickly shakes off the radiation and becomes normal because it was lunch break.
Later, as a hazardous materials crew is working to detoxify the plant. The NRC officials tell Mr. Burns that Homer’s job requires college training in Nuclear Physics and that he must go back to college in order to keep his job. Mr. Burns tries to offer the NRC inspectors with a Let’s Make a Deal-type bribe, but the NRC inspectors give Burns an ultimatum: have Homer get properly certified (by taking a nuclear physics course), or face criminal sanctions. Burns reluctantly goes with the first option.
However, Homer is unable to coherently or intelligently complete a college application, and several colleges reject his admission request based on his picture alone. Eventually, Burns gets Homer enrolled at Springfield University.
Homer, a huge fan of the movie “School of Hard Knockers,” remodels his and Marge’s room to resemble a college dormitory. Homer also decides he does not like the college dean, Dean Peterson, believing him to be a crusty, conservative administrator (Peterson actually relates well with the students and is relatively young), and repeatedly tries to insult him.
At a later class, Homer continues to act like a know-it-all during the professor’s lectures. Eventually, the professor asks him to demonstrate a proton accelerator, but winds up causing his second nuclear meltdown in the same episode (possibly a series record).
At this point, Peterson takes Homer aside and recommends hiring a tutor. Homer is reluctant but agrees. The tutors turn out to be three computer nerds named Benjamin, Doug and Gary, who are determined to help Homer understand the material from his physics course, but Homer refuses to cooperate. Instead, he is determined to help them gain a social life by pulling a prank on rival college Springfield A&M University, as suggested to them by Bart. The prank involves kidnapping the other school’s pig mascot, Sir Oinks-a-lot. However, Homer causes the pig to become very ill after force-feeding it malt liquor, and Benjamin, Doug and Gary are blamed for the incident.
A remorseful Homer immediately invites Benjamin, Doug and Gary to move in with his family. However, their interests quickly disrupt the normal family routine (their modems using the phone lines, unplugging the TV to use a rock tumbler, causing Bart and Lisa to miss the only screening of the episode of Itchy and Scratchy in which Scratchy finally kills Itchy, etc.). Marge orders Homer to evict the nerds, leading him to try to get the three re-admitted to school.
Homer’s plan involves an attempt to run down Dean Peterson with his car, but have the nerds push him out of the way at the last instant. The idea being that Peterson’s life would be saved, and he would re-admit the nerds in a show of gratitude. However, the prank backfires, and Homer winds up running down the dean, seriously injuring him.
At the hospital, as Dr. Julius Hibbert contemplates surgery to replace Dean Peterson’s shattered hip, Homer admits he was fully responsible for the pranks, and asks that Benjamin, Doug and Gary be re-admitted. The dean (who again is not even angry at Homer for all the trouble he caused) agrees to lift the nerds’ expulsion and agrees to forget everything that has happened. The nerds thank Homer for his assistance and move back into their old dorm room.
Favorite scene: After reading the above, what’s not to like about this episode? My favorite scene happens when the professor announces an optional comprehensive review session after every lecture. Instead, Homer rushes from the lecture hall and chases around a pair of squirrels, giggling all the while.
3) Cape Feare (Oct. 7, 1993)
Plot: After receiving several death threats in the mail, Bart starts to become easily frightened. It is revealed that the writer is Bart’s arch-enemy, Sideshow Bob, residing in Springfield State Prison. The next day, Sideshow Bob’s parole hearing is held and Chief Wiggum and Selma give their testimonies, which Sideshow Bob’s lawyer rebuffs. Sideshow Bob promises that he is no threat to Bart and is swiftly paroled. When the Simpson family goes to watch a film, Sideshow Bob sits in front of them. They then realize that it was he who sent the letters.
The Simpson family try to protect themselves from Sideshow Bob. Homer goes to a shady-looking vigilante, who promises to run Sideshow Bob out of town, but actually pleads with him and fails. The next day, Sideshow Bob goes around Evergreen Terrace in an ice-cream truck, calling out the names of all the people whom he will not kill, and Bart’s name is not on that list. The Simpsons decide to opt for the FBI’s Witness Relocation Program and move to Terror Lake, with the new surname “Thompson” and a new houseboat to live in. However, unbeknownst to the family as they drive to their new home, Sideshow Bob has strapped himself to the underside of the car.
After arriving at Terror Lake, the Simpsons go inside their new houseboat and Sideshow Bob comes out from under the car. In doing so, he accidentally steps on the teeth of a number of rakes repeatedly, causing the rakes’ handles to swing up and hit him in the face. As Bart later walks down the road, he hears Sideshow Bob’s sinister voice and sees him extricate himself from the underside of another car. Bart runs home and warns his parents.
After nightfall, Sideshow Bob arrives on the houseboat and cuts it loose from the dock. After tying up the other family members, Bob grabs his knife and enters Bart’s room. However, Bart escapes out the window and tries to hide from Sideshow Bob, but he cannot jump off the boat, as there are crocodiles and electric eels in the water. He sees that they are 15 miles from Springfield and as a last request, asks Sideshow Bob to sing the entire score to the H.M.S. Pinafore. After giving a stirring performance, Bob advances on Bart again, but the boat runs aground and Sideshow Bob is apprehended by the police. He is taken away and the Simpsons return home.
Favorite Scene: Sideshow Bob sitting in front of the Simpsons at a movie theater, laughing hysterically and smoking a cigar (ala the movie, Cape Feare), only to see Homer smoking an even bigger cigar and laughing even more annoyingly at an “Earnest goes to Jail”-type movie.
2) Lisa’s Wedding (March 19, 1995)
Plot: The episode begins with the Simpson family visiting a renaissance fair. Homer eats eight different kinds of meat and an ashamed Lisa wanders off and finds a fortune teller. Although Lisa is at first skeptical, the fortune teller manages to name Lisa’s entire family and then tells Lisa of her first true love.
The story then shifts to an Eastern University in the year 2010 (at the time the episode aired, 15 years in the future) where a now 23-year-old Lisa becomes annoyed by a British student named Hugh Parkfield. At first, the two quarrel over a book in the library, but the pair eventually fall madly in love. The two discover they have a lot in common and Hugh invites Lisa to come back to his home in England so she can meet his parents. Hugh asks Lisa to marry him and she immediately accepts.
The next day, Lisa calls home to tell Marge of the news and Marge promises that she will prevent Homer from ruining the wedding. Marge is still a housewife, Bart works as a twice divorced building demolition expert and plans on going to law school. Maggie is a 16 year old teenager who apparently never shuts up (although she is constantly prevented from speaking in the episode) and Homer still works at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in Sector 7G with Milhouse as his supervisor. Lisa and Hugh travel to Springfield where Lisa is worried that her family will embarrass her and things get off to a bad start when Bart and Homer accidentally set a Union Flag on fire.
At dinner, Lisa plans on going for a wedding dress fitting and Homer decides to take Hugh out on the town to Moe’s Tavern. Homer presents Hugh with a pair of tacky cuff links with pigs representing a bride and groom. Hugh grudgingly agrees to wear them during his wedding. Later that night, Lisa apologizes profusely for the behaviour of her family and although Hugh says it was nothing, he stays up thinking about it.
On the day of the wedding, Homer talks with Lisa and she discovers that Hugh didn’t wear Homer’s cuff links. She finds Hugh and asks him to wear them. He agrees, but says that after the wedding they will return to England and never see her embarassing family again. She says that although she complains about her family, she still loves them. Hugh tries to reason with her “Lisa, you can do better than them, your like a flower that grew up in a pot of dirt” Lisa is outraged and calls off the wedding.
Back in the present once more, the fortune teller says that Hugh went back to England and never saw Lisa again and that there was nothing Lisa could do to prevent it – although she should “try to look surprised”. Lisa questions the fortune teller about her true love and the fortune teller reveals that although Lisa will have a true love, she “specializes in foretelling relationships where you get jerked around.” Lisa leaves the booth and finds her father, who brags about his day at the fair and Lisa listens raptly as the two walk off.
Favorite Scene: The “future” in 2010 (just three years away from us now) … everybody has futuristic houses, except the Simpsons, who’ve just built a rickety old wooden addition to their second floor.
1) Marge vs. the Monorail (January 14, 1993)
Plot: After being caught dumping nuclear waste in the city park, Mr. Burns is fined three million dollars. A town meeting is immediately held so that the citizens can decide what to spend the money on and Marge suggests using it to fix up Main Street, which is in a bad condition. The town shows enthusiasm for this idea and is about to vote for it when suddenly a whistle is heard and a smooth stranger named Lyle Lanley suggests that the town buys a new monorail. He leads them in a song, which convinces the town to buy the monorail.
Marge is unhappy with the town’s purchase, believing that they should have fixed Main Street and that the monorail is unsafe. While watching TV, Homer sees an advertisement that suggests he become a monorail conductor and Homer, claiming it to be a lifelong dream, immediately agrees. After an intensive three week course, Homer is named the monorail conductor. Still feeling uneasy about the monorail, Marge decides to visit Lyle Lanley and discovers a notebook that reveals Lanley’s true intentions. Marge immediately drives to North Haverbrook, which Lanley mentioned was a previous purchaser of one of his monorails. Once she arrives, Marge discovers that the town has gone to pot, and that those still living there deny that they ever had a monorail, despite the fact that the town is covered in advertisments for it. While exploring, she meets Sebastian Cobb, the man who designed Lanley’s monorail. He explains that Lanley cut costs everywhere when building it, and that the entire thing is a scam.
At the maiden voyage of the monorail, the entire town has come out, including Leonard Nimoy. Lanley grabs his money and jumps in a taxi, which takes him to the airport. The monorail leaves just before Marge and Cobb arrive (on the way back to Springfield Cobb made Marge stop over so he could get a haircut). At first things run smoothly, but the controls malfunction, causing the monorail to accelerate dangerously. Nobody can figure out how to stop the monorail and although a Solar eclipse briefly halts it, the eclipse ends and the monorail starts again. Meanwhile, Lanley’s flight makes a brief unscheduled stop in North Haverbrook, where Lanley is immediately attacked by a group of locals. Back in Springfield, Cobb tells Homer that in order to stop the train, he needs to find an anchor. Homer grabs the giant “M” from the side of the Monorail and uses it as an anchor. Eventually, it latches onto a giant doughnut, stopping the monorail and saving its passengers.
Favorite scene: Every one of them … but of course, the Monorail Song is tops. (Phil Hartman was a genius) … heh, heh, mule.
Plot synopsis from Wikipedia.com