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.

Season Three Revisited (Part One)

1. Stark Raving Dad

  • Ah, the forbidden episode. I don’t really have much to say about the specifics of this show getting pulled, but its omission from Disney+ poses a larger question as to what exactly streaming services are. They’re not really media libraries or archives; at this point more than ever, they’re a replacement for television, and as such, their content “needs” to reflect the concerns and sensibilities of a modern audience. But if you’re watching an older movie or TV show, you kind of have to be cognizant of the time of which it was made, and to some extent, accept it. But I could argue back and forth with myself about this forever, so I’ll just say it’s a bummer in the case of this episode, since it’s really, really good.
  • “Something’s wrong. Dad died!” “No no, he’s fine!” “Well, whaddya know, I’m relieved.” The opening exchange between Bart and Lisa is so charming, where Bart teases his sister about the horrors of getting older (“Your legs start to go, candy doesn’t taste as good anymore…”) while Lisa innocently browbeats him into submission to agree to actually get her a birthday present this year.
  • I love that you pay two bucks for the Krusty Hotline to listen to a clown laugh and laugh and laugh and then disconnect the line (“Thanks for calling, kids! A new message every day!”)
  • What a shot.
  • Marvin Monroe appears once again to promote his personal psychiatric brand in the form of his specialized personality test (“Twenty simple questions that will determine exactly how crazy or ‘meshuggeneh’ someone is.”) The good doctor has another season or so left in him before he fell off the face of the series, which is a shame because I’ve enjoyed all of his appearances thus far. I don’t know if Harry Shearer complaining how hard the voice was to do was the catalyst for writing him off, but either way, it’s a bit of a shame.
  • There’s a quick bit where we see Marge at her vanity using hairspray on her enormous beehive. She empties a can, then opens a drawer filled with more, and starts on a new can. We also see several emptied cans strewn over the top of the vanity. It’s a really solid joke that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, which almost makes it better; this is just a regular routine for Marge that we’re looking in on.
  • I’m sure I mentioned this in my original review, but casting Michael Jackson, the biggest celebrity in the history of anything, as a deluded mental patient is absolute brilliance. Given the chance to get the King of Pop on their show, any other series would have turned it into a fawning celebrity jerk-off fest, but not The Simpsons. Well, not yet anyway (see “Lisa Goes Gaga,” and a hundred other episodes).
  • I remember thinking the joke with the Chief was funny long before I even saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, back when the show knew you had to make parodies funny in and of themselves, instead of just copying popular movies shot for shot and calling a reference a joke.
  • “I’m with your father in a mental institution.” “Uh huh. And is Elvis with you?” “Could be. It’s a big hospital.” Michael Jackson isn’t much of an actor, but his unaffected, almost innocent (so to speak…) delivery ends up helping some of the punchlines (“You’re nothing but a big fat mental patient!” “You’d be amazed how often I hear that.”)
  • Pretty dark joke with Bart fondly fantasizing about his drooling lobotomized father (still wearing his pink shirt, nice touch). But of course, he snaps out of it (“Well, there’s probably a down side I don’t see.”)
  • Bart playing with the phone cord is another of those little acting moments I really appreciate. What kid hasn’t twanged that cord while on the phone? (except kids born after 2000 or so who have no idea what a landline is.)
  • It’s so funny hearing one of the upset crowd members react to “Michael Jackson”’s reveal with “He’s white!” Not only is this years before Jackson’s, shall we say, pigment transition, but the man is clearly yellow. It’s always strange when characters on this show are referred to as “white,” I get it when they’re making a joke about “white people,” but it does kind of break the reality of the show a little bit.
  • It’s a great touch that Bart wakes Lisa up by plugging her nose in her sleep, just as she woke him up at the beginning of the episode.

2. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington

  • Of course Homer is the sort of dunce who would believe a phony sweepstakes check is real (“See where it says VOID VOID VOID’ and ‘This is not a check’, ‘Cash value one twentieth of a cent,’ ‘Mr. Banker, do not honor’…”)
  • I love the drawing of the Reading Digest cartoon. It’s always so interesting whenever this show depicts what comics, cartoons and animation looks like within an already animated show. Also great is the title, Motoring Ms.-Haps, a cartoon seemingly entirely about how women are awful drivers. It’s like The Lockharts, but worse.
  • The first act is a shining example of how Homer’s mind works. When he takes an interest in something, not only does he become completely obsessed with it, it’s almost like he can’t remember a time without it, as we see him admonishing the kids for being glued to the TV, something he himself was surely doing mere days ago. All of this also makes it all the funnier when Homer is just as quick to jettison his new love, as he tosses his Reading Digest in the trash upon being ineligible for the essay contest, despite spending every waking moment of the last few days fawning over the magazine.
  • There’s a very lovely scene where Marge tries to help Lisa, who’s frustrated with her essay. She suggests she take a bike ride, but is unsure whether that’s “cool” anymore, or even if saying “cool” is cool. Lisa chuckles while assuring her mother that those things are in fact cool. It’s just so sweetly acted between the two characters with Lisa politely humoring her mother.
  • “We the purple? What the hell was that?”
  • “Brevity is… wit” has got to be one of the greatest sight gags of the entire series.
  • The VIP badges scene between Homer and Faith, the editor of Reading Digest, is so funny, but also really serves to show how damn good Maggie Roswell is, her increasing level of frustration at Homer’s questions is just perfect. Around the time FOX fired her, Tress MacNeille would later slip in to perform a bulk of the show’s one-off female characters, and she is a tremendously accomplished voice actress in her own right, but her characters are typically a lot more blunt and caricatured, missing some of the more subtle nuances of Roswell’s voices.
  • The ending of act two is really powerful with Lisa sobbing and tearing her essay up as she witnesses blatant government corruption play out before her own eyes. Sadly, all I could think about while watching it, at the time I’m writing this, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted the gif of Lisa in that scene in response to something at the DNC, I don’t really know what. Without opening up a political can of worms, I’ll just say something I hopefully believe everyone can agree: conservatives are not allowed to use Simpsons memes. I remember in 2016 when I tragically watched forty seconds of that video of Ted Cruz doing Simpsons impressions, that disgusting little worm made me want to puke. But as I said, I don’t want to get political…
  • Lisa’s jaded fantasy of the fat cats and swine in government is so beautifully animated, with the cross-hatched New Yorker style played against “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
  • The ending where Lisa’s scathing essay gets Bob Arnold expelled from Congress within the day was intentionally absurdist in depicting how quickly, efficiently and righteously the US government operates (“You work fast.” “I work for Uncle Sam!”), but watching it in 2020, it almost feels sad how completely alien the scene feels. You can just imagine the upswing of support Tom Arnold would get by his colleagues, screaming about how people are trying to “cancel” him…
  • “Imprisoned Congressman Becomes Born-Again Christian”
  • “Cesspool on the POTOMAC” was robbed. Trong Van Din can suck it.

3. When Flanders Failed

  • “Look, I don’t care if Ned Flanders is the nicest guy in the world, he’s a jerk, end of story!” From the get-go, this really does feel like a sequel to “Dead Putting Society,” featuring Homer’s blind hatred toward Ned. I don’t think it’s quite as good as “Putting,” but hey, it’s a high bar.
  • Homer is such a huge prick in the first act, but at least some of it is excused by being motivated to come to the BBQ in the first place through sheer gluttony, as he grabs a plate of burgers and goes to eat them under a tree like a child. I love that at the end of the act, when he laughs maniacally with his mouth full of food, Ned and Maude look on and then turn away, looking visibly concerned at their crazed neighbor.
  • The random French waiter dog tripping on Scratchy’s severed head at the end of the I&S cartoon always makes me laugh.
  • One of the game cabinets in the background at the mall arcade is Robert Goulet Destroyer, another game I wish existed in some real-world form.
  • “No, I do not know what Schadenfreude is. Please tell me, because I’m dying to know!” An absolutely perfect line reading from Dan Castellaneta, just dripping in sarcasm. Also he mispronounces it of course, sounding more like schaden-frawde.
  • Homer’s war against vending machine apples lends itself to such a great scene: his sternly written note, the fact that there’s only two notes in the complaint box, suggesting regular employees don’t dare rock the boat and risk upsetting old man Burns (one of the notes is a fluff note from Smithers as well, “Keep that handsome owner out of sight, he’s distracting the female employees,”) and Mr. Burns mocking Homer on his way out (“Tell my secretary that you could have a free apple!”) It’s just so damn petty, but perfectly in line that Burns would ridicule such a ridiculous request from a lowly subordinate.
  • “I’m sure you did nothing to discourage this, you scavenger of human misery.” Damn, Lisa don’t play.
  • I love the Barney’s Bowl-O-Rama jingle on the TV (“For entertainment and exercise!”), it feels like they had to kill a few seconds without animating anything and just came up with it on the fly.
  • Homer comes off pretty cruel through a lot of the episode, but what makes the episode work is that we see him slowly come around to considering helping Ned out before he reaches his lowest point. When the bill collector erroneously comes to his door instead of Ned’s and complains about his right-handed ledger, Homer is about to tell him about the Leftorium before he gets interrupted. Later, he returns all the stuff he bought from Ned only to find their house has been foreclosed. So when Homer vows to finally help Ned, it was actually built to that point.
  • “Hello, Jerry? Homer Simpson. Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well, now I need you to do a favor for me!”
  • I love how quickly this guy springs to life off the couch after hearing the call to action. “Ned Flanders is in trouble?!”
  • The ending is already pretty schmaltzy in its tribute to It’s a Wonderful Life, but closing on the big “Put On A Happy Face” sing-a-long feels like pushing it too far. I actually shut it off right when the song started.

4. Bart the Murderer

  • From the very first time I saw it as a kid up till now, I love the Chocolate Frosted Krusty Flakes slogan, “Only Sugar Has More Sugar!”
  • Just a wonderful piece of animation of Bart running to the bus. The POV from inside, the bounce in his run, the pitch perfect timing of it slamming shut just as he gets up to it… brilliant.
  • “Bart Simpson, you’re late. Go fill out a tardy slip.” “But I’m only five… ten, twenty… forty minutes! That’s pretty damn late!”
  • Just love this shot.
  • Regarding the horse race scene, it’s great that this early in the series, the show is making fun of its own popularity and its more gimmicky elements, like Bart’s various catchphrases, which polluted commercials and merchandising far more pervasively than they appeared in the actual show.
  • I remember from the audio commentary of this episode, they mentioned how the FOX censors forbade them from showing Bart mix drinks on camera, so they staged him hidden behind the bar, which honestly I think is much funnier, as you see just the top of his spiky head shaking up a drink.
  • I kind of miss the slightly more competent Chief Wiggum who would angrily go toe-to-toe with Mayor Quimby and who sort of, kind of knew what he was doing. Sometimes characters are funnier when they’re brazen and confident, while simultaneously being distracted and kind of clueless (“Fat Tony is a cancer on this fair city. He is the cancer, and I am the… um… What cures cancer?”)
  • Flowers By Irene. That’s all.
  • On a similar note as Wiggum, Principal Skinner also used to be more serious and authoritative, which made him a much greater foil to Bart. Hell, in this episode, he doesn’t even flinch when the goddamn mafia looms into his office (“You Skinner?” “I’m Principal Skinner, yes. And how, may I ask, did you get past the hall monitors?”) Again, a grown man way too invested in the marginal amount of disciplinary authority afforded by his job is far more interesting and funny than the spineless little turd he’d eventually devolve into.
  • It’s really wonderful how the kids of Springfield Elementary immediately cheer upon hearing Skinner is missing, presumed dead, and later speculate on his cause of death on the playground, acting exactly like shitty little kids would.
  • Bart’s nightmare is a really fantastic sequence, and as always, pulls no punches in making jokes about the execution of a small child, placing a couple phone books on the electric chair to put Bart at the proper height. We’re at episode 30 and we’ve seen Bart get killed, what, three times? Four if you count the “Deep, Deep Trouble” music video?
  • “Did you kill my principal?” “Uh, Chinese guy with a moustache?” I like that no bones are made about it that, yes, Fat Tony does indeed kill people. A lot of people.
  • Great newspaper art.
  • Skinner’s ridiculous story always cracks me up in how exhaustively detailed it is, and how proud Skinner is to recount each and every one of those details. The best is how he talks about making a game of how many times he could bounce the basketball, just as he informed Bart at the beginning of the episode of how many envelopes he could lick in an hour. Skinner truly is that fucking boring.

5. Homer Defined

  • The Krusty card is one of those jokes that gets funnier and more absurd the more you think about it. How did this get produced? Was Krusty hungover and a tad bit horny when he approved it? What did Bart think when he bought it? I also love that it’s specifically a card for a ten-year-old, just to make matters clear that, hey, this nice pair of bongos is just for you, kid.
  • I love love love the scenes of Burns and Smithers just chit-chatting about their respective weekends. Even in the show’s heyday, it was still uncommon to see a couple of non-Simpsons just living their lives and talking amongst each other. We get an insight into Smithers’ sad but content bachelor life with his ironically named Yorkshire terrier, and we get to hear Burns’ critique on modern day cinema (“Call me old-fashioned, but movies were sexier when actors kept their clothes on. Vilma Banky could do more for me with one raised eyebrow…”) We get a similar-ish scene when Otto high-fives Apu walking into the Kwik-E-Mart and the two have a brief back-and-forth. Even this early into the series, Springfield is filled with colorful characters, and seeing how they react to one another is all part of the fun.
  • “Simpson, eh? Good man? Intelligent?” “Actually, sir, he was hired under Project Bootstrap.” “Thank you, President Ford.” Definitely a joke I didn’t understand as a kid, for obvious reasons. I remember reading it quoted in the Simpsons Complete Guide and doubly not understanding it, as it’s hard to read Burns as sarcastic when it’s in print.
  • Here’s another great additive acting moment; when Marge is praying, Maggie mimics her mother and does prayer hands, and quickly falls to the floor in a thud. It’s never addressed, and I don’t even know if I really picked up on it before, but now that I have, I love it.
  • “Will I ever see you again?” “Sure, baby. Next meltdown.” Ahh, now that’s good sleaze.
  • “This reporter promises to be more trusting and less vigilant in the future.” Pretty much sums up most of the major new outlets.
  • The key component of this episode is that Homer feels tremendous shame and knows he’s a fraud, something that would barely register in modern depictions of Homer. He’d wolf down that prize ham without a second thought, but here, it’s even funnier that he’s so overwhelmed in self-loathing, not even food can cheer him up (“How are you enjoying your ham, Homie?” “Tastes so bitter, it’s like ashes in my mouth…” “Hmmm. It’s actually more of a honey glaze.”) I also like how his guilt is pushed even further by Lisa’s newfound admiration toward him, making him more embittered with himself (“What is it? What are you doing?” “Looking at you with quiet awe.” “Well, as long as it’s quiet.”)
  • “Mrs. Van Houten? I’m Bart’s mother. We met in the emergency room when the boys drank paint?” I like that Marge’s plea to let Bart hang out with Milhouse again is openly admitted to his mother that their sons are misfit losers who don’t have any other friends besides each other. Also, the ending of this subplot is the absolute perfect example of this show having its cake and eating it too in regards to balancing earned sentimentality with raw comedy. Bart is thrilled that Milhouse wants to hang out again, and knows it was his mother’s doing (“Thanks for sticking up for me.” “What makes you think it was me?” “Who else would?”) It’s an honestly sweet and heartwarming moment. Then Marge tells Bart to play nice, and we all know where this is going. Bart unboxes his BB gun from under his bed, cocks it with very loud and ominous sound effects before he bolts off to cause some godforsaken mischief. Truly great stuff.

6. Like Father, Like Clown

  • I always get a little curious the incredibly rare times we see Krusty’s other sidekicks, Corporal Punishment and Tina Ballerina. What are their roles on the show? Considering how great a character Sideshow Mel is off-camera, who are these people? What are they like?
  • Speaking of Krusty’s people, we get to meet Krusty’s lovesick yet beleaguered assistant Ms. Pennycandy, who is just great with her limited screen time. She’s clearly fed up with her boss (“How can he hurt someone who loves him so?” “Oh, Mrs. Simpson, I’ve wasted my womanhood asking that same question.”) But when she lays down an ultimatum and Krusty begrudgingly caves, she goes right back to fawning over him.
  • I like that we had a direct callback to “Krusty Gets Busted” in that Krusty agreed to have dinner with Bart in thanks for helping clear his name, but we’re also told this is the fifth time he’s canceled that engagement, so it’s almost like the year and a half between the airdates of “Busted” and this episode has actually passed, even though of course it hasn’t since nobody’s aged.
  • “I always suspected that nothing in life mattered. Now I know for sure.”
  • I laugh every time when Krusty does his “Shave and a Haircut” knock, horn honks and laughs, Homer blankly asks, “You think it’s him?”
  • Another gag I never got until years later was the good Rabbi catching his son spraying himself with seltzer in the bathroom. I haven’t seen The Jazz Singer, but I assume this isn’t a parody of the scene where Jerry Lewis’ father catches him jacking off and shooting a money shot all over himself.
  • “A rabbi would never exaggerate! A rabbi composes. He creates thoughts. He tells stories that may never have happened. But he does not exaggerate!”
  • What a miserable scene at this bus station. The conceit of a rich and powerful celebrity feeling empty inside isn’t exactly novel, but it feels a little more potent when it’s a guy who never takes off his clown makeup.
  • I love this bit of animation of the DJ when the first “Gabbin’ About God” caller asks the panelists if they still firmly believe in God despite all the hurt and suffering in the world. Just in his reaction, you get the sense that he fields this same dumb question almost every single show, and he’s just tired of it. Also bonus points for his Foghat T-shirt.
  • I never noticed it until now, but the shop where Bart gets his Rabbi costume is Yiddle’s, the same joke shop that enamored Krusty when he was a child. The owner (Yiddle, presumably) is even shown to be a much older man, presumably having this store for decades. As he admits, he loves his work.
  • “What’s the one thing rabbis prize above everything else?” “Those stupid hats?”
  • I love that Krusty introduces the Rabbi as his “estranged father,” followed by the kids cheering wildly for his elderly holy man appears behind the curtain. They’re as excited about this serious family reunion as they would be for any of Krusty’s goofy pratfalls.

59. Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?

(originally aired August 27, 1992)
Herb Powell pretty much dug his own grave in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?,” but it still felt bad seeing such a great character destroyed like that. The writers apparently thought so too, thus we have this sequel where Herb returns, this time entering the Simpson family’s home turf a disheveled bum. Before we get that far, we have a typical sitcom set-up, revealing that years of working at the power plant has made our lovable protagonist sterile, as plainly seen by his flailing, uncoordinated Homer sperm. The solution is to offer Homer a pithy two-thousand dollars in exchange for blindly signing away rights to sue. Homer, for once, isn’t so easy to trick (“I’m not signing anything until I read it, or someone gives me the gist of it.”) Burns explains the form is for his being awarded the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. This soon snowballs into a giant awards ceremony, an outlandish absurd affair with theme music by the Bonita DeWolf and the Nuclear Plant Soft Shoe Society. It’s a ridiculous set piece, but in the most wonderful way possible, complete with Smokin’ Joe Frazier presenting the award (“Webster’s dictionary defines excellence as ‘the state or condition of being excellent.'”)

News of the cash prize Homer has received brings Herb to Springfield; the Simpson family are thrilled to see him, but Herb still has reservations toward the half-brother that ruined him. The dynamic between the two brothers is an interesting runner through the show which I felt could have been explored a little more. In its place is Herb’s new big idea to reinstate his fortune: a baby translator that will transmit baby garbling into coherent English. Somehow, he manages to create an astoundingly sophisticated prototype with the two thousand, doing all the programming and engineering all by himself. The man’s an automobile magnate, but I don’t know how much of a genius the man is in regards to a machine this sophisticated. Plus this is a landmark invention; you’d think that it would be talked about more later in the series, or at least Marge would have one. There’s lots of questions and concerns connected to this idea, but all of them dissolve thanks to Danny DeVito’s hilarious reading on the baby translations (Lisa covers Maggie’s eyes: “Where did you go?” Lisa exclaims, “Peek-a-boo!” “Oh there you are. Very amusing.”)

Also through the show is Homer’s lament after his beloved couch is destroyed. His fond memories of landmark programs he’s watched lends to a great brief montage, ending with Homer switching off footage of the Berlin Wall collapse to Gomer Pyle. He toys with using the money to buy a lavish vibrating chair, which at its full power setting puts him into a 2001: A Space Odyssey style stupor with flashing lights and colors. Herb gets the money, with Homer further bemoaning the bitter treatment he receives from him. The end of the show is sweet with Herb giving each family member a personal gift, ending with him finally forgiving Homer for the troubles he’s caused, and getting him the vibrating chair. It’s a great moment where Homer is unsure about hugging his brother (“I’ve never really hugged a man before,”) followed by him kissing him manically after finding out about the chair purchase. Though not quite as epic and solid as the first Herb show, this is a fine farewell to the character, with plenty of funny bits and memorable moments.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The plant physical is a great way to start, from Lenny’s blaze attitude to being stark naked to Homer eating chicken in the tank (which does… what exactly?)
– Smithers is so efficient that even his sperm swim in lock-step alignment.
– Burns’ tirade against his lawyers seems a bit out of character for him, but I still enjoy the sequence, with him continuously having to restrain himself.
– Burns’ greeting when Homer walks in prior to the settlement is great: “Ah, Simpson, you big virile son of a gun!”
– Bart and Lisa’s swipe against the Emmys seems very bitter; this was the season the show first lost the Emmy for “Radio Bart” against a Claymation Easter special. Having watched it later, their anger was pretty justified.
– Herb running aside the train to Springfield and the hazardous railcars is a classic Simpsons gag: toxic waste, no, lion cage, no, Krusty Brand sulfuric acid, no, Emil’s Famous Pillows (“That’s the one!”)
– Having Herb stop at the Flanders house and get cleaned up seems to work to soften the blow to the Simpsons that Herb is really in desperate need of help. It’s also a great sequence, with Todd visibly upset that he is not allowed to anoint the sores on this poor soul’s feet.
– Herb’s advice on being homeless to Bart is probably my favorite quote of the show, and one I try to quote whenever I get the chance: “Discarded pizza boxes are an inexpensive source of cheese.”
– I love Homer’s one-track mind in his obsession over Herb’s drinking bird. He’s in such awe of it, like it’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen. The bird would make a comeback in a big, bad way later on in “King-Size Homer.”
– Homer’s initial reaction to the baby translator is… not so cordial: “I can’t believe we spent $2,000 on this when right now rollers could be kneading my buttocks!” Herb retorts, “Homer, would you stop thinking about your ass?!” Homer muses, “I’ll try, but I can’t.”
– First, and only (?), appearance of Professor Frink’s child, and mention of his wife, who I assume divorced him after seemingly killing their baby boy in that plane accident.
– As I said, all the gifts are great, from Lisa’s Greater Books of Western Civilization (“At last, a copy of Ethan Frome to call my own!”), Bart’s NRA membership (when asked if he can get cyanide-tipped bullets, Herb replies, “It’s in the Constitution, son!”), Maggie, who isn’t picky (“I want what the dog’s eating!”) and Marge, a new washer and dryer, with the old ones sold to do races at Moe’s Tavern (“Stupid dryer!”)

Season 3 Final Thoughts
If season 3 suffers in any regard, it’s that I underestimated the greatness of season 2. It’s astounding watching these again just how perfect those early episodes were, and how they hold up so damn well. That being the case, season 3 felt like more of the same greatness. The one thing I can say is that we saw more of the wackier, crazier elements of the series start to emerge here; from “Homer at the Bat” and stuff like Spinal Tap’s bus exploding, the show began to become more exaggerated and silly, drifting a bit from the more serious, realistic tone it had in the first two seasons. It’s a delicate balance the show would end up servicing: going big and brash for its outlandish gags, but still maintaining a true-to-life tone and emotional core with the Simpson family. I have no worries that season 4 will do just that.

The Best
“Lisa’s Pony,” “Saturdays of Thunder,” “Flaming Moe’s,” “I Married Marge,” “Dog of Death”

The Worst
Not one episode fell short. Some were better than others, of course, but none deserve to be mentioned here.