Woo Hoo! Every Monday this March, Nitehawk Cinema will be screening four episodes in its countdown of the 17 best Simpsons episodes of all time (according to Nitehawk, anyway). You can bet the recent episode featuring this Downton Abbey parody didn’t make the cut. Nitehawk’s pick for its #1 Episode screens March 31st, followed by the Simpsons Movie. Until then, we’ve enlisted the biggest Simpsons fan we know to compile a list of his own. We’ll compare lists at month’s end.
Having been a Simpsons enthusiast for two-thirds of my 36 years on this planet, I am honored to have been asked to compose this list. I realize that the point of such lists is to fight over them, and that impassioned criticism of my picks is inevitable, but I do wish to clarify something at the outset: by the Top 17 episodes, I simply mean the 17 funniest. The most endlessly quotable. The episodes that live in our memory. I’m not going for the most heartwarming episodes, or the ones that developed a certain character in some crucial way, and I’m certainly not trying to represent a wide range of the show’s 25 seasons (if you weren’t wearing flannel when it aired, it’s not here). I realize this sort of thing is subjective, though, so I apologize in advance for not including your favorite. Unless you’re pissed I didn’t pick the one where the Johnny Cash coyote is Homer’s spirit guide. Screw you, hippie!
#1) “Deep Space Homer”
Original airdate 2/24/94
It may not be as iconic as “Monorail” or “Last Exit,” but pound for pound, this was the most laughs that were ever packed into a single episode of TV’s greatest show at its peak. How come I can’t get no Tang round here? The time I could have met Mr. T at the mall. That horrible Planet of the Apes. In rod we trust. And of course, the meme-tastic “And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.” If you disagree, I’ll bash you good.
2. “Last Exit to Springfield”
Original airdate 3/11/93
Dental plan! From Mr. Burns as a rhyming Grinch to Homer channeling Curly Howard and spinning around on the floor, this episode is the brilliant tactician you thought it was, and it had us laughing so hard we thought we left the (classical) gas on. Give me five bees for a quarter, but if you’re planning on having me roughed up because it’s not #1, I prefer the personal touch you can only get with hired goons.
3. “Marge vs. the Monorail”
Original airdate 1/14/93
The world needs laughter, and from the greatest guy in history about to hit a chestnut tree to the escalator to nowhere, you can bet you’ll like the way Snrub thinks. Even if the ring has come off the show’s pudding can over the course of the last decade (or two), there will never be anything that donuts can’t do, and Batman will always be a scientist.
4. “Cape Feare”
Original airdate 10/7/93
Wha-PSSH. Mnyuhhhh. Wha-PSSH
5. “$pringfield (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)”
Original airdate 12/16/93
I said hop in, because this episode makes the Top 5. Not even a little incident involving the boogeyman could make me miss a rerun of this one, in which Homer has so many classic lines you almost forget it also has Milhouse getting smacked in the face by Robert Goulet’s microphone. It correctly predicted Roy getting attacked by a white tiger, so ever since, I’ve been looking out for Henry Kissinger’s glasses in the toilet.
6. “Treehouse of Horror II”
Original airdate 10/31/91
Look at me, I’m Davy Crockett! If you don’t think this is the best of the Halloween episodes, then you’re a stupid moron with an ugly face and a big butt and your butt smells and you like to kiss your own butt. I don’t want any zombie turkeys, and I don’t want to turn into a turkey myself, but I wish I knew where the 23 years since this episode aired went. They were right over… there…
7. “Krusty Gets Kancelled”
Original airdate 5/13/93
You’re gonna like it! Not only will the Gabbo episode tell us what to do, but it’s safe… and sexy. Oh, baby. It’s dead now, but when The Simpsons was at its best, every other sitcom might as well have been Worker and Parasite. Or Ray J. Johnson. Right, Sideshow Luke Perry?
8. “Treehouse of Horror IV”
Original airdate 10/28/93
Mmm, forbidden donut. Not even spending the rest of my life in an insane asylum could teach me some manners, or make me forget this ghoulish classic. It’s so sweet and tasty, and if you think you’re really brave, try watching it in… PENNSYLVANIA.
9. “Homer at the Bat”
Original airdate 2/20/92
You! Simpsons! Hit a home run! And so they did, with this all-star season-three gem that’s the reason I still answer “Mordecai Three-Finger Brown” to every baseball trivia question. It’s a party in your mouth and everyone’s invited, but it’ll be Barney’s fist in your mouth if you dare to suggest that Pitt the Elder was better than Lord Palmerston. We’re talkin’ softball, and we remember this episode the way our dads remember Ebbets Field.
10. “22 Short Films about Springfield”
Original airdate 4/14/96
May I see it? Everyone deserves to see this episode, even the very tall. The first and best of the show’s “experimental” episodes, it’s an odd one, but I must say, it steams a good ham. I knew that monkey was going to pay if I didn’t put it in the Top 10.
11. “Lisa’s Rival”
Original airdate 9/11/94
I had a ball watching this episode. Perhaps you’d like to bounce it? And to remember that this is also the one where Ralph bends his wookie, Bart alerts the FBI as to the whereabouts of our good friend Milhouse, and of course, Homer gets de sugar, de power, and de woman. The Simpsons crammed an incalculable amount of brilliance into this episode when you let your guard down for a second. And they’d do it again. To the beemobile!
12. “Homer and Apu”
Original airdate 2/10/94
Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart? The secret to writing comedy this good is just between me and you, smashed hat. If you think James Woods battling aliens on a faraway planet sounds like a good movie, just try using a napkin. Outrageous!
Original airdate 10/21/93
Even after a birthday serenade from the Ramones (“Go to hell, you old bastard”), Burns is miserable without squeezing hisBobo. This episode will cheer you up even if you’ve gone blind from eating 64 slices of American cheese or had to report for Much Worse Duty. If you can think of a better way to get ice, I’d like to hear it. Good day to you.
14. “Bart Sells His Soul”
Original airdate 10/8/95
If you like good food, good fun, and a whole lotta crazy crap on the walls, run like the wind (boy) to rock and/or roll with this season-seven treasure. The plot may be a bit cutesy, but rewatchit and the laughs will be back—in pog form!
15. “Whacking Day”
Original airdate 4/29/93
What’s a battle? Finding very many episodes better than this one, that’s what. Even if you are Evil Homer, you are EvilHomer, Barry White’s love for the sexy slither of a lady snake is in more good fun than an excuse to beat up the Irish. Just about the only thing wrong with this one is that they should have called it “Johnny Deformed.” Now where are the mountain bikes?
16. “Mr. Plow”
Original airdate 11/19/92
The waiting game sucks—let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos, orrewatch this beloved episode. Not even God himself (or Linda Ronstadt) could write a song you’ll remember longer than that famous jingle. You may not be fully bonded and licensed by the city, but if anyone asks, just tell them you were at a pornography store, buying pornography, and get ready for extended periods of getting it on.
17. “Homer Badman”
Original airdate 11/27/94
This is God… frey Jones, and you’ll feel like a kid in some kind of a store while revisiting this criminally undersung
This list is dedicated in advance to my baby daughter, who will be born next month. I love you very much, and I am very excited to teach you all about The Simpsons.