Season Six Revisited (Part Four)

19. Lisa’s Wedding

  • Pretty cute detail of Maggie giving the thumbs down to Ned and Smithers’ knight battle.
  • My wife has gotten into looming over the past year; I’m hoping at some point I walk in on her and she’s made a tapestry reading, “Hi Mike, I am weaving a loom.”
  • Last time I watched this episode, we were a year removed from the fantastic far off future of 2010, and now we’re almost a decade beyond that point. Regardless, this is still easily the best depiction of the future this series has ever done, seamlessly combining plausible predictions (video phones, overcrowded schools with corporate sponsors, the death of the environment) and purposefully silly gags like the old-new planes and exploding robots.
  • It’s funny hearing that Lisa has taken up vegetarianism in the future, seemingly predicting “Lisa the Vegetarian” one season later.
  • The digital Big Ben flashing “12:00” is my favorite future joke in the entire show, it’s the perfect representation of a technologically advanced future that is still plagued by human error. It reminds me of the pilot of Futurama where we first see the futuristic splendor of New New York, featuring a floating billboard where the ads rotate, but one of the sections is broken and doesn’t rotate when the ads switch. Such a great touch to signify that the future ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Hilarious performance by Yeardley Smith giving her awkward, unsure laugh at Hugh’s father’s pithy remark (“Should I laugh? Was that dry British wit, or subtle self-pity?”) Mr. Parkfield is pleased, delighted to hear such a “boisterous” American laugh.
  • Every other future show past this point depicts an older Bart who is just an absolute man child screw-up, which always feels very sad and uncreative to me. For me, I think the most plausible fates for Bart is either he eventually straightens up and flies right, as we see him in “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” as a Supreme Court Justice, or in this episode, where he’s a normal blue collar guy working construction and going to strip clubs. He’s still immature, but it feels more believable than him just never maturing past the age of 10 like later episodes.
  • Nice touch as we pan by executives Lenny and Carl who appear to be taking a meeting at the plant with the Germans from “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk.”
  • Poor Milhouse, bald like his father at the age of 25. I also love seeing him as a teenager, getting easily shot down by Lisa. Future future shows would depict the two of them as married, which always felt wrong to me, but I can easily see Lisa go on a pity date with Milhouse, play nice, but turning him down before he gets his hopes up.
  • The gag with Maggie always getting cut off before speaking is pretty funny in this episode, which they would of course repeat every single other future show. But what is Maggie’s personality? That would actually be interesting to see. How does she get along with the rest of the family as a kid? Or a teenager? The show has done two episodes featuring Bart and Lisa’s adolescence, why not go three for three and characterize Maggie? I’m sure it’ll be terrible, but why not give it a shot?
  • Kent Brockman reporting for CNNBCBS (a division of ABC) is definitely the most eerily predictive joke in this episode.
  • Gotta love Marge and Lisa laughing about how Milhouse “doesn’t count” in regards to Lisa still wearing white. Poor, poor Milhouse.
  • I absolutely love Homer in the third act. He feebly tries to relate to Hugh’s parents (“You know what’s great about you English? Octopussy. Man, I must have seen that movie… twice!”) It’s silly, but he’s really trying. Later, he timidly explains to Lisa why he still has the cufflink (“I found them on the nightstand this morning and… well, I guess they weren’t his cup of tea. Don’t worry about it.”) Like, you can see that he was actually hurt that Hugh left them, but didn’t want to cause a fuss because of Lisa. It’s kind of a sad moment, and perfectly tees up Lisa’s ultimate defense of her family to Hugh.
  • “You know, I’ve attempted to enjoy your family on a personal level, on an ironic level, as a novelty, as camp, as kitsch, as a cautionary example… nothing works.”
  • Another sweet detail that when Lisa returns to the faire tent at the end, we see Wiggum taking a nap leaning against it. Awww.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Last night’s episode was among the most disappointing displays I’ve ever witnessed. Everyone’s already seen Back to the Future, guys. We don’t want the Simpsons version.”

20. Two Dozen and One Greyhounds

  • Santa’s Little Helper chasing Snowball II with a knife in his jaws is a pretty insane gag
  • Wonderful animation of SLH pulling the “precious cable TV cable” all through the neighborhood. Great touch as the mailboxes get knocked over as the cable hits into them.
  • I don’t know if I ever really put it together, but I love the touch that She’s the Fastest is the new #8 at the dog track, seemingly having filled Santa’s Little Helper’s old number.
  • The staging of SLH humping She’s the Fastest on the track is just so damn funny. It’s completely unnatural, just him rising up in frame while still running and mounting at the same time, but who cares, it’s great.
  • The newborn puppies are so fucking adorable, with their half opened eyes and the little puppy whimpering sound effects.
  • Hilarious read by Dan Castellaneta’s “GET THAT CAT OUT OF THE WAY,” followed by the entire family staring daggers at the damn cat.
  • The sitcom scene is just fantastic, just a perfect display of on-the-nose hacky writing of the very important dinner where nothing can go wrong, and everything goes wrong. And “See you in hell! …from Heaven” is a hall of fame line for Lovejoy.
  • “See My Vest” has got to be in the top 5 songs of the series, a peppy, upbeat, Disney-inspired showstopper that’s all about murdering two dozen puppies for their pelts. What’s not to love? Plus a cameo by human Mrs. Potts, informing Burns he should save two to kill to make matching clogs. Once again, this dog-killing episode is available to stream now on Disney+.
  • The door knob jostling and eventually turning all the way around is another of those ridiculous gags that I love just because of how ridiculous they are.
  • Bart’s plan of pulling the clothesline to get all of the dogs to stand on their hind legs prompts Burns to spout some purposefully on-the-nose dialogue (“This can’t be happening! They’re all standing. I can’t tell them apart!”) Normally I’d admonish the show for something like this, but the third act paints Mr. Burns as basically a cartoon villain, about to murder a bunch of puppies point blank with a gun, so I feel like dialogue like that almost plays into that angle. He then proceeds to try to murder all the puppies, then Bart and Lisa, but in the end, doesn’t have the heart for it.
  • The fake-out of Homer “hanging himself” at the end is absolutely my favorite bait-and-switch of the whole series. It’s just so stupid, but that just makes it all the better. Homer bats the basement light bulb to make him feel better. Sure, why not?
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This episode had the potential to turn into something absolutely awful, and it did. Puppies? I’m supposed to laugh about puppies? I haven’t seen so much commercialized cuteness since the Care Bears. I think we were all rooting for Burns.”

21. The PTA Disbands

  • The gag with the cannon at Fort Springfield is so great. I love any joke where the thing you expect to happen doesn’t actually happen, which this show does a lot of. Pamela Hayden’s matter-of-fact read of the tour guide just totally sells it.
  • The Diz-nee takeover of the historical park is such a scathing gag (Sorry, But There’s Profit to be Had), making it all the more inappropriate given the show’s new owners.
  • It’s pretty wild seeing Uter get left behind and the camera cuts away just before he’s beaten mercilessly by a bunch of adults with the butts of their fake guns. Not only that, but Krabappel and Skinner don’t really seem to be that bothered by it (“Because of your penny-pinching, we’re coming back from a field trip with the fewest children yet.” “God bless the man who invented permission slips.”)
  • I like that in her butting heads with Skinner, Mrs. Krabappel does seem to actually give somewhat a shit about her responsibility as a teacher (“Our demands are very reasonable.  By ignoring them, you’re selling out these children’s future!”) Unlike someone like Miss Hoover, it seems like there is a genuine core to Krabappel that wants to be an inspiring educator, but years at a hellhole like Springfield Elementary have worn her down to a nub, and Skinner repeatedly failing to meet her and her fellow co-workers halfway have finally gotten her to the breaking point.
  • The band playing “the forbidden music” might be the lamest syndication cut joke. It feels like such a long scene devoted to a joke that’s not even funny. The little girl stuck hanging from the gymnasium rings, a casualty of the teacher’s striking, the dramatic event ending our first act, really feels much more appropriate as an act break scene.
  • I like how Bart’s weekday shenanigans feel a bit more wild and reckless than his normal fare, fucking with people at a construction site and causing a pandemonium at the bank. It all signals how without any boundaries, he ends up pushing things a bit too far, like flying a kite at night (“Hello, mother dear…”)
  • Meanwhile, conversely, I love how Lisa falls apart because of her desperate need to be validated. It’s not so much the learning as the reinforcement that she’s doing a good job, which feels very believable for a young child to feel. Her desperate pleas to Marge to give her any sort of grade, prompting her to scribble an “A” on a piece of paper and hand it to her, is a great scene.
  • Dan Castellaneta’s ADR in the crowd during the PTA scene when Skinner and Krabappel shoot back and forth at each other is really funny. (“Taxes are bad!” “Children are important!” “The taxes! The finger thing means the taxes!”)
  • Bart’s “prank” of an enormous log embedding itself into the chalkboard, and presumably the new substitute’s head, is so wild, it’s one of the few times I actually created a shitpost of my own.
  • In another instance of the show mocking TV convention, we have Skinner and Krabappel trapped in a small space to figure out their problems (“Me? Go to my office? Well, it’s highly irregular, but alright!”) They then proceed to bang on the door to be let out for hours and hours on end, and eventually when they do get to talking, we get our grand solution: occupied jail cells in the classroom (“It’s all right, children, just ignore the murderer.”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Improbable, poorly scripted, and lacking in all respects. Lisa was completely out of character throughout — proof positive that Jennifer Crittenden must go. An utter disaster and total failure from start to finish. 5/10.”

22. ‘Round Springfield

  • I love how awkward the big TV set looks wedged between the counter and the cupboards as the family apparently hauled it into the kitchen to watch during breakfast.
  • “Who was George Washington Carver?” “Umm… the guy who chopped up George Washington?”
  • What the hell kind of prize is a jagged metal Krusty-O? It’s not a toy of any kind, and the fact that it’s literally a dangerous lookalike of the actual food product literally hidden in the bag of cereal makes it even more on-the-nose stupid… but in a good way.
  • Great performance by Marcia Wallace humming “Stars and Stripes Forever,” really milking it before she finally lets a clearly pained Bart go see the nurse. I also never noticed how this “foreshadows” the band concert later where they play the same song; I imagine this wasn’t intentional, but it’s kind of neat.
  • “Cheese-eating surrender monkeys” has its own goddamn Wikipedia phrase, as the joke was co-opted by overpaid columnists and blowhard reactionaries to admonish the French for being cowardly or some shit. I remember it came into resurgence leading up to the Iraq War when France decided to opt out of helping us. What a blunder, huh? Almost twenty years later and that occupation’s going just great!
  • I really wish we’d gotten at least one other major reappearance of Bleeding Gums Murphy. He was such a fascinating and engaging character out of the box, representing both a dour and optimistic future for Lisa the jazz musician. At least in this show, we give him a decent amount of background, which is interesting to learn, while also feeling like a nice little send-off.
  • Great animation on Krusty’s pained overreaction to the (regular) Krusty-O. It feels a little reminiscent of his on-air heart attack from “Krusty Gets Busted.”
  • I guess there’s not really much point in knowing exactly why Bleeding Gums is in the hospital and what killed him, it doesn’t really matter. I love how him giving Lisa his sax basically seems like him knowing he’s on his way out, and he might as well give his prized possession to someone who will use it and appreciate it.
  • I love the irrationally angry crowd at the school recital, they give the band not even five seconds before they start vehemently booing these eight-year-olds, including Abe (“This sucks!”)
  • Alf Clausen’s jazz motif after Bleeding Gums dies that plays throughout the rest of the episode is a really beautiful piece of music, it really just emphasizes and enhances Lisa’s emotional state.
  • I’ve always appreciated how the two plots come together at the end so effortlessly, where Bart uses his settlement money to buy Lisa Bleeding Gums’ record, with the very reasonable and believable explanation that she was the only one who believed him when he said he was hurt. Plus, of course, he has his back-up plan with the newly issued Krusty-O’s, featuring flesh-eating bacteria in every box. What  could go wrong!
  • And of course, obligatory shout-out to Yeardley Smith’s wonderful rendition of “Jazz Man.” Just great.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I thought this episode was just plain awful, the only really funny part being the end cloud scene with James Earl Jones voiceovers. I was offended by the sappiness; I like cutting satirical humor. That’s why I watch The Simpsons and why I don’t watch dumb sappy sitcoms.”

23. The Springfield Connection

  • The Springfield Pops is a great opening set piece, with Homer’s bizarre indignation toward butchering the Star Wars score (“They’re butchering the classics! Could that bassoon have come in any more late?”)
  • Marge’s passion for law and order being sparked by Snake’s crooked card game definitely feels appropriate: she’s speaking as a moralistic housewife wanting clean streets for herself and her children, in a perfect motherly scolding tone (“How dare you prey on the greedy and stupid like this!”)
  • Lisa getting Bart in an arm-lock in the kitchen is pretty adorable, both seeing her easily manhandling an emasculated Bart, and her enthusiasm over her mother’s exciting apprehension.
  • The sound effect of the shopping cart disappearing in the gigantic wheel of cheese is just… [chef’s kiss]
  • Each magazine cover in the “Death Sports” section is better than the last. I really want to read that glass eating article.
  • Wiggum’s “What-what-what-what, this better be about pizza!” makes me laugh every damn time.
  • Marge really is a badass during her training, especially on the shooting range. Her whole build-up through the first act is great, she’s a character with a lot of pent up frustration and energy, finally getting an outlet.
  • I love the Hill Street Blues motif played throughout the episode, and the end credits version where it’s blended with the usual Simpsons theme. I love that version, it’s probably in my top 3 favorites.
  • Trigger happy Marge pulling out her gun at the hair salon isn’t quite as “funny” watching it nowadays… Also, the joke where Lisa rightfully questions the police’s focus on mass incarceration to maintain the status quo of the privileged rather than systemic or societal changes to benefit all rings truer than it ever has. And McGruff, the Crime Dog! Did I mention he had a music album?
  • The interplay between Homer and Marge at the end is great, as Marge tries harder and harder to give Homer a way out, which then turns into embarrassment and an attempt to save face after Homer takes her hat. The emotions are played so well, thanks to a great performance by Julie Kavner.
  • Hans Moleman’s execution is definitely one of the show’s grimmer jokes; Lovejoy’s “From this point on, no talking” is hilarious, but even darker is the following scene with Homer and Marge in the bedroom, the lights flicker off for a second. RIP Hans.
  • Herman’s only had a handful of appearances over the years, which is why it’s always interesting whenever he comes back into view. Here, he’s perfect as the understated culprit, as liaison to a smuggling ring under everybody’s nose. If they wanted to write Herman now, he’d basically have to be an insane online Quanon supporter, which would either be hilarious, incredibly depressing, or both.
  • There’s a great piece of ADR toward the end that I don’t know if I ever noticed, where everyone’s out on the front lawn with the police, and in the background, Abe complains, “That’s my ambulance! I called for it four hours ago!”
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Tonight I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time. I actually turned off an episode of The Simpsons before it was over. It seems like the good episodes only come every other week these days. The portion that I saw: D-.”

24. Lemon of Troy

  • I love Bart’s fantasy of the future, a technological wonderland that can bring him back to life out of thin air, while concurrently being absolutely fascinated by writing in cement and his simple yo-yo tricks (“What’s normal to him amazes us!”)
  • I feel I’ve given Tress MacNeille a bit of a hard time on this blog, as she would be somewhat overused in later seasons, but she is an incredibly gift voice actress, appearing in this episode as Bart’s county line doppelganger Shelby. Tress is just excellent at voicing kid characters, and Shelby is just such a gutsy little shit, the perfect annoying foil for Bart.
  • “Hey, everybody! An old man’s talking!” is another line that makes me laugh every single time I hear it.
  • Shelbyville Manhattan… what a name.
  • I love Milhouse’s slowly building rage at Shelbyville through the first two acts, threatening to kick their butts… at Nintendo, getting more and more incensed at their “thievery” of wearing your backpack with one strap or his famous catchphrase of “radical.” But of course, upon meeting another Milhouse, he melts like a pat of butter in the sun.
  • Marge’s phrasing of “a violence gang” is just wonderful.
  • Luann Van Houten reveals she was born in Shelbyville (a point that enrages Kirk), but it certainly seems like quite the coincidence given how Kirk and Luann most definitely look like they’re related…
  • The Nelson/Martin team-up (Team Discovery Channel) is so fun to watch. I love that Martin takes it upon himself to rough up the poor little kid peddling lemonade (“Okay, piglet, start squealing!” “This is Country Time lemonade mix! There’s never been anything close to a lemon in it, I swear!”) Then only when the kid’s bigger brother emerges does Martin unleash Nelson, who awkwardly knocks the kid out, but not before attempting to justify this bizarre pairing (“Aww jeez, I never hang out with him, normally.”) Episodes in later seasons would depict Nelson and Martin as equal chums to Bart, which always felt incredibly bizarre, making me always think back to this episode.
  • This episode perfectly displays Springfield and Shelbyville as two towns filled with the same ignorant loudmouths engaging in a pointless rivalry (“Sounds like Springfield’s got a discipline problem.” “Maybe that’s why we beat them at football nearly half the time, huh?”) This becomes even more absurdist during the skateboard chase when we see all the bizarro mirror-image establishments like the Speed-E-Mart, Joe’s and femme Groundskeeper Willie. I think more than one later season episodes would depict Shelbyville as a more highbrow, enlightened town that looks down at the dirt urchins of Springfield, an extremely strange re-characterization.
  • It’s funny that Bart’s eureka moment of knowing Roman numerals is from Rocky movies, when my base knowledge of Roman numerals comes from Treehouse of Horror episodes.
  • It’s great that Homer’s Shelbyville double is basically Dan Castellaneta doing a slightly Southern version of his original Walter Matthau-inspired Homer voice. I also figure I say or think ”There’s a doin’s a-transpirin’!” at least once a month. Also, fantastic animation of him attempting a smug face after taking a huge bite out of a lemon.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Well, it was an okay episode. A little on the stupid side (at points, so stupid, it was funny). I better see some improvement to the show, or it will be history soon.”

25. Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)

  • I’m not quite sure why Willie is digging Superdude a grave in the basement. Wouldn’t it be easier to just do it in the yard? He needs to strike oil in the school itself, that’s why.
  • The bit where Homer ignorantly returns Burns his own important envelope is fantastic, I love that he actually was trying to do a good job, which makes the scorn from Burns sting even more. The chip on Homer’s shoulder just gets more and more unbearable as the episode goes on; he’s just a poor miserable schmoe working a job he hates for a relentless rich old codger, and all he wants is to just be recognized by name, and he can’t even get that.
  • Great sign gag at the Executive Spa: Physical Fitness for Better Tyranny.
  • Some of Skinner and Chalmers’ back-and-forths in the first act definitely feel like forebears to “Steamed Hams,” in particular the Awful School is Awful Rich headline, which I always laugh at (“An unrelated article? Within the banner headline?”)
  • Tito Puente’s impromptu appearance is almost like how celebs would randomly show up in future seasons, but it still works because his arrival in Springfield is immediately (and humorously) explained, as Tito has been fooled by Lisa into coming to be her new teacher (“Lisa has told me all your students are as bright and dedicated to jazz as she is!”)
  • Skinner confronting a poorly disguised Burns is such a great scene. It’s so much fun seeing him actually with balls; his flat “Please don’t waste those” at Smithers shooting staples at him is so funny.
  • What the hell is a sour quince log? A quince is apparently some kind of fruit, but the idea of a sour fruit chocolate doesn’t sound very appealing to me. Burns was right to dispose of it. Poor Homer.
  • Burns’ master plan to block out the sun couldn’t be more perfect. A scheme that would be absolutely devastating for the town, representing Burns’ absolute dominance over them all. In addition, it’s the perfect move for an ultra-capitalist to concoct a way to charge people for what nature provides them for free. You think if big business could figure out a way to monetize sunlight, they wouldn’t be all over that shit?
  • This might be the greatest script ever written for the show in terms of its story. The potential suspect list just grows and grows as Burns’ oil drilling has more and more natural repercussions to the town. Smithers is shown as getting more and more worn down by Burns’ over-the-top villainy, until even he can’t take it anymore. By act three, literally everyone in town is out for Burns’ blood, but he just revels in their hatred. He’s won, at least for now. It’s just an absolutely compelling ramp up for the entire episode.
  • God, what a beautiful camera move when Homer finally snaps and runs across Burns’ office.
  • Quimby’s plan to confront Burns is right out of the establishment Democrat’s playbook (“I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns’ underlings, who with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.”) His follow-up line is also fantastic (“Also it has been brought to my attention that a number of you are stroking guns. Therefore I will step aside and open up the floor.”)
  • Smithers shamefully admitting he spends his days drinking and watching Comedy Central is a joke that didn’t quite age well. I have no real remembrance of a Comedy Central pre-South Park and Daily Show when it was apparently a pretty crap channel.
  • The only real clue as to Burns’ true assailant is really brilliant; after Burns confidently asks, “You all talk big, but who here has the guts to stop me?,” we get a pan across all our characters, all of whom lose their nerve and look away. The only one who doesn’t? Maggie, who stares straight ahead.
  • I actually watched something I’d never seen before for this rewatch, the “Springfield’s Most Wanted” special that aired before Part Two in the fall of 1995. An obvious parody of America’s Most Wanted hosted by John Walsh, it goes over the case details of Mr. Burns’ shooting, identifying the most likely suspects, and getting thoughts and predictions from guests such as Dennis Franz and Chris Elliott. It’s kind of a cute piece, definitely a product of its time, but feels basically like pointless fluff, considering it aired right before the season premiere. I was originally going to ponder why the special never got released on the season 6 DVD, but looking back, it actually was included as an extra. I poured over those DVD sets so many times, how in the hell did I skip over that feature for so many years?
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I really liked this episode. The sense of drama was skillfully created, and the jokes largely character-driven instead of merely surreal. A promise of improvement for the next season?”

And that does it for me for 2020!  The Revisited series will return in 2021 with season 7, as well as the triumphant return of season 32! Oh boy! Although keep your eyes peeled, there might be a special Christmas surprise coming just in time for the holidays…

Season Six Revisited (Part Three)

13. And Maggie Makes Three

  • Seeing Homer and the kids watch “Knight Boat,” the Knight Rider parody, reminds me how this show really was on at the right time. So many classic movies and TV shows were television rerun mainstays, that this series could lampoon pretty much anything they wanted and it would still be somewhat in the public consciousness. Nowadays, movies or shows that seem like cultural touchstones get forgotten about in a week because of how much shit there is. But regardless if you know what Knight Rider is (outside of the basic premise, I sure don’t), the parody is still funny. You get enough of the basics of what the show is that Lisa pointing out the absurdity of it is still understandable (“Every week, there’s a canal!”)
  • I love the beginning of Homer’s flashback story turning into an action movie where he saves the plant from terrorists. Considering this is now the fifth flashback episode, I like that they’re toying with the format, having fun with an unreliable narrator. This also comes into play at the start of the third act when Bart makes past Homer’s head explode, and Marge forces Homer to restore himself to his actual weight.
  • “Oh, I should be resisting this, but I’m paralyzed with rage! And island rhythms!”
  • Homer literally burning his bridge at his old job now that he’s officially out of debt is absurdly hilarious, but it actually isn’t as absurd as a lot of his other crazy impulsive actions we’d later see. He’s budgeted for this in advance (only for four Simpsons, of course), and him going to work his dream job at the bowling alley feels a lot like his carefree life working at the mini golf course. Homer is a man child who doesn’t aspire too much out of life, so it almost feels like him attempting to return to his old life now that his adult obligations are seemingly taken care of, but of course, fate intervenes. This is also the only instance where we see that Barney’s Bowl-O-Rama is actually named after Barney Gumble, a seemingly sweet gesture by his uncle Al, the owner (that sweetness seems to have soured as of late, though, considering he fires Barney and gives Homer his job.)
  • Bart running off to angrily punch the wall when Homer tells them they won’t buy any more fancy quilted toilet paper is one of those ridiculous random gags that always makes me laugh.
  • Homer and Marge going out for “dinner and dancing,” meaning grooving to the radio in their car at the drive thru, is probably my favorite Homer-Marge moment of the whole series. I love when we see that Marge is a woman of simple pleasures to a degree just like her husband, and that’s why the two fell for each other in the first place. It’s just so completely sweet.
  • The bowling pin gag where all pins are discarded into a giant pile out back after being used once, and gigantic logs are whittled down to create one new pin each is so wonderfully dumb. I also love Alf Clausen’s orchestration of the classic “Powerhouse” music.
  • Patty and Selma using the phone book to spread gossip is a perfect classic Simpsons gag. Even knowing the twist is coming, I still laugh every time (“Aaronson and Zykowski are the two biggest gossips in town.  In an hour, everyone will know.”)
  • Homer’s complete ignorance of people congratulating him about Marge being pregnant is really perfectly executed. There’s been lots of moments in the history of this show where Homer is just way too stupid for a gag, but in this case, it’s contextually funny, almost like Homer’s subconscious is putting up blinders, like nothing is going to interrupt his new perfect life, no matter how on-the-nose the commentary gets (“Hey, Homer! Way to get Marge pregnant.” “This is getting very abstract, but thank you: I do enjoy working at the bowling alley!”
  • Ruth Powers being at the baby shower before she even moved to Springfield is one of those amusing timeline accidents, like when we see Santa’s Little Helper in “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet.” We also see Homer and Marge in the Simpson house when he finds out she’s pregnant with Bart, which they hadn’t bought yet, but for the sake of the joke, it really isn’t a big deal.
  • I don’t know how controversial this will be, but I’m not crazy about the ending. Homer’s misery washing away with just one look at his new baby girl I love, that’s a very sweet capper to the episode, Homer finding joy in his adult life through his children. But the “Do It For Her” plaque always rings slightly hollow for me because of all the jokes made before and after this episode where Homer forgets Maggie even exists. Hell, there’s even a joke in this episode where he almost sits on her. The ending is kinda sweet, but it doesn’t hit as hard for me as Homer relating to Bart or Lisa or Marge; I wouldn’t even put it in a top 10 sweetest series moments. Homer sheepishly waving hello to the newly born Maggie and him gushing about her is a much more emotional moment to me than the last shot.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “First they did a great flashback episode about Homer and Marge meeting; then a very good one about Bart as an infant; then a fairly good one about Lisa as an infant; now a truly awful one about Maggie as an infant. I’m going to start a collection so the writers can BUY an original damn idea! GRADE: F.”

14. Bart’s Comet

  • Big Butt Skinner might be Bart’s finest prank, the perfect blend of ingenuity and immaturity. I love how much anguish it causes to Skinner over the course of the first act, when his plea for the kids to chuck rocks to pop it ends up getting his car pelted, being humiliated over the phone as the astronomers find it on their telescope (“No, there’s no need to do that… it’s already named after me,”) to the act break where he catches it but ends up letting it go in anguish after Bart accomplishes in one minute what he attempted for countless nights. Act one is probably the greatest depiction of the Bart/Skinner dynamic; Bart is a rambunctious, savvy prankster, while Skinner tries his best to exert authority, but it never pans out the way he hopes.
  • The fighter pilot scene where they end up blowing each other’s planes up feels like an absolutely ludicrous commentary nowadays (“This is what happens when you cut money out of the military and put it into health care!”) Jesus Christ, can you even remember a time where you could call the defense budget underfunded, let alone in exchange for government health care? What a “horrible” thing to make fun of!
  • Skinner’s silent rage against Principal Kahoutek as the ominous clouds blot out the moon is so fantastic, as is when his tone quickly shifts back to normal and the clouds quickly dissipate. Skinner is pretty brutal (“I got back at him, though. Him and that little boy of his.”) What exactly did he do? Once again, I like Skinner a lot more when he’s got some balls. Him getting angry at Chalmers and attacking him in “The Road to Cincinnati,” a scene stuck in an ultimately disappointing episode, was a very welcome display for Skinner.
  • I love the moment after Marge tells Bart she’s proud of him, he retorts with, “But then, you’ve always been proud of me,” causing Marge to pause and stammer out a yes. It’s great because it’s obvious that Bart is just messing with his mother like a kid would.
  • They’re pretty much one-scene wonders, but I do love the Super Friends, the biggest dorks ever to be animated. I like that Lisa is among their ranks, but her expression really reads like she’s much more self-aware then they are. She’s barely got friends as it is, so she figures why not sit with her fellow mega-geeks. Also, Martin is conspicuously absent from the group; given his standoffish attitude, I can imagine that he and the Super Friends have a silent rivalry going on. Martin versus the Super Friends is a new episode I’d love to see, although with a Grey Griffin-voiced Martin, I’d be slightly less interested. Also the script would almost certainly be shit, so that too.
  • You kind of just need to go along with it for the purpose of the story, but Springfield has just one bridge? What are they, on an island? It’s worth it for the scene where Arnie Pye is reporting on the cars flying off the destroyed bridge, effectively doing a mass suicide (“It’s a silent testament to the never-give-up and never-think- things-out spirit of our citizens!”)
  • The Congress vote on saving Springfield is a classic scene, where the bill ends up getting saddled with an additional rider: $30 million of taxpayer money to support the perverted arts (“All in favor of the amended Springfield-slash-pervert bill?”) The bill is killed unanimously, prompting Kent Brockman to give one of the greatest quotes of the whole series (“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: democracy simply doesn’t work.”)
  • What a wonderful display of all of our lovable characters. They even stuck a Waldo in there. I also love Nelson having Milhouse in a headlock.
  • Todd Flanders loading a shotgun intended for his crazed father while crying is a wonderfully dark moment.
  • Homer teeters toward asshole territory by vehemently demanding Ned’s expulsion from the shelter, but he immediately makes up for it by leaving after him when his conscience gets the better of him. I like how that leads to a Springfield solidarity in everybody following suit (“Hey, Homer, wait up, I wanna die too!”) The people of Springfield are selfish and moronic, but they do have a sense of town pride, with just a smidgen of familial unity, as the ending of this episode nicely displays.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “What the hell? I seem to remember when Simpsons episodes had plots which related to rather than hopelessly contorting real life. This continued in the recent trend of episodes being little more than jokes barely strung together by a thin, unbelievable plot.”

15. Homie the Clown

  • The opening of this episode is just fabulous, rapid-fire showing Krusty’s spend-happy lifestyle, completely ignoring any panicked statements from his accountant (”I don’t want to hear the endings of any sentences!”)
  • “Gambling is the finest thing a person can do, if he’s good at it!”
  • I love Homer’s excitement over new billboard day, especially considering how clear it is he’s excited that they’re all food-related (scoffing at Krusty’s billboard, “Clown college? You can’t eat that!”) Next scene we see he’s got all his new foodstuffs out on his work console, but the power of advertising proves to be incredibly intense as the clown college continues to worm into his brain.
  • Marge’s “I think I’ll have some wine” while the family stares at Homer sculpting his mashed potatoes always makes me laugh.
  • I like how the story of this episode is kind of a big in-joke reference to the long abandoned idea that Krusty was secretly Homer in disguise, the irony being that Bart reveres this famous TV clown, yet has no respect for his father. I assume this idea was abandoned around the same time as the intended reveal that Marge was a “Life in Hell” rabbit. I love that despite being in full costume, Homer is still easily identified by his single two hairs on top of his head, but nobody else seems to notice or care.
  • I love how brutal this pie-to-the-face looks, that the wealthy dowager’s head just imbeds itself into the wall. How is she not dead after this?
  • I like how most of act two is just Homer getting more and more degraded as a Krusty performer, to the point where he’s at a kid’s birthday party just getting shit thrown at him as he performs. And the lowest of the low, having Kirk Van Houten boss you around.
  • I really don’t know much of anything about Dick Cavett other than he had a talk show, but he’s got to be one of the most brutal celebrity appearances (“I’d just like to say, I know Woody Allen,” followed by the most tepid applause.) I miss the days when celebrities came on the show to get the rug ripped out from under them, not get their asses kissed (“Your churlish attitude reminds me of a time I was having dinner with Groucho…” “Look, you’re going to be having dinner with Groucho tonight if you don’t beat it!”)
  • Krusty betting against the Harlem Globetrotters is so funny. Watching a high stakes bet over a basketball game also reminded me of Uncut Gems, which is always a positive for me.
  • I’m sure there’s Rule 34 of post-plastic surgery busty Krusty, and no, I don’t want to see any links confirming that.
  • More wonderful cartoon brutality in Ned getting shot twice by Legs. The combination of the bullet impact, Ned’s yell and the quickness of the animation of him falling to the floor just makes it seem really intense.
  • I like that Homer is quick to throw Barney under the bus to save his skin, throwing out his name second after admitting his own identity didn’t work. Also, Barney apparently is kind of a big sleaze himself, taking pictures of Legs’ sister. I guess I can buy that.
  • What a great character Don Vittorio is. A self-professed Italian stereotype, yes, but Dan Castellaneta’s performance is so earnest, he makes even a character arriving late into the third act feel incredibly notable. He even got his own action figure, for Pete’s sake! I love how tickled he is by Krusty’s antics, and conversely, how offended he is when Homer/Krusty botches his act (“The fact that you did not do the trick well is the biggest insult of all!”
  • It’s a simple shot, but I love the POV of Homer failing to do the loop.
  • It’s pretty sweet that after Homer messes up Krusty by covering his eyes riding the trike, he redeems himself, and his clowning education, by swallowing the tricycle at the end and ringing the bell. It’s so stupid, but it feels like a triumphant moment for him.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Another Swartzwelder disappointment. Fat Tony’s return seemed so promising, but the plot was contrived. Homer becomes a clown? Come off it. I guess fresh ideas are hard to come up with after a while. Grade: D.”

16. Bart vs. Australia

  • Everybody learned about the Coriolis effect, right? And then at one point tried to test it out themselves? This show really taught me a lot of things.
  • The first act is the perfect representation of showing Lisa as smart, but not smug. She just knows a lot because she’s intelligent, and definitely feels some sense of superiority over Bart in particular, but never in a smarmy way. She stops short of mentioning the equator on the globe, in favor of “this line,” in both a helpful and condescending way. Then she messes with her brother about the bizarre land of Rand McNally (“They wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people!”)
  • The gag of an elderly Hitler still being alive feels like one of the most bizarre jokes ever done on this show.
  • Homer’s brain reasoning with himself on something he may or may not have forgotten definitely rings truer to me having a terrible memory married to a woman who remembers everything (“Quiet, it might be you! I can’t remember.” “Naw, I’m going to ask Marge.” “No, no! Why embarrass us both? Just write a check and I’ll release some more endorphins.”)
  • Hank Azaria as Bruno, Tobias’ father, is one of those incredibly loud and boisterous voices that is just so high volume, you can hear the sound bouncing off the recording studio. It’s fantastic.
  • Evan Conover (Undersecretary for International Protocol: Brat and Punk Division) is hands-down Phil Hartman’s greatest one-off role. All his characters are congenial-presenting shysters, so his voice is basically tailor made for a government official. 
  • The skeleton who appeared to dig his way out of his own coffin is a pretty dark visual gag.
  • I like how Bart releases his bullfrog at the airport as a means to not spread any more mischief (“I don’t want to get into any more trouble down here.  I’ll pick you up on the way home.”) The frog of course escapes into the wild immediately, providing an amusing through-line of the bullfrogs multiplying rapidly, wreaking havoc on the island.
  • The toilet at the US Embassy may be one of the greatest jokes of the entire series, at least conceptually. A shining example of useless government spending and American’s sense of superiority, all for a toilet to flush the “correct American way,” something most people won’t even realize.
  • Given the enormous statue at the Cultural Center, I guess Snake must have some Australian ancestors.
  • Have I mentioned Dankmus recently? Anyway, C-O-B-E is another bangin’ track.
  • One of the biggest laughs I’ve gotten this whole rewatch is after Marge gives her impassioned speech on the phone with the Aussies (“I think we can all agree, there’s no substitute for the discipline of a loving parent,”) then confidently hands the phone back to Conover, who continues (“…so we’re in agreement. She won’t be allowed near the phone again.”) So fucking funny. One of the best jokes just spitting in the face of narrative tropes.
  • This really ends up being a great character study of Bart by the end, this mischievous, unflappable kid who clearly can see the absurdity of the whole situation, so his own recourse is to mock it mercilessly and moon an entire country. That climax really is one of the series’ greatest individual moments.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Ouch, that was the single worst Simpsons I’ve ever seen. It was hard to figure out what the hell it was trying to say, I mean if I want to here about caning or ecosystems I’ll read Newsweek.”

17. Homer vs. Patty and Selma

  • Gotta love Homer’s wallet full of singed bills. I also love his annoyed face when Barney guesses his investment is in pumpkins, but as it’s my profile picture, that’s probably no surprise.
  • I’m sure Marge has a difficult enough time trying to save face about Homer in front of her sisters, and I love that Homer in his petty aggravation is no help at all. In saying that her husband is a very complicated man, Homer immediately hangs his head out the bedroom window, smashes a plate on his head, and yells, “Wrong!” Just great.
  • I love Homer’s dream about the mysterious invention that could make him rich, if he only knew what it was (“Why would you need to see it? You’re the genius that invented the… product in question.”) It looks like some kind of metal ball with weird little gizmos sticking out of it. What could it be?
  • Who could forget dear Rat Boy?
  • We get an incredibly rare moment with Bart’s seldom-seen chums Lewis and Richard fighting for slots at P.E. Sign-Up Day (“This gets uglier every year! Any sign of Bart and Milhouse?” “No, and if they don’t get here soon, it’ll be T.S. for them!”)
  • Homer’s frozen grin after Patty & Selma show up is so damn funny. He’s just stewing in his own juices in that armchair.
  • Susan Sarandon as the ballet teacher is another underrated guest character. Maybe not as unsung as a Brad Goodman, but she’s got some good lines (“So many of your heroes wear tights: Batman, for example, and… Magellan.”)
  • “You can’t spell ‘obsequious’ without ‘I.O.U.” “I’ll have to trust you on that.” Yet another word I learned from The Simpsons, although I don’t know if I’ve ever actually used it.
  • “Is this projection accurate?” is probably in my top 3 favorite Marge lines. The way that she delivers such a specifically worded question as earnestly if she had just said, “Is this true?” is just so funny to me.
  • Seeing Bart become incredibly proficient at ballet so quickly reminded me of modern episodes where in no time flat he becomes an expert drummer, cartoon director, etc. But the difference here is that the point of the subplot isn’t him becoming an amazing dancer, it’s his apprehension and fear about being a boy who likes dance. The subplot ends in true Simpsons fashion where the bullies are won over by the mysterious masked boy’s performance, Bart feels brave enough to reveal himself, but he is chased out of the school anyway. Nelson’s “As long as he’s hurt” always makes me laugh, and I sometimes forget the additional scene with Lisa, which is cut in syndication, but that’s just as great a moment.
  • In terms of classic era guest appearances, Mel Brooks skews the closest in terms of just being there to be fawned over, but the show smartly pins that reverence coming out of Homer’s mouth, showering Brooks with dubious compliments (“I love that movie, Young Frankenstein. Scared the hell out of me!”) and goading him into re-enacting his famous comedy routines, except getting them wrong or performing them awkwardly. Chief Wiggum showing up only compounds this, only annoying Brooks further.
  • I like that the ending kind of sneaks up on you, where Marge talks about how difficult the strife between her husband and her sisters is on her, leading Homer to make a great sacrifice: actually doing something nice for Patty & Selma. Marge finally having an example to show what a caring man Homer is and Patty and Selma sincerely apologizing is a very sweet conclusion.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I had a dumbfounded Krusty-like expression on my face after this episode was over. I’m not advocating a homogenized goulash of writers where no one has a distinctive identity, but I would like to see the consistent level of intelligence and humor that was present the last two seasons.”

18. A Star is Burns

  • Regarding this episode’s controversial production, where Matt Groening removed his on-screen credit out of protest, I wonder if there was ever any bad blood between him, Al Jean & Mike Reiss. I assume Groening went back home to his solid gold mansion and rested on his giant pile of money and got over it fairly quickly. Anyway, I remember asking my mom who Jay Sherman was when I was a kid, thinking he was yet another celebrity playing himself. It wasn’t until later when I saw reruns of The Critic airing at midnight on Comedy Central that I realized it was a whole different show. I actually rewatched The Critic recently, and it sorta kinda holds up. It definitely feels like an extension of season 3 and 4 Simpsons in terms of its isolated cutaway jokes, but almost to its detriment at times. There’s a lot of great gags in the series, but sometimes at the expense of the audience really caring about the story or the characters. It’s tough to care about Jay when every other scene he’s doing a jokey celebrity impression or is dropped into a movie reference, there’s not a ton of room for actual character work. Season 2 definitely tried to remedy this, rendering Jay more relatable and crafting better stories that feel a bit more grounded, but as the season only had nine episodes and a clip show, the series died before it could really improve itself any further. It’s still definitely worth a watch, but it felt a bit more rickety than I remembered it.
  • Krusty as FDR always makes me laugh. Him absent-mindedly getting out of the wheelchair is a big faux pas, but him still covered in clown makeup wasn’t an issue?
  • “The easiest way to be popular is to leech off the popularity of others.” An ethos that modern Simpsons has put into practice many a time…
  • Todd’s screaming down the river bend getting cut off by the obscuring trees is one of those stupid jokes that I really, really love.
  • “Bart Simpson, meet Jay Sherman, the Critic!” You could argue about the artistic integrity of a crossover made to help promote another show, but this episode really doesn’t feel any less like an episode of The Simpsons to me. Jay Sherman is like a celebrity guest star (hence my confusion as a child) and the town holding a local film festival doesn’t sound too alien a premise for this show. Also, the two series share so much DNA in regards to their sense of humor. Homer and Jay’s stomachs growling at each other feels kind of like a Critic gag, but it doesn’t feel out of place on The Simpsons at all.
  • “I’m afraid we have a bad image, sir. Market research shows people see you as something of an ogre.” “I ought to club them and eat their bones!”
  • I love Homer’s prized belching contest trophy is just a big wide-open maw on a stand. Great design.
  • Dr. Hibbert mistakenly arriving at the theater for The Rocky Horror Picture Show in full costume is a great gag, but also feels like it adds onto his normally straight-laced character a bit.
  • “Man Getting Hit By Football” and Homer laughing at it is one of those early wav files I remember downloading off the computer. I think I had it as my PC start-up sound for a while, even though it was like a minute long.
  • Who exactly shot Barney’s movie? One of those questions I don’t want the answer to.
  • I like that despite being rejected by Burns, Bumblebee Man still gets a prominent role in his movie, presumably as Senor Spielbergo’s special request.
  • “How can you vote for Burns’ movie?” “Let’s just say it moved me…TO A BIGGER HOUSE! Oops, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet..”
  • Another great newspaper headline.
  • Why exactly was an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon produced by a major studio eligible for an amateaur film festival? Who cares, just an excuse to watch another great I & S.
  • The story of how Hans Moleman’s short film was option by Hollywood, produced and went on to win an Academy Award definitely feels like a movie in and of itself. It could be the follow-up to Mank!
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Let’s face it: sooner or later, with the Simpsons so popular, the show will be destroyed by the very system and facet of society that it has made its reputation criticizing. This shameless, blatant promotion of ‘The Critic’ could well be the narrow end of the wedge for that.”

Season Six Revisited (Part Two)

7. Bart’s Girlfriend

  • “That’s not fair, Nelson. They didn’t have the Killmatic 3000 back then!” “Records from that era are spotty at best!”
  • Bart’s “Soul Man”/”Troll Man” song is so great; every now and again, it pops into my head and I love it.
  • “Yarrr, I hate the sea and everything in it.” Between this and his pathetic raft in “Boy Scoutz N The Hood,” I love how the Sea Captain is not only a complete fraud, but a self-hating one as well. It’s also yet another example of the show pushing their elements to their limits; how much more could you do with that character? I remember a show within the last two years that had a first act devoted to the Sea Captain’s life and an adventure out at sea and it just felt so pointless. Thirty years later and you’re going to try to make him a real character?
  • I actually laughed out loud when I noticed “Sunday School, Est. 1 A.D.” written on the classroom door. I don’t think I ever noticed that before.
  • Maggie Roswell voices the Sunday school teacher here with a really great performance, you can hear her struggle to try and be open-minded about Bart as to not sound like a hypocrite to her class. Tress MacNeille voiced her in “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment,” and probably in however many other subsequent appearances she’s had over the next twenty-five years. I feel like I bag on MacNeille a lot, and I don’t mean to, because she’s incredibly talented. She would just end up being very overused on this show when we get to the Al Jean era and almost every single woman character would be voiced by her. She’s fantastic in more unique, over-the-top characters (Agnes Skinner, Brandine, Futurama’s Mom), but I think Maggie Roswell can do understated and subtle a lot better and funnier.
  • This is the first of two times Bart has been tempted by the protruding behind of a teacher, the second being in “Team Homer.” It’s the same set-up twice, but with two different jokes (“Must… fight… Satan! Make it… up to him… later!”)
  • It’s odd that Skinner performs his incredibly elaborate sting operation to catch Bart on a Sunday, giving him three months detention for a prank after school hours. But who cares, it’s worth it to hear Willie erupt at him for being an unwitting pawn( ”YAH USED ME, SKINNER!! YAH UUUUSSSSEEEDDD ME!!”)
  • Bart and Jessica’s rebel montage is set to “Miserlou,” music at the time just made famous by Pulp Fiction. It’s funny how a few episodes ago in “Itchy & Scratchy Land,” they made the soon-to-be-outdated John Travolta joke, and now they directly paid homage to his comeback movie. It had just come out a month before this episode aired, so it probably was a last minute addition to use that music in post.
  • Homer talking about Bart missing his old glasses is one of those bits that makes absolutely no sense, but is still so damn funny anyway.
  • “Stop him! He’s heading for the window!” makes me laugh every time.
  • I love how Lisa is at Bart’s side to help him through the whole episode, from the beginning when Jessica first rejects him, to the end where she takes it upon herself to expose her. It’s very sweet how despite how he annoys her constantly, she’s still very supportive and protective of her big brother.
  • Great absurdist touch how they use a metal jack to lift Jessica’s mattress.
  • The ending bit between Lovejoy and Jessica is so fantastic as it tells us so much info in so little time about the family dynamic of the Lovejoys. Timothy tells his congregation his daughter was at boarding school, but it’s logically revealed she was expelled, but Tim just plugs his ears and will not have it, turning a blind eye to his problems. But is Jessica’s somber admission of her crimes being a desperate cry for attention just a sweet lie to avoid greater punishment, or does she really mean it? Or both? It’s neat to speculate about, but considering she’ll never be seen from again, don’t worry too much about it.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Ouch. Not funny. Hardly smiled. Why, oh why…? Not even Willy’s bare behind saved the show. There was no bite to this episode, it was lacking the usual wit. Meryl Streep, eh? They should have done something interesting with her, not this predictable stuff.”

8. Lisa on Ice

  • I love the small bits of acting at the very beginning of the family watching TV. Homer is wagging his beer can in front of Maggie, while Bart and Lisa do homework in front of the set. The latter is setting up the joke where Bart tosses his book report in the fire, but the former is just a sweet little extra that I always love to see.
  • Lisa’s prank with the “fake” snowball is a great moment, as is Jimbo’s backfired taunt (“Nice PJs, Simpson! Did your Mommy buy ‘em for you?” “Of course she did, who else would have?” “…alright, Simpson, you win this round.”)
  • Skinner’s Academic Alert system reminds me how impossible it is to hide grades from your parents in our digital age where most schools have all grades up immediately for helicopter parents to glom onto. My wife is a teacher and there are certain parents who get on her ass immediately about grades way before their kid would have told them about it. I feel bad for kids now.
  • “If you lose, I’ll kill you!” Great call-and-response action between Homer and Bart here.
  • I love how Apu has absolutely no problem hocking a puck at a defenseless eight-year-old girl not once, but twice (“Let’s try a hard one to make sure it wasn’t a fluke!”)
  • The montage of Bart attempting to be a good student is fantastic. It’s one of those great jokes in this series where it’s openly making fun of shitty sitcom storytelling, then pulls the rug out under its characters. Bart tries to fill Lisa’s shoes, fails miserably, then gets beat up for his troubles (“This is for wasting teacher’s valuable time!”) I also like how this leads to Lisa protecting Bart from the bullies, which could have easily just been its own isolated scene, but that the two lead directly into each other makes the story feel stronger.
  • Every Marge bit in this episode is great, she’s completely out of her element in an episode about sports. I can relate (“By blocking the net, I really think you helped your team!” “How about we play the basketball?  I’m no Harvey Globetrotter…”) And, of course, always watch out for her Shaq attack.
  • Homer is definitely extra jerky this episode, but it’s for a story-specific reason. Just as he imagined he was living in a rowdy college movie in “Homer Goes to College,” here Homer is embodying all the shithead fathers who live vicariously through their kids’ little league sports (just as Lisa bitterly describes to her gym teacher). His riling up of Bart and Lisa against each other never feels like it goes too far, and all of that pent up passion purposefully builds up to the end, where even Marge gets poisoned by it (“He tripped my boy! I demand vengeance!!”), which makes Bart and Lisa’s mutual concession of the game feel even more satisfying.
  • There’s some great painful sound design in this show, between Milhouse’s teeth getting knocked out to Homer banging his head on the range hood over the stove.
  • The bit of Bart knocking the ketchup across the table and Lisa catching it is a wonderful quick bit of animation. I love that in exaggeratedly fast motions from Marge or Lisa, they have their pearls stretch and squash with them.
  • Moe’s random appearance is definitely a highlight; it has nothing to do with the episode at all, but it still works in adding in more conflict leading up to the final game. And for every single instance in newer episodes where Marge acts nicely to Moe and is more than happy to help lift him up, I always refer back to this line: “You caught me at a real bad time, Moe. I hope you understand I’m too tense to pretend I like you.” It just makes more sense for her to be quietly angry at the man who runs the seedy bar that keeps her husband away from her and their children every night than for him to be a close family friend.
  • The “Kill Bart”/”Kill, Bart” chanting is a tremendous joke.
  • The ending with Bart and Lisa’s flashbacks is just beautiful, an absolutely perfect example of the show utilizing sentiment without feeling too treacly. It’s one of those great sequences like Homer’s proposal in “I Married Marge” where I’m laughing while tearing up simultaneously, where Marge is touched by her children’s actions, and Homer of course is crying for a different reason (“They’re both losers! Losers!!”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Grrrr! Who was responsible for last night’s monstrosity? He should be forced to apologize on the air, and then be fired from the show, sterilized, and sent to live like an animal in the sewers below Los Angeles for the rest of his life.”

9. Homer Badman

  • Lucky Charms is a really terrible cereal. The grain, non-marshmallow pieces taste bad, and don’t really work to balance out the sweet marshmallow. Throw the whole box away, Bart.
  • I love how openly and energetically Bart and Lisa help out in the great candy scheme, quickly backing down from asking Homer to go to the convention after understanding that Marge going means more candy for all (“For the greater good,”) to helping sew all the giant pockets into Marge’s enormous trench coat.
  • It really bothers me that you can see Frink’s pupils through his coke bottle glasses in the sour candy scene.
  • That’s a pretty damning expression. No wonder Ashley freaked out.
  • I love the bit where Marge tells the kids they can donate the extra candy to charity, and a sick Bart and Lisa feebly grasp their sugar pile and continue to eat sweets for breakfast. It feels like the perfect contrast to the hundred jokes in later seasons where Homer would wail and scream at the very concept of something being given to charity; here, it’s little kids being selfish over a childish thing, rather than Homer just being a heartless dick.
  • “Two! Four! Six! Eight! Homer’s crime was very great!” [pause] “‘Great’ meaning ‘large’ or ‘immense,’ we use it in the pejorative sense!”
  • It’s really fantastic that from the very start, Marge believes Homer’s story, so we don’t have to deal with any stupid bullshit like her actually thinking Homer groped a teenager. I also love the scene later when they’re in bed and Marge has to break it to Homer that she can’t help him out of the situation. It’s a very sweet, genuine scene, where Homer pleas with his wife to help his dumb ass, but his dependency comes from a more earnest place than it felt in “Secrets to a Successful Marriage.”
  • One of the protestors is Marge’s high school friend from “The Way We Was,” but the exact same age as she was in 1974. They must have just recycled the character sheet without realizing it.
  • The “Rock Bottom” interview is so damn good. The constantly changing clock after each of Homer’s cut up words is great, but it’s even better that we saw his uncut interview and it’s less than a minute of him talking and the clock not moving, so it makes no sense either way. I also love that the reverse shot of Godfrey Jones they shot outdoors, they didn’t even bother shooting it in the same studio to make it look consistent. They could barely give a shit to make it look the least bit credible.
  • “Simpson scandal update: Homer sleeps nude in an oxygen tent which he believes gives him sexual powers.” “Hey, that’s a half-truth!”
  • The theme of this episode of people being emotionally manipulated by sensationalist media, even affecting the thoughts of their own family, definitely rings truer than ever in 2020. This episode’s specific story about a man being railroaded by a woman slandering them on sexual harassment feels like it’s probably been held up by some folks as a means to mock any woman who comes forward with a story, but I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole any further. In-universe, it’s great that Homer doesn’t begrudge his kids for believing TV over him, he’s just as conflicted as they are (“Maybe TV is right. TV’s always right…”)
  • “The courts might not work any more, but as long as everybody is videotaping everyone else, justice will be done.” Jeez, speaking of bits that feel more relevant now… In an age where everyone can film stuff on their phones, we’re definitely exposed to more horrific stuff going on, but we’re in an even greater hellscape than The Simpsons could have ever predicted, where there’s people in our society who can see actual video evidence of crime and corruption, and still not believe what they’re seeing is true.
  • The “Rock Bottom” corrections are a freeze-framer’s dream. Some highlights include “Our viewers are not pathetic sexless food tubes,” “Licking an electrical outlet will not turn you into a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger,” and “Godfrey Jones’ wife is cheating on him.”
  • The twist at the end of Willie getting blasted and Homer going along with it is fantastic (“Marge, my friend, I haven’t learned a thing.”) He may have missed the moral completely, but at least he and TV are back together.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “C-plus – a good episode, with a few laughs, but the story just dragged along, and the “Willy with his video tape” ending just made the show stop cold as if it had slammed into the side of the house. I’ll agree with one thing: the nerds on the Internet are not geeks…”

10. Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy

  • First off, this is probably the best episode title ever. I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw this episode, but I remember reading the title as a kid in the Simpsons complete guide and not understanding it whatsoever.
  • I love how by the end of a sexless year, Marge is so pent up she completely shoos a terrified Bart off in the middle of the night.
  • Al Gore “celebrating” is a fantastic scene. Ah, the days when your most scathing critique of a high-ranking politician was that they were too boring. Wasn’t that quaint?
  • I love how pissed Homer and Marge look when they’re at the end of their patience with the Paul Harvey tape. It’s also great that Marge is the one to toss the cassette out the window, then Homer backs the car up over it. Teamwork!
  • Hilarious work by Dan Castellaneta as Abe for really elongating “seeeeeeeexxxxxxxxxx!”
  • The Stock Footage Festival joke is pretty silly. It’s bizarre that the kids would go to such a thing, but for the purposes of the joke, the Festival sign is hanging on the wall in the dark theater.
  • “You look like a man who needs help satisfying his wife!” “I guess people have some sort of moral objection to our sex drug.” Most comedies would kill for two slam-dunk jokes like this in a single episode; this show doles them out in ten seconds.
  • I love Milhouse’s stupid little head nodding, completely none-the-wiser of what his parents are up to.
  • Speaking of, I love the “B-plot” of the kids trying to figure out what’s wrong with their parents. It’s not even really a plot since it goes nowhere, but it’s a cute couple of scenes that thankfully doesn’t rely on the kids’ misinformation about sex, but just child-like silliness (beware the reverse vampires!)
  • Young Homer doing his Kennedy impression is pretty damn adorable. And of course, it’s the perfect lead-in for another great awful parenting moment from Abe (“This is the greatest country in the world. We’ve got a whole system set up to prevent people like you from ever becoming president! Quit your daydreaming, melonhead!”)
  • As we wait for the Homer/Abe reconciliation in the third act, Homer attempting to overcompensate on being a good father to make up for his own lackluster childhood is logical to the story, and very funny. I love at one point we see him with Maggie strapped to his chest, but he’s eating a bag of potato chips and all the crumbs are falling all over her. Bart and Lisa are less than enthused by all this extra attention (“Dad, it’s just that too much of your love can really be… scary.” “Someday you’ll thank me for all this scary love.”)
  • Not as big an emotional wallop as “Lisa on Ice,” but I like how this ending feels incredibly genuine. Homer finding the picture of his father dressed as Santa doesn’t absolve all of Abe’s sins, but it does show that he did care for his son. Meanwhile Abe is truly sorry he hurt Homer. The two accidentally burning down their family house is representative how they both share some of the blame and need to apologize to each other, which Abe sincerely, though begrudgingly, does in his own way (“I’m not sorry I had you, son. I was always proud… that you weren’t a short man.”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Although I’ve supported the show this season while other people have trashed it, I’m afraid that tonight’s episode sucked. Grandpa, who is usually the highlight of the show, got on my nerves tonight. His stupid lines got boring, and the plot was not too well thought out.”

11. Fear of Flying

  • The Mt. Lushmore caricatures are really fantastic, drawn by David Silverman in the style of famed caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. You don’t get a great look at them in this episode, but seeing them reminded me that the drawings appear in the Moe’s Tavern section of “The Simpsons Guide to Springfield,” probably the best tie-in book the show ever put out. It was like a fake travelogue with a little write-up on every single attraction, shop, restaurant, and other miscellaneous tourist highlights if you were to visit Springfield, USA. The fact that you could fill an entire book talking about fictional locations is a true testament to how fleshed out the world of the series is. It’s a really unique book that I’d highly recommend you check out if you can find it in a used book store for fifty cents or something.
  • The Little Black Box is such a brilliant name for a pilot’s bar. I also like that Homer’s wacky accident was completely a result of being thrust into it against his wishes in an absurdist fashion (“I keep telling you I’m not a pilot!” “And I keep telling you you flyboys crack me up!”) There are plenty of examples in later seasons of Homer doing dumb shit on his own and inexplicably getting rewarded for it.
  • The build of Marge’s increasingly fraying psyche is pretty engaging, she just gets more and more unhinged and you really wonder what the root of it all is.
  • Homer’s paranoia about therapy is also played out very well. Despite his aggressive stance on not wanting to get “blamed,” it comes off more like his insecurities of being bad for Marge, and worrying that the jig is finally up and she’ll rightfully leave him. His nervous backpedaling asking Marge about her session is a great moment (“Don’t tell her I raised my voice! Happy family, happy family…”)
  • Marge’s father has always remained a big question mark in the lore of this series. There was clearly less interest or desire to explore the Bouvier family on the part of the writers, so sadly, this episode remains the only show that ever highlighted him in a real significant way. Given her very traditionalist upbringing in regards to societal roles for men and women, Marge seeing her father figure in a “feminine” occupation definitely seems like it would be jarring for her as a child. Part of me wishes we got more information about the fallout of the inciting incident; almost thirty years later, and I still want to learn more about the Bouviers.
  • The ending is very rushed, but purposefully so (“That’s okay, you don’t have to make her into some kind of superwoman. She can get on a plane, that’s plenty!”) Again, I want to know more about Marge’s family, but instead we get the joke montage of her past traumatic incidents involving planes, although I love Ann Bancroft’s read as she brushes it all off (“Yes, yes, it’s all a rich tapestry.”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “It sucked for one simple reason. Homer is funny. Bart is funny. Willy the Groundskeeper is funny. Principal Skinner is funny. The Flanders family is funny. C. Montgomery Burns is the living avatar of ‘funny.’  Even Lisa has her moments of being funny. Marge, however, is not and never can be funny.”

12. Homer the Great

  • The power plant parking lot extending to the Simpson backyard has got to be the biggest geography cheat in the show’s history, but it’s so damn funny, I don’t even care. The point is Homer is having a tough morning, and how he barely acknowledges Bart and Marge at the window, nor the ridiculousness of his insane commute being for nothing, makes the cheat completely worth it.
  • Homer’s paint can plan to track Lenny and Carl is actually pretty clever, maybe even too clever for him to come up with (“Now all I have to do is follow the yellow drip road…”)
  • The scene at the dinner table where Abe keeps trying to say he’s a Stonecutter is pretty unique. Rather than just play the scene straight with Abe bringing up the information, or the family just ignoring him and having that be the joke, they add on top of it with Bart commenting on it (“Dad, remember those self-hypnosis courses we took to help us ignore Grampa? Maybe we should be listening to him now.”) And of course we get Homer giddily saying he’s a chicken and Marge being completely fed up by it.
  • “And by the sacred parchment, I swear that if I reveal the secrets of the Stonecutters, may my stomach become bloated and my head be plucked of all but three hairs.” “I think he should have to take a different oath!”
  • I wonder how extensive the Stonecutter secret tunnel is. It’s not like it only leads directly to the power plant, it’s got to be a whole series of routes to different locations around Springfield. I also love how it was included in “The Simpsons: Hit & Run” video game.
  • I saw this episode a lot in syndication, so I always forget about the cut scene of the Stonecutter’s version of what happened at the Declaration of Independence. The idea of a secret society’s bastardized history is funny, but I can’t say that I missed seeing it from all those reruns.
  • The Stonecutters song is just wonderful, especially having heard it and sung it for years at the Stonecutters LA live trivia events.
  • Similar to the last episode with Homer damaging the plane not being purposeful, I love that Homer using the sacred parchment as a bib was originally a precautionary measure as to not make a slob out of himself and disrespect his fellow members. Of course, he’s an oblivious moron, but it’s funnier if his intentions are good and he acts dumbly because of it, not just him being a selfish, destructive dick.
  • I love the start of act three where Homer, in full Chosen One garb, just walks to the stage just absolutely giddy, giggling to himself. All he wanted this episode was to feel a sense of belonging, and now he’s gotten more than he ever could have imagined.
  • It’s a little unclear why the other Stonecutters treat Homer with such absolute reverence, letting him win at cards and bowing before his presence, even outside of the Great Hall. The whole point of the Stonecutters is to just be a rowdy, boorish men’s club, a place to get drunk and play ping pong. All the mysticism and prophecy stuff is just nonsense set dressing. Now all these guys have to cater to Homer’s every whim, which doesn’t make it seem very fun. But it’s fine as a stepping stone to Homer making them actually do good and charitable things for the community, which they get really pissed about, which makes for a great third act conflict.
  • “He’s gone mad with power. Like that Albert Schweitzer guy.” I never understood this joke. Finally, based on the footnotes on the Simpsons Archive capsule, I think it’s that Moe actually meant to say Adolf Hitler? That definitely seems to make sense. But when I watched it, it just made me think, who’s Albert Schweitzer?
  • This ending is another sneak attack sentimental ending. Homer realizing his sense of belonging in the family Simpson is genuinely sweet, and again, it’s fucking funny at the same time, with Marge’s talk about two special rings, prompting Bart and Lisa to loudly blow on their cereal box whistle rings.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This is the first time I’ve ever been disappointed by a episode with ‘Homer’ in its title. First, the plot was simply too UNbelievable. Second, many of its gags just didn’t work: They were either predictable, stale, cheesy, or just plain embarrassing. Grade: C.”

Season Six Revisited (Part One)

1. Bart of Darkness

  • Through multiple heat waves across the series, I like that Bart takes after his father in just lying around in his skivvies, Marge tries to remain respectable with her normal dress, while Lisa has changed to her pink one piece bathing suit.
  • The scene where Bart and Lisa confront Homer about getting a pool is one of those great scenes that just has joke after joke after joke. Homer turning sideways off the couch to see the TV behind Lisa, Bart unplugging the set, Homer replying cheerfully after his obstinate display (“Yes, Lisa?”), then Lisa’s very eloquently prepared speech, followed by incessant chanting of “Can we have a pool, Dad?” with Bart. I also love that Lisa holds her hand up to signal Bart to stop the repetitive chant, so he gets to the next “Can we” before stopping. And then Homer’s diplomatic, “Let us celebrate our new arrangement with the adding of chocolate to milk.”
  • “Awww, I’m going to miss the whole summer.” “Don’t worry, boy. When you get a job like me, you’ll miss every summer.” Last time I watched this episode I was gearing up for another year of school; watching this again after many years in the workforce, this hits harder.
  • The Busby Berkley-style pool performance is great, almost like the summertime version of “Bart Gets an F” where Bart is forced to watch an incredibly fun day out that he can’t participate in. I don’t quite know why, but I always laugh at Homer’s tube just floating into the human circle, like he’s probably really loaded and not sure what these kids are doing, but he’s having a great time drinking Duff in his undies, so whatever.
  • This episode has the longest Itchy & Scratchy up to this point, which in later seasons would be a bad sign, but this one is great, I love the slow build where you’re not quite sure how Scratchy is going to get butchered, and the sound design of the future Itchy’s heads pulsing is pretty wonderful and gross.
  • I love all the glimpses of older Krusty shows, where despite being a low-rent kiddie clown, he’s done several different adult formats over his career for no discernible reason.
  • The lighting in Bart’s darkened room is just fantastic, it looks beautiful and further emphasizes his isolation. Also, when his shirt is completely shadowed, it almost looks light blue, which is almost like a weird Easter egg to early merchandising that inexplicably had him wearing a blue shirt instead of orange. Also, this face of him wordless calling Lisa on her bullshit is great.
  • Is spying on people in the nude with a bucket of popcorn the grossest Chief Wiggum moment? Last season he entertained a brothel, but those are professional sex workers, not regular civilians having their privacy breached.
  • A special shout-out to Nancy Cartwright’s demented performance as Bart goes more and more stir-crazy. Even beyond his more animated lines, I love how he’s completely uneven through the whole second act and most of the third.
  • “He’s going to kill Rod and Todd too? That’s horrible! …in principle.”
  • I like how dramatic the ending feels; of course Ned isn’t a killer, but the combination of the great staging, the music, and Bart and Lisa’s childlike naivete, it definitely feels a bit intense. I also like that despite the joke being that it’s a big cheat that Ned was just burying Maude’s plants, none of his language feels that purposefully misleading, like him saying Maude was with God being revealed that she was at Bible Camp (“I was learning how to be more judgemental.”)
  • Martin singing “Summer Wind” in his ravaged backyard all alone might be my favorite Martin moment, and maybe in my top 10 endings in the whole series. There was just enough set-up to his final scene that made it seem worth it, also this being a whole show about summer, it feels really appropriate. I only wish they had him sing through the credits, Russi Taylor is such a great performer, but I like the instrumental version just the same.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “In many ways, ‘Bart of Darkness’ was a typical Season Fiver: it had the ‘Simpsons get a wacky object plot’ (already used twice before, with a trampoline and an elephant), and a long movie reference that substituted for a plot (‘Rear Window,’ as opposed to ‘Cape Fear,’ ‘Thelma and Louise,’ ad nauseum). The Simpsons has never been a formula show, but last season (and this episode) came dangerously close.

2. Lisa’s Rival

  • “Lisa, stop blowing my sex! I mean, stop blowing your sax, your sax!” I also love that Marge admits she “sacrificed a very expensive camera just to get some quiet time,” it’s a quick line, but it makes the opening feel more connected and coherent. Homer is an absolute dummy who instantly breaks the camera by hammering it with a power drill, which is funny in a base, simplistic way, but revealing it was a calculated move by a knowing Marge makes it even funnier.
  • It’s great that Lisa is very quickly threatened by Allison usurping her turf, and despite how incredibly open and nice Allison is to her, Lisa is doing all she can to bite her tongue and grin and bear it. Her begrudging “Me too…” after Allison says they’re going to be best friends is fantastic, as is her lifeless compliment, “You’re a wonderful person” after she later “decides” there’s no shame in being second best and to try and be nice to Allison.
  • The Homer sugar B-plot is definitely the craziest Homer scheme yet, and it makes sense that it was written by Mike Scully, whose tenure on the show would turn Homer into Captain Wacky. It feels a little too silly at times, but the fact that it’s just the subplot definitely helps, and there are definitely great moments to be had in it (the proper English gentleman stealing sugar, the two beekeepers).
  • There’s a great moment when Lisa is confronting her mother about why she hasn’t been moved up a grade, where she says, “Maybe you could have been nicer to Principal Skinner, if you know what I mean.” She certainly isn’t implying what my impure mind is thinking, but I like that the adult Marge’s knee jerk reaction is, “Lisa!!” Pause, and then a flat, “I am nice.” I love that bit.
  • I’m not sure why Skinner is at the band tryouts, but he certainly looks incredibly bored being there.
  • Bart’s extended laugh into his tape recorder always makes me laugh. It’s infectious, I guess.
  • Ah, the Milhouse Fugitive moment. It’s an absurd moment that is mostly just recreating a movie scene, something I usually bitch about in newer episodes, but the fact that there’s actually set-up to it in Bart selling himself to Lisa on his manipulation skills (“Remember how I got Milhouse’s picture on ‘America’s Most Wanted’?”) and the ridiculousness of seeing a dweeb like Milhouse staring down the barrel of not-Tommy Lee Jones’ gun makes it even funnier.
  • Homer’s ridiculous monologue about how his sugar business will enter him into high society (I think?) feels similar to his similarly nonsensical movie-quote-rant in “Secrets to a Successful Marriage,” but this one is better only because it’s kind of related to what he’s doing, and it sports some great character animation, I think by David Silverman, instead of “Secrets” where he was mostly stationary.
  • I love that the gag of Uter having eaten his chocolate diorama could have easily just been the only joke, but his anguished, “I begged you to look at mine first! I begged you!” just adds to it, like he knew he couldn’t help himself and tried his best to avoid the inevitable conclusion. Fantastic.
  • In the end, as Lisa gets more and more frazzled by her conscious, Skinner’s continued dressing down of Allison in the background is great, as he loses track of his point and starts getting a little too introspective (“Young lady, cow hearts belong in a butcher’s window, not the classroom. Well, maybe in an older students’ biology classroom, but that’s none of my business. Elementary school is where I wound up, and it’s too late to do anything about that!”
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Not a great episode by any stretch of the imagination, it was more a mishmosh of a lot of subplots, some funnier than others, others overplayed. You could tell it was the last episode of the season, and the writers threw in everything that couldn’t make it into its own episode.”

3. Another Simpsons Clip Show

  • This is definitely a sharp decline from “So It’s Come to This” in regards to clip shows, but honestly, the first five minutes are pretty serviceable. I think I mentioned this in my original review, but I like the idea of a creative experiment of trying to concoct a whole new episode using as many clips as possible. Marge recalling Homer on the lawn in the kiddie pool, the Itchy & Scratchy rerun, Bart talking about “Fluffy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What,” they all felt like semi-organic callbacks. But once Marge starts recapping “Life in the Fast Lane,” the episode tanks.
  • “Mom, romance is dead. It was acquired in a hostile takeover by Hallmark and Disney, homogenized, and sold off piece by piece.” I’ll once again remind readers that this episode is available to watch on Disney+.
  • I’m sure I talked about this last time, but it’s a clip show, how much new stuff is there to talk about, but it really feels bizarre that Marge and Homer talk about their almost affairs in front of their children as a means of teaching them about true love. I wonder to what extent the writers were aware of how weird this is, although considering Homer’s line before he tells his story, I guess they were (“As long as we’re traumatizing the kids, I have a scandalous story of my own…”)
  • It’s also strange when Homer’s recollected stories contain scenes that he wasn’t actually present for, like Mr. Burns releasing the flying monkeys (which I assume is a syndication cut in this episode just like “Last Temptation of Homer,”) and the beginning of the final flashback to “The Way We Was,” when Homer presumably narrates to the kids how Artie Ziff attempted to get extra handsy with his wife after their prom.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This is ridiculous. Shape up or you risk losing even your loyalest of fans. At least make it look like you are trying and let the show die gracefully. That is, unless Bart’s comment about the Cosby show was right and you do plan to ‘run the show into the ground.'”

4. Itchy & Scratchy Land

  • Krusty hawking Itchy & Scratchy Land once again brings up the oscillating power dynamic between the two. Who calls the shots, Krusty or Roger Meyers, Jr? It wouldn’t be until much, much later that we would see Krustyland (way later, after it was featured in the ride, I believe.) It was also featured in a short-run of Simpsons comics in the early 90s, where the gag was that it was built on the cheap and was a rickety nightmare. Meanwhile, Itchy & Scratchy Land is pretty well put together, a gigantic park with a huge nightlife/dining extension, all put atop an exclusive island with the titular cat and mouses’ faces carved into it. How much did this thing cost, billions?
  • Great animation of Bart and Lisa running into the kitchen as Bart screeches to a stop. It’s framed a little low like it’s more from their POV, which is a nice little touch. Also, the drawing of their aghast faces when Marge tells them of her planned vacation is hilarious.
  • “Dead serious about going to Itchy & Scratchy Land” is yet another shitposters dream, hundreds of great memes have come from it.
  • My only complaint this episode is that we never got to see what exactly recipe-related bumper cars are.
  • Every single time I park at Disneyland, my first thought is always, “Remember, we’re in the Itchy lot.”
  • I’m a big theme park nerd, so I love all the little touches in this episode. One of my favorites is the parade, where they remix the I&S theme to sort of sound like the Electrical Parade music. Also the underground tunnels that Bart and Homer are taken to are inspired by the utilidor system that runs under the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.
  • Boy, good thing the Simpsons were those exact heights. I feel bad for whoever’s in the next log. I also love how the guests are expected to climb out of the way of the giant buzz saw and fall onto the mattresses below.
  • The John Travolta bartender joke is pretty funny in hindsight as this episode aired less than two weeks before Pulp Fiction released in theaters, which completely revitalized Travolta’s career.
  • The gift shops in the Springfield section of Universal Studios have plenty of vanity plates, and they’re always out of BORT ones, which I appreciate.
  • I’d make another snide “THIS IS ON DISNEY+” comment in regards to Roger Meyers Sr’s controversial “Nazi Supermen Are Our Superiors,” but I just did that last episode. The “Scratchtasia” and “Pinnitchio” segments are classic, of course.
  • The “With a dry, cool wit like that, I could be an action hero” joke feels so unique, like I can’t think of a bit quite like that, where not only does Bart ignore Homer’s theft of his joke, but does so with a canned line talking about how great their vacation was, in an attempt to just keep the story going. I love it.
  • Like John Travolta, Euro Itchy & Scratchy Land is another antiquated reference; Disneyland Paris (formerly Euro Disneyland) was a financial failure in its first few years, but soon after became pretty successful.
  • I love the meta ending with Bart explaining how violence is funny if it’s happening to someone else, catching even Marge in a giggle, before she snaps back and punishes Lisa. Also, this episode has my favorite little ending motif over the executive producer credits. I can’t explain why, and they’ve used it a handful of times, but something about it feels very satisfying to me.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This makes my Top 5 worst list of all time, easily. The racing form in the 1st 60 seconds of the show was the only thing that made me laugh out loud. After that, it was nothing but about 10 jillion stupid ‘Jurassic Park’ jokes. Killer robots? Puh-LEEZE.”

5. Sideshow Bob Roberts

  • Springfield’s very own answer to Rush Limbaugh, Birch Barlow’s schtick in this episode feels so absolutely tame compared to the alt-right reactionary industry that exists today. Even modern Rush Limbaugh would eat this doughboy alive. As scathingly as this episode paints Barlow and Republicans, we also get some great comments from the fence-sitting Lenny and Carl (“That Barlow’s a right-wing crackpot. He said Ted Kennedy lacked integrity! Can you believe that?” “I consider myself politically correct, and his views make me… uncomfortable.”)
  • I’ve said a bunch of times at this point lines and scenes I can’t believe they were able to get away with, but how in the hell were they able to show Quimby watering his pot plant?
  • It’s odd that in Lisa’s helpful recap of Sideshow Bob, she specifically says Bart exposed Bob for framing Krusty in 1990. Four years later, everyone’s the same age. Why mention the year at all?
  • I love that Bob uses his years as a buffoonish sidekick to use in showing up Quimby at the rally event at the school. Like it or not, he is a clown, and he’s used his athletic prowess a couple times over the series for his own benefit.
  • “Uncle Mayor was just saying that us kids are the most important natural resource we have!”  “More important than coal?!” Lisa manipulating the reporters by acting like a photo-friendly precocious kid is a great bit, and also one that would never work in the show today. Nowadays at Town Hall meetings, Lisa is practically a regular presenter regarding the town budget and other matters an eight-year-old would logically be privy to.
  • Homer getting rejected by Archie and the gang is such a bizarre bit, which is only made stranger when we later see him angrily reading Archie Comics (“Stuck-up Riverdale punks. Think they’re too good for me!”) So are the comics based on the adventures of actual real, flesh-colored teenagers who exist in the Simpsons world? Just one of those things you shouldn’t worry about too much.
  • Pamela Hayden’s “What’s happening?!” as a mummified Milhouse careens downhill is so damn funny, the absolute confusion and terror in his voice is great.
  • The act two ending has the best Bob laugh of the entire series. It just keeps building and building; I just can’t imagine anyone but Kelsey Grammar doing his voice, who else could provide such a scheming, maniacal laugh like he can?
  • I like Bob’s petty act of revenge of sending Bart back to kindergarten, which of course backfires as Bart loves it. Also, that’s one damn accurate Fred Flintstone voice on the Flintstone phone (I think it’s Hank Azaria?)
  • “I can’t believe a convicted felon would get so many votes and another convicted felon would get so few.”
  • The quick callback to the bats in the library is fantastic. It’s a good gag on its own, but as a recall of one of the first jokes in the episode, it’s even funnier that it cuts away so quickly, since they’re relying on you remembering the joke from the beginning.
  • Homer and Marge fending off construction workers aiming to demolish their house to make room for an expressway must be an intentional Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference, right?
  • “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! No truth-handler, you! Bah! I deride your truth-handling abilities!” Again, Kelsey Grammer just nails it.
  • “Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside, you secretly long for a coldhearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king.” More political commentary that feels even more potent in 2020 than when it was written.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “The really sad thing is that the episode had no humor value, and was a blatant attack on political views…in a cartoon! Welcome to sleazy politics in the nineties.”

6. Treehouse of Horror V

  • Unlike Paint Your Wagon, 200 Miles to Oregon is not a real film. This is also the first instance of live action in the show, right? There’s only two times they actually shot live footage in the first 10 seasons, and they were both in Halloween shows, the ending of Homer³ and the Regis & Kathy Lee segment. Am I forgetting something?
  • The intro to this special is actually pretty disturbing, with Moe’s eyes bugging open after being hung, and Skinner giving the thumbs up before getting decapitated. Good stuff.
  • This is the first time I’m watching this having actually seen The Shining in its entirety, and once again, it’s a credit to how expertly they used to write these parodies that “The Shinning” plays great without having seen the source material, and it plays even better if you have.
  • I love the idea that just by his own accord, Willie has designated a personal hour to himself to have dirty thoughts.
  • Homer going crazy is a classic sequence in terms of his manic animation, but I also love his crazed pleading to Marge walking up the stairs.
  • The ending of the first segment with the Tony Awards on TV singing “One” is a great gag by itself, but even better when it comes back around to the very ending.
  • “I’m the first non-Brazilian person to travel backwards through time!” I don’t know if anyone knows the meaning behind this joke. The Simpsons Archive theorizes this might be referring to the work of author Carlos Castaneda, but I don’t know if that’s true. The commentary reveals the original line was “I’m the first non-fictional character,” which I think is much better; David X. Cohen says that they pitched on the joke for hours and the line might have just been a result of laughing at it because it made no sense and they were tired. I can see that. Also, regarding Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s appearance, it’s funny that we get two cameos in a row by other comic/cartoon characters with flesh-toned skin, not yellow.
  • “I’ve gone back to the time when dinosaurs weren’t just confined to zoos!”
  • I love when the Simpson floor morphs into the screen with Ned on it, there’s a little music sting that sounds reminiscent of the Terminator score, since the floor morphing kind of feels like the liquid metal T-1000.
  • I never noticed this before, but in the rich Simpsons alternate universe, the kitchen curtains have blue corn cobs on them, as opposed to the normal yellow ones.
  • “Nightmare Cafeteria” has got to be the most genuinely disturbing segment in Treehouse of Horror history. The speed at which Skinner and the teachers are just a-OK with not only killing students, but serving and eating them for lunch (which they also laugh at!) is actually pretty chilling, leading up to the end where they’re all completely addicted and crave the succulent flesh of youth.
  • Great performance by Harry Shearer as Skinner soothing Lisa’s worries about Uter, before he realizes he’s said too much (“You might even say we just ate Uter and he’s in our stomachs right now! Wait… scratch that one.”)
  • Willie getting killed in all three segments is a solid running gag (“Ah, I’m bad at this.”) Good use of rule of threes, or a hat trick, as I learned from the Simpsons complete guide as a kid. You guys read that thing, right? It was like my Bible when I was younger. I could write a whole other blog about my absolutely meaningless, incredibly specific remembrances on that one book alone.
  • The kids falling into the giant blender is pretty horrifying by itself, even before the grotesque look on their faces as they’re seconds from an instant, bloody death.
  • I love the ending so much, the inside-out fog is bizarre enough before it leads into a song-and-dance number, because why not? And then Willie returns and he’s no worse for wear… except for the inside-part, I suppose.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I have to say this weekend’s Hallowe’en show was not funny but disturbing. Creepy, even. I suppose that’s the point, since it’s a Hallowe’en show and all, but the Sloppy Jimbo et al. scenes were all too realistic, if that can be said about a cartoon.”

128. Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)

(originally aired May 21, 1995)
Man I wish I hadn’t been a young’n when the “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” saga was underway. From what I read of it, it was quite the event, with widespread debate and discussion amongst fans regarding the mystery. The only two-part episode in the show’s history, it rides the line of being a gimmick episode, and being a parody of one. There was the 1-800-COLLECT contest and other FOX promotion around it, but the episodes themselves were filled with enough winking nods that they didn’t feel disingenuous (the conceit itself is of course a parody of the “Who Shot J.R.?” mystery from Dallas). But audience reaction to this event episode only came from how solid and well crafted it was. Such great care was put into setting up clues, giving every character a motive, and ending on a note where there’s no real definite suspect. Yet even with all the information to be fed and groundwork to be set, it all feels cohesive, and more importantly, it still feels like The Simpsons, with plenty of funny bits that work in tandem with the dramatic parts. I don’t know if I can call either of these favorite episodes, but they are definitely landmark shows of the series, put together with great attention to detail, and absolute treats to watch unfold.

Oil is struck at Springfield Elementary, much to the thrill of Principal Skinner, and to much chagrin of Mr. Burns and his energy monopoly within the town. Through slanted drilling, he taps the oil before the school, which results on many catastrophic events that cripple the denizens of Springfield. Saddled with the cost of drilling, Skinner had to lay off Willie and new music instructor Tito Puente. A jettison of oil from Burns’ drill destroys Bart’s treehouse, injuring him and his dog. Fumes from the rig end up getting Moe’s, leaving Moe out of work and Barney out of booze. Underground drilling creates a fault line under the retirement home, bringing half the building into the ground. Not even the tireless sycophant Smithers can stand for this level of dastardly deeds, resulting in his termination. Burns completes his complete takeover of the town’s resources by blocking out the sun, keeping its citizens totally reliant on his power supply. It’s soon after that the most hated man in Springfield is shot by an unidentified assailant, leaving him to collapse on the town square.

Most of the citizens’ hatred of Burns comes through chain reactions of his rampant greed, self-serving nature and desire for unchecked power. And while his plan and execution of blocking out the sun might be a little silly (or as Smithers puts it, a cross over into cartoonish supervillainy), it works perfectly as the proverbial last straw; with no natural light, Burns is completely at the town’s mercy. The two seeming front runners for the gunman are the two with personal grudges toward Burns. First, Smithers, whose thankless tasks and toadying toward Burns are emphasized even further until he is quickly fired after daring to finally say no regarding the sun scheme. Second is Homer, who falls into a ludicrous state because Burns continuously doesn’t remember his name. It’s sort of the last hurrah for this long running joke, being pushed way over the top until Homer just loses it. The climax at the town hall meeting is one of the greatest scenes in the entire series; the town is so impassioned in their unified hatred, while Burns just eats it up, loving every minute of it (as he wonderfully puts it, foreshadowing the ending, “You all talk big, but who here has the guts to stop me?”) I knew the conclusion before I watched the first part, but I really wish I didn’t. There’s so many hints and clues to extrapolate from, most damning being Burns’ missing revolver, that it would have been neat to be a part of unraveling this mystery. Of course the big reveal is something no one ever suspected, but more on that later.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I love Skinner’s official decorum in his dialogue at the beginning of the show, which is broken when he hesitatingly must identify the deceased class hamster Superdude by name.
– Wonderful sequence of Burns’ important piece of postage exchanging hands, with great music and dizzying use of alliteration (“Forgot prende asked for highly pressing package of power plant profit projections for Pete Porter in Pasadena.” “Priority?” “Precisely.”) This also effectively starts Homer’s growing antagonism when the letter ends up with him, who rushes it to Burns’ office, only having read the return address.
– There’s some great Skinner-Chalmers stuff in here (“Why is it when I heard the word ‘school’ and the word ‘exploded,’ I immediately thought of the word ‘Skinner!‘”) The two laugh uproariously at the suggestion they use the oil money to give the students college scholarships, and there’s a hilarious back and forth when Skinner blocks out the first word of a newspaper headline “Awful School Is Awful Rich.” (“An unrelated article. Within the banner headline.”) Very similar rhythm wise to the later “steamed hams” discussion in “22 Short Films.”
– Great montage of requests from the students and faculty: Lunchlady Doris is a highlight (“The cafeteria staff is complaining about the mice in the kitchen. I wanna hire a new staff.”) Requests from Otto (“You know those guitars that are like… double guitars,” Ralph (“Chocolate microscopes?”), and Skinner (“More rubber stamps,”) are also granted.
– I love Burns’ feeble attempts to trick Skinner, and Skinner’s deadpan affirmative stance against him (“I’ve got a monopoly to maintain! I own the electric company, and the water works, plus the hotel on Baltic Avenue!” “That hotel’s a dump and your monopoly’s pathetic.”) Burns’ feeble attempts to attack Skinner, and Smithers coming in with a stapler is just icing on the cake (“Please don’t waste those.”)
– Smithers’ turn against Burns is gradual through the show, and believable in his character: he’s fine with Burns’ ruthless practices in the workplace, since that’s all business, but his attempts at robbing a local school of funds it desperately needs is going too far.
– Great sequence of Burns and Smithers eating chocolates, with Burns identifying each Simspon on the photo inside, except Homer of course, whose face remained obscured by, of all things, a sour quince log. I don’t even know what quince is, but it sounds disgusting. The payoff is phenomenal when Homer gets a thank you note, but realizes his name isn’t included. He holds the paper up to his face and reads, then lowers it and his pupils get smaller. Calling the kids out of the room, he takes a deep breath, then… “Ffff-” Church bells chime and the entire neighborhood is stunned, including Flanders (“Dear lord, that’s the loudest profanity I’ve ever heard!”)
– Great “Aye carumba!” from Tito Puente when they announce someone’s tapped the oil.
Classic Burns line preparing for his oil rig to burst: “Ah, soon that mighty apparatus will burst forth with its precious fluid. Almost sexual, isn’t it, Smithers?” A still dissatisfied Smithers can only muster a murmur.
Classic Willie line upon his termination: “I’ll kill that Mr. Burns! And, er, wound that Mr. Smithers!”
– Moe’s becomes veritably toxic from Burns’ oil rig. Barney comments, “These fumes aren’t as fun as beer. Sure, I’m all dizzy and nauseous, but where’s the inflated sense of self-esteem?” Eco-suited scientists then enter (“Man alive! There are… men alive in here!”) and shut down the bar, prompting Moe and Barney to wield guns (“Ah: now there’s the inflated sense of self-esteem!”)
– I love how everything is set up fluidly, even mention of the sundial as Smithers protests Burns’ master plan (“Every plant and tree will die, owls will deafen us with incessant hooting, the town’s sundial will be useless!”)
– Homer’s descent into madness is fantastic, picturing Burns’ popping up in his car running through the thesaurus of insulting names to call him. He arrives at the plant and in large letters in Burns’ office spray paints “I AM HOMER SIMPSON.” Burns arrives, and of course, as flat as possible, asks, “Who the devil are you?” Homer snaps, and runs across the office (accompanied with a great camera move) and accosts Burns, only to be led out by security. It’s a bit outlandish, but I still believe Homer’s reached his breaking point.
– Stuck at the Simpson home, Grampa gets a great scene where Bart finds his old Smith & Wesson (“If you’re gonna play with it, be careful, ’cause its loaded.”) Marge finds it, and is understandably shocked. Abe retorts, “How can you have a house without a gun? What if a bear came through that door?”
– The town hall meeting starts out strong (“We’re all upset about Mr. Burns’ plan to, uh, block out our sun. It is time for decisive action. I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns’ underlings, who with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.”) During Quimby’s speech, we cut to shots of citizens’ hands brandishing guns, which the mayor’s aide quickly informs him of (“Also it has been brought to my attention that a number of you are stroking guns. Therefore I will step aside and open up the floor.”)
– After Burns arrives, and then flashes his weapon at a small child, the tension just builds and builds as the townspeople threaten the old man, and I love love love that in all of it, Flanders steps up and asks, “I’d like to hear from Sideshow Mel!” You know what? I would too, because I love that voice. Mel doesn’t disappoint, wielding a switchblade (“I’ll see to it that Mr. Burns suffers the infernal machinations of hell’s grim tyrant!”)
– Great subtle clues that Burns’ jacket swishes open as he swirls around the lamp post, reminding you the gun is still there, then later when he collapses, it’s not.
– And we end on a great call to arms from the fans to get involved in solving this mystery, as Hibbert seemingly asks the audience if they can solve the mystery. Actually he’s just pointing at Wiggum (“Yeah, I’ll give it a shot, I mean, you know, it’s my job, right?”)

Season 6 Final Thoughts
After a relatively insane season 5, I feel like things sort of leveled out and got a bit more grounded here in season 6. There were some insane bits, sure, but we got a fair share of episodes that were very down-to-earth stories, in their actual plots and just the way they flowed very leisurely (“Bart’s Girlfriend,” “Lisa’s Rival,” “Lisa on Ice,” etc.) Even episodes that were pretty out there like “Homie the Clown” still focused on the characters and felt very genuine. I guess largely this was a very character driven season; Homer’s relationship with his father, we delve in Marge’s troubled past, Bart and Lisa go mad in their own ways without school, and a look into the future at Lisa’s first love. Even without the change of show runners yet, it feels like one season segues into the next; Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein’s seasons are noted as being more emotional, and this feels like a balance between Mirkin’s insanity and the more level-headed stuff of season 7. Still, great, great, great, great stuff. Great.

The Best
“Treehouse of Horror V,” “Homer Bad Man,” “Homie the Clown,” “Bart vs. Austrailia,” “Lisa’s Wedding”

The Worst
“Another Simpsons Clip Show” by default, but as a clip show, I barely count it.