Season Seven Revisited (Part Four)

19. A Fish Called Selma

  • As a diehard Muppet fan, I very much love “Muppets Go Medieval,” and it’s the perfect venue to depict Troy McClure’s status as an older celebrity out of the spotlight. Watching The Muppet Show as a kid, I never knew who any of the guests were, and in the case of a lot of them, I still really don’t. Also, Bart and Lisa having no idea what the Muppets are still stings, though they’ve basically been culturally irrelevant for decades, despite Disney’s many botched attempts to jolt life back into them in mostly misguided and tonedeaf ways (except Muppets Most Wanted, which was fucking great.) 
  • I get that Troy driving a DeLorean is supposed to make him look dated, but I always just think of Troy’s driving the Back to the Future time vehicle, as I’m sure a lot of other people do. Considering I was born seven years after the DeLorean Motor Company closed down after John DeLorean’s famous cocaine trafficking arrest, I can’t view the DeLorean as a “normal” car in any sense. Speaking of, has anyone seen that recent Framing John DeLorean documentary, that’s like part-documentary, part scripted re-enactments with Alec Baldwin, part meta-documentary with Baldwin and the crew talking about filming it? Was that any good?
  • We get our only (I think?) appearance of Fat Tony voiced by Hank Azaria, who sounds like a more gravelly Disco Stu. 
  • The dinner scene with Troy and Selma is so fantastic. Troy obviously doesn’t want to be there, but he also clearly feels awkward making conversation with another human being. Meanwhile, Selma isn’t just some fawning dolt head over heels to be out and about with a celebrity, she’s a bit uncomfortable herself, and best of all, she clearly understands the quid-pro-quo nature of the evening (“Thanks for holding up your end of the bargain. I had a pretty good time.”) Their mutual understanding of their chemistry-free relationship is established from the start, which carries through the entire episode.
  • I love that the first thing we see of Troy in private at his home, he’s sewing back together a bean bag. Just the most innocuous and meaningless thing, but it’s perfect, showing just how much listless time he’s got on his hands not working.
  • Phil Hartman is absolutely stellar in this episode. Troy McClure is recharacterized as not just a show biz phony who is just as shallow in real life, but a man who’s lived in his own bubble for so long he literally can’t feel things like a normal human being. It’s kind of tragic, really. Hartman’s scenes with Julie Kavner are so incredibly compelling, just two great actors bouncing off each other. Shortly before his death, Phil Hartman said he was interested in doing a live-action Troy McClure movie, and it’s a shame we never got to see it.
  • “Jub-Jub is fantastic! He’s everywhere you wanna be!”
  • Has there been a fan-created full musical of “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off” yet? I think a full-length musical would wear the joke out a bit, but maybe like a one act production with like eight or nine songs would be fun.
  • Homer’s mind singing “Rock and Roll, Part 2” immediately made me think of this.
  • The running gag of Troy’s “fish fetish” gets repeated a little too much (as much as I love Troy’s elated “I’m going to Sea World!!”) but it’s all worth it for the bit where Selma asks point blank about his sexuality and Troy gets gravely serious about his “romantic abnormality” as ominous music plays. It’s so bizarre and I love it.
  • Act three is exclusively scenes from Troy and Selma’s perspective, which is really wonderful to see. Selma agrees to continue their mutually beneficial “sham” relationship once it’s revealed Troy has very few actual emotions (“Don’t you love me?” Sure I do! Like I love Fresca! Isn’t that enough?”) The ending scene of the two of them attempting to “initiate” and talking through their problems is just fantastic, as it feels like a true emotional conclusion to this story, as Selma realizes she can’t bring a new vulnerable life into their fake family (along with some great animated acting that really takes its time.) This is the kind of meaty material I wish the show would have done more from this point, really dig deep and explore the world of Springfield, but sadly, outside a few examples, the series instead would dig its heels into the same old formulas, staying hyper-focused on the family to a fault. We all know how that turned out by this point.
  • The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel.” That’s all.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:This one’s almost not worth reviewing in my opinion. It was a case of too many missed opportunities. Troy in a full length show turned out to be a bore. Was it just me or did they forget to give him much of a personality? Also the fish joke was just tiresome. It was just flat and repetitive, and this is from someone who thought the rake scene in Cape Feare was classic!  Even things like the Planet of the Apes musical have been done better in other episodes. Sad.”

20. Bart on the Road

  • “Parent’s occupation… please note: homemaker is not allowed, as it is not real work, that’s why you don’t get paid for it.” What disgruntled Springfield Elementary staff member put in that acid-tinged remark?
  • As a kid, a not-so-small part of me wanted to try eating cereal with milk right out of the box. I’m sure the bottom would have given out much faster than it does with Bart here.
  • Martin’s tumultuous adventure playing the stock market definitely feels as fresh as ever after the Robnhood/GameSpot/AMC debacle.
  • Bart, Milhouse and Nelson ordering beers at Moe’s but leaving after observing the depressing atmosphere veers a bit close to PSA-territory, but it feels self-aware enough that it doesn’t seem weirdly preachy. Plus making Moe’s look like a demoralizing hellhole for emotional effect was already pulled off well by the ending of “Duffless,” so this wasn’t much different.
  • This computer-assisted camera turn shot still looks pretty impressive so many years later, as simplistic as it seems by today’s standards. I also like that we go directly from this cool road trip vibe with “Radar Love” to Milhouse fiddling with the radar knobs on the radio like a big dork. Pamela Hayden’s excited effort noises as he does so are so damn funny.
  • Bart calling Martin “Milton” is a great little moment, a reminder that he only invited this wuss to tag along because he had money to burn and was able to be manipulated. Episodes like this and “Lemon of Troy” throw different kinds of kids together, but actually gives us reasons as to why, and we see their personalities clash with each other. Later episodes would have Bart, Milhouse, Martin, Nelson and all the other bullies either friends or on the same team if the plot needs them to, without bothering to explain why these kids are putting up with each other.
  • As a lifelong fan of Disney theme parks, the kids choosing to go to the Knoxville State’s Fair over Disney World always baffled me as a kid. You pick the Sunsphere over EPCOT Center? Blasphemy.
  • Lisa and Homer’s power plant shenanigans are incredibly adorable (regarding jostling treats out of the vending machine, Homer tells her, “It’s a two man operation, and you’re the only man here I trust!”) I also like that Lisa’s quick thinking gets Homer out of trouble, promptly quieting Smithers’ questioning with a treat of his choosing (“Well, I am partial to Jolly Ranchers.”)
  • MVP of the episode is Dan Castellaneta’s psychotic father screaming at his rowdy kids. One cavalier slap from Nelson, and it’s “BACK TO WINNIPEG!!”
  • Hilarious drawing of Nelson completely enraptured by Andy Williams.
  • Homer getting Lisa to admit her crush’s name is such a sweet scene, where Homer promises he won’t tell anyone… because he already forgot his name. I also like the bit later where Lisa admits she doesn’t like her crush anymore, the fickle eight-year-old she is.
  • Marge being completely shut out of the story is a funny running gag, but it gets pushed a little too far when we get the extended scene of her looking at the empty rooms as sad music plays. It makes it seem like Marge getting abandoned is going to come into play in the story, but it doesn’t. I do love how she purposefully wakes Maggie so she can tend to her crying so she actually feels needed.
  • I like how Homer actually comes up with a creative solution in the end in ordering a new workstation. Also great is the dinner scene where Homer and Lisa are rightfully pissed at Bart, but Marge just gives a naive smile, completely none-the-wiser. At least until she gets inundated with calls late into the night (”Hello? Tennessee State Police? No, my son’s car was not crushed in Knoxville! I don’t know where to begin telling you what’s wrong with that!”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Not a *bad* episode, just a bit anemic. Weak premise, weak stories, weak gags. A few good chuckles here and there, and a welcome Homer-Lisa subplot, but overall, nothing all too memorable. Like Bart’s rental car, this one seemed to be on cruise control.”

21. Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield

  • As we just saw in “A Fish Called Selma,” it’s clear how rich with potential the lives of the supporting cast is. This episode was a novel experiment, but it just leaves me wanting to see more of the Simpson-less lives of Moe, Apu, Mr. Burns, Dr. Nick and so forth. Inspired by this episode, there was some brief consideration at a spin-off show “Tales From Springfield,” but apparently was nixed as Matt Groening claimed they didn’t have a big enough writing team to handle two simultaneous series. Well… then hire some more? If a series gets greenlit, you can hire a whole new writing staff. Anyway, we’d see looks into secondary/tertiary characters past this point on occasion, but I really wish this episode was a much bigger harbinger for this series.
  • Another detail I never noticed: the man at the barbeque Apu attends has an apron that reads, “In My Next Life, You’re Cooking.”
  • I like that Apu being a lady killer has been a consistent characteristic, as we see him scoring with a woman at the BBQ in mere minutes (Don’t worry, I’ll tell everybody you were untouchable!”)
  • Dr. Nick propping a cadaver up in his carseat in order to use the carpool lane is pretty grim, yet, I’d almost like to see a whole Dr. Nick episode with that scene in it. Again, limitless possibilities. 
  • Is there anything new I could possibly say about the “steamed hams” scene? There are just so many great memes, but here are some particular favorites of mine. The craziest thing to me is looking back to find that the big explosion of Steamed Hams memes was three years ago, and despite that, I still see shitposts and image macros of the scene in brand new and clever ways. And again I’ll say it’s curious that one of the most celebrated and beloved scenes in show history involves a day-in-the-life of two non-Simpson characters. Clearly inspired by the meme, the show tried to capture some goodwill this season with “Road to Cincinnati,” a well-intentioned episode that sadly got bogged down in its own tracly, unearned sentimentality.
  • Deadbeat Dad Beat Dead. Home run newspaper headline.
  • The Pulp Fiction Krusty Burger conversation is a classic, and like all the greatest parodies done on this show, is funny and clever beyond its actual reference material. The Pulp Fiction dialogue is iconic in and of itself, but lying on top of that Krusty Burger’s absurdly literal menu (“Do they have Krusty partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages?” “Mmhmm. They call ’em ‘shakes.’” “Huh. ‘Shakes.’ You don’t know what you’re gettin,’”) but I also love the characters’ complete ignorance of a megachain like McDonald’s, living in their fictional universe (“I never heard of it either, but they have over 2,000 locations in this state alone.” “Must’ve sprung up overnight.”)
  • The rock version of the Simpsons theme playing in Snake’s car kind of reminds me of the music from The Simpsons: Hit & Run game. Ahh, memories.
  • Ned slamming Lisa’s hair with a hammer and her screams in pain is pretty disconcerting. I’ve also seen a few dark shitposts that take that scene to a much more violent place…
  • It’s kind of interesting how late in the classic era we’re seeing some of the most beloved secondary characters really come into focus. This season, it seems like almost every episode has had a Comic Book Guy appearance, and here we have “Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.” He’s made a handful of appearances here and there, first appearing a mere two seasons ago, but this segment feels like it cements his status as a beloved Springfieldian. The entire scene was included on one of the soundtrack albums, and having listened to it so many times as a kid, having maybe seen this episode once or twice, I never really got what Cletus meant when he said, “Hey, what’s going on on this side?” A line that doesn’t quite translate in an audio medium.
  • I actually have two nice photo prints of the Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore portrait. I put one in a nice frame and gave it to a friend at work for Secret Santa. He was thrilled by it.
  • Very Tall Man is neck-and-neck with the Cayman Islands banker as my favorite one-off character (he made one or two other non-speaking appearances, but this was his moment.) His lumbering chase after Nelson, his hilarious voice, all culminating in a tremendous finale of Nelson getting his comeuppance for one of the show’s longest running gags. It’s just absolutely perfect.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “C-plus – I was expecting fast-paced plotless comedy. What I got was the occasional chuckle in what almost makes the two clip shows look good.”

22. Raging Abe Simpson and his Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellish”

  • Abe is at his orneriest at the start, which perfectly sets up his conflict with Bart. I love how he carefully lifts his feeble legs up onto the desk to get comfortable in telling his ridiculous stories, having full “command” of the room (“Now, I’d like to digress from my prepared remarks to discuss how I invented the terlet.”)
  • “This junk was hardly worth getting up for. Maybe if I go back to sleep for a few days, some good mail will build up.” This line definitely hits harder after ten months of quarantine.
  • It seems like a pretty simple effect, but I love the flashing lights and Abe’s silhouette before he runs through the door.
  • I don’t know if I can really explain why, but “It’s plenty moist!” is my favorite line of the whole show. The offended nature of his attitude as he smacks the cloth away from Lisa’s hand, it almost feels like a microcosm of Abe, this ever-agitated man who’s stuck ranting and raving as an old person.
  • You could say that Sheldon Skinner’s appearance contradicts Skinner’s later reveal as an imposter, but he doesn’t look and sound exactly like Skinner, so it’s possible that he could still have been the real Skinner’s father. But more importantly, who the hell cares?
  • “They took a photo of my keister for Stars and Stripes! …at least they told me it was for Stars and Stripes.” One of those great lines that tells a crazy story in so few words, that a gentleman’s magazine somehow convinced Abe to take pictures of his ass, with Abe thinking it was for a real-life reputable newspaper for some reason? Amazing.
  • A special kudos to Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer in the flashback scenes for making Abe and Burns sound younger. Young Abe we’ve seen several times, but I love how young Burns’ voice is just so subtly lighter and more measured.
  • There’s a line in this episode that I never understood. In the flashback where the Hellfish agree to the tontine, Burns instructs right before they sign, “Remember, you can’t all sign with an X.” What does that mean? I know an ‘X’ could be used to take the place of an actual signature, but why would anyone want to sign with an anonymous ‘X’ when they presumably all want the portraits? Am I missing something? Anyone have an explanation?
  • The third act of this episode is really beautiful, with the night time color scheme and the great shadow work throughout. I love how the characters’ yellow skin is tinted a shade of purple in the almost darkness.
  • Kicking Bart into the safe and it plummeting to his almost certain watery grave does seem a little too far for Burns, but the man’s pulled a gun on the boy at least two other times I can remember. I think it works as a genuinely shocking moment without feeling too crazy. Going along with that, I can get why some might think Abe becoming kind of an action hero in getting onto Burns’ boat and subding him is too unbelievable, but I don’t agree. We’ve seen Abe get temporarily spry when given actual motivation, and considering this episode is about him proving himself to his grandson, giving him a nice hero moment at the end feels earned. He doesn’t do anything superhuman or completely incredible, it still feels within the elastic reality of the show for me.
  • Ah, sweet, sweet generational wealth. A happy ending everyone can get behind!
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Sadly, the funniest thing about this episode is the title. Grampa went from senile idiot to lean mean fighting machine too quickly. Yeah, I know it was part of the joke, but it still didn’t make much sense. Burns was both too healthy and too evil. The WWII scenes were pretty amusing, but the entire third act was silly.”

23. Much Apu About Nothing

  • I love this drawing of Homer from the bear’s POV, this pathetic dope frozen in terror in his underpants.
  • “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” was born in this episode, which feels very appropriate, as the first act features the townspeople whipped into a frenzy about a stupid non-issue that doesn’t really have anything to do with children.
  • The Homer-Lisa back-and-forth about specious reasoning is great, and I love how Lisa just gives up and takes the money from her father in exchange for the “magic” rock.
  • The mail person who delivers Homer his latest check is Lunchlady Doris… for some reason. We’ve never seen her in that job before, right? Maybe they had a joke line in there before, but had to cut it, as Doris Grau died around this time? It’s still kind of weird.
  • “Ducking this issue calls for real leadership!” This feels like an underrated Quimby line, as it can accurately describe almost every politician’s MO.
  • Abe’s story about his family immigrating to America is one of his craziest, second only to him performing for Hitler, mostly in that it’s just one silly thing after another. Talking about the Old Country, but not knowing what exact country it was, Abe’s father giving the “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow” speech, then Abe saying later that very day, they went to America… and then showing them living in the Statue of Liberty itself, which is one of those great insane classic moments (“We had to move out once we filled the entire head with garbage.”
  • The Uncle Sam “I Want You Out” poster is a fantastic design, the perfect bastardization of a patriotic symbol for xenophobic purposes.
  • Apu offering Yoo-Hoo to the Ganesha statue to ward off protestors is kind of an odd moment (apparently this is a reference to a recent event in India of a Ganesha statue “drinking milk” when offered.) The Yoo-Hoo logo is accurately depicted and pretty prominent in the close-up shot. Compared to “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” which had the ‘Chanel’ logo purposefully covered throughout, this almost felt like deliberate product placement.
  • Hank Azaria nails it with Apu’s “American” voice. At times it seems a bit too divorced from the Apu voice, but I still buy it. It makes sense that Apu has had a lot of time to study American accents working for years behind a counter. Also, similar to Krusty’s vocal transition from “Rory B. Bellows” back to Krusty, I love Apu’s pained transition back to his normal voice, unable to stomach his sacrifice of his spiritual beliefs in exchange for hollow American celebrity worship (“Who needs the infinite compassion of Ganesha when I’ve got Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman staring at me from Entertainment Weekly with their dead eyes?!”)
  • Great little piece of emotional animation when Apu takes off the big cowboy hat and his hair’s all bunched up. He attempts to muss it back, but can’t even muster the energy before bursting into tears.
  • “Maybe we should start all over with the electrical college.” My sentiments exactly.
  • The “just say ‘slavery’” gag was made even better after listening to the commentary where David X. Cohen says that scenario actually happened to a friend of his during his citizenship interview.
  • I absolutely love that after Homer starts his toast, “If I could just say a few words… I’d be a better public speaker,” Bart cracks up at it. It’s such a sweet moment that Bart got a genuine laugh out of Homer’s dad jokes.
  • “When are people going to learn? Democracy doesn’t work!” My sentiments exactly.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Grade: C-. I dunno, I just like the old days, and there just wasn’t much to the episode…I might be flamed for this, but IMO if they can’t consistently put out better material than this, OFF should be allowed to pass on before it turns to utter boring sitcom-style drek…”

24. Homerpalooza

  • To get this episode’s plot started, we need to create a scenario that would result in Homer needing to form a carpool for the other kids. Therefore, the school bus needs to be out of commission, and because of that, we get the amazing sequence where it’s driven straight into a car crusher at the dump with the kids barely escaping with their lives. This hilariously smash cuts to Marge reading a letter from the school, covering their asses of any liability (“Due to yesterday’s unscheduled field trip to the auto wrecking yard, the school bus will be out of commission for two weeks. By reading this letter out loud, you have waived any legal responsibility on our part in perpetuity throughout the universe.”)
  • As a fellow lover of Grand Funk Railroad and 70s/80s music in general, I can very much relate to Homer in this episode. There’s many elements of this episode that make it a 90s time capsule, but the emotional core of the show is pretty evergreen, with Homer trying to relate to his kids and is devastated to find he’s culturally out-of-step, as encapsulated by Abe’s harrowing warning: “I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now, what I’m with isn’t ‘it,’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me.”)
  • Suicide Notes (formerly Good Vibrations) has got to be top 3 of store names on this show.
  • What computers?” is definitely the most hilarious in hindsight moment in the entire series. If only Homer had bought some Apple stock then…
  • The flashback with young Homer trying to befriend the cool kids at their “Second Base-mobile” is great. He gets closer and closer with each flashing light, and I love how when he realizes he’s not wanted, it just cuts to him far off into the background, not even bothering to show him walking off.
  • “It may be bleak, but this music is really getting to the crowd.”
  • I really like the scene where Marge finds out about the freak show tour and is annoyed Homer agreed. Her saying “You don’t have to join a freak show just because the opportunity came along,” almost feels meta in a way. Like, yeah, of course he had to say ‘yes,’ otherwise the plot wouldn’t continue.
  • “My kids think you’re the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they’ve finally stopped dreaming of a future I can’t possibly provide.” “Well, we try to make a difference.”
  • This is a little random, but one of the attendees in the crowd is wearing a Dr. Zaius T-shirt, the same design used from “A Fish Called Selma.” It feels like too specific of a detail to be random, I just don’t know why.
  • I love how Homer literally vibrates backstage thanks to the massive oomph of the giant stereo kicking in.
  • It’s kind of hard for any of the guest stars to make that big an impact, considering there are three bands with each member needing to say at least one line. Cypress Hill jamming out to the classical version of “Insane in the Brain” is a great moment. Peter Frampton probably stands out the most, seeming perpetually exasperated by his younger colleagues and his inflatable pig being sabotaged.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “To paraphrase a line from the episode, ‘Homerpalooza’ isn’t about writing or characterization. It’s about marketable guest voices. It was saved from a failing grade only by its rips on corporate America and its drug jokes.”

25. Summer of 4 Ft. 2

  • Similar to “Kamp Krusty,” the opening to this show really gave me lovely flashbacks to the last day of school, where you really don’t really do much but just mess around with your friends in class before you’re finally set loose for a whole three months. 
  • Damn, I really messed up not calling this Revisited series ‘Retrospecticus’ instead.
  • Nelson’s jab at Lisa regarding the yearbooks weirdly stuck with me (“If you hadn’t done it, some other loser would have, so quit milking it!”) It sounds ridiculous, but it kind of represents my feelings about people’s work and accomplishments at large. Yes, some people are uniquely talented and have a specific vision or a drive or a method of doing things, but I also feel for a lot of jobs, someone else can probably do it just as well. I’m speaking mostly of people in higher level positions who are less likely to be removed or change jobs because they’re “indispensable,” when there are probably lots of people who can do their jobs just as well if not better if given the chance. But I think I should quit while I’m ahead before this incredibly larger point gets even more rambly and unwieldy.
  • I really like Marge’s slight level of annoyance at the Flanderses in this episode, asking Homer if he’s sure they won’t be at the beach house, and her grumbling at the thoroughly labeled ice tray. She’s definitely the most cordial of the Simpson family to their friendly neighbors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to be stuck on a vacation with those goody two-shoes.
  • “These are my only friends. Grownup nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.” “Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”
  • Being able to spell Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport would make a killer Simpsons trivia question. As a young fan, I memorized how to spell ‘Nahasapeemapetilon,’ brain space that probably could have gone toward something more important.
  • I really like how bratty and sarcastic Lisa is after she decides she wants to reinvent herself, first in deflecting Homer’s questioning of her light suitcase (“Maybe you’re just getting stronger.” “Well, I have been eating more,”) and later with Marge (“It must be exciting to make a different set of beds.” “I know you’re joking, but it is!”)
  • I like how the beach kids are a “tanner” shade of yellow than Lisa, it’s a nice subtle design choice.
  • When Bart shows up to show up Lisa, I love that in introducing him, Lisa does so as “Bart… tholomew.” It’s such a great acting choice, you can hear Lisa’s brain determine that it’ll make Bart sound less “cool” if she uses his full name.
  • Homer’s incredibly slow smile as he puts together the connection between Milhouse and the “dud” has always made me laugh. I was so incredibly happy when it became a huge meme in Simpsons shitposting. Homer’s smile and Burns’ “Yes” from “Rosebud” were two specific and minor moments that I didn’t know if they struck many fans like they did me, and seeing them take on new life with everyone talking about how fucking funny those moments are to them, really made me happy as a fan.
  • Every Fourth of July, when the fireworks start going off, I always think of “Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it!”
  • Hilarious manic animation of Homer freaking out on what to do with the dynamite.
  • Marge washing the dishes her husband destroyed while vacantly staring at the sunrise with a big Stepford smile may be one of the saddest (yet still hilarious) shots in the whole series.
  • Absolutely fantastic performance by Yeardley Smith, ripping into her brother through gritted teeth at the breakfast table (her read on “meeeeeeeaaaaan little sneak” is a real highlight.)
  • I love that Milhouse is basically in the episode to just be abused through the whole show, from getting jammed into a carseat at the start of the trip, to being the unfortunate victim of friendly fire by Bart and Lisa throughout their whole carnival visit.
  • My best friend in high school wrote “See You in the Car” in my yearbook at least two or three years in a row.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “It’s hard to watch this episode and not come away with the feeling that it could have been better. A good concept — Lisa recasts herself to fit in with the hip crowd — is weighed down by her off-target characterization and a too- formulaic ending. It’s not so much that the script was bad, as it was that it wasn’t quite true to ‘The Simpsons.’ Amusing enough to score a B-, but just barely.”

Season Seven Revisited (Part Three)

13. Two Bad Neighbors

  • This is an episode I remember seeing soooo many times in syndication, so the opening TV bit is completely burned into my brain (“It’s Grand Nationals of Sand Castle Building… preview!”) I also never understood the joke about the “absence of Mark Rodkin.” I get now that it’s a gag about sportscasters talking about the looming absence of a star player in a new season, but seeing this so many times as a kid, I just assumed “Mark Rodkin” was just a celebrity I didn’t know.
  • We see Apu washing his flashy Pontiac, apparently living not too far down the block from Homer. I guess we never really established where Apu lived. In “Lisa’s Pony,” we see him screwing Princess Kashmir at the Fiesta Terrace, but it’s unclear whose home that was, though I assumed it was Apu’s. We wouldn’t see Apu’s place of residence again until “I’m With Cupid” (if I’m forgetting something, let me know), showcasing the apartment he shares with new wife Manjula, as we’d see for multiple episodes afterward. But what happened to his house? Why would he downgrade to an apartment for his wife and eight children? THIS IS AN ENORMOUS PLOT HOLE.
  • There was a period of my life where I played an unhealthy amount of the Tapped Out app game, exhaustively modeling my own Springfield, so seeing the Presidential Estate across the street from the Simpsons reminded me of my irrational annoyance that I couldn’t properly recreate Evergreen Terrace accurate to this episode, as all the buildings face the same direction.
  • Having seen this episode so much in syndication, the cuts stand out to be even more than usual. One joke that I think plays much better in the syndicated version is when Marge pulls out Homer’s “DISCO STU” jacket. Homer sheepishly explains, “I wanted to write ‘Disco Stud’ but I ran out of space.” That’s a pretty great joke as is, but in the uncut version, he completes his sentence, “…not that Disco Stu didn’t get his share of the action.” Not only does this feel like a needless add-on to the gag, it kind of ruins what I thought was the humorous reveal of Disco Stu being an actual person. Luck upon luck that Homer’s misprinted jacket would actually find the perfect hand-me-down owner, with the added joke that Stu doesn’t want it (“Disco stu doesn’t advertise.”)
  • So this episode is pretty crazy, and seemed kind of controversial when it aired. Along with bristling some of the more conservative viewers, the real George Bush moving into town is a pretty out-there idea. But like “Deep Space Homer” before it, this show manages to take an absurdist plot and keep it relatively grounded. Homer lets his pity jealousy overtake him as the town sucks up to H.W., provoking a feud between the two. It all unfolds in a fun and engaging way, without getting too insane or feeling like Homer or Bush is pushed too far out of bounds.
  • “George and I just wanted to be private citizens again, go where nobody cared about politics. So we found the town with the lowest voter turnout in America.” “Just happy to be here among good, average people with no particular hopes or dreams.”
  • I can see how some people would be annoyed at Bart acting as Dennis the Menace, that it’s out-of-character for him to be that obnoxious and juvenile. I disagree; I think the sign of a great character is you can squash and stretch elements of their personality to put them in a different scenario, and as long as the writing is still solid, it’ll still work. Hell, one of the greatest inspirations for the Bart character was Dennis the Menace, so it doesn’t seem a far cry for him to be the irritant to his own Mr. Wilson, George Bush. They’re both named George! C’mon, it’s perfect.
  • In high school, every single time my best friend and I would go to a drive-thru, we’d quote this episode (“A Krusty burger? That doesn’t sound too appetizing…”)
  • The scene where Homer verifies Bush’s presidential credentials in a history book (great gag) and him asking if Marge still respects him is a wonderful scene. Again, in this pretty wacky episode, we get just enough actual grounded characterization to fuel it and keep it from flying too far off the rails. And again, because this show is still at its peak of juggling sentiment and comedy, Marge’s genuine pleasantry (“Homey, as long as you keep the car full of gas, I’m happy,”) is turned into panic as Homer worriedly side-eyes out the window to the car in the driveway, ending the scene. Fantastic.
  • “And since I’d achieved all my goals as President in one term, there was no need for a second.” What a great line. It feels especially rich as I’m writing this on the final day of Trump’s presidency.
  • It’s rare that we get an episode title drop, but this is easily the greatest of them all.
  • It’s still so funny that George Bush’s two sons “come to visit,” at a time when they were virtually unknown to the general public. How delightful in hindsight that we had no idea of those two knuckleheads that Barbara Bush thought only needed a letter of recommendation, one would become one of the worst Presidents in history, and the other a hilarious political dud.
  • The drawing of an intense-looking Homer at the window as Bush does donuts on the front lawn, together with the gravely serious line reading, “He’s not lost,” always makes me laugh.
  • Per the inevitable status quo, George Bush leaves Springfield, angrily honking the horn at his wife to hurry the hell up. I’m realizing I’m watching this after Bush’s death, and now I’m remembering all the media talking heads lionize him as one of the last great Republicans or whatever the fuck. Ugh. Rest in pieces, Georgie.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “FOX should’ve preempted this episode indefinitely instead of just one hour. This episode was unfunny, mean-spirited, out-of-character, and I absolutely abhorred it. Worst Simpsons episode ever? Do you HAVE to ask? If there was a lower grade it would get it: F.”

14. Scenes From the Class Struggle in Springfield

  • “We can’t afford to shop at any store that has a philosophy.”
  • Lisa rummaging in the circle rack of clothing awakened some dormant childhood memories. Remember doing that as a kid? Man, simpler times…
  • Marge’s absolute resistance to doing anything for herself is both slightly sad and hilarious (“It wouldn’t be right to buy something just for me. If it were a suit we all could wear, maybe…”) She finally buckles under Lisa’s insistence… quickly adding, “It’ll be good for the economy!”
  • It slightly bugs me that we see the Kwik-E-Mart with gas pumps out front. I love how it plays into Marge enchanting Evelyn with her commoner skills (“Automotive skills and fashion sense. Why, you’ve come a long way from the girl I knew nothing about in high school!”), but it feels like a bit too much of a cheat since we’ve never seen those gas pumps ever before (except the quick gag in “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baaadasssss Song.”)
  • “Do I have to go? That country club is a hotbed of exclusionist snobs and status-seeking social climbers.” “I’ve told you, I don’t like you using the word ‘hotbed.’”
  • I never noticed before, the logo for the Country Club is a swan with a golf club wrapped around its neck.
  • I absolutely love the scenes of Marge feebly attempting to fit in with the other rich women. As they’re all gabbing about their elite dining experiences, Marge is able to chime in with her own suburban tips and tricks about using Good Housekeeping coupons. There’s a real underlying sadness in this episode from Marge, a woman wracked with insecurities and unsuredness, thinking that if a “higher class” of people accepts her, it will validate her (“Today, while the rest of you were being different, I did a very good job of fitting in.”) I wish there were more episodes that really dug into Marge’s character, hell, even another flashback show that focused on a story from her young life. But too little, too late for that, I guess.
  • The Homer golfing subplot acts as a fun diversion without straying too far away from the main plot, especially as it ends with Homer staying mum about Burns’ fraud for the sake of Marge’s potential status at the club. It’s also a great example of Burns appearing weak and naive without forsaking his character, a rich, powerful man oblivious to his toadying underling’s decades of “help” on the green.
  • Lisa’s flip from her rightful objection to country club ways to obsessing about their horses feels very appropriate for her (“I found something more fun than complaining!”) I also love how it leads into the end of act two, in the absolutely fantastic scene where she pushes Marge to her breaking point with her incessant gabbing about horses and jumping on the bed. Yeardley Smith gives such a great performance as an excitable, yet annoying kid, and the moment of silence after Marge erupts at her, as the squeaking of the bed comes to a stop as Lisa is stunned by her mother’s outburst is so affecting.
  • “At times like this, I guess all you can do is laugh.” Probably in the top 5 greatest act breaks.
  • Krusty getting hit with the golf club and falling to the ground is the actually funny version of Family Guy’s “fall-over-incredibly-fast” running gag. His movement is exaggerated, but any physical comedy is much funnier if it feels like the character has weight. Speaking of which, his final line after Homer inadvertently steps on his head (”I knew my kind wasn’t welcome here”) is fantastic.
  • This is probably tied with “Brush With Greatness” for my favorite Marge episode. “Brush” is all about Marge’s most important trait: her empathy for everybody, extending even as far as the evil Mr. Burns. This episode examines Marge and her place in life, her yearning for an ambiguous “better” class status, before realizing that her family, “low-class” as they are, is what makes her whole. The very end of the family eating happily at Krusty Burger is an ending really representative of the series as a whole, a fractured family finding peace with each other in a crapsack world.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Any episode centering on Marge is doomed to failure, and this one was not an exception; on the other hand, the golf subplot was not bad. In general, however, this episode seemed like it could have been written for any sitcom, with the characters warped to meet the plot, rather than molding the plot to meet the characters.”

15. Bart the Fink

  • The show dusts off the “one night in a haunted house” trope they used as the ending of “Homer Loves Flanders,” but with a great new twist: the Simpsons have the best night’s sleep they ever had, and here at the start of the episode.
  • The Tacomat recently re-emerged in shitpost form after last December’s new pitiful rollout of stimulus checks, rechristened “600 Tacos for $600.”
  • Wise words from Marge: “A professional in an ape mask is still a professional.”
  • The Cayman Islands banker is the greatest one-scene wonder of the entire series. It’s just so fucking funny every time I watch it.
  • Really funny drawing of the file photo of Krusty behind bars.
  • This episode is a true tour de force performance by Dan Castellaneta as Krusty. Him wailing in fear at the IRS (“Who’s joking?!”) and later his angry ranting at Bart on the curb are two stellar scenes. Castellaneta fills Krusty with such loud and vicious energy, it’s an incredible passionate performance.
  • It’s funny that during the “Herschel Krustofski’s Clown-Related Entertainment Program,” Krusty is dressed down in sweats, but is still wearing his floppy clown shoes, as he would for the entire second act. 
  • IRS Burger is such a great set piece. I love the detail of the signage on the trash cans (Net Refuse, Gross Refuse.)
  • This is another episode I saw a lot in syndication. The most jarring cuts to me is the extended auction items at Krusty’s estate: his enormous porno collection being sold to a Japanese bidder for twelve cents, and Moe buying Krusty’s bed and heading off to sleep. I can’t say these scenes are sorely missed to me, but I love the attention to detail that as we see everyone leaving with their items, we see a man carting off a big stack of boxes with a JAPAN label on it.
  • That is the face of a man seconds away from punching a child in the face.
  • As much as I love Wiggum’s “OH MY GOD, A HORRIBLE PLANE CRASH!!,” I kind of feel if the show had just cut on Krusty’s plane crashing into the mountain, that would have been one hell of an act break.
  • Has there been any explanation why John Swartzwelder with Kermit the Frog on his hand is at Krusty’s funeral? I like the continuity inclusion of Luke Perry among the line of Sideshows. Also, Bob Newhart is a great example of a guest I really don’t know much about, but the situation built for him in the show is still funny: he’s put upon to make a speech for a celebrity he barely knows and doesn’t seem to have much knowledge or respect for, but he stumbles through it anyway. It’s great.
  • Bart lying on his bed repeatedly pulling the pull-string Krusty doll, which makes a haggard “Uggggh” noise while the sad music plays is another of those effortless scenes where the show is earnest and hilarious at the same time.
  • Krusty made it a little too easy to find him with those checks. He signs his new alias with stars around his name? That’s a pretty good giveaway. I also just now realized that the plot unfolds thanks to Krusty stamping a check, and now his undoing at the very end is thanks to how he signs a check. Pretty neat.
  • One last praise for Dan Castellaneta for his “Rory B. Bellows” voice, which sounds distinct from Krusty’s, but still feels like an assumed voice the clown could probably do. I also love how when he’s exposed, he gives out an elongated groan that transitions from “Rory” to Krusty, and it’s basically seamless. What a talented cast.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “You call that an episode? It should have been at least a two parter because it had a very abrupt ending, and a not-so-hot plot. So far what I’ve seen from the writers is krap for Krusty and mush for Marge. They need to understand that these characters are pretty inflexible. D-”

16. Lisa the Iconoclast

  • The best part of the “Young Jebediah Springfield” filmstrip is the two extras pushing the “tamed” buffalo prop to the center of the crowd, who then just stop and look away awkwardly as if they were standing there the whole time.
  • I love that now even in season 7, Homer is still being treated as just a regular townsperson. Him winning over the council with his vocal chops for town crier isn’t depicted as wacky Homer antics, it’s just him being a loudmouth and winning over these equally simple-minded council members like Wiggum and Quimby. 
  • It’s not every show where we get to see George Washington use his wooden chompers to take a bite at a pirate’s groin.
  • “This is nothing but dead, white male-bashing from a PC thug. It’s women like you that keep the rest of us from landing a husband.” Wow, Miss Hoover was a disgruntled forum poster ahead of her time!
  • “Unfortunately, historical research is plagued by this sort of hoax, the so-called confession. It’s just as fake as the Howard Hughes will, the Hitler Diaries, or the Emancipation Retraction.”
  • Homer and Lisa’s team-up through the entire episode is so incredibly sweet, and starts on a believable note (“You’re always right about this type of thing, and for once, I want in on the ground floor!”) Any time Homer vehemently stands up for his kids, I love it, and this episode is probably the loudest example, with Homer imbued with his own sense of authority as town crier.
  • Nice background detail when Apu kicks Lisa out of the Kwik-E-Mart, we see him washing the window where Lisa once hung up the Jebediah traitor sign.
  • Excellent detail that Springfield’s historical celebration is largely dependent on corporate sponsorship, which Quimby is fearful to breach (“You are tampering with forces you cannot understand. We have major corporations sponsoring this event!”)
  • After being stripped of his title, Homer attempting to muster a smile to Lisa, but inevitably breaking is one of my favorite bits of acting in the entire series. It’s just so damn sad…
  • I always thought it was pretty silly that Hurlbut hid the silver tongue in such plain sight, not to mention didn’t bother disposing of Jebediah’s confession after throwing it in the trash. Perhaps he wanted to be exposed all along?
  • Lisa nearly getting sniped may be the most shocking gag the show’s ever done. It’s funny enough with the set-up of seeing the sniper holding his position, but that they would actually pay it off and have him shoot really took balls.
  • Leaving the people of Springfield blissfully ignorant of their own history feels like the appropriate ending. It’s one of those wonderful double-edged sword messages: honoring the general spirit of the positive elements of history is a respectable thing, but that idea is warped as depicted by a town who everything but worships an actual pirate. At least he didn’t want to marry his cousin.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Typical for this season. How low can it get? It just wasn’t funny enough, and it seemed like Lisa and Homer were the only ones in existence; we hardly saw Bart or other characters. And the ending…it was not only predictable, but it was also bad. Rating: D+”

17. Homer the Smithers

  • I don’t blame Mr. Burns, that was one terrifying thumbs up.
  • “To make up for my failure last night, I alphabetized your breakfast; you can start with the waffles and work your way up to the zwieback.” Zwieback is a crisp, sweet biscuit, so chalk that up to another new thing I learned from this show. Apparently it originated in East Prussia; earlier this season in “Mother Simpson,” Burns attempted to mail a letter to the Prussian consulate in Siam. Coincidence? …yeah.
  • I love Mrs. Burns’ response to Smithers attempting to drown himself in the water cooler to press down on the tap, draining the water to “save” him. It’s the perfect blend of him “helping,” but with as little effort or care as possible.
  • Smithers’ abandoning his search in minutes and deciding to just get Homer to replace him is a great meta gag, but it’s also contextually believable, as Smithers wants to hire the most incompetent replacement to make him look better. Contrast this with “The Mansion Family,” where the Simpsons are chosen to watch Burns’ estate for some dumb reason I can’t even remember at the moment.
  • This episode does such a phenomenal job balancing Mr. Burns as both feeble and ruthless. I can see how some could complain that it’s too much the former, but as formidable as Burns is, he’s still a 104-year-old man, and along with his age, has had people work under him hand and foot for his entire life. Him not knowing how to make coffee or dial a phone is believable to me, but his exasperation and annoyance at Homer makes us never lose sight at the true wicked Burns.
  • I love how the fire in Burns’ office gag that ends act one carries right into act two as Homer hurriedly puts the fire out. It gives the plot a little more weight that we immediately see Homer trying his hardest at his new title. That’s another great thing about this episode, he’s genuinely doing his best, which is definitely a whole lot funnier than him being a dumb, lazy idiot. Even when he’s smashing open a microwave to cook a breakfast-kabob, I can still go along with it because in context, Homer is acting in earnest, not just being a fuck-up.
  • Homer reading the missed messages about Burns’ car is such a funny scene, with Burns’ face getting more and more annoyed with each message. And it’s the subject of another Dankmus remix! I don’t know if I’ve already picked a favorite writing these, but this is definitely top 3.
  • We get our most overt “hint” at Smithers’ sexuality in showing him clearly staying at a gay resort (“Actually, sir, picture-taking is not allowed at this… particular resort.”) I like that they don’t push it, or worse, make his sexuality itself a punchline, the jokes are more about how Smithers is still hyper-focused on Burns (“Mr. Burns, 48 rings, are you all right? What did Simpson do to you?”) It’s not like later seasons where he’d just scream “I’m flaming!!” or some stupid shit. 
  • Homer finally snapping and punching out Burns is one of my favorite moments of the entire series. The build-up is so dramatic, and the immediate fallout is just as tense. I love that they let the moment hang there, where Homer fully processes what he just did and runs off scared. I guarantee you if that scene were done in a show now, the punch would be immediately followed by Homer talking to himself for forty seconds in some awful attempt at a joke. But no, the episode lets the moment breath, and have the character appropriately react to this serious thing that just happened. Also great is when Homer returns to attempt to apologize, only to find a traumatized Burns. Again, the two are acting believably; Homer worriedly trying to make things right, while a wounded Burns is fearful of being attacked again. It’s pretty sad, but even through all of that, it never gets too serious that it feels out of place. We truly feel bad for Homer, but simultaneously, it’s still funny seeing him overreact with worry. It’s really masterful how they do this kind of stuff on such a regular basis.
  • I love the touch after Moe yells at Burns’ “prank call,” Burns puts the phone in his desk drawer and locks it.
  • I’ve definitely said “Out of my way! I’m a motorist!” behind the wheel a number of times.
  • While Homer knocking Burns out is treated with serious gravity, Homer’s fight with Smithers at the end is more comedic, while still feeling satisfying as the culmination of the episode. It’s great how the show is able to have its cake and eat it too with moments like these. There’s a lot of great touches through the whole sequence, like Smithers’ “Stop fighting like a girl, Simpson!” and Homer incapacitating Smithers’ fist with his gut, leaving him free to smack and mush at Smithers’ face.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Been there, done that. Not funny at all, except for that Clockwork Orange reference, but we had to wait to the end for that. It Stunk Like Limburger.”

18. The Day the Violence Died

  • This episode is filled with expertly produced animation parodies that are all so well done. The Ralph Bakshi-produced Itchy & Scratchy is perfect, the 1919 “Manhattan Madness” captures the look and feel of silent-era cartoons to a T, and the Schoolhouse Rock riff “Amendment to Be” is rightfully one of the series’ most memorable song moments. Listening to the soundtrack albums as a kid, “Amendment” was definitely the song I understood the least. Funny, why would a song about Constitutional amendments, Ted Kennedy and dangerous legal precedent opening the floodgates for tighter governmental control not resonate more with a ten-year-old? I also never actually saw any segments from Schoolhouse Rock until much later after I saw this episode, so that also didn’t help.
  • $750 seems incredibly low for Comic Book Guy to be selling that Itchy drawing. Considering “Manhattan Madness” is a lost cartoon, I can assume that it’s considering a drawing from an unproduced short, but still, considering its age and the notoriety of Itchy & Scratchy, CBG could be selling that thing for a whole lot more. I mean, come on, a cel of Scratchy’s arm cost Bart $350.
  • Kirk Douglas is one of those guest stars who is a humongous classic Hollywood celebrity who I know exclusively from this episode. I’ve never seen one of his movies; when I hear Kirk Douglas, I think of this episode, and this prank from the Howard Stern Show.
  • Milhouse’s voice over during “Manhattan Madness” is great, with him not able to read the cards fast enough and yelling out at the screen (“Look out, Itchy! He’s Irish!”)
  • I love how through the entire episode, Chester seems like he could care less about forming any kind of connection with this kid who’s trying to help him (”Last time I try to impress a four-year-old.”) He doesn’t even remember his name, calling him “Brad” in the courtroom. He gives the Simpson family a couple of bucks for their troubles after his big win, and after buying his solid gold mansion and his rocket car, he proceeds to basically tell Bart and Lisa to fuck off. 
  • “Mr. Hutz, we’ve been in here for four hours. Do you have any evidence at all?” “Well, your Honor, we’ve got plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence.”
  • This episode has, in my opinion, the greatest syndication cut, by which I mean a scene that I think plays so much better in syndication than the original. After exposing Chester’s message on the Itchy drawing, Roger Meyers Jr. goes into his big speech about how animation is built on plagiarism, which is such a great monologue, ending with the tremendous line, “Your Honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from?” In the syndicated cut, we go right to Judge Snyder banging his gavel (it’s cut so tight that it seems like Snyder is cutting Meyers off, which I thought was a great touch) and announcing his verdict. In the uncut version, after asking where all these great ideas are gonna come from, Meyers points to a random person in the audience (Marge), incredulously asking, “Her?!” On the spot, Marge murmurs, eventually coming up with “Ghost Mutt.” I get the joke, but it seems like it just takes the energy and momentum right out of an already very funny scene. Snyder appearing to cut Meyers’ tirade off, moving the plot along, I think plays off so much better.
  • Liver and onions-posting became huge in the shitposting community for a while, producing some absolutely incredible memes.
  • I still love the gag with Roger Meyers Sr.’s frozen head, obviously alluding to the rumors of Walt Disney. I love Alex Rocco’s read on “You comfortable in there, Daddy?” He’s being sincere, but there’s still a level of sarcasm in his voice that it’s still really funny.
  • The meta ending is great, of course, where the day is saved by the totally distinct character Lester and Eliza, discomforting Bart and Lisa because things didn’t happen like they usually do, like the universe is off balance or something… I also love in the deus ex machina reveal that the US Postal Service stole one of Roger Meyers Sr.’s characters, thus restoring his fortune and reputation, Meyers Jr. holds up two posters of the two characters, and while he’s speaking about the theft, draws over his father’s drawing in plain sight to make it look even more similar to the USPS’ “ripoff.”
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Grade: F-. This episode was suckiest, bunch sucking episodes, that ever sucked. Come on I didn’t have a good laugh once in the two times I watched this episode, I am beginning to wish I hadn’t bothered to watch it. There a few decent scenes, like any of Hutz’s but it’s hard not to make Hutz not funny, and the Schoolhouse Rock parody was well done but not really that funny (it did give me a small laugh). Even the comic guy was not funny and there was way too much of him, he only works in small spread out.”

Season Seven Revisited (Part Two)

7. King-Size Homer

  • What a beautiful pan. Who cares that it makes no sense spatial-wise that all these rooms are directly next to each other, I love it. Also great is Burns’ absolute befuddlement at Homer just appearing in his office, with great, understated reads by Harry Shearer (“Can I help you?”)
  • I like that Homer’s starting weight is 239 pounds, the weight he got down to by the end of “Brush With Greatness.” In fact, I now consider this episode to be a direct sequel to that show, where after Homer’s personal triumph of losing weight, he gleefully chooses to gain it all back and then some.
  • “Assal horizontology” is a term I wish I had more cause to actually use in real life. Also, I’ve searched up and down Los Angeles for Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, but sadly, I cannot find it.
  • I love Ned’s guest appearance in Homer’s work-from-home fantasy as a haggard victim of the rat race (“A crazy guy shot a bunch of people, and the subway ran over my hat!”)
  • I really like the first act twist; as would be expected, Homer is almost at his goal weight, and a hail Mary Play-Dough donut from Maggie pushes him over… but his gut was on the towel rack, revealing he was actually heavy enough already. Even better is the towel rack gag was set up earlier, so it doubles as a great callback too.
  • Another great newspaper headline. I also love that drawing of Burns for some reason.
  • I used the “To start, press any key” audio bite as the Windows start-up sound on my PC when I was younger. Boy, was I clever!
  • Morbidly obese Bart and his washin’ rag would go on to launch a thousand shitposts. I love that it’s yet another dark future for Bart that he for some reason thinks is awesome, like him being a drifter or get horrifically mutated by an experimental cola.
  • I love Marge’s presence throughout the first two acts and how she eventually creeps her way into the foreground of Homer’s story. During Homer’s rapid weight gain, she timidly brings it up, but is quickly dismissed by Homer. This drives her into the background, hoping this crazy episode will fade out on its own like it usually does (“Normally your father’s crackpot schemes fizzle out as soon as he finds something good on TV. But this season…”) Later, when Lisa confronts her mother to do something, Marge is hesitant, not wanting to hurt Homer’s feelings, in one of the greatest crazy lines in the whole series (“Your father can be surprisingly sensitive. Remember when I giggled at his Sherlock Holmes hat? He sulked for a week and then closed his detective agency.”) When she finally does get Homer’s ear, she’s understandably upset and things do get a little sad, where she admits not only does she fear for her husband’s health, she finds herself less physically attracted to him. It’s genuinely affecting.
  • I absolutely love the bit where Homer cockily brags to Marge about “tripling his productivity,” using the mocking moniker “Miss Doesn’t-Find-Me-Attractive-Sexually-Anymore,” his pettiness completely blinding him to what an awful label that is to both her and himself.
  • Homer being bored working from home, distracted by the dog, the mail, anything to pull him away from the computer, definitely reads differently after ten on-and-off months of me working from home.
  • Homer’s incredibly fast ranting at passing motorists, and then the ice cream truck driver, feels reminiscent of the raving homeless man from “Bart Sells His Soul.” Dan Castellaneta is really great at talking incredibly fast, it seems.
  • The rising action of Homer making his way to the manual shut-off switch plays as very dramatic, but it still feels like it has real weight. By the end, there’s not much in the way of jokes as Homer climbs and tries to balance on the ladder as the tension ramps up, but it still works after Homer vowed at the end of act two to actually give a damn about his job, and now he has to put up or shut up on his promise.
  • You might think why Homer didn’t just get more liposuction to make him into a slim man, but I absolutely buy that Burns would only pay to have him returned to his “normal” size.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This was an OK episode, not very outstanding by OFF’s usual high standards. Did they really make fun of FDR’s disability? It was better social commentary on the way people are granted disability freely, IMHO. The animation of the fat Homer was not all that pleasant to look at. C-.”

8. Mother Simpson

  • I love the bit where without thinking, Lenny picks a bird’s nest with eggs out of a tree and tosses it in the garbage. Just not even paying attention.
  • Great drawing of “Homer” getting stuck in the turbine, up for barely a second before he disappears inside.
  • We get a rare moment of Marge actually expressing anger at her sisters over their treatment of Homer, when they present her with his tombstone (“Get out of here, you ghouls!”) It’s not shown often, but Marge isn’t an idiot, she must be hurt by her sisters’ treatment of her husband, as we briefly shone a light on in “Homer vs. Patty & Selma.”
  • The animation of Homer and Marge left in the dark after the power is cut is fantastic. With just the eyeball animation, everything still feels very expressive.
  • I’ve mentioned it before, but Homer’s upbringing really was pretty awful, all in the hands of how absolutely cruel and uncaring Abe was. Him telling Homer that Mona died when they were at the movies is so incredibly awful; in the blink of an eye, li’l Homer’s life changed forever, doomed to be raised by a man providing him nothing but insults and disencouragement. When Marge asks him what “good reason” Mona had to leave him, Homer solemnly responds, “I guess I was just a horrible son and no mother would want me…” That might be the most devastating line in the whole series, Homer really has some deep scars from his childhood, and for good reason.
  • I always found it odd that Marge addresses Mona as “Mother Simpson” when they all finally confront her. I guess they never really firmly establish her name is really “Mona,” we only see that as one of her many other aliases that Lisa discovers. But to me, when I hear it, I just think, “Hey, that’s the title of the episode!” I also like how when Mona talks about her radicalization in the 60s, Marge asks, “So where did your newfound sense of irresponsibility take you?” Of course that’s how Marge would frame any form of protest; it definitely feels in line with her awkward bra burning in “The Way We Was.”
  • I definitely say “Now there’s a [blank] you can set your watch to!” in an approving way just like Abe from time to time.
  • I really like that they show Wiggum as campus police in the flashback. Considering he’s probably a young college student and Homer’s a kid, that would make modern day Wiggum in his late forties, which feels right. It’s definitely a lot more interesting than future flashback shows where we see every citizen of Springfield is exactly the same damn age so they can make Springfield Babies-type jokes.
  • I get that the point of Mona going back to help Burns is to show how she’s incredibly kindhearted, she would even lend a hand to her enemy, but… come on, that’s an incredibly rookie move for an anarchist. Which she was. So that checks out too.
  • The back-and-forth between Abe and Mona is just wonderful, just incredibly passionate performances by Castellaneta and Glenn Close. 
  • It’s great that we see Wiggum quietly in the background for most of the investigation in act three, which explains how he was able to tip off Homer before the cavalry arrived, retroactively explaining why Wiggum wasn’t quick to volunteer any information himself to the feds. Very well done.
  • The ending is still a killer, just absolutely tragic and beautiful at the same time. When I last watched this episode, my mother had just passed a few months prior, and now nearly ten years later, it still hits just as hard. I feel you, Homer. I feel you.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “C-plus – I just stared at the screen for 22 minutes in sort of the same way that Homer stared at the sky at the end.  On top of that, the ‘Lisa is just like Grandma’ bit was stressed a little too much.”

9. Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming

  • This is my favorite Sideshow Bob episode in that it really perfectly illustrates the character. A pompous thespian through and through, Bob’s true nemesis is idiotic lowbrow culture, personified by the “chattering cyclops” that is television. It stings even greater considering he was once an active participant in such moronic programming (“My foolish capering destroyed more young minds then syphilis and pinball combined!”) The final straw comes from overhearing a moronic FOX sitcom with a familiar guest star: accomplished stage actress Vanessa Redgrave. Bob is practically in mourning hearing a respected performer reduced to appearing on TV’s “bottomless chum bucket.”
  • “I renew my objection to this pointless endeavor, informally now and by affidavit later… time permitting.”
  • Lisa’s excitement about seeing the first female stealth bomber pilot is really a fantastic joke (“During the Gulf War she destroyed seventy mosques, and her name is Lisa too!”) It’s funny on its own how Lisa is childishly enraptured by this trailblazing woman who she shares a name with, conveniently overlooking her horrific actions, but it’s also a tremendous slam on the celebration of a non-cis white men breaking into notable or high rank positions overshadowing any of their actual terrible actions (see: most of the Obama administration.) Of course, this is also a joke that would never, ever be done with modern era Lisa.
  • I love how Bob’s scheme unfolds, creating an inconvenience for the colonel solely to hear his voice and speaking patterns, allowing him to mimic the colonel in order to access a restricted area of the base. Like his showboating to the schoolkids in “Sideshow Bob Roberts,” Bob once again puts his performing abilities to work, affecting the voice of a dimwitted Southern recruit to egg the colonel on, then Kelsey Grammer does his best R. Lee Ermey impression as he chokes his way through one of his slightly distasteful exclamations (“Get moving or I’ll tear you up like a Kleenex at a… snot party!”)
  • Speaking of Ermey, he’s great in this episode. He’s doing the schtick you expect him to, but any character whose dialogue includes “I’m going to come in there and corpse you up!” is aces in my book. I also like the scene later in the bunker where his Garfield-related expression is met with awkward silence, and he sheepishly says, “Sorry, my wife thought that was gangbusters.”
  • I love the animation of the fighter jets hovering in front of the Tyranno-Vision (great name) to watch Bob.
  • “American Breast Enthusiast” has got to be the classiest porno magazine ever.
  • It makes absolutely no sense, but I love how Bob is able to shoo away the helium, allowing him to speak in his normal tone.
  • Another great childlike moment from Lisa where she escapes the air force base and excitedly tells her mother about all the exciting things that happened. Modern-era Lisa would seriously urge to push onto capture Bob with some kind of pithy remark or something stupid.
  • Fantastic animation of Bart’s book bag getting promptly run over and nonsensically set on fire.
  • This episode kind of feels like a spiritual sequel to “Krusty Gets Busted,” as they’re both about Bob’s utter disdain toward mindless pop culture, perfectly represented by Krusty’s loud and moronic antics. It’s appropriate that Krusty is the last TV man standing, the man who made Bob suffer for so many years, thwarting him once again. Enough is enough for Bob, in his last ditch effort, vowing to kill the awful clown. Of course, this builds to a hilarious anti-climax as the Wright Brothers plane pathetically bumps into the broadcast cabin, foiling Bob almost instantly.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “‘That was a well-plotted piece of non-claptrap that never made me want to retch.’ ‘Sideshow Bob Roberts’ aside, I never like Sideshow Bob episodes. They’re appealing, but just not funny. This one had too many FOX swipes and not much plot development, and the conclusion was rather hasty. My Grade: D+.”

10. The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular

  • This is definitely the best clip show, both in watchability and the creativity of the concept. Not only is most of the content material never seen before on TV, there’s also the brilliance usage of Troy McClure as host, filling his fourth wall-breaking role perfectly. He would reprise such a role one season later in “Spin-off Showcase,” but sadly, never again.
  • I love the characterization of Matt Groening as a reactionary right-wing crank, angrily shooting at trespassers in his office and injecting conservative Easter eggs into the show (NRA4EVER!)
  • It’s kind of crazy that after all these decades, there’s never been an official release of the Tracy Ullman Simpsons shorts. I’ve seen them all, but the bulk of them are low-quality TV rips of The Tracy Ullman Show reruns on Comedy Central. It’ll most likely never happen now; a complete shorts collection would have made more sense as a limited DVD release than a feature on Disney+ at this point. Also, they’re basically a bizarre cultural artifact rather than something I’d watch for legitimate entertainment; you watch a few of them and you basically get the idea.
  • The second act is the only section featuring actual show clips. It does its best to package them in a unique way with Troy reading viewer mail, but I still end up skipping through them. It’s a clip show. It is what it is.
  • I always laugh at Phil Hartman’s gravely serious read of “You’ve got some attitude, mister.”
  • I like the faded color and scratchy film effect put onto the deleted scenes, like they were locked in a vault for decades and unearthed. As for the clips themselves, robotic Richard Simmons from “Burns’ Heir” is the one most people probably remember, but all the clips from “Treehouse of Horror IV” are just great, and I wish they didn’t get cut (especially the set-up and payoff of Lionel Hutz’s free pizza guarantee.) It’s  also kind of funny that we get a cut scene from “Mother Simpson,” an episode that had just aired two weeks prior.
  • It’s so great how purposefully bad the fake “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” ending is. Smithers’ elongated groan at getting a 5% pay cut for shooting his boss is so damn funny.
  • “Who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?” HASN’T HAPPENED YET, APPARENTLY.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Please. Not another clip show! This one was better than the others, in that the writers made it pretty obvious that they (and Troy McClure) hate doing this sort of thing. The Robotic Richards Simmons clip is the ONLY thing that saves this from the garbage dump. Overall, a D-.”

11. Marge Be Not Proud

  • The Bonestorm commercial is just glorious, with the savage reindeer inches away from goring the poor children to Santa bazooka-ing the game cartridge into the game console, almost shattering it.
  • This may be the most genuine Marge quote ever: “If loving my kids is lame, then I guess I’m just a big lame.”
  • I don’t know why, but I love that Comic Book Guy halts Bart’s reaching hand for the cash register with a Sharpie. He could have just said “ah ah ah” and stopped Bart, but the little extra action makes the scene feel more alive.
  • Milhouse screaming for his mom to eject Bart from the house (twice) is a great character moment. As we saw with “Bart Sells His Soul,” the moments where Milhouse can actually get one over on Bart are few and far between, but when an opportunity presents itself, he’ll easily take it.
  • Don Brodka is such a hilarious character, ironically because he’s completely humorless (“Don’t smart off to me, smart guy.”) The gag where he calls the Simpson home and leaves a message, despite it seeming like he was actually talking to someone, is absolutely spectacular. Even better considering, I think I remember from the commentary, Bill Oakley and/or Josh Weinstein talking about how they vainly tried to explain the concept of the joke to guest voice Lawrence Tierney and he just didn’t understand it, but the way it turned out, you’d never realize that.
  • Troy McClure’s shoplifting video might be in my top 5 infomercials/tapes: the fact that the production is openly a legal requirement for McClure (“I’m here today to give you the skinny on shoplifting, thereby completing my plea bargain with the good people at Foot Locker of Beverly Hills,) and the very origins of the very first thief (“Oh, Shakazaramesh, will you ever learn?”)
  • I absolutely love that in Bart’s vision of Brodka, he says “cat-feesh” instead of “capiche,” which is a great callback to Bart’s earlier not understanding him saying “capiche.” So of course, his memory would screw it up. It’s a really neat subtle detail.
  • Another great touch I never really noticed before is when the family arrives at the Try-N-Save. Bart worriedly inquires if it’ll be a quick in-and-out trip (“So we’re just going to do this photo and get out, right? Badda-bing, badda-boom?”) The rest of the family talks about all the stuff they want to do in the store, and Marge caps it off, “We’re going to have a great day! Badda-bing, badda-boom, right, Bart?” Marge clearly doesn’t understand “badda-bing, badda-boom” normally punctuates something done quickly, but she uses it anyway as a means of wanting to play off of Bart. Between this and her giggling at Bart’s hug earlier, it all does well to build her up for her eventual disappointment when Bart’s thievery is exposed at the end of act two.
  • It’s a quick little scene, but I like how annoyed Lisa is at the photographer messing with her hat before the shoot.
  • I love the bathroom scene with Bart and Lisa, where Lisa explains how Marge processes things differently and this latest escapade has clearly cut her deep. But when Bart asks her to clarify further, Lisa gives a childlike shrug. In later seasons, Lisa would just flatout explain to Bart (and the audience) what Marge is feeling and how he should make it up to her exactly. Here, she’s just a kid who doesn’t have all the answers, and that’s wonderful.
  • I gotta say, that giant marshmallow that absorbed all the hot cocoa looks absolutely delicious. I’m with Abe, I want a slice.
  • This episode is decried by Dead Homer Society as the “one bad episode” in the classic era, for leaning heavily into “after school special” territory, playing the morality play and Bart’s redemption mostly straight through the whole thing. I understand the criticism, and also, having seen a decade-plus worth of new episodes since I’ve watched this one, I understand how this sort of serves as a harbinger of things to come. Especially in the last six or seven years, we’ve seen episodes that play emotional moments 100% straight, with very little subversion or uniqueness laid on top of them. The third act of “Proud” is sort of like that, but I think what separates it from the bullshit that airs nowadays is, aside from having more actual jokes, the characters still behave like real people, and the conflict is rooted in something that feels incredibly relatable: deeply disappointing a parent and how much it can screw you up as a kid. That genuine emotional core holds strong, and makes the ending where Marge and Bart reunite pay off beautifully. 
  • Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. That’s it.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “No characterization, forced continuity, and worst of all – forced emotion. In other words – one of the biggest pieces of tripe to come out of the Gracie Films offices since ‘Radioactive Man.’”

12. Team Homer

  • “They’re really socking it to that Spiro Agnew guy! He must work there or something.”
  • When Moe inquires where Lenny, Carl and Barney are, Homer answers that they’re spending time with their mistresses? What?
  • I love how stupidly simple the riot caused by Bart’s shirt begins (“His shirt makes a good point!” “I’m with the shirt: homework rots!”) And of course the desk bursts into flames when the kids knock it over. I’m always a fan when something just randomly lights on fire. Also absolutely wonderful is Chalmers’ incredibly slow evaluation, just milking the time before the crowd of kids inevitably rushes by to ruin everything (“I am going to give this school a perfect ten! I’ll just write the zero first… now, a vertical line to indicate the one…”
  • In hands-down the funniest Vietnam-joke from Skinner, he explains he spent three years in a POW camp eating nothing but a thin stew, but upon returning to America, his true anguish came as a result of not being able to create the dish (“I came close to madness trying to find it here in the States, but they just can’t get the spices right…”) It’s such a genius bait-and-switch.
  • This feels like the first major instance of fleshing out Apu and Moe. It’s weird since they’ve both had their own episodes, but seeing them and Homer bouncing off each other in a normal setting like a bowling alley allows new characteristics to shine through, like Moe’s crippling insecurity (“Buenos noches, senorita!” “What’d he say? Was that about me?”)
  • Martin (proudly) and Lisa (begrudgingly) model the school uniforms, and I like how you can kind of infer that they roped the two smartest kids in the school (or maybe they’re in student council or something) to have to do this little fashion show. Also great are the two different types of giant boxes carter into the auditorium: Mr. Boy and Mr. Boy for Girls.
  • Homer’s “suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked” speech is great, but I also love Lisa’s annoyed “We are not wieners!” after he hangs up.
  • I only know what colorfast clothing means from this episode, I’ve never heard it used in any other context. I could barely understand what Chalmers was screaming about for the first couple times I watched it. He excitedly follows Skinner to find Agnes in the park (“This I gotta see!”) although I’m not sure what the spectacle would be. Agnes screaming and collapsing into a heap because her dress turned tye-dye, I guess?
  • Surely somebody has made that lobster harmonica at this point, right? If so, I want one.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This was a middle-of-the-road so-so episode. They’ve done worse, but they’ve also done better. Some good laughs, some really good meta-humor involving the competing teams. The school uniform subplot didn’t really go anywhere. A perfectly average C.”

Season Seven Revisited (Part One)

1. Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two)

  • The opening misdirect of Smithers’ dream is another great example of the show making cultural references that work without knowing what they are. Hell, “Who Shot Mr. Burns” itself was directly inspired by Dallas’s “Who Shot J.R.,” and now the beginning of this episode where Smithers finds Burns alive and well in the shower is a reference to an infamous season premiere of Dallas where they brought back Patrick Duffy’s character after killing him off, effectively erasing the entire previous season where he was dead as just a dream. Speaking of which, considering how “Part One” ended, it’s easy to interpret that Mr. Burns might actually be dead, with some online and print speculation from fans at the time before “Part Two” talking about the identity of Burns’ “killer” rather than the “shooter.” But whether you know about Dallas or not, it’s still funny how quickly the opening descends into fantasy madness (Speedway Squad! In Color!) before revealing it’s actually a dream, and it’s kind of cool how they dance around the question of whether Burns is actually dead or not for a few minutes before finally revealing he is in fact alive.
  • The rickets gag never felt that successful to me. Lack of sunlight apparently gave Homer a bad case of rickets, but it’s basically been just one day since Burns activated the sun blocker and was shot. Also, am I dumb for not automatically knowing rickets is caused from a lack of vitamin D? It’s a bit too much to put together for a joke where Homer walks funny.
  • I guess this episode shows why we don’t see much of Dave Shutton, he’s an awful reporter, even compared to Kent Brockman (“Dave Shutton, Springfield Daily Shopper. Who are you? Where are you going?” “Oh, do your research, Shutton!”)
  • Smithers is obviously the most likely suspect, and I like how the first act works as quick as it can without feeling rushed to cross him off the list. It’s great how the episode itself remarks on this too with Marge and Lisa (“I guess it’s never the most likely suspect.” “Actually, Mom, in 95% of cases, it is.”)
  • Lisa’s given titles on her suspect list are a great touch: it’s odd hearing Moe being called a “nightclub owner,” but Barney as “liquor connoisseur” is just perfect.
  • Tito Puente’s “Senor Burns” still really slaps, as the kids say. And MVP of this episode is unquestionably the guy at the condom machine.
  • All the other characters’ alibis are fantastic, from Skinner’s awkward bathroom encounter with Chalmers, Willie’s Basic Instinct nod and Space Invaders obsession (“That was a pretty addictive video game.” “Video game?”) and, of course, Moe’s polygraph test, which is the subject of, you guessed it, another amazing Dankmus remix.
  • Just like the Dallas opening, Wiggum’s Twin Peaks dream still works without knowing the source material. Twin Peaks is a show I’ve been meaning to watch forever, and even though the dream scene is incredibly specific to the series, I still think it plays if you think of it as a weird, cryptic dream Wiggum is having, which makes it funnier when Lisa just breaks down and tells him the information point blank when Wiggum fails to pick up the clue.
  • Gotta love the DNA guy who’s easily bribed by a carton of cigarettes.
  • Even though Homer obviously wouldn’t be our shooter, I like how there’s still credible evidence that must be unraveled. Sure, someone could have planted the gun in the Simpson car, but how did the fingerprints get on there? It’s enough to keep the audience thinking until the final reveal. Going along with that, I love how Homer continues to get more erratic to the point he threatens Burns and points Wiggum’s revolver point blank at his head in impulsive rage. Again, he’s not our man, but I love how dramatic the ending gets.
  • Yeah, Maggie shot Mr. Burns, and it’s the perfect fuck-you reveal that doesn’t feel like an insult whatsoever, especially since Burns’ desire to take candy from a baby was set up in “Part One.” That the entire incident was just a complete accident “caused” by an infant is a great ending, but as one commenter mentioned, it did set the stage for a whole lot of future jokes involving Maggie being an expert marksman or weirdly violent (like breaking her baby bottle to threaten Mr. Teeny in the movie), completely missing the point of the joke.
  • During my rewatch, I’ve been using the Simpsons Archive to help copy-paste quotes. As a young fan, they were always one of my favorite sites, I’d look through all their different lists and guides for hours. The episode capsules were their crown jewels, especially in an era before the DVDs were released. A curious time capsule to look back at now is their reviews section, featuring fan reviews of the episodes as they aired, and it’s really intriguing to hear negative feedback for episodes most fans would consider bonafide classics. The archived reviews start at season 5, when the show was getting a bit wackier, and clearly there were some fans that were absolutely not having it. If you’re curious, pull up the capsule for your favorite episode that you consider a flawless peak for the series, and you’ll find two or three people who just fucking hated it when it aired. Y’know, I think I’ll feature one negative quote per episode for novelty purposes. I might even retroactively do it for seasons 5 and 6.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “That was the worst Simpsons ever. I would’ve rather seen an old repeat.  If you hadn’t figured it out before, you can figure it out within the first few minutes. I would’ve expected more from the talented Simpsons writers.”

2. Radioactive Man

  • The hats flying into the air gag really feels like it shouldn’t play, but I still laughed at it anyway. This episode actually has a lot of cartoony gags in it, like Homer running so fast it leaves a Homer-shaped dust cloud and Bart looking at the six corners of the treehouse before seeing Milhouse, the latter being especially brilliant and mindfucky.
  • Comic Book Guy’s waddle over to the computer is such a funny piece of animation. This scene is also a fascinating look at the dawn of Internet nerds circa 1995, back when they were stuck on landlines staring at gigantic monitors. I still don’t understand the joke where the last nerd shown is an incredibly tiny Prince. Is that really Prince, or just a nerd dressed like him? And yeah, Prince is short, but he’s not like a little person.
  • It’s so great how Quimby effortlessly goes from sucking up to the film production (“We’ll blow up our dams, destroy forests, anything! If there’s a species of animal that’s causing problems nosing around your camera, we’ll have it wiped out!”) to relentlessly bleeding them dry once they’ve set up shop. The whole town is on the same page about sucking Hollywood ass to drain as much money out of them as possible (as seen from the great signs around town, “Welcome Hollywood Money” and “We [heart] Phonies.”)
  • It’s very funny to me that Fall Out Boy, a hugely popular band still to this day, is named after one of the most obscure Simpsons characters ever. Not even a character, a fictional sidekick in Bart’s favorite comic book.
  • I love the moment where Nelson laughs at himself in the mirror after whiffing his audition, finally realizing how demoralizing his catchphrase is (“Ohhh, that hurt. No wonder no one came to my birthday party.”) It’s a brief and humorous moment of clarity that holds more weight than any of the countless future subplots featuring Nelson the sad, poor dirt urchin. Also, I previously talked about how the show was already mocking its own catchphrases and tropes by season 5, but “Haw haw!” still plays if they can find an applicable situation.
  • “George Burns was right: show business is a hideous bitch goddess.”
  • Bongo Comics published a dozen or so Radioactive Man comics over its lifespan, which is really interesting on several levels. First, the idea that you can read a fictional comic book from a fictional TV show in real life is novel in and of itself. There’s not a ton of Radioactive Man lore in the show, so the writers pretty much had to create their own superhero canon for the most part. Also, the comics spanned over Radioactive Man’s fictional lifespan as a comic; issue #1 “released” in 1952, while issue #1000 came out in the then-modern day 1990s. The rest of the comics are issues scattered between those years, and they would parody different comic book tropes within those decades. For instance, issue #679 “released” in 1984 featured a more gritty tone, as well as clearly referencing the likes of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. One of the final issues released is the comic book tie-in to the Radioactive Man movie, featuring the likenesses of Rainier Wolfcastle, Milhouse and Krusty in the roles in the film. It’s a really neat read, as you get to see how the isolated snippets we see in this episode were retrofitted into an actual narrative in the comic to make a complete story. I’d highly recommend seeking it out.
  • Even though this episode is mostly goofy, I like the throughline of Milhouse the tortured child actor. Pushed into the job by his uncaring parents who cared only for their own potential windfall, he has absolutely no interest at the start, which turns into bitter, seething resentment by the end. Pamela Hayden kills it with Milhouse’s acid-tinged disdain for the “jiminy jilickers” scene.
  • “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!” is a bonafide classic scene, of course, but what exactly was the outcome going to be had Milhouse been on set? Was a ten-year-old boy expected to swoop across the chasm and hoist Rainier Wolfcastle away before the acid hit? Ah, but who cares?
  • Slot car racers feel like a thing of the past. I’m sure kids don’t play with them anymore, but do any incredibly niche nerdy adults? I never had any race tracks of my own, but friends of mine did when I was a kid. Spirographs, on the other hand, I was all over.
  • Like Tito Puente, Mickey Rooney randomly appears as characters shout his name aloud, but he’s so damn funny and makes story-sense for him to be there, a former child star hired by Hollywood suits to talk sense into Milhouse. Then he tries to take his job, right before his next big break subbing for a little girl in a Jell-O commercial (“I could play that!”)
  • Having lived in Los Angeles for many years now, I have to say the ending depiction of Hollywood is 100% accurate.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Yeesh. That was about as subtle as a L.A.P.D. interrogation.  Only not as funny. Is it too early in the season to choose a ‘worst episode this year?’”

3. Home Sweet Home-Diddly-Dum-Doodily

  • Cute touch of Maggie karate chopped her toast before eating it. Also, I always thought Marge said that she “marbleized” the toast, but she was actually saying it was melba toast, which I never heard of until this moment.
  • Marge is in prime characterization in the first scene, the ultimate super mother for the whole family. She works her ass off for her family, but she loves to do it. It’s sweet that Homer goes out of his way to secure a gift for Marge in the form of a trip to the spa, but because this is the horrible world of The Simpsons, one half-day off for Marge leads to complete disaster. How the perfect storm is set up from the start with the old newspapers, Bart and Lisa’s troubles at school, the “Stupid Baby” prank, this entire first act is just perfect.
  • “Stupid babies need the most attention!” is a line I think of all the time.
  • Skinner is quick to call CPS on the Simpson house, but still uncaring enough to just send Lisa home wearing garbage bags on her bare feet and Bart wearing an onion sack.
  • Great work from the audio department adding whistling noises to Lisa’s dialogue when she loses her tooth.
  • “Oh bitch bitch bitch!” is another line I think of all the time.
  • Of course the one episode of Itchy & Scratchy Rod and Todd see is like the most traumatizing one of all time. A seemingly innocent “baby” Itchy stabs Scratchy twice with a broken baby bottle; just how slowly he pulls the bottle out of Scratchy’s bright red wound makes it feel extra painful. I also love that Itchy runs out with Scratchy’s TV, which really feels like pouring salt into the wound; it makes it feel even more scornful that he’s robbing him versus just his usual cartoon violence. As Scratchy weakly chokes out, “Why? My only son?” and sadly dies, we roll credits, and Rod and Todd are scarred for life.
  • The emotional scenes in this episode are incredibly potent, with Homer and Marge despairing walking to the kids’ empty bedrooms to Bart and Lisa fondly swapping memories of their parents. These are tender, heart wrenching moments, particularly the former, as the kids’ absence have left gigantic craters in Homer and Marge’s lives that they’ll do anything to get back.
  • Alongside the already emotional premise, I also really like how the emotional stakes of this episode is about the fate of Maggie’s soul. As Lisa helpfully explains, she hasn’t been a Simpson as long as she and Bart, as the impressionable young Maggie becomes more and more adjusted and comfortable with her new adopted parents. It may be incredibly silly when Maggie does a Linda Blair-esque head turn after saying, “Daddily-doodily,” but seeing her lovingly reunited with Marge at the end, reaffirming her identity as a Simpson, still feels like a powerful moment.
  • We get not one but two great drug jokes from Marge: first when she and Homer return from the spa, the CPA officials overhear her incredibly unfortunate comment, “It’s like I’m on some wonderful drug.” Later, at the Family Skills graduation, Marge gets an erroneous fail on her drug test, which she confidently rebukes (“The only thing I’m high on is love. Love for my son and daughters. Yes, a little LSD is all I need.”) I feel like if I came up with that line in the writer’s room, I would be so damn proud of myself.
  • Only on The Simpsons is the third act ticking clock to prevent a baptism, but it’s not played as cynical or ripping on religion at all. The happy ending of the Simpsons reuniting is played straight, and feels completely genuine without being saccharine. It feels so effortless how the show manages to toe that line.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Does anyone else agree that there is something missing this season?  It seems like the voices are a bit different and that the plot lines have a horrible Critic-esque quality. They just aren’t as good as the weekday reruns.”

4. Bart Sells His Soul

  • I definitely watched this episode before knowing about “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” so I didn’t quite get Bart’s prank. He picked an extra long hymn and that’s his fault? Though to be fair, surely one member of the congregation had to recognize the song after ten minutes of singing before Lovejoy, right? (“Wait a minute, this sounds like rock and/or roll!”) But who cares, it’s great. They included it on one of the soundtrack CDs, but considering it’s just a reorchestration of another song, did Iron Butterfly get paid royalties for that?
  • Milhouse’s innocent question as to why organized religion would manipulate or obfuscate truth (“What would they have to gain?”), followed by the immediate cut to Lovejoy’s loud money-counting machine is so damn good.
  • Bart’s cheeky “Any time, chuuuuuuuu-mp” always makes me laugh.
  • It’s always funny when we see Dr. Hibbert’s children, reminding you that he and his whole family are basically just references to The Cosby Show. I don’t know the last time they’ve been seen on the show, but they certainly are an out-of-time parody at this point. I’d say a Dr. Hibbert episode could be kind of interesting, but… you know. Also, I’d love to go eat at Professor P. J. Cornucopia’s Fantastic Foodmagorium and Great American Steakery.
  • I love that Bart’s turmoil through the entire episode is completely internal. He didn’t “lose” his soul, but his uncaring attitude to his sense of self led to this weird crisis within himself that he’s unable to make sense of. It’s sort of similar to the series’ early morality play episodes like “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment.”
  • I really like how this episode features Milhouse finally getting one over on Bart. After being used and abused as a second banana for six seasons, he’s now in the position of power over a timid Bart, and he knows it. I love this little bit of animation (and Pamela Hayden’s performance) of Milhouse’s smug “yeeeeessss” as Bart walks up to him. Milhouse coldly demands $50 for Bart’s soul back, and cackles dorkily as he somberly leaves. So great.
  • The ending of the Uncle Moe’s commercial was cut in syndication, but I love how dumb it is. The uncreative simplicity of the extended jingle (“It’s good good good good, good good good!”) as Moe struggles in vain to keep a big grin to the camera, twitching wildly. Watching this silly subplot also reminded me of the Playmates Simpsons action figure line, and one of the dozen or so planned figures that was cancelled when the line ended was an Uncle Moe variant. That would’ve been a neat collectible, with a little Million Dollar Birthday Fries hat to put on his head. What a shame.
  • The scene where Marge naturally senses something is wrong with Bart is really, really sweet, further emphasizing that this is Bart’s mental struggle, so of course an obsessively loving mother like Marge would see something is wrong… but not quite know what (“It’s not fear of nuclear war… It’s not swim-test anxiety…”)
    – The little girl with the cold teef that causes Moe to lose it looks a lot like Samantha Stanky to me. I also love the ominous reprise of the Uncle Moe’s jingle right before everything goes to shit, really great music cue.
  • The street sweeper running down Bart is a fantastic double joke, where it looks like it just thoroughly cleaned Bart’s bike, but then quickly falls apart. Then the street sweeper is apparently a madman who drives down the subway stairs and crashes.
  • Speaking of madmen, Dan Castellaneta gives a dynamite performance as the homeless man Wiggum attempts to placate (“Who’s been stealing your thoughts?”)
  • Gotta love those ALF pogs. Speaking of ALF, if you think my episodic reviews are humorous and thorough, I’ve got nothing on Philip Reed’s ALF project, a writing exercise where he exhaustively reviewed every episode of ALF, as well as bonus articles about the characters, other ALF media, and so forth. I remember watching ALF reruns when I was younger and liking the show, but looking back on it now, it really was quite terrible, and Philip really digs into why. I’d say even if you haven’t seen ALF, they’re still really engaging in how in depth he goes into explaining every part of every episode and why it’s shit. I’ve read the entire thing several times at this point, I’d highly recommend checking it out.
  • I love Bart’s desperation by the third act. The time lapse shot of him sleeping all night in front of the Android’s Dungeon is pretty sad, all leading to his final desperate moment of prayer, with an absolutely fantastic performance by Nancy Cartwright. It’s probably the most vulnerable we’ve seen Bart in the entire series.
  • Lisa buying Bart’s soul back for him feels like a thank you for Bart buying the Bleeding Gums record in “‘Round Springfield.” Funny how there’s two endings where a Simpson sibling saves the day by buying something from Comic Book Guy. 
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This was one of the stupidest episodes I’ve seen. It was corny and predictable and it had the humor of Erkle’s show. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with the writers of the show, but I think the good ones have been replaced with nephews and beer buddies of the show’s producers.”

5. Lisa the Vegetarian

  • The sound design in Storytown Village is really strong, from Mama Bear’s busted speaker to the axe cutting off Mother Goose’s head. That latter gag is executed absolutely perfectly, together with the timing, the animation of how swiftly the axe goes through the goose, and the sound effect.
  • The Simpsons returning home with their busted up back window is such a wonderful joke in how it’s not even highlighted. It’s a great coming back to earth after the sweet bit of Lisa bonding with the lamb, where right as the gruff voiced “Mother Goose” comes on the PA system (“The following cars have been broken into,”) we cut right to the Simpsons pulling up the driveway. Like, of course they were among the unlucky ones
  • Gotta love Lord Thistlewick Flanders. And hey, have I mentioned Dankmus recently?
  • The Independent Thought alarm is a perfect Springfield Elementary feature. I also love Willie’s vindication at Skinner’s order to remove all the colored chalk (“That colored chalk was forged by Lucifer himself!”)
  • The Itchy & Scratchy in this episode really is one of the strangest, where Itchy serves Scratchy his own bloated stomach on a plate at a fancy restaurant. Even when he repeatedly eats a piece and it flies back out of the hole in his meal, he’s completely none the wiser. It just feels so gross, with Scratchy’s shaved pink belly and the sound effect of it flopping onto the plate. Of course, Scratchy only dies when he receives the exorbitant bill and his head explodes. Brilliant.
  • I’ve definitely thought “Yo, goober! Where’s the meat!” at least a few times waiting for my food at a restaurant. 
  • “A certain… agitator… for privacy’s sake, let’s call her… Lisa S. No, that’s too obvious. Let’s say L. Simpson.”
  • “Meat and You: Partners in Freedom” has got to be the best filmstrip of the entire series. Every moment in it is basically a classic bit: Troy forgetting the kid’s name, sliding a finger on the cow’s back and tasting it, the “kill floor,” the “science-tician” who gets cut off, the very memeable shark eating the gorilla, and of course, the very helpful diagram of the food chain.
  • The gas grill gag is great by itself, but made even better for knowledgeable fans who recall “Treehouse of Horror.” While Homer’s excessively doused grill caused a mini-mushroom cloud to erupt in that episode, here, he just lights a match and the grill lights up like normal. Really great bait-and-switch.
  • Barney’s “Go back to Russia!” always makes me laugh.
  • Paul and Linda McCartney’s appearance skews very close to the impending deluge of guest stars who show up just to be fawned over, or worse to hawk their image/beliefs/products/etc. But their interplay with Apu ends up mostly saving it. I love that Lisa, an eight-year-old girl’s natural reaction to seeing the vintage rock star is, ”I read about you in history class!”
  • I feel like some might complain about Lisa’s actions and behavior in the third act to be too mean and spiteful, but that’s kind of the whole point. She’s really devoted to this new cause, but, as a child, ends up getting too wrapped up in it and ends up ostracizing herself from the family. Homer is equally as petulant, of course being a dimwitted manchild. The ending when the two reunite (I absolutely love their back-and-forth “you looking for me?” dialogue. Both know they have to apologize, but have to muster up the courage to do so) is so very, very sweet, capped out with Lisa getting a veggie-back ride.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Kind of a disappointing episode. It seems like a WSB episode where every character is given a few token lines to say. Only Apu brought any sensibility to the show. And a message to the writers. Please do not devote entire episodes to your celebrity guests’ pet causes.”

6. Treehouse of Horror VI

  • Pimply Faced Teen shouting “You don’t scare us!” when Homer storms out is so funny.
  • Homer steals the Lard Lad donut entirely out of spite, but seems to be having a grand old time lying in the donut hole in his underwear drinking beer. Never mind how he got that thing in the house though.
  • “Panic is gripping Springfield as giant advertising mascots rampage through the city. Perhaps it’s part of some daring new ad campaign, but what new product could justify such carnage? A cleanser? A fat-free fudge cake that doesn’t let you down in the flavor department like so many others?”
  • The captain of the high school basketball team that Wiggum shoots dead is literally taller than the building he walks out of. He’s got to be over ten-feet-tall. Forget what Lou says, that kid is a monster.
  • Lard Lad’s giant angry face through the door frame is such a memorable image to me. I always think of Lard Lad’s as one of the most iconic stores of Springfield, but I think this is its first appearance. I just love Lard Lad, he’s such a great design. I wish they had like a little statuette of him, I’d love to have that on my desk. Though maybe one does exist, there’s endless amounts of Simpsons merch, it’s possible.
  • I love the performance by the head of the ad agency (Harry Shearer, I think?) with his warbling attempt to sing the anti-monster jingle (“Don’t watch the mo… don’t watch them… mon-steeeeeeerrrrrssss…”) 
  • “Children, I couldn’t help monitoring your conversation. There’s no mystery about Willy. Why, he simply disappeared. Now, let’s have no more curiosity about this bizarre cover-up.”
  • Truly disturbing performance by Russi Taylor doing Martin’s death screech before he falls to the floor getting killed by dream Willie. It’s just so genuinely horrifying, but in classic fashion, is immediately followed by Nelson’s “Haw-haw!” and the great scene of Martin’s twisted, rigid corpse being exposed to the class, and then rolled into the kindergarten.
  • I got Simpsons calendars for a few years when I was younger, and I remember more than one year had a thirteenth page for Smarch, which featured a bunch of fake holidays on the calendar. It was a really nice touch.
  • While “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” plays the Elm Street premise mostly straight, I like how Willie’s origin story is almost like the inverse of Freddy Krueger’s. While Freddy was a school groundskeeper who murdered and/or molested children that the parents burned alive to protect them, Willie senselessly dies due to ignorant and uncaring budget cuts made by the parents (“Recharge fire extinguishers? Now, this is a free service of the fire department…” “Nay!” Also, there’s one shot of the parents toward the end of this scene that always stuck out to me. I know the kids’ desks are low to the floor, but jeez, look at those guys. The shot also makes poor Ned and Martin’s dad look as fat as Wiggum.
  • Willie’s “compost-mortem” line is some damn good writing. I also like how he takes a bunch of different (tartan patterned) forms before he sinks down into the sandbox. I don’t exactly know why he does it (the rocketship makes sense for him trying to get out, but the elephant and tank would serve more to weight him down), but I still think it’s cool.
  • I’m certain I mentioned this the first time around, but Homer^3 always reminds me of Cyberworld 3D, an 2000 IMAX film that acted like an anthology showcase of different early CG animation: shorts films, music videos, a sequence from Dreamworks’ Antz, and what I cared most about, the Homer^3 segment. Getting to see the Simpsons in IMAX was a real treat for my young self. I really, really wish the film was available in some form so I could see it again, but given the different rights holders of the different segments, that’s never gonna happen.
  • Even though it’s very rudimentary, I think the 3D animation holds up in the sense that Homer has basically been transported into an early 3D demo reel, walking past primitive CG assets and first-pass water effects. He’s trapped inside the concept of 3D; if this were some crazy, elaborate 3D environment, it would kind of sully that idea.
  • Can you believe there are actually people out there still excited for a Tron 3? Takes all kinds, man…
  • The meta aspect of Frink explaining the concept of three dimensions is so great. I love that the characters are all completely befuddled by the concept of the z-axis, which pairs nicely with the x/y/z directional sign 3D Homer walks up to.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I thought this Simpsons episode sucked. I mean, did it suck or what? And Homer^3 was just trying to camouflage the fact that…it sucked! And you know, what a way to cap an episode. Homer’s in the real world and goes into Erotic Cakes stores. So? What happens next. Credits…It sucked.”

153. Summer of 4 Ft. 2

(originally aired May 19, 1996)
So immediately following our star-studded rocktacular finale is a slightly more low-key companion, and as most meditative episodes are, it’s about Lisa. We start with the ending of another school year, where Lisa makes the shocking discovery that being hall monitor and head of the yearbook committee hasn’t done much to make her popular, finding she hasn’t a friend in the world. A brief sidebar, I always wonder about the character of Janey in these situations; she’s occassionally shown as Lisa’s friend, but other times appears disinterested in her. My opinion, she’s a fickle bitch in sheep’s clothing. Same with all the other girls at her slumber party in “Flaming Moe’s,” or any other time we see girls with Lisa. None of them really “get” Lisa, thus her loneliness. This malaise sets in right as the Simpson family are heading off to Flanders’ beach house for the summer. Deciding a different approach is needed to solve her dilemma, Lisa concludes she must create a new identity for herself, leaving town with an empty suitcase.

The family (plus Milhouse) arrives at sunny Little Pwagmattasquarmesettport, another Simpsons name that’s absolutely brilliant for reasons I can’t accurately explain. Lisa’s first step is to get a new outfit: a tie dye number with backwards cap and tinted sunglasses. I love how it’s basically a getup from the eyes of someone approximating what a cool kid would wear; it almost works. She runs across some kids under the pier, laid back beach town folks who aren’t the sharpest, but are overall nice people. A lot of the episode’s charm comes from Lisa’s nervousness in not just keeping up the charade of her alternate persona (“Like, y’know, whatever…”), but also in just being in social situations. Particularly great is her first encounter, where she’s garnered up the will to walk over to the kids, then is greatly spooked by a wayward seagull. She is eventually welcomed into the group, and builds a particular bond with the sole girl, Erin, performed with a genuine relaxed nature by Christina Ricci.

There’s a few other things going on around the Lisa story to generate more laughs. Homer embarks on a mission to procure some illegal fireworks, which of course results in an amusing catastrophe. Even more fantastic is Milhouse, who seems to only be there be obligation that Marge told Bart that he should bring someone. He ends up becoming the ultimate third wheel; his presence is not really desired by anyone, he’s just tolerated for being there. Meanwhile Bart is discouraged that Lisa’s friends aren’t as easily swayed by his antics as those back in Springfield. As petty vengeance, she uses the school yearbook to expose Lisa’s nerdy self, devastating her. The Milhouse stuff works particularly well in the third act when Bart and Lisa are heavily antagonistic toward each other, and Milhouse is none-the-wiser in the middle taking the brunt of their childish attacks. All is well in the end, of course, as the kids accept Lisa for the person she is, in the form of desecrating Homer’s car with sea shells. A bit of a heel face turn, but it still works, and is a satisfying enough end for a swell show.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Great acting, vocally and animation-wise, on Milhouse imitating the different types of sprinklers.
– Nice sign outside the Yearbook Office (“Immortalizing Your Awkward Phase,”) and wonderful bit when Lisa uses a box cutter to retrieve the new books, unknowingly holding up one with a humungous tear right on the cover. Noticing it, she tosses it aside and holds up a fresh one. The name “Retrospecticus” is also brilliant; I’m sure Lisa spent a while coming up with an intellectual name that ultimately no one will pay mind to.
– Great comeback to Nelson’s classic “Who died and made you boss?” to which Lisa responds, “Mr. Estes, the publications adviser.” No mind is really paid to this, as Nelson takes charge and just passes out all the books to the crowd. Now those books looked pretty expensive; not only am I surprised the school could afford them, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want them to be handled by eight-year-olds and end up given away.
– Nice freeze frame moment of Lisa’s superlatives, including record holder for most hand raises in a semester (763), and tidiest locker (unopposed).
– Wonderful scene of Flanders talking to Homer over the fence about his “rhubarb of a pickle of a jam.” It’s a double whammy of jokes, as the uninterested pose of Homer with his one arm on the fence is hilarious, as is Flanders recounting he’s been called for jury duty and the basics of the case, all of which flows so realistically like he’s actually recalling the information. Homer gives him the hand motion to get to the point and Ned asks if he wants to use his beach house. Homer agrees, only if he also look at his septic tank.
– Great, great bit when Lisa muses about her loneliness, gesturing to her books (“These are my only friends. Grownup nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.”) Marge, none the wiser, responds, “Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”
– Love the silliness that Lisa packed a microscope to bring to the beach. And great callback at the end when in the yearbook, one of the kids wrote to bring her microscope next time.
– Love all the post-it notes around the Flanders house. Even Marge is annoyed by the overkill; she finds an empty ice tray in the freezer, each slot with a note, “Fill Me.” She incredulously asks, “With what, Ned?” She flips the note over to reveal another continuing, “With Water.” Also great is Homer taking the “Put Food In Me” off the fridge and onto his gut.
– Great timing of Homer and his “improvised swimsuit,” wearing a welcome mat over his groin. He walks outside, says hello to a person, then we see the reflection of red and blue sirens. I suppose he said hello to a cop right outside the door.
– Hilarious bit of Homer gleefully driving the car in low tide.
– Love the family playing Mystery Date, seems appropriate the Flanders would have a lame board game lying around for fun. Especially great is Homer’s slow giddy realization that the dud looks strikingly similar to Milhouse (“Hey! He looks just like you, Poindexter!”)
– Homer’s casual read to the Apu substitute at the kwik stop is such a great performance (“Let me have some of those porno magazines… large box of condoms… a couple of those panty shields, andsomeillegalfireworks, and one of those disposable enemas. Ehhh… make it two.”) Not suspicious at all. Also great is Marge’s bewilderment unpacking the items (“I don’t know what you have planned tonight, but count me out.”) The convenience clerk also has a gem of a line, presenting Homer with the M-320 (“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”)
– Nice bit when Lisa and the kids are hanging out at the house; Erin mentions that her mother would be intrusive in offering Rice Krispie squares and Tang. Marge, coming in with a tray of just that, hears this and does a quick 180 back in the kitchen.
– Homer’s firework fiasco is a pretty spectacular sequence, culminating in the dishwasher erupting with a bunch of charred gunk. And great followup as we see Marge in the background mopping it all up in the next scene. There’s a lot of pitiful Marge stuff in this episode, from her talking about how she always dreamed her daughter would be her best friend, and the start of the third act as a smiling, but internally devastated Marge looks at the sunrise through the window whilst blindly scrubbing at all the destroyed dishes in the sink.
– I like how Lisa is utilizing all of Bart’s old catchphrases, like she figured they would work for her audience. Bart is indignant of protecting his expressions, but Marge is less receptive (“Oh, you haven’t said that in four years. Let Lisa have it.”)
– Great callback to “Bart on the Road;” apparently there actually is a grammar rodeo.
– Wonderful acting moment as Lisa snaps at Bart at the breakfast table, then snaps back when Marge re-enters the room. And great reveal with the cereal box to see that Milhouse was at the table the whole time. That leads great to the carnival scene where he is caught in the middle of their fight. I especially like the end when Lisa’s bumper car goes out of the ring and taps a tree… and a bird’s nest falls on her head.
Great read by Homer, undercutting the sentimental climax: “Sweet merciful crap! My car!!” Leading right to the fallout, seeing the sea-adorned car is being harangued by seagulls. Bart is redeemed by having the kids sign Lisa’s yearbook, and Milhouse giddily points out his own signature, “See you in the car!” My friend signed that in my yearbook one year, right in the corner and all.

Season 7 Final Thoughts
In terms of favorite season so far, it’s a tie between 3 and 5, with 3 championing in more emotional and grounded stories that examine our characters, and 5 succeeding in cramming as many ridiculous and crazy gags and laughs into each show as possible. Season 7 is the happy marriage between these two elements, each episode managing to find new successful ways of having its cake and eating it too. The show excels in its ability to blend the truly emotional with the hilarious, and this season does it in spades. Like season 3, a lot of the shows feel very grounded and realistic in spending time with our characters combatting with life and each other. When the kids are taken into protective services, or Homer’s mother must leave him again, moments are played very straight, but peppered with jokes that don’t distract, but sweeten the moment. And even at its silliness, like “Two Bad Neighbors,” the show still feels real to me, and that’s the highest compliment you can really give any fiction. We still have one more classic season left, but I’m pretty confident season 7 has a lock for favorite season. It’s stupendous.

The Best
“Bart Sells His Soul,” “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming,” “A Fish Called Selma,” “Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield,” “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”

The Worst
No worst. Best season is a perfect season.