685. Undercover Burns

Original airdate: September 27, 2020

The premise: Discouraged when he discovers his employees don’t like him, Mr. Burns goes undercover in the plant as an average Joe named Fred thanks to a robotic body suit, and ends up reveling in his newfound friendship with Homer and his chums.

The reaction: Any episode featuring Mr. Burns actually caring about what normal people think about him is a non-starter for me. The man relishes in being in an elevated position from lowly commoners, barely treating them like fellow human beings. Despite that, I think it’s possible to craft a story that believably shows Burns appealing for actual human connection, but from “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” to this latest outing, these episodes ain’t it, chief. The inciting incident setting Burns off is finding unflattering graffiti of himself in the dirty men’s bathroom, which shocks him (“They hate me!” he gasps). To rectify this, he does what any normal person would do: don an expensive robotic suit and ingratiate himself within the plant, posing as normal employee Fred Kranepool. Homer, Lenny and Carl quickly take a liking to him, and Burns quickly finds himself swept up in the new sensation known as friendship. But as usual with this show, none of it actually feels impactful, the guys become best buddies with Fred because that needs to happen for the story to continue, not for anything he really does to connect with them. But I guess that’s not the point, it’s about Burns experiencing friendship for the first time, which we see mostly over a montage, and then through turning the plant into a worker’s paradise, with health benefits, lunchroom options and extraneous benefits abound, running the company at the brink of bankruptcy, much to Smithers’ chagrin. Like I said before, an episode where Burns learns to be a decent person might work in another context. Perhaps he hears that creating a more comfortable work environment leads to happier workers, leading to greater efficiency, so Burns becomes more personable and giving only because the plant will be more profitable, but then grapples with having actual human emotion for once. Instead, here Burns loses himself in his alter ego (“There is no Mr. Burns. Only Fred!“) and ends up having to battle with its fractured exoskeleton like out of a Terminator movie or something. It’s pretty darn stupid. In the end, Burns still laments, “Why can’t I be loved and feared?,” but I still just don’t buy it. Again, Burns wakes up with a smile on his face each and every morning because he’s in a position of ultimate power above the average man. It’s a core part of his character’s DNA, and if you’re going to tweak it, you need to give me a compelling motivation, not because he saw some scribblings on the bathroom stall that made him go cry cry. A sad whimper of a premiere.

Three items of note:
– Over the summer it was announced that the show would no longer use white actors to portray non-white characters, so here in the season premiere, we have our first replacement, Alex Désert as the new voice of Carl. It’s not perfect, but he definitely captures the basic essence of the character, and presumably will get even stronger as he makes more and more appearances. He’s as close as Grey Delisle is as the new Martin. I don’t really want to talk a whole bunch about the larger issue of performers voicing outside their own races, but just like the Apu “controversy,” this whole thing shines a strong light on this series being really out-of-place still being around in 2020. I’d see people making lists of characters needing to be recast, and they were either incredibly short or padded with characters we haven’t seen in over a decade. Of the hundred or so majority recurring characters on this series, maybe 7 of them are non-white? And that makes perfect sense, this is a show from the 1990s that’s still creaking and scraping along three decades later. I guess recasting is a nice gesture… I guess? But at this point, in season 32, really, what does it matter? Outside of maybe Apu, the other major POC characters are secondary at best, and they don’t appear all that often, would it matter that much if Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer just kept doing the voices? For brand new shows like Big Mouth or Central Park having main black characters voiced by white actors, I get the problem, but in this case, it feels a bit more pointless, just because The Simpsons is an ancient dinosaur that no one really cares about outside of the few diehard fans still clinging to this show until the end, and dopes like me that have blogs bitching and complaining about it.
– Speaking of voices, I got incredibly sad hearing Marge speak for the first time. Julie Kavner’s voice has been on the downward spiral, but she just sounds so grated and tired here. I don’t know if this is a result of her recording from home rather than a studio, or maybe it feels “worse” because I’ve been watching the first couple seasons of the show lately, but it’s just a real bummer to hear. Kavner turned 70 this year, she’s been an absolute trooper through this entire series, and I assume she’s still in pretty good shape for her age, but Marge really is sounding more and more like her mother each passing season.
– Mr. Burns finally breaks from his Fred character due to Lenny openly mocking and insulting Mr. Burns in front of him, but there’s two issues with this. First, in all the time they’ve all spent together paling around, there’s no way the guys haven’t shit talked the boss in front of their new “friend.” Second, this all happens after Burns has given the employees everything they’ve ever asked for and more, so Lenny and everyone else should be loving him at this point.

Season Three Revisited (Part Four)

19. Dog of Death

  • The writing of the lottery commercial is absolute genius; “Why don’t you win the lottery too!” is the perfect manipulative call to action, unfazed by the presumably legally required disclaimer admitting the astronomical odds of winning.
  • Homer’s lotto fever gives us two hilariously delivered lines: first his slow build in breaking the news to Marge (“I have a feeling… that we may win… the lottery!!”) and later him yelling at Abe after he says he “knew” they wouldn’t win (“Why did you keep it a secret?!”)
  • Great newspaper subheadline: President, Rock Star to Swap Wives.
  • It feels very appropriate for the world of this show that the rich get richer when Kent Brockman wins the lottery, and on the flipside of this, we see the lottery commission’s gift to Springfield’s public schools: one eraser. Skinner is rightfully pissed and rants to camera before getting cut off. Again, Skinner is much funnier as an authoritarian dork than a spineless wuss.
  • I don’t remember seeing this episode televised, but that first act break cutting to black on a shot of a despondent Santa’s Little Helper is pretty damn harrowing. When we come back, Bart immediately assures, “He’s not dead,” but I can imagine that being a slightly worrying few minutes of commercials.
  • It’s not callous enough that the overly passionate vet tosses the recently deceased bright pink hamster in a waste basket, but it’s got a little basketball hoop attached to it. Fantastic.
  • There’s two great acting moments in the scene in the kitchen where Homer is talking about the wonders of Doggie Heaven. Bart isn’t following why his father is waxing on and on about this at first, but when he finally asks if this has something to do with Santa’s Little Helper, we see Lisa in the background make an exasperated expression, clearly pitying her brother being slow on the uptake. A few moments later, Bart is very distressed at the dawning reality of losing his best pal, but when he asks Homer, “You’re gonna just let him die?,” he covers the dog’s ears before he says it. What a wonderful, childlike touch.
  • “Fried chicken night will now be organ meat night. Ham night will be Spam night. And pork chop night will now be chub night.”
  • Of all the family members’ monetary sacrifices after SLH gets his operation, Lisa’s is the most on the nose: after ending her subscription to her by-mail encyclopedias, she ends up having to do a report on Copernicus, the very subject she would have gotten in her next installment. Later, she annoyedly grumbles to SLH, “Can’t you see I’m reading a third-rate biography of Copernicus I found at the bus station?” This is one of those lines that effortlessly communicates like three jokes at once. Not only was Lisa trawling for reading material at the bus station, and not only did she actually find a biography of Copernicus, what are the absolutely unlikely odds of that, but she’s pissed that she considers it a subpar biography. So great.
  • What a great collection of family photos.
  • Seeing LBJ hoisting the dog by the ears in the doggie nightmare filmstrip reminded me of the absolutely extraordinary video from earlier this year of Mike Bloomberg grabbing a dog by the snout in an attempt to either pet him, or shake his… nose? I could barely even remember the details, since it feels like his presidential run happened years ago at this point. Remember those halcyon pre-pandemic days when that despicable ghoul burned through millions trying to run for President? Those were the days, man…
  • Is Burns sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber a reference to the rumors of Michael Jackson allegedly doing the same? Either way, Burns’ half-hearted, slightly muffled “Release the hounds” always makes me laugh.
  • “You can pet the cat.” “What’s the point?” Well said, Homer.

20. Colonel Homer

  • All I can think of watching Homer squeeze his way into the compact spot is that parking lots across Los Angeles are full of super small compact spots despite the fact that barely anyone drives small cars.
  • Something interesting I noticed, Bart and Lisa are watching the Space Mutants Down Under movie from “Principal Charming,” in a piece of clearly reused animation, as the movie screen is adorned with the Aztec Theater border.
  • That is one unhappy pappy.
  • Lenny quietly singing The Carpenters to his ball is quite a moment.
  • A great blink-and-you’ll-miss-it joke is that right behind Lurleen in the line to record your own CD is the banjo player Homer drives by at the Spittle County line.
  • Yet another of Homer’s lifelong dreams, and certainly one more believable than wanting to be a country music producer, to eat the world’s largest hoagie, with hilarious photographic evidence.
  • “This studio has a lot of history. Buddy Holly stood on this spot in 1958 and said, ‘There is no way in hell that I’m going to record in that dump.’”
  • “It takes two to lie: one to lie and one to listen” is an immortal line.
  • After getting a chair smashed over his head at the Beer ‘N Brawl, good ol’ Yodelin’ Zeke goes on to get top billing on Yahoo! What a success story! Also, an excellent detail that we see him with head bandages from his earlier unfortunate incident.
  • This whole episode has always been strange to me. Firstly, Homer’s motive: he’s moved by Lurleen’s song, but I never quite buy him having the drive to want to promote and be her manager. Young Homer was big into Steve Miller Band and Grand Funk Railroad, but his dream was to be a country music promoter? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Secondly, Homer’s complete obliviousness to Lurleen’s increasingly overt advances and Marge’s understandable discomfort with the entire situation. Yes, that’s effectively the point of the entire episode, and it lends itself to some very funny moments (“No man has ever been this nice to me without… you know… wantin’ somethin’ in return.” “Well, I was going to ask you for a glass of water, but now I feel kinda guilty about it,”) but that kind of makes act two and three feel a bit stagnant. The Homer-Marge-Lurleen dynamic doesn’t change, it just ramps up to the inevitable conclusion, and considering I’m already not really on board with Homer’s country music dreams, there’s nothing for me to hold onto.  Plus it’s muddled exactly how aware Homer is in the situation he’s created: when she meets Lurleen, Marge says to Homer, “I thought you said she was overweight,” which implies Homer lied about her attractiveness to assaude Marge’s concerns. I also just feel so terribly for Marge through the whole show: Homer casually giving the family’s life savings over to produce Lurleen’s record creates a nightmarish scenario for her, where her family’s financial future is now reliant on the success of a woman aiming for her husband’s heart. And again, this emotional turmoil is all in service of a lifelong dream I just don’t buy Homer really being that driven toward. I dunno. There’s undoubtedly a lot of funny and memorable moments in this episode, but it always sticks out to me as one of the less stellar classic era shows overall.
  • When Lurleen’s intentions finally permeate Homer’s thick skull, he removes himself from the equation, but not without innocently asking for his own assurance, “Just so I don’t wonder, you would’ve gone all the way with me, wouldn’t you?” This is a pretty great moment; the whole episode is basically about Homer being so devoted to Marge and knows how lucky he is to be with her, but as we see with quick flashbacks, he was never really a hit with the ladies, and is just plain flabbergasted that another woman actually wants him.

21. Black Widower

  •  Has anybody watched Dinosaurs recently, does that hold up? As much of a fan I was (and still am) of the Muppets, I don’t remember ever watching it. In the commentary, Mike Reiss considers in a “character-for-character knock-off of The Simpsons,” which is why they made this joke, but I don’t know if that’s the case.
  • Way back when, Dead Homer Society did an analysis about the Daytime Emmys scene as a compare-and-contrast to some garbage new episode, but also to illustrate just how many jokes this show crams into every frame. Each of the nominees is accompanied by their own visual joke: Droopy Drawers is present with a serious expression and his very attractive plus-one, Colonel Coward is overcome with nerves, Pepito the cat needs no explanation, and Suck-Up the Vacuum is apparently the busiest star of them all, unable to attend due to a previous movie commitment. It’s less than ten seconds going through all this, and still you get all of that great material, and that’s all before we see Pepito cover his eyes in shame after losing the award. It’s tremendous.
  • I always laugh at the overcrowded cell scene (“Who used my chapstick?”) Kelsey Grammer’s read of “I don’t want it” when his fellow inmate hands him it back is just so dripping with revulsion it’s fucking perfect.
  • Bob playing the violin for the rocking conjugal trailers is yet another gag I didn’t understand until I was older.
  • What a great photo.
  • For our first dance at our wedding, I picked a cover of “Something Stupid” that was then-recently featured in a brilliant cold open on Better Call Saul. But of course I also remembered Sideshow Bob and Selma’s karaoke version of the song. Perhaps you could say it’s a questionable choice to use a song tied to two questionable TV relationships, but the Saul version is so beautiful, it was worth it.
  • The animation during Krusty’s telethon is just so damn good, I’d just need one minute long gif to feature the whole thing. Krusty’s manic excitement over seeing the donation total, his tearful reunion with Bob, and his absolute glee in getting to kick his old sidekick repeatedly in the ass again like old times.
  • “I told you, I got money. I bought stock in a mace company just before society crumbled.”
  • This is my favorite Sideshow Bob episode, and with it, it’s the greatest Kelsey Grammer performance ever. How he switches from unassuming to charming to duplicitous to murderous is just fantastic. My favorite bit is his absolutely unrestrained outrage on how awful MacGyver is. His plans for murder are already underway, but he momentarily thwarts himself due to his snobby views on pop culture because he just can’t help himself (“Just tell me you like MacGyver.” “Very well, Selma. I… I… I can’t do it! Even that car chase felt tacked on!!”)
  • Krusty fumfering about not being able to tell the pianist joke is a wonderful, almost adorable moment.
  • More great Bob acting, both in vocal performance and animation-wise, in the third act: I love how we see him visually clear his head after the explosion before he calls the front desk and acts surprised at what’s happened, and I equally love Bob’s dark reprise of “Something Stupid” as he approaches what he thinks is Selma’s torn apart corpse (“And then I went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like exploooooddde yooooouuu…”)
  • The sequence of Bart trying over and over to get Homer to understand the plan is so funny (I love the Science Made Very Very Simple book.) It’s also great how it’s all played out in slightly washed out colors, visually denoting it being a flashback.
  • “You can’t keep the Democrats out of the White House forever! And when they get in, I’m back on the street! With all of my criminal buddies!” It’s funny thinking back how this episode came out on the tail-end of twelve uninterrupted years of GOP leadership. Trump should use this clip in one of his campaign ads, where he could issue Bob a presidential pardon.

22. The Otto Show

  • It’s still very odd that this episode features Spinal Tap, a fictional band, as if they were a real rock group. I’m sure there are other examples of fictional characters showing up on the show in “real life,” but I can’t think of any at the moment. There’s so many great bits with Spinal Tap (“Each of us bought our own soccer team, how many Hungarios can say that?” “This is a rock concert, not a… splish splash show!”) but earlier this year, I actually watched This Is Spinal Tap and got kind of bored with it after a half hour. Clearly the writers of this episode were emulating the comedic writing of the movie in writing these characters, but for some reason my brain couldn’t make the leap from this show to the original source material. I dunno. I’m not a big fan of older comedies, it seems. I just watched Groundhog Day last week and I hated it. That and Ghostbusters. Comments are open to all hate mail on this issue.
  • Pretty smart shortcut on behalf of the animation team to have almost every single attendee of the concert have long, shaggy hair that covers their eyes
  • “We salute you, our half-inflated dark lord!”
  • Any time I hear the “Spanish Flea” music, I immediately think of Homer singing it.
  • Bart’s rockstar fantasy ending with him lying in a drunken stupor backstage is so great. Just like we saw a couple episodes ago with him daydreaming growing up to be a drifter, it’s always fantastic when Bart fantasizes about an otherwise horrific future and thinks it’s cool.
  • “Better fasten your seatbelts, little dudes!” “We don’t have seatbelts.” “Uhh… well, just try to go limp.” Child endangerment makes from great comedy!
  • I love how we see Skinner stuck at the intersection still unwilling to inch his way into oncoming traffic, he’s got a five o’clock shadow, implying he and his passengers have somehow been there for several days. Equally great is him angrily snapping at a singing Ralph.
  • Remember that notable Bible verse: Thy shalt not take moochers into thy hut.
  • This is the longest we’ve ever had Otto in the spotlight, and we actually learn quite a bit about him. He’s a hedonist burnout, he’s a talented musician, he had overbearing parents (“The Admiral and I don’t get along,”) and he loves books written from the vampire’s point of view. The only other plot I can think of involving him was his aborted wedding in the first act of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge,” where we actually get to see his parents. Otto’s not exactly the richest character the show has in its arsenal, but there’s enough established here they could have featured him in a couple different stories going forward. Why not? Instead, the show was content to reduce him to shock jokes involving drug use once they were allowed to show bongs and other drugs on-screen. Sigh.
  • Another episode with a great anti-moral: “If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing.” The sentimental music as Homer and Bart have a heart-to-heart just adds to the effect.
  • Homer is disgusted pulling a giant tangle of Otto hair from the sink, but you’d think he’d be used to clumps of hair down the drain given Marge’s enormous ‘do.
  • How weak are the walls of the DMV that Otto can crack them with his bare fists? Or is Otto just that freaking strong? (“Does this look like something that a sponge could do?!”)
  • In his triumphant return at the end of the episode, Otto runs down the Bus Stop sign and drives right through a four-way stop, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

23. Bart’s Friend Falls in Love

  • The Indiana Jones opening is probably the most extended and direct parody the show’s done so far, but despite repeating so many specific moments from the opening of Raiders (Bart rubbing his mouth before grabbing the jar, saving his hat before the garage closes), the sequence still feels funny on its own, and creatively reframes elements from the movie within the show (such as Homer subbing in for the giant boulder and the angry natives.) And most importantly, it’s still funny separated from the source material, as I remember loving it as a kid before even knowing much of anything about Indiana Jones.
  • Kimmy Robertson is great as Samantha, she’s got such a sweet and distinct voice that lends itself so well to voice over, and her timid and kind of awkward performance makes her feel like an ideal companion for a little loser like Milhouse. Best known for Twin Peaks (which I eventually really need to watch), I’ve loved her recently voicing the lead character in the indie animated series “Ollie & Scoops,” which is definitely worth a watch.
  • Great detail on Bart’s F paper, an additional note by Mrs. K: Very Poor, Even For You.
  • “Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What” is really one of the greatest bits of the entire series, and I’m not even going to try to dissect all the reasons why. The whole concept of it is a joke, Phil Hartman gives a great performance as always (his serious, extra-enunciation of “throbbing biological urges” always makes me laugh hard), and of course, the honeymoon scene. Not only is it scored with porno music, and since we don’t see it, your brain can fill in whatever awful thing you want as to what’s on the screen, we have the apathetic teacher of this horrified class having their childhoods simultaneously stripped from them smoking in the back of the room, flatly commenting, “She’s faking it.” Holy fuck, that’s like ten different joke layers at once. The icing on top of the cake is they play the porno music over the THE END card as well.
  • “Did you know that 34 million American adults are obese? Putting together that excess blubber would fill the Grand Canyon two-fifths of the way up. That may not sound impressive, but keep in mind it is a very big canyon.”
  • A weird reaction watching these shows ten years later: the Good Morning Burger looks really good, but I know if I ate that thing now, I’d get instant searing heartburn.
  • Marge picturing Homer as a hostage negotiator feels like the show’s first random cutaway gag. There’s been bits in a similar vein done previously, but those all seemed like a character recalling a memory, or showing something going on in another location. The Homer scene is born of a character thinking or dreaming about something completely unrelated to the plot, which can break up the flow of the show, but a lot of the ones the show did are really funny (the kaiju Curies from “Marge Gets A Job” come to mind.) This joke style of course would later be adopted by Family Guy, who would proceed to run it into the fucking ground.
  • I’m a humongous softie, so I really like the small moment where Bart tears up a bit after storming off from Milhouse and Samantha. He’s a little brat who usually takes his friendship with Milhouse for granted, but he’s just a kid, and that brief moment humanizes him so much.
  • “Let’s just say I’m a concerned prude with a lot of time on their hands.”
  • What a beautiful shot, it so perfectly captures Milhouse’s broken-hearted anguish, a feeling I’m sure we can all relate to. We also get our last deep-voiced Ralph line: “It’s recess everywhere but in his heart.”
  • When Milhouse and Bart get into their vicious fight, I like that the Van Houtens not only do nothing to stop it, but they promptly shut the door and just go about their day as normal.
  • “Disingenuous mountebanks with their subliminal chicanery! A pox on them!”

24. Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?

  • “No eating in the tank!” “Go to hell.”
  • “I owned Mickey Mouse massage parlors, then those Disney sleazeballs shut me down. I said, ‘I’ll change the logo, put Mickey’s pants back on!’ Some guys you just can’t reason with.” This episode is streaming now on Disney+!
  • In addition to Marge’s Mr. Burns’ portrait, one day I want to have a replica of The First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence to have in my office.
  • “This show is the biggest farce I ever saw!” “What about the Emmys?” “I stand corrected.” I thought this was a shot at a recent Emmy loss for the show, but actually, this episode aired three days before the 1992 Emmys where they lost to Will Vinton’s Claymation Easter special. The show had won the Primetime Animated Program category twice for their first two seasons. So where did this bitterness come from? Were they predicting their defeat and decided to air their sour grapes?
  • “Discarded pizza boxes are an inexpensive source of cheese.” Advice I’ve kept in my back pocket ever since I first heard it. Just in case.
  • I really love how Herb sings his old company jingle as a lullaby for Maggie. Also in that scene, I don’t quite understand why ominous music starts playing when he tells the baby, “You’re gonna make me rich again!” It’s not a misdirect, since there’s nothing else in the episode meant to imply that Herb has duplicitous intentions. It’s just kind of weird.
  • Danny DeVito is just as good in this episode as he was the first time around. Some of his greatest lines are nonverbal, like his annoyed “Nyah!” as he takes the drinking bird off the table, and his reactive noises to Homer’s kissing him when he tells him he bought him the vibrating chair. I also love the moment at the end of act two, where Homer tells Herb he’ll front him money, but only if he forgives him and treats him like a brother, and Herb just flatly replies, “Nope.” That “Nope” is clearly taken from earlier in the episode when Herb is deciding which train car to jump on to get to Springfield. It creates like an added meta layer for me, where Herb not only completely rejects Homer’s request, but he does so with a recycled line reading.
  • Nancy Cartwright also is fantastic as Maggie in the third act, doing all her little noises for the translator. Her concerned noises and her giggle at Lisa’s peek-a-boo are just so damn adorable.
  • It’s so funny how Herb’s baby translator is such a monumental invention, but is never seen or mentioned ever again. Surely the Simpson family would have put it to good use with Maggie, but nope, status quo is God.
  • Homer’s tentative “I never really hugged a man before” is weirdly sweet and vulnerable, and I love how he slowly gets more comfortable with it, and then of course, can’t contain his excitement when Herb gives him his big surprise. That whole scene provides the perfect, most satisfying closure after the ending of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Unlike Lurleen Lumpkin or Rabbi Krustofksi, I’m really glad the show never dredged Herb back up to make a decades-later reappearance. He technically did make a cameo over the phone in a season 24-ish episode, where Homer gets Herb’s answering machine where he says he’s poor again, but it was a really quick moment you could easily ignore. And I did.

(Starting next week, I’ll be pushing these Revisited posts to Fridays, since we’re fast approaching the start of season 32. I CAN’T WAIT.)

Season Three Revisited (Part Three)

13. Radio Bart

  • Lisa’s dancing is some pretty fun animation, and has been gif’d hundreds of times over, but I really love the reflections of the TV off Homer’s drool coming out of his mouth.
  • Just like the infomercial from “Saturdays of Thunder,” Homer is exactly the kind of mush-brained, uncritical blind consumer who would trust some garbage product being peddled on TV, as we see with him watching the Superstar Microphone commercial, where he falls hook, line and sinker for each and every marketing trick. This culminates in the great “supplies are limited” bit, where he frantically calls the number afraid their stock has run out, when we see the gigantic warehouse full of microphones.
  • Anytime I need to send a birthday video or gif to somebody, I always go for the Wall E. Weasel clip. You’re the birthday boy or girl indeed. Semi-related, there’s a great documentary on YouTube about the Rockafire Explosion, the robotic band of Showbiz Pizza, the forebearer to Chuck E. Cheese. It’s about both the creator and manufacturer of the robots’ rise and fall of their empire, and crazy devoted superfans who have bought old robots and program them to perform new songs in their backyard sheds. I have absolutely no nostalgic memories of any of this stuff, but I was fascinated by it all the same. Give it a watch.
  • Bart bamboozling Rod and Todd as the voice of God is such a wonderful scene. It also displays a great acting challenge for voice artists to perform their character putting on a different voice and still having it sound like the same person. Nancy Cartwright does this twice, with God and with Timmy O’Toole (although the latter ends up basically a slight variation of Todd Flanders).
  • After getting a glimpse of him in “Principal Charming,” Groundskeeper Willie makes his grand return here, feeling more or less like the rough and tumble Scotsman we know him as today: taking a swig from his flash before driving his slow tractor right in the middle of traffic (“Look out, ye horse’s arse!”)
  • “With this hook, and this hunk of chocolate, I’ll land your boy, and I’ll clean him for free.”
  • I mentioned in “Old Money” with its parade of Springfieldians all after Abe’s money, we’re finally at the point where the show has gotten a decent sized pool of recognizable faces to highlight. This gets showcased once more with the “We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well” benefit song, where we get to see Springfield’s brightest stars out to shine. It’s a bit of a hodge podge mix of local celebs (Krusty, Kent Brockman) and out-of-towners (Rainer Wolfcastle, the Capital City Goofball), but it’s still nice to see them all in one place for a good cause. I love Krusty talking about what they’ll do with the royalties from the song (“We’ve got to pay for promotion, shipping, distribution… you know, those limos out back, they aren’t free! Whatever’s left, we throw down the well.”)
  • This is the first of several times the “Axel F” music from Beverly Hills Cop is used, as Bart prepares to descend down the well. I always figured it was because it was from a FOX movie that they didn’t have to pay the rights for, but actually Beverly Hills Cop was from Paramount. Also, these early seasons of the show sit right in the middle of the gap between Beverly Hills Cop II and III (1987-1994), so it’s not like those movies were huge at the moment. I guess maybe they played on TV a lot, or were still insanely popular on video, that made them still notable enough to parody?
  • More shit I don’t think I noticed: among the items Homer brings Bart to toss down the well is a big fish tank along with two goldfish in a baggie of water.
  • Only on this show would the emotional climax of a parent reaching their breaking point and moving heaven and Earth to save their child, would said parent do so while imitating Popeye (“That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”)
  • “It’s an old fashioned hole digging! By gum, it’s been a while!”
  • Continuing the trend of mocking celebrities who were nice enough to do their show, not only do they have Marge tell Sting that Bart doesn’t even listen to his music, but he gets promptly shoved aside by Homer after he finally breaks through to free Bart.

14. Lisa the Greek

  • The opening with the traditionally animated rendition of primitive early-90s 3D animation is really spectacular.
  • I love how proud Lisa is of the shoebox apartment she makes for Malibu Stacy. It also has such a great callback at the end where she rejects her piles of ill-gotten accessories and play sets in favor of her homemade toy (“It may not be pretty, but dammit, it’s honest.”)
  • Similar to Marge and Lisa talking while folding laundry in “Lisa’s Substitute,” here we get them talking while Marge is giving Maggie a bath in the sink, which, again, gives the characters some physical action to do and makes them feel more like real people living their lives. We also get a great capper to the scene where Marge gets pissed that Bart drops his dirty dishes in Maggie’s bathwater.
  • The extremely slow Coach’s Hotline is one of the best jokes of the whole season. The timing is just so perfect; I always laugh at how it just gets more and more drawn out by the time we get to “Cin… ci… na…… tti…”
  • It’s a little strange that the dressing rooms at the Springfield Mall have cameras in them. But I guess not as strange as the squinty eyed psychos manning them grabbing their guns to presumably execute a little girl for allegedly stealing socks.
  • “And when the doctor said I didn’t have worms any more, that was the happiest day of my life.” Probably the first sign of the real Ralph slowly coming into view.
  • I love dream sequences featuring the grim futures of the Simpson children. I like to view this in the same reality as Bang-Bang Bart the stripper (“Don’t tell me what to do, sonny. I’ve been gambling since I was eight, and I’ve been hocking jewelry since I was twelve! Now gimme some chips!”)
  • More dynamite line readings: the scorn-filled, yet exasperated tone Yearley Smith gives to “Put me down.”
  • The third act has always felt kind of weird to me, with Lisa’s love of her father hinging on who wins the Super Bowl. She “knew” Washington would win (evidenced by her reaction, “I suspected as much,”) so it comes off as this weird mind game to make Homer fret and worry for an entire day. It supposes too greatly that Lisa is this football savant who can predict the outcome to every game, which might work pushed to the limit on a more absurdist show, but not so much here. But I dunno, I guess that was kind of the point.
  • “Troy, made you want to do a situation comedy?” “Well, I fell in love with the script, Brent. And my recent trouble with the IRS sealed the deal!”
  • Outside of the Halloween versions, we get our first variation of the ending theme, an appropriate marching band version, which is just great. I had the two Simpsons CDs when I was a kid that had all the songs from the first nine seasons, which also included the different end credit remixes, and I remember those being my favorite to listen to.

15. Homer Alone

  • I wonder how much of Bart, Lisa and Homer’s incessant dialogue over Marge was scripted and if the actors added in some ad-lib. Either way, I always laugh at Homer’s “Double baloney! Double baloney! Don’t forget to make it double baloney!”
  • Marge shifting to one side as Homer puts the bowling ball in her hand is a deceptively simple but fantastic piece of animation.
  • A very nice little detail that the other Nick’s has a portrait of Jacques on the wall.
  • The Bill & Marty prank call is not only incredibly funny (their braying, ghoulish laughter at their poor target’s very real anguish is so great), but it’s also the perfect instigator to begin to drive Marge over the edge, such a cruel and callous “joke” presented as entertainment that would really push the woman who tried to get Itchy & Scratchy banned too far.
  • As we saw in “Bart the Murderer,” I really do like the slightly more competent Wiggum, and here we see his combative back-and-forth with Mayor Quimby, a dynamic that I wish was kept around for longer. I love the attention to detail that when we cut to Quimby making his public declaration with a pardoned Marge, having come out on top in the argument, Wiggum is in the background with an annoyed look on his face.
  • In addition to his sense of shame, another big factor of what makes Homer so endearing is that he knows he’s a lucky son of a bitch for having such a sweet and forgiving woman as Marge for a wife. When Marge says she’d like to take a vacation by herself, Homer immediately thinks they’re getting a divorce and begs for forgiveness. When Marge clarifies what she means, Homer is okay with it, as long as she swears that she’ll come back.
  • “See? Got her on the first bounce.”
  • I always liked this simple visual of Homer clasping his fingers over the family portrait leaving just himself and Maggie uncovered.
  • “Baby Come Back” is my favorite of this season’s trilogy of inappropriate hold music jokes.
  • I really like the somewhat subtle buildup that Marge’s ultimate release is being able to make decisions for herself. Arriving at Rancho Relaxo, she goes along with the in-room instructionals with Troy McClure and checks all the activities off her checklist, but her calming catharsis only finally comes when she calls up room service and makes up her own relaxing night of chocolate chip cheesecake and a bottle of Tequila.
  • Wiggum’s appearance at the end also rides that line between semi-serious and comedic. He has Homer describe his missing baby before presenting Maggie behind his back with a “Bingo!” It’s very sweet, like he wanted to make a little show of it and was thrilled with himself for reuniting this father and daughter. He shifts back into work mode by telling Homer he’s up on charges of parental neglect, but after an overwhelmed Homer kisses him over and over in gratitude, Wiggum’s heart melts and he decides to let him off easy (“Just don’t do it again, you big lug.”) Really cute stuff! There’s plenty of classic moronic Wiggum quotes to come, but part of me does wish he stayed at this semi-competent level.
  • Sort of recalling the beginning with Homer and the kids bombarding Marge all at once with their demands, we get it again at the end with them expressing their appreciation for her (I love Homer’s desperate “Never leave again! Never leave again!”)

16. Bart the Lover

  • The zinc film may have been the spark of my interest in watching old 50s and 60s instructional videos, and they pretty much nailed the parody right on the head. I don’t really know why, but I love that the handgun in the final scene fires twice, like it wasn’t enough to just show it, it actually has to fire.
  • Mrs. Krabappel, who up to this point was just Bart’s irritable teacher, is completely humanized in just a few short scenes at the beginning: driving home in the rain, buying soup-for-one and desperately playing the lottery (“Still teaching?” “Let’s see… Another day at least.”) “Sugar in the gas tank. Your ex-husband strikes again” is so fucking brilliant, it’s maybe the best example of giving the audience important exposition, where it’s a great joke but in one line of dialogue we get an explanation of Krabappel’s marital status.
  • Todd’s “Ow! My eyeball!” always makes me laugh. I don’t know why it’s “eyeball” and not “eye,” but that’s why it’s so funny. This is also a rare instance of showing Rod and Todd at Springfield Elementary.
  • The sad, sad lives of professional yo-yo-ers. At least Sparkle seems to be mildly content.
  • And lo, we get our very first Donald Trump reference of the series, where Homer tries to think of a person who got rich doing yo-yo tricks (he’s in “good” company with Bill Cosby in Homer’s list of candidates.)
  • Mrs. Krabappel is best known for her “Ha!” but I love Marcia Wallace’s other exclamatory noises as well. When Bart responds that he would give back his yo-yo if their roles were reversed, Krabappel’s almost mocking “Pffft!” is so damn good. What an astounding performer Marcia Wallace was.
  • This photo makes me want a spin-off featuring young Jasper.
  • “You’ve got a date with the Xerox machine!” Bart distributing scandalous photos of his teacher to his classmates feels like it plays a little bit differently nowadays, as does the scene later with this exchange: “Alright, Bart, who’s your girlfriend?” “My teacher.”
  • Watching these episodes again in 2020 is unique in revisiting certain scenes that have been made even more infamous thanks to the rise of Simpsons Shitposting. Here, we have Todd Flanders’ “I don’t want any damn vegetables,” which has lent to so, so, so many great memes, the most darkly hilarious interpreting “vegetables” as infirmed people, such as Todd mercy-killing the bedridden Homer from the “So It’s Come to This” clip show.
  • Dan Castellaneta reading this postcard is one of his funniest performances of the entire series.
  • “All of us pull a few boners now and then, go off half-cocked, make asses’ of ourselves… I don’t want to be hard on you…”
  • It’s sweet and salty at the same time as Marge gives Homer the exception that he can curse when they snuggle.
  • I’d love to hear the montage of Homer swearing uncensored. Apparently Dan Castellaneta recorded the session with the lines uncut, so it must exist somewhere. I love that he gets more incensed by Flanders getting good news more than anything else (“YOU DIRTY BA-”)
  • “Three simple words: I am gay.” These lines are funny enough, but I like that Homer provides the actually serious ending line to the letter (“With a love that will echo through the ages.”)

17. Homer at the Bat

  • Homer in mid-choke is another heavily rotated image, mostly used as a reaction to something grotesque or revolting. Him choking out the donut is such a quick bit of animation, but it’s just so wonderful, one of hundreds of examples of small, fun animated acting bits from this show.
  • I always laugh at Homer’s homemade football, and at this exchange between him and Bart (“How many home runs are you gonna hit with that?” “Let’s see… We play thirty games, ten at-bats a game… three thousand.”)
  • Slow motion is really laborious to do in animation, but when it comes to animating Homer’s immense girth sloshing around as he swings and hits the ball, complete with actual sloshing sound effects, I’d say it was worth it.
  • It’s great that when Burns tells Smithers he’d like to cheat to win his bet with Amodopoulos, Smithers immediately asks him who he’d like killed.
  • I’m not a baseball fan in the least, and there are definitely little in-jokes about each of the nine players sprinkled in throughout the episode, but it’s great how most of the players are given enough characterization that reads to non-fans like me and are still really funny. My favorite is probably Mike Scosia, who is thrilled to live out his dream of being a blue-collar worker (“It’s such a relief from the pressures of playing big-league ball.”) I also like how a balance is struck between showing the players being really great and characters being in awe of them without becoming too fawning and making the episode into a puff piece for them. Darryl Strawberry is the perfect example, presenting himself as an almost superhuman athlete (hitting nine home runs in one game, leaping up hundreds of feet into the air to catch a ball), but this is only to make him stand in contrast with Homer and make him feel inadequate. I also love how he’s just a humongous kiss-ass to Burns for no real reason (“Some players have a bad attitude, skip!” “They sure do, Strawberry.”)
  • “No matter how good you are at something, there’s always about a million people better than you.” I unironically think back to this advice from time to time, how you shouldn’t strive to be “the best” but just to be good and honest as you are, as there’ll always be someone who technically “knows” more than you.
  • “What are you going to do with the million dollars, sir?” “Oh, I dunno. Throw it on the pile, I suppose.” I still love this throwaway line that feels like it negates the importance of the plot, but it just makes it even better and is perfectly in line with Burns’ character. He doesn’t give a shit about the million dollars, making this bet, making himself coach to all these pro ball players, this is rich person playtime to him and he’s treating it as such.
  • Balancing nine guest stars is a lot of work, but the episode feels like it devotes ample time to all of them. Not only that, but all nine (or eight, rather) of their ridiculous tragic incidents that prevent them from playing are all incredibly memorable, even the stupider ones like Jose Canseco staying up all night lifting household appliances out of a never-ending burning building.
  • “Homey, you’re good at lots of things.” “Like what?” “Like… snuggling?” “Yeah, but none of my friends can watch me.”
  • The music in this episode is really great throughout, playing off the theme from The Natural in several players. Mr. Burns’ “rousing” speech to his loser players is really funny, but thanks to the music and Harry Shearer’s performance, it’s bizarrely kind of moving.
  • The crazy peanut vendor tossing peanuts everywhere is one of my favorite weird one-off jokes of the whole series. It’s so simple and strange and goes by so fast, I just love it.
  • It’s great that in the ending, we have Homer winning without actually winning. He gets his hero moment as we the audience would like to see it, but as usual with him, his final success is thanks to dumb luck as he gets brained in the head and knocked unconscious.

18. Separate Vocations

  • Mrs. Krabappel mentions that she has a Master’s, which is pretty impressive, and a pretty hard piece of trivia from a really quick line of dialogue.
  • Milhouse the Military Strongman! I love that ‘military strongman’ was the actual occupation listed on the form.
  • “The Army said I was too heavy. The police said I was too dumb.” Such an impressive line of dialogue that shoots at two different targets at the same time.
  • “I’ll be frank with you Lisa, and when I say frank, I mean, you know, devastating” is one of my favorite individual lines of the entire series. I also love Yeardley Smith’s read of “My God, they are stubby,” you can just hear the crushing realization in her voice.
  • Lou talking about Mayor Quimby “polling the electorate” is yet another dirty line I’m surprised the censors ignored. This establishing shot really stuck out to me, the Who’s To Know Motel with the half-lidded owl is a great design, and the Mayor’s arrogant I RULE U vanity plate.
  • It’s such a great touch that we see the cops stop at a light by the Kwik-E-Mart and just keep on driving, never noticing Snake robbing the place. The joke with Eddie talking about how being a cop isn’t all exciting car chases before immediately entering into one could have worked just as well if that were the first time we saw Snake speeding by. Instead, they layered it in early with a joke (the cops ignoring an obvious crime occurring) and built off of it.
  • “Damn boxes!” is another random line my friend and I would quote to each other from time to time.
  • The ending of act one is really beautiful, with the dramatic lighting and kinetic action of Snake’s car rushing toward Bart and Bart firing off the gun.
  • Marge is really great throughout this episode in her attempting to be supportive of Lisa. Initially being understandably hurt by Lisa decrying her future as a homemaker (“I might as well be dead!” “Lisa, it’s not that bad…”), she tries to show Lisa that being a caregiver of a family can be rewarding in its own way, showing off her personally crafted breakfasts. This of course backfires immediately when Homer and Bart scarf them down without a moment’s thought. Later, Marge tries to lift up a despondent Lisa that she shouldn’t listen to what others say is or isn’t possible, relating it to her own memory as a kid insisting to her sisters that women can be astronauts, and that there would be colonies on the moon. Realizing her example kind of got away from her, Marge uses this as shining proof that anyone can be wrong. I feel like I rambled through the explanation a bit, but It’s a really fantastic scene.
  • More great set/prop work in the Laramie Jr. spokes-boy on the carton. That’s one cool kid.
  • “Sure, we have order, but at what price?!”
  • The library scene with the battering ram is so perfectly timed, the fact that it cuts away mid-action just as it bursts through the front door with wood shaving spraying everywhere makes it all the funnier.
  • “In your pre-fascist days, you knew the giddy thrill of futile rebellion!”

Season Three Revisited (Part Two)

7. Treehouse of Horror II

  • The wrap-around segments in this and THOH III make me wish they had made a full in-universe episode set on Halloween, since what little we see in these two episodes is so great. Of course, we did eventually get “Halloween of Horror” much, much, much later, and surprisingly it turned out to be an admirable effort, but it’s interesting to think what a classic-era Halloween episode might have been.
  • Act one features the most scathing depiction of the hyper-commercialization of The Simpsons to date, where we see the new world of the family being rich and famous populated by lots of annoyed people sick and tired of seeing them (“If I hear one more thing about the Simpsons, I swear, I’m going to scream.” “At first they were cute and funny, but now they are just annoying.”) These lines feel like they could be direct quotes from TV viewers at the time growing a bit weary of the omnipresence of our favorite family. They even throw “The Simpsons Sing the Blues” under the bus with “The Simpsons Do Calypso,” an equally absurdist creative endeavor.
  • “Come to think of it, the guy that sold me this thing did say the wishes would bring grave misfortune. I thought he was just being colorful.”
  • Is that Agnes Skinner with a mustache as a delegate at the UN?
  • It always bugs me that Kang and Kodos are painted a much different shade of green in this episode. In their first appearance they’re a much lighter green, as they are in every future appearance. They must have had the model sheet from “Treehouse of Horror,” I guess this was just an error.
  • It’s great when we see the establishing shot of the house, you can see the door is still plastered with egg residue.
  • I love that Otto yells “We’re gonna die, aren’t we?!” while thrusting down on the accelerator.
  • “May I suggest a random firing? Just to throw the fear of God into them?”
  • Burns humming “If I Only Had A Brain” as he yanks Homer’s brain from his opened skull is such a beautiful touch.
  • Just as in the opening of “Homer Defined,” I love seeing extended scenes of just Burns and Smithers shooting the shit with each other. Hell, that’s basically almost all of act three, which is probably why it’s my favorite segment (“His family might appreciate it if you returned his brain to his body.” “Oh, come on, it’s 11:45!”)
  • When Homer gets out of bed to go to the bathroom, he says he has to go “shake the dew off the lilly.” He says it kind of quietly and mumbled that it took me many viewings to actually understand what he said, and even when I did, I had no idea what it meant. “Shaking the dew off the lilly” is slang for when if you’ve got a penis and you’re nearly done peeing, you then shake it a bit to shake out the few droplets of urine you’ve got left. That makes enough sense, but if you had to go pee, why would you announce it with a phrase referring to the act at the conclusion of your urination? Wouldn’t you just say, “Gotta take a leak?” or any of the other hundreds of pissing euphemisms there are? Was this an ad-lib? I remember the bite featured in the infamous “D’oh Song,” which if you were trawling Simpsons fan sites in the late 90s, you’re in for a blast from the past.

8. Lisa’ Pony

  • I love Homer’s Miss Atomic Pile calendar at work. One of the hallmarks of this show was the incredible attention to detail in every aspect of it, including the backgrounds. Homer could have just looked at a regular calendar, but every moment like that is an opportunity for a joke.
  • Perfectly playing into his strict authoritarian character, it’s great that Skinner hates the children’s performances backstage, but has to put on a smiling face onstage. He views the school as a reflection of him, so of course he’d be pissed that the kids aren’t that good.
  • That “My Ding-a-ling” kid is a national treasure.
  • I played the saxophone through elementary and middle school (of course influenced by the show, which I denied in the face of other kids who teased me for it), and yeah, there’s nothing worse than having a chipped reed, or even just an old, worn one, you just sound like absolute shit, even if you’re playing “correctly.”
  • Great animation on the wobble of the Mount Bellyache being hoisted onto the table. I also love the speed at which Lisa quickly takes one bites and drops the spoon with absolutely zero expression.
  • An early sign of Homer’s latent homophobia: “Marge, if I spend any more time doing these girl things, I’m gonna, you know, go fruity.”
  • “Where’s the hyperspace?!” is a line my best friend and I would quote, sometimes when we were playing video games, but a lot of times just for no reason at all, much to the annoyance of those around us. My parents never played video games with me, but my grandmother played Mario Party with me a couple times, and as a kid, I remember being surprised at how quickly she took to it. She definitely fared better than Abe.
  • I love the bizarreness of hearing proto-Ralph’s deeper voice saying a relatively mature line about Lisa, “What man could tame her?”
  • On an establishing shot of the Fiesta Terrace (hey, Apu and Jacques are neighbors!), we hear a woman telling Apu to loosen up, followed by him groaning very loudly. I guess he’s supposed to be distressed, but honestly, it just sounds like he’s having an orgasm, and I feel like there’s no way they didn’t intend it to come off that way. Also, hey, good for Apu for getting with Princess Kashmir. I like that now that he’s finally free from the store during the night time hours thanks to hiring Homer, he makes up for lost time by bedding an exotic dancer. What a guy.
  • Homer’s Li’l Nemo in Slumberland-inspired dream sequence is one of the best fantasies of the entire series, both visually and musically. I used to picture it in my brain when I had trouble sleeping.
  • “Homer sleep now” is another overused quote by my best friend and I, again mostly used at completely random moments.
  • “All the years I’ve lobbied to be treated like an adult have blown up in my face.”

9. Saturdays of Thunder

  • The Spiffy infomercial with Troy McClure and Dr. Nick might be a series high for the amount of jokes per scene. Calling the tombstone “a depressing eyesore,” “you’ll think the body’s still warm!,” the Kansas Jell-O mold… there’s at least ten jokes within the minute-long commercial, and that’s without including the absurdity of the premise: not only in why would they be testing a cleaning product on a tombstone, but that they apparently absconded with Edgar Allen Poe’s tombstone just to hawk their cheap wares on TV.
  • Speaking of cramming as many jokes into a scene as possible, that applies just as well to the McBain clip. There’s at least four overt ironic lines leading up to Scoie’s murder (“live a litte,” “Got me a future,” “Two days from retirement,” the Live-4-Ever, as well as him eating a healthy salad versus McBain scarfing down a chili dog. All of this is within twenty seconds. This show really was incomparable when it was firing on all cylinders.
  • Poor Galloping Gazelle. The animation, combined with the single bone crack, makes this feel incredibly brutal.
  • The Fatherhood Institute mural is such a wonderful design.
  • Bart’s unaffected reaction to seeing his father hauled off to the nut house is made all the funnier considering he’s already been to one this season.
  • I always laugh at Dave’s reaction of “Dear God, not again!” to the shark attacking the father in the underwater fathering experiment. The concept is absurd on its face, but the inclusion of “not again” implies that this predictable yet horrific shark attack incident has happened before, yet they continued to test anyway. Just two simple words beyond the horrified “Dear God!” makes it even funnier.
  • I love how quickly we breeze past Homer’s collapsed birdhouse killing the poor bird inside.
  • Putting aside all recent events concerning Bill Cosby, his “role” in this episode as the ideal father figure Homer strives to live up to is really great (“Thank you, Bill Cosby, you saved the Simpsons!”) Starting season 2, FOX moved the show to Thursday nights to directly compete with primetime big dog The Cosby Show, but the writers had nothing to do with this schedule change. I like the idea of them taking the piss out of the “war” between the two shows by having characters on their show passionately praise the other.
  • Martin catching on fire and the firefighters only extinguishing the car always makes me laugh. I love the complete disregard to children’s safety that’s often depicted in this show (kind of odd writing it out like that… but it’s true just the same). It’s made even better with Martin’s long, loud scream of terror as the Honor Roller shoots down the hill directly into the wall. Russi Taylor really gave her absolute all to this role.
  • My favorite moment of the whole episode is Homer dramatically calling Martin a homewrecker, followed by Martin, a young boy, channeling a sympathetic mistress in assuring him that his son still loves him and he has every right to be mad. What a great show this is.
  • I like that three-time soap box derby champion Ronnie Beck was name dropped just enough to perfectly set up his surprise appearance at the end. And once more, the show compounding jokes: his reveal that despite having three big wins under his belt, he’s even younger than Bart, him talking like a hardened veteran (“Seeing you out there brought back a lot of memories,”) and then Bart calling him “Mr. Beck.” Again, that’s three jokes in less than ten seconds.

10. Flaming Moe’s

  • More things I’m surprised they got away with in 1991: Drederick Tatum clearly saying “fuck” albeit bleeped, and Bart walking by the TV commenting, “Wow, T & A!” To be fair, I’m not super familiar with the TV landscape of the early 90s, but these feel like things that wouldn’t fly on other shows. Hell, even today you’d probably have problems with it. Like for whatever reason, Brooklyn Nine-Nine couldn’t do jokes involving characters being bleeped until they moved from FOX to NBC.
  • The sleepover girls pursuing Bart is such a great sequence, as Bart flees and hides in terror almost like in a horror movie. It’s inherently comical, but is visually played completely seriously, like this scene where the girls unscrew the hinges on Bart’s door, and you see the screws falling as Bart is shrouded in a blood red shadow.
  • I’ve never seen a single frame of Cheers, but it was a hugely successful show running at the time, so it makes sense they would lampoon it with Moe’s. However, they smartly do so in a successful way by playing off the will they-won’t they teasing banter with Moe and the unnamed waitress. The bar crowd even hoots and hollers like a studio audience when the waitress gives her innuendo-laced punchline. I assume this is directly based on the interactions between Ted Danson and Shelley Long’s characters, but this slap-slap-kiss relationship is a universal constant in most sitcoms and movies that you still get why it’s funny even without knowing the source material. The only real overt reference (I think) is at the end when Moe mentions the waitress left to pursue a movie career, just as Shelley Long left Cheers, but even not knowing that, I just read it as an absurdist joke explaining why she left Moe.
  • “I don’t know the scientific explanation, but fire made it good.” All of the flames in this episode look so damn good. I don’t know how they pull off making something look “brighter” in cel animation, but they’re really gorgeous.
  • Another scene where the jokes just compound: Bart brings alcohol to school so he can demonstrate how to make a “Flaming Homer” (1),  then he assures an outraged Mrs. Krabappel that it’s cool, he brought enough for everyone (2). Edna tells Bart to take the bottles to the teacher’s lounge (3), and that he, a ten-year-old, is more than welcome to take whatever booze is left by the end of the school day (4). Four separate jokes in ten seconds.
  • Quimby’s “It can be two things!” is a line I still use to this day.
  • It’s great how Bart takes off his Flaming Moe’s shirt and just casually starts eating dinner shirtless, and it’s just like this understated side action as Marge is giving her next line.
  • This animation of Steven Tyler’s “Are you ready to rock?!” has always stuck out to me. Speaking of, Aerosmith is a pretty huge guest, and probably the biggest for the series so far to be playing themselves, but this show quickly sets the precedent that yeah, you can be kind of cool showing up on The Simpsons, but we’re still going to make fun of you. The band begrudgingly agrees to perform for pickled eggs, Joey the drummer acts like a meek wuss being trapped by hungry groupie Mrs. Krabappel, and in the end, Homer falls from the rafters and crushes the entire band, leaving their fate unknown.
  • The second act break is so incredibly well done, with Homer getting gradually drowned out more and more with the boisterous crowd, the flaming drinks and the ringing of the cash register, further undermining his threat to Moe that he just lost him as a customer.
  • We get one of many great tragic endings in this series, where if Homer had just held it together just a few more hours, Moe would have signed the Tipsy McStagger deal and he’d have had half a million dollars. Hell, Moe could have quickly just signed the damn paper while Homer was giving his lengthy prelude before revealing the secret ingredient and they could’ve been set.

11. Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk

  • Mr. Burns is very publicly anti-outsourcing, even xenophobically so (“I want to look Uncle Fritz square in the monocle and say, ‘Nein!’”), but like all good American capitalists, he goes off to the meeting and makes the deal anyway. But who could blame him, just look at that clean German penmanship!
  • I love that Homer frets at night by saying, “Oh, woe is me!” We also get our first instance of Marge sleeping in bed nude, which is a character touch I kind of enjoy, a subtle way of showing she’s not as straight-laced as she seems.
  • The Land of Chocolate is of course an immortal scene. I want that music playing at my funeral.
  • “We regret to announce the following lay-offs, which I will read in alphabetical order: Simpson, Homer. That is all.”
  • Maybe I’m just obsessed with seeing as much Burns as possible, but I think this episode would have benefited with showing another scene or two of Burns feeling listless and out-of-sorts in his new semi-retirement. The episode opens with him lamenting about the things he doesn’t have time to do while running the plant, I feel like it would have helped that story to show him attempting more of these things and finding that it leaves him empty all the same.
  • Marge tells Bart to go on down to Moe’s to pick up his drunk father (in and of itself, a pretty sad joke). But that begs the question, where is Moe’s relative to the Simpson house? Considering Homer always drives to Moe’s, I figure it was at least a couple miles away. I mean, it could just be right outside the little residential area that they live in, I guess. I also remember the episode “Brake My Wife Please” had a joke where Homer actually walks to Moe’s for once, and it’s revealed to be just a few houses down from the Simpsons. But ultimately, none of the geography shit matters since the map of Springfield changes constantly. Those kinds of jokes live or die based on whether you’re fine with hand waving it not making sense (the greatest example being the power plant parking lot being right up against the Simpson backyard in “Homer the Great.” Makes absolutely no sense, but I still love it.)
  • We’re only in season 3 and the show is already making fun of their running gags, here with Bart’s prank phone calls. Last episode was the infamous “Hugh Jass” appearance, and now we get Bart coming face to face with Moe, who thankfully is too dim to realize his tormentor is right in front of him. This is the point where the jokes should be phased out, which it more or less was, with only a few more subversive appearances from here (Moe thinking the prankster is Jimbo, Mr. Burns calling Moe’s asking for Smithers). After a six year absence, the prank calls came back around season 13 and recurred once a season or so, except by that point, the joke was as stale as month-old bread.Mr. Burns going to Moe’s is such an illuminating scene for him in two respects. First is his utter joy at the idea of “going slumming,” the concept of just going to a normal bar with regular working class people being a hilarious lark for him. It’s a perfect portrayal of elitist detachment, showing how Burns operates on a completely separate level than everyone else. He can barely even pretend to act like a normal human, just like all rich people. Second is Homer confronting Burns. Yes, money does cheer Burns up when he’s blue, but it can never love him back like he loves it. The emotional music plays as Burns is a bit affected by this revelation, and is promptly jeered and teased right out of the bar. But ultimately, the message for Burns isn’t the futility and emptiness of immense wealth, it’s how it can be used (“What good is money if it can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?”) That’s who Mr. Burns is, the money doesn’t mean anything if it’s not used to actively prop up his superiority and wield direct power over those he views as lesser. This is the crowning characterization moment for Mr. Burns; anytime in future episode they would portray Mr. Burns as meeker, willfully conversing with other townspeople, desperate for their favor (“Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” being the biggest offender), I always thought back to this scene.

12. I Married Marge

  • “If the water turns blue, a baby for you. If purple ye see, no baby thar be. If ye test should fail, to a doctor set sail.”
  • Homer and Marge camping out in the castle is pretty adorable, but that’s gotta be a real uncomfortable place to get busy.
  • There it is, the greatest pamphlet ever. Using Frinkiac to find these framegrabs, apparently the episode “Jaws Wired Shut” stole this gag, with Dr. Hibbert giving Marge the slightly varied “So Your Life is Ruined” flyer. I’m sure I didn’t care for that episode, but now I don’t care for it even more.
  • More of Abe being a supportive father: priding Homer for knocking up Marge since he’ll never do any better (“The fish jumped right in the boat, and all you gotta do is whack her with the oar!”)
  • Watching now ten years later, I don’t know if the fact that Homer and I both proposed to our wives in their car is a good or bad thing. I didn’t lose my card under the seat at least.
  • Lisa and Bart’s suggested baby names are a bit of an early 90s time capsule: Ariel or Kool Moe Dee Simpson.
  • “I’d be lying if I said this is how I pictured my wedding day, but you are how I pictured my husband.” “I am?” “You may not look like Ted Bessell, but you’re just as nice.” Ted Bessell played the boyfriend on That Girl, and, as a nice inside joke, also directed many episodes of The Tracy Ullman Show.
  • I’m having some difficulty imagining Smithers as a frat boy, let alone a “keig-meister” as his fraternity brother calls him. Then again, we don’t really know much about Smithers’ history. He could have had a wild youth before deciding to straight up and fly right as a corporate bootlicker. It certainly would lend itself to an interesting episode, but alas, the days when that could actually be pulled off effectively are behind us…
  • I always laugh at the overdramatic tourists in Olde Springfield Town. “What a crappy candle!” “You’ve ruined our vacation!”
  • Krusty Burger is kind of a dump, but I have to imagine Gulp ‘n Blow is even worse. I mean, the name itself implies you’re going to throw up after eating it. Or it’s something even more dirty… Yeesh.
  • I absolutely love Homer’s “Pour vous” when he puts the onion ring on Marge’s finger, echoing his words when he put the corsage on her all those years ago. It’s both a callback to us, and a sweet little in-joke within their own relationship.
  • More determined than ever, Homer storms into Mr. Burns’ office and gives a dynamite speech, selling himself as a sniveling yesman in the most alpha way imaginable (“You can treat me like dirt, and I’ll still kiss your butt and call it ice cream! And if you don’t like it, I can change!!”)
  • The ending is another of those great have-it-both-ways moments where Homer  fondly waxes on about how much joy his three kids have brought to his life, but upon hearing Marge is not pregnant, he leaps off the couch, dumping the kids onto the floor in the process, to high-five his wife. It’d be so easy to play this as a mean, snarky moment, but this ending doesn’t undercut Homer’s sincerity in the slightest. It’s really amazing how they can pull these kinds of moments off.