By Kate Voss.
Since its debut in 1989, The Simpsons has captured the hearts of millions. This holder of 31 Primetime Emmys is headed into its 26th season and still going strong as one of Fox Network’s most popular sitcoms. The heart of The Simpsons‘ success is its hilarious but genuine interactions between the family members and their small-town community of Springfield. While there are many iconic episodes that feature this quirky family, critics and fans alike agree that there are a handful of standouts.
Marge Vs. The Monorail
Written by Conan O’Brien, this episode is one of the most popular and iconic among Simpson’s fans. In this famous episode, the town of Springfield is tricked by a Music Man inspired con artist who promises them a working monorail system and delivers a hurtling deathtrap that threatens to bankrupt the town, and possibly turn Homer Simpson into hamburger. Safety-obsessed mom Marge is the only person level-headed enough to oppose the dangerous scheme, and is the one called upon to save the day when plans go awry. The episodes also features a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy, who apparently volunteered to star on the show after George Takei and William Shatner both declined their invitations.
A Streetcar Named Marge
In a rare Marge-centric episode, the blue-haired Simpson’s housewife steps outside her comfort zone in a big way and stars as a singing, dancing Blanche DuBois in a community theater musical production of A Streetcar Named Desire opposite a fired up Ned Flanders as the boorish Stanley Kowalski (the roll immortalised in the Elia Kazan film by Marlon Brando). When Homer refuses to support Marge’s efforts to try new things, she starts drawing parallels between her husband and the main villain of the play. Marge channels her feelings of anger towards her unsupportive husband into her role in the play, and when Homer sees Marge onstage as Blanche, being harried by the cruel and musical Stanley, he realizes that he was wrong to not help Marge achieve her dreams. It’s worth noting also, that the episode drew criticism for, (which was itself, supposed to be a parody of the song at the beginning of Sweeney Todd that disparages London).
Bart the Daredevil
This memorable episode is a perfect blend of the heartfelt family message and over the top cartoon comedy that made the Simpsons Fox’s longest running hit. When Bart falls in love with performing dangerous stunts, Homer will do just about anything to keep him safe, even sit down and talk to him. Bart ignores threats, warnings and pleas, culminating in a well-attended attempt to jump over Springfield Gorge on a skateboard. Homer arrives on the scene just in time to save Bart…but if only someone had been there to.
Lisa the Iconoclast
Aired in 1996, this episode features Lisa digging up history and generally being her lovably unpopular self. Lisa’s intelligence shines as she uncovers the hard truth about Springfield’s beloved founder’s past, and her strong spirit compels her to share her knowledge with the whole town, whether they like it or not. Lisa’s revelation that the long-deceased town hero was an evil pirate threatens to disrupt the Springfield bicentennial festivities, but she eventually realizes that the town’s sense of community pride in their shared past is larger than wicked things done by one man long ago.
Treehouse of Horror V
Like all Simpsons Halloween episodes, Treehouse of Horror V is a collection of short stories that play out like episodes of The Twilight Zone written by the Mad Magazine crew. This installment contains the short stories “The Shinning,” (a parody of The Shining), “Time and Punishment,” and “Nightmare Cafeteria.” In the first, the Simpson family finds themselves as caretakers trapped in Mr. Burns’ mansion, where “no TV and no beer makes Homer go…something, something.” “Time and Punishment” features a time traveling Homer whose attempts to restore his own timeline repeatedly fail, and in “Nightmare Cafeteria,” Principal Skinner responds to the plummeting school budget by repurposing students in detention as cafeteria food.
And there you have it! With over 550 episodes, it’s nearly impossible to pick a definitive “top 5” anything from The Simpsons. But hey we gave it an honest shot. Why not catch the remainder of the Simpsons marathon on FXX (which is available on most “expanded” cable plans and to Direct TV subscribers during their free trial period) and write in with your comments for what you think are the all-time greatest episodes of The Simpsons.
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