- This is an episode I remember seeing soooo many times in syndication, so the opening TV bit is completely burned into my brain (“It’s Grand Nationals of Sand Castle Building… preview!”) I also never understood the joke about the “absence of Mark Rodkin.” I get now that it’s a gag about sportscasters talking about the looming absence of a star player in a new season, but seeing this so many times as a kid, I just assumed “Mark Rodkin” was just a celebrity I didn’t know.
- We see Apu washing his flashy Pontiac, apparently living not too far down the block from Homer. I guess we never really established where Apu lived. In “Lisa’s Pony,” we see him screwing Princess Kashmir at the Fiesta Terrace, but it’s unclear whose home that was, though I assumed it was Apu’s. We wouldn’t see Apu’s place of residence again until “I’m With Cupid” (if I’m forgetting something, let me know), showcasing the apartment he shares with new wife Manjula, as we’d see for multiple episodes afterward. But what happened to his house? Why would he downgrade to an apartment for his wife and eight children? THIS IS AN ENORMOUS PLOT HOLE.
- There was a period of my life where I played an unhealthy amount of the Tapped Out app game, exhaustively modeling my own Springfield, so seeing the Presidential Estate across the street from the Simpsons reminded me of my irrational annoyance that I couldn’t properly recreate Evergreen Terrace accurate to this episode, as all the buildings face the same direction.
- Having seen this episode so much in syndication, the cuts stand out to be even more than usual. One joke that I think plays much better in the syndicated version is when Marge pulls out Homer’s “DISCO STU” jacket. Homer sheepishly explains, “I wanted to write ‘Disco Stud’ but I ran out of space.” That’s a pretty great joke as is, but in the uncut version, he completes his sentence, “…not that Disco Stu didn’t get his share of the action.” Not only does this feel like a needless add-on to the gag, it kind of ruins what I thought was the humorous reveal of Disco Stu being an actual person. Luck upon luck that Homer’s misprinted jacket would actually find the perfect hand-me-down owner, with the added joke that Stu doesn’t want it (“Disco stu doesn’t advertise.”)
- So this episode is pretty crazy, and seemed kind of controversial when it aired. Along with bristling some of the more conservative viewers, the real George Bush moving into town is a pretty out-there idea. But like “Deep Space Homer” before it, this show manages to take an absurdist plot and keep it relatively grounded. Homer lets his pity jealousy overtake him as the town sucks up to H.W., provoking a feud between the two. It all unfolds in a fun and engaging way, without getting too insane or feeling like Homer or Bush is pushed too far out of bounds.
- “George and I just wanted to be private citizens again, go where nobody cared about politics. So we found the town with the lowest voter turnout in America.” “Just happy to be here among good, average people with no particular hopes or dreams.”
- I can see how some people would be annoyed at Bart acting as Dennis the Menace, that it’s out-of-character for him to be that obnoxious and juvenile. I disagree; I think the sign of a great character is you can squash and stretch elements of their personality to put them in a different scenario, and as long as the writing is still solid, it’ll still work. Hell, one of the greatest inspirations for the Bart character was Dennis the Menace, so it doesn’t seem a far cry for him to be the irritant to his own Mr. Wilson, George Bush. They’re both named George! C’mon, it’s perfect.
- In high school, every single time my best friend and I would go to a drive-thru, we’d quote this episode (“A Krusty burger? That doesn’t sound too appetizing…”)
- The scene where Homer verifies Bush’s presidential credentials in a history book (great gag) and him asking if Marge still respects him is a wonderful scene. Again, in this pretty wacky episode, we get just enough actual grounded characterization to fuel it and keep it from flying too far off the rails. And again, because this show is still at its peak of juggling sentiment and comedy, Marge’s genuine pleasantry (“Homey, as long as you keep the car full of gas, I’m happy,”) is turned into panic as Homer worriedly side-eyes out the window to the car in the driveway, ending the scene. Fantastic.
- “And since I’d achieved all my goals as President in one term, there was no need for a second.” What a great line. It feels especially rich as I’m writing this on the final day of Trump’s presidency.
- It’s rare that we get an episode title drop, but this is easily the greatest of them all.
- It’s still so funny that George Bush’s two sons “come to visit,” at a time when they were virtually unknown to the general public. How delightful in hindsight that we had no idea of those two knuckleheads that Barbara Bush thought only needed a letter of recommendation, one would become one of the worst Presidents in history, and the other a hilarious political dud.
- The drawing of an intense-looking Homer at the window as Bush does donuts on the front lawn, together with the gravely serious line reading, “He’s not lost,” always makes me laugh.
- Per the inevitable status quo, George Bush leaves Springfield, angrily honking the horn at his wife to hurry the hell up. I’m realizing I’m watching this after Bush’s death, and now I’m remembering all the media talking heads lionize him as one of the last great Republicans or whatever the fuck. Ugh. Rest in pieces, Georgie.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “FOX should’ve preempted this episode indefinitely instead of just one hour. This episode was unfunny, mean-spirited, out-of-character, and I absolutely abhorred it. Worst Simpsons episode ever? Do you HAVE to ask? If there was a lower grade it would get it: F.”
14. Scenes From the Class Struggle in Springfield
- “We can’t afford to shop at any store that has a philosophy.”
- Lisa rummaging in the circle rack of clothing awakened some dormant childhood memories. Remember doing that as a kid? Man, simpler times…
- Marge’s absolute resistance to doing anything for herself is both slightly sad and hilarious (“It wouldn’t be right to buy something just for me. If it were a suit we all could wear, maybe…”) She finally buckles under Lisa’s insistence… quickly adding, “It’ll be good for the economy!”
- It slightly bugs me that we see the Kwik-E-Mart with gas pumps out front. I love how it plays into Marge enchanting Evelyn with her commoner skills (“Automotive skills and fashion sense. Why, you’ve come a long way from the girl I knew nothing about in high school!”), but it feels like a bit too much of a cheat since we’ve never seen those gas pumps ever before (except the quick gag in “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baaadasssss Song.”)
- “Do I have to go? That country club is a hotbed of exclusionist snobs and status-seeking social climbers.” “I’ve told you, I don’t like you using the word ‘hotbed.’”
- I never noticed before, the logo for the Country Club is a swan with a golf club wrapped around its neck.
- I absolutely love the scenes of Marge feebly attempting to fit in with the other rich women. As they’re all gabbing about their elite dining experiences, Marge is able to chime in with her own suburban tips and tricks about using Good Housekeeping coupons. There’s a real underlying sadness in this episode from Marge, a woman wracked with insecurities and unsuredness, thinking that if a “higher class” of people accepts her, it will validate her (“Today, while the rest of you were being different, I did a very good job of fitting in.”) I wish there were more episodes that really dug into Marge’s character, hell, even another flashback show that focused on a story from her young life. But too little, too late for that, I guess.
- The Homer golfing subplot acts as a fun diversion without straying too far away from the main plot, especially as it ends with Homer staying mum about Burns’ fraud for the sake of Marge’s potential status at the club. It’s also a great example of Burns appearing weak and naive without forsaking his character, a rich, powerful man oblivious to his toadying underling’s decades of “help” on the green.
- Lisa’s flip from her rightful objection to country club ways to obsessing about their horses feels very appropriate for her (“I found something more fun than complaining!”) I also love how it leads into the end of act two, in the absolutely fantastic scene where she pushes Marge to her breaking point with her incessant gabbing about horses and jumping on the bed. Yeardley Smith gives such a great performance as an excitable, yet annoying kid, and the moment of silence after Marge erupts at her, as the squeaking of the bed comes to a stop as Lisa is stunned by her mother’s outburst is so affecting.
- “At times like this, I guess all you can do is laugh.” Probably in the top 5 greatest act breaks.
- Krusty getting hit with the golf club and falling to the ground is the actually funny version of Family Guy’s “fall-over-incredibly-fast” running gag. His movement is exaggerated, but any physical comedy is much funnier if it feels like the character has weight. Speaking of which, his final line after Homer inadvertently steps on his head (”I knew my kind wasn’t welcome here”) is fantastic.
- This is probably tied with “Brush With Greatness” for my favorite Marge episode. “Brush” is all about Marge’s most important trait: her empathy for everybody, extending even as far as the evil Mr. Burns. This episode examines Marge and her place in life, her yearning for an ambiguous “better” class status, before realizing that her family, “low-class” as they are, is what makes her whole. The very end of the family eating happily at Krusty Burger is an ending really representative of the series as a whole, a fractured family finding peace with each other in a crapsack world.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Any episode centering on Marge is doomed to failure, and this one was not an exception; on the other hand, the golf subplot was not bad. In general, however, this episode seemed like it could have been written for any sitcom, with the characters warped to meet the plot, rather than molding the plot to meet the characters.”
15. Bart the Fink
- The show dusts off the “one night in a haunted house” trope they used as the ending of “Homer Loves Flanders,” but with a great new twist: the Simpsons have the best night’s sleep they ever had, and here at the start of the episode.
- The Tacomat recently re-emerged in shitpost form after last December’s new pitiful rollout of stimulus checks, rechristened “600 Tacos for $600.”
- Wise words from Marge: “A professional in an ape mask is still a professional.”
- The Cayman Islands banker is the greatest one-scene wonder of the entire series. It’s just so fucking funny every time I watch it.
- Really funny drawing of the file photo of Krusty behind bars.
- This episode is a true tour de force performance by Dan Castellaneta as Krusty. Him wailing in fear at the IRS (“Who’s joking?!”) and later his angry ranting at Bart on the curb are two stellar scenes. Castellaneta fills Krusty with such loud and vicious energy, it’s an incredible passionate performance.
- It’s funny that during the “Herschel Krustofski’s Clown-Related Entertainment Program,” Krusty is dressed down in sweats, but is still wearing his floppy clown shoes, as he would for the entire second act.
- IRS Burger is such a great set piece. I love the detail of the signage on the trash cans (Net Refuse, Gross Refuse.)
- This is another episode I saw a lot in syndication. The most jarring cuts to me is the extended auction items at Krusty’s estate: his enormous porno collection being sold to a Japanese bidder for twelve cents, and Moe buying Krusty’s bed and heading off to sleep. I can’t say these scenes are sorely missed to me, but I love the attention to detail that as we see everyone leaving with their items, we see a man carting off a big stack of boxes with a JAPAN label on it.
- That is the face of a man seconds away from punching a child in the face.
- As much as I love Wiggum’s “OH MY GOD, A HORRIBLE PLANE CRASH!!,” I kind of feel if the show had just cut on Krusty’s plane crashing into the mountain, that would have been one hell of an act break.
- Has there been any explanation why John Swartzwelder with Kermit the Frog on his hand is at Krusty’s funeral? I like the continuity inclusion of Luke Perry among the line of Sideshows. Also, Bob Newhart is a great example of a guest I really don’t know much about, but the situation built for him in the show is still funny: he’s put upon to make a speech for a celebrity he barely knows and doesn’t seem to have much knowledge or respect for, but he stumbles through it anyway. It’s great.
- Bart lying on his bed repeatedly pulling the pull-string Krusty doll, which makes a haggard “Uggggh” noise while the sad music plays is another of those effortless scenes where the show is earnest and hilarious at the same time.
- Krusty made it a little too easy to find him with those checks. He signs his new alias with stars around his name? That’s a pretty good giveaway. I also just now realized that the plot unfolds thanks to Krusty stamping a check, and now his undoing at the very end is thanks to how he signs a check. Pretty neat.
- One last praise for Dan Castellaneta for his “Rory B. Bellows” voice, which sounds distinct from Krusty’s, but still feels like an assumed voice the clown could probably do. I also love how when he’s exposed, he gives out an elongated groan that transitions from “Rory” to Krusty, and it’s basically seamless. What a talented cast.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “You call that an episode? It should have been at least a two parter because it had a very abrupt ending, and a not-so-hot plot. So far what I’ve seen from the writers is krap for Krusty and mush for Marge. They need to understand that these characters are pretty inflexible. D-”
16. Lisa the Iconoclast
- The best part of the “Young Jebediah Springfield” filmstrip is the two extras pushing the “tamed” buffalo prop to the center of the crowd, who then just stop and look away awkwardly as if they were standing there the whole time.
- I love that now even in season 7, Homer is still being treated as just a regular townsperson. Him winning over the council with his vocal chops for town crier isn’t depicted as wacky Homer antics, it’s just him being a loudmouth and winning over these equally simple-minded council members like Wiggum and Quimby.
- It’s not every show where we get to see George Washington use his wooden chompers to take a bite at a pirate’s groin.
- “This is nothing but dead, white male-bashing from a PC thug. It’s women like you that keep the rest of us from landing a husband.” Wow, Miss Hoover was a disgruntled forum poster ahead of her time!
- “Unfortunately, historical research is plagued by this sort of hoax, the so-called confession. It’s just as fake as the Howard Hughes will, the Hitler Diaries, or the Emancipation Retraction.”
- Homer and Lisa’s team-up through the entire episode is so incredibly sweet, and starts on a believable note (“You’re always right about this type of thing, and for once, I want in on the ground floor!”) Any time Homer vehemently stands up for his kids, I love it, and this episode is probably the loudest example, with Homer imbued with his own sense of authority as town crier.
- Nice background detail when Apu kicks Lisa out of the Kwik-E-Mart, we see him washing the window where Lisa once hung up the Jebediah traitor sign.
- Excellent detail that Springfield’s historical celebration is largely dependent on corporate sponsorship, which Quimby is fearful to breach (“You are tampering with forces you cannot understand. We have major corporations sponsoring this event!”)
- After being stripped of his title, Homer attempting to muster a smile to Lisa, but inevitably breaking is one of my favorite bits of acting in the entire series. It’s just so damn sad…
- I always thought it was pretty silly that Hurlbut hid the silver tongue in such plain sight, not to mention didn’t bother disposing of Jebediah’s confession after throwing it in the trash. Perhaps he wanted to be exposed all along?
- Lisa nearly getting sniped may be the most shocking gag the show’s ever done. It’s funny enough with the set-up of seeing the sniper holding his position, but that they would actually pay it off and have him shoot really took balls.
- Leaving the people of Springfield blissfully ignorant of their own history feels like the appropriate ending. It’s one of those wonderful double-edged sword messages: honoring the general spirit of the positive elements of history is a respectable thing, but that idea is warped as depicted by a town who everything but worships an actual pirate. At least he didn’t want to marry his cousin.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Typical for this season. How low can it get? It just wasn’t funny enough, and it seemed like Lisa and Homer were the only ones in existence; we hardly saw Bart or other characters. And the ending…it was not only predictable, but it was also bad. Rating: D+”
17. Homer the Smithers
- I don’t blame Mr. Burns, that was one terrifying thumbs up.
- “To make up for my failure last night, I alphabetized your breakfast; you can start with the waffles and work your way up to the zwieback.” Zwieback is a crisp, sweet biscuit, so chalk that up to another new thing I learned from this show. Apparently it originated in East Prussia; earlier this season in “Mother Simpson,” Burns attempted to mail a letter to the Prussian consulate in Siam. Coincidence? …yeah.
- I love Mrs. Burns’ response to Smithers attempting to drown himself in the water cooler to press down on the tap, draining the water to “save” him. It’s the perfect blend of him “helping,” but with as little effort or care as possible.
- Smithers’ abandoning his search in minutes and deciding to just get Homer to replace him is a great meta gag, but it’s also contextually believable, as Smithers wants to hire the most incompetent replacement to make him look better. Contrast this with “The Mansion Family,” where the Simpsons are chosen to watch Burns’ estate for some dumb reason I can’t even remember at the moment.
- This episode does such a phenomenal job balancing Mr. Burns as both feeble and ruthless. I can see how some could complain that it’s too much the former, but as formidable as Burns is, he’s still a 104-year-old man, and along with his age, has had people work under him hand and foot for his entire life. Him not knowing how to make coffee or dial a phone is believable to me, but his exasperation and annoyance at Homer makes us never lose sight at the true wicked Burns.
- I love how the fire in Burns’ office gag that ends act one carries right into act two as Homer hurriedly puts the fire out. It gives the plot a little more weight that we immediately see Homer trying his hardest at his new title. That’s another great thing about this episode, he’s genuinely doing his best, which is definitely a whole lot funnier than him being a dumb, lazy idiot. Even when he’s smashing open a microwave to cook a breakfast-kabob, I can still go along with it because in context, Homer is acting in earnest, not just being a fuck-up.
- Homer reading the missed messages about Burns’ car is such a funny scene, with Burns’ face getting more and more annoyed with each message. And it’s the subject of another Dankmus remix! I don’t know if I’ve already picked a favorite writing these, but this is definitely top 3.
- We get our most overt “hint” at Smithers’ sexuality in showing him clearly staying at a gay resort (“Actually, sir, picture-taking is not allowed at this… particular resort.”) I like that they don’t push it, or worse, make his sexuality itself a punchline, the jokes are more about how Smithers is still hyper-focused on Burns (“Mr. Burns, 48 rings, are you all right? What did Simpson do to you?”) It’s not like later seasons where he’d just scream “I’m flaming!!” or some stupid shit.
- Homer finally snapping and punching out Burns is one of my favorite moments of the entire series. The build-up is so dramatic, and the immediate fallout is just as tense. I love that they let the moment hang there, where Homer fully processes what he just did and runs off scared. I guarantee you if that scene were done in a show now, the punch would be immediately followed by Homer talking to himself for forty seconds in some awful attempt at a joke. But no, the episode lets the moment breath, and have the character appropriately react to this serious thing that just happened. Also great is when Homer returns to attempt to apologize, only to find a traumatized Burns. Again, the two are acting believably; Homer worriedly trying to make things right, while a wounded Burns is fearful of being attacked again. It’s pretty sad, but even through all of that, it never gets too serious that it feels out of place. We truly feel bad for Homer, but simultaneously, it’s still funny seeing him overreact with worry. It’s really masterful how they do this kind of stuff on such a regular basis.
- I love the touch after Moe yells at Burns’ “prank call,” Burns puts the phone in his desk drawer and locks it.
- I’ve definitely said “Out of my way! I’m a motorist!” behind the wheel a number of times.
- While Homer knocking Burns out is treated with serious gravity, Homer’s fight with Smithers at the end is more comedic, while still feeling satisfying as the culmination of the episode. It’s great how the show is able to have its cake and eat it too with moments like these. There’s a lot of great touches through the whole sequence, like Smithers’ “Stop fighting like a girl, Simpson!” and Homer incapacitating Smithers’ fist with his gut, leaving him free to smack and mush at Smithers’ face.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Been there, done that. Not funny at all, except for that Clockwork Orange reference, but we had to wait to the end for that. It Stunk Like Limburger.”
18. The Day the Violence Died
- This episode is filled with expertly produced animation parodies that are all so well done. The Ralph Bakshi-produced Itchy & Scratchy is perfect, the 1919 “Manhattan Madness” captures the look and feel of silent-era cartoons to a T, and the Schoolhouse Rock riff “Amendment to Be” is rightfully one of the series’ most memorable song moments. Listening to the soundtrack albums as a kid, “Amendment” was definitely the song I understood the least. Funny, why would a song about Constitutional amendments, Ted Kennedy and dangerous legal precedent opening the floodgates for tighter governmental control not resonate more with a ten-year-old? I also never actually saw any segments from Schoolhouse Rock until much later after I saw this episode, so that also didn’t help.
- $750 seems incredibly low for Comic Book Guy to be selling that Itchy drawing. Considering “Manhattan Madness” is a lost cartoon, I can assume that it’s considering a drawing from an unproduced short, but still, considering its age and the notoriety of Itchy & Scratchy, CBG could be selling that thing for a whole lot more. I mean, come on, a cel of Scratchy’s arm cost Bart $350.
- Kirk Douglas is one of those guest stars who is a humongous classic Hollywood celebrity who I know exclusively from this episode. I’ve never seen one of his movies; when I hear Kirk Douglas, I think of this episode, and this prank from the Howard Stern Show.
- Milhouse’s voice over during “Manhattan Madness” is great, with him not able to read the cards fast enough and yelling out at the screen (“Look out, Itchy! He’s Irish!”)
- I love how through the entire episode, Chester seems like he could care less about forming any kind of connection with this kid who’s trying to help him (”Last time I try to impress a four-year-old.”) He doesn’t even remember his name, calling him “Brad” in the courtroom. He gives the Simpson family a couple of bucks for their troubles after his big win, and after buying his solid gold mansion and his rocket car, he proceeds to basically tell Bart and Lisa to fuck off.
- “Mr. Hutz, we’ve been in here for four hours. Do you have any evidence at all?” “Well, your Honor, we’ve got plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence.”
- This episode has, in my opinion, the greatest syndication cut, by which I mean a scene that I think plays so much better in syndication than the original. After exposing Chester’s message on the Itchy drawing, Roger Meyers Jr. goes into his big speech about how animation is built on plagiarism, which is such a great monologue, ending with the tremendous line, “Your Honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from?” In the syndicated cut, we go right to Judge Snyder banging his gavel (it’s cut so tight that it seems like Snyder is cutting Meyers off, which I thought was a great touch) and announcing his verdict. In the uncut version, after asking where all these great ideas are gonna come from, Meyers points to a random person in the audience (Marge), incredulously asking, “Her?!” On the spot, Marge murmurs, eventually coming up with “Ghost Mutt.” I get the joke, but it seems like it just takes the energy and momentum right out of an already very funny scene. Snyder appearing to cut Meyers’ tirade off, moving the plot along, I think plays off so much better.
- Liver and onions-posting became huge in the shitposting community for a while, producing some absolutely incredible memes.
- I still love the gag with Roger Meyers Sr.’s frozen head, obviously alluding to the rumors of Walt Disney. I love Alex Rocco’s read on “You comfortable in there, Daddy?” He’s being sincere, but there’s still a level of sarcasm in his voice that it’s still really funny.
- The meta ending is great, of course, where the day is saved by the totally distinct character Lester and Eliza, discomforting Bart and Lisa because things didn’t happen like they usually do, like the universe is off balance or something… I also love in the deus ex machina reveal that the US Postal Service stole one of Roger Meyers Sr.’s characters, thus restoring his fortune and reputation, Meyers Jr. holds up two posters of the two characters, and while he’s speaking about the theft, draws over his father’s drawing in plain sight to make it look even more similar to the USPS’ “ripoff.”
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Grade: F-. This episode was suckiest, bunch sucking episodes, that ever sucked. Come on I didn’t have a good laugh once in the two times I watched this episode, I am beginning to wish I hadn’t bothered to watch it. There a few decent scenes, like any of Hutz’s but it’s hard not to make Hutz not funny, and the Schoolhouse Rock parody was well done but not really that funny (it did give me a small laugh). Even the comic guy was not funny and there was way too much of him, he only works in small spread out.”