Hello everyone, and welcome to the first week of my Lifetime of Simpsons wrap-up. As I’ve said, I’m going to continue to discuss new episodes of the Simpsons as they air, but the project as it once was is now complete. I’ve discussed every episode of the show that’s been released, and since this event happened to occur during a brief lull in the show, so it seemed perfect to close out the project with a few weeks of wrap-up. And, the first thing I’ll be doing is listing out my favorite episodes of each season. I’ve obviously had a lot of time to think about the Simpsons, and I think these really do give a glimpse into why I love the show so much. Sometimes it’s going to be the episode I found the funniest, sometimes the most emotional, and other times just the one that I have the most nostalgia for. I’m not going to get into the plots of the episodes, since I’ve kind of beat that horse to death, but I just want to share some thoughts about these wonderful episodes.
Season 1 – “The Call of the Simpsons”
It may be a tad sacrilegious to not feature “Moaning Lisa” as my pick for Season One, but when I sat down and really looked at the season, and my reactions to it, I think it’s hard to deny how utterly delightful this episode actually is. I said in my article that “Moaning Lisa” was probably the show’s first great episode, but “Call of the Simpsons” was the shows first truly hilarious episode. It’s absolutely dripping in that weird and subversive humor that would come to define the show, and the episodes penned by John Swartzwelder in particular. It’s an episode that gives some time for each of the family members, but it definitely lets Homer, Bart, and Maggie shine. Marge and Lisa do get the short end of the stick on the episode, but that’s okay. Not every episode needs to give equal time to each of the family members. And in this episodes case, it’s really fun getting to see Homer and Bart traipse around the woods, doing their best to survive, and failing spectacularly. This episode really cements my favorite version of Homer and Bart’s relationship, where they’re just two buddies, always game to trust the other and get into ridiculous adventures. Plus, we get to see one of my other favorite tropes, Maggie being a secret badass. I mean, she befriends a group of bears! How could I not love this episode?!
“The Call of the Simpsons” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Wesley Archer, 1990.
Season 2 – “Lisa’s Substitute”
I may have thrown a curve-ball with my Season One pick, but I’m doing the obvious thing for Season Two. I mean, how could I not recognize “Lisa’s Substitute” as the best episode of the season? Not that this list is necessarily going to be based around what I think are the “Best” episodes, more what are my personal favorites. And there’s no denying the power that this episode has. It’s a story that speaks to the outsiders, the people who were strange and awkward when they were kids, and told them that it was going to be okay some day. Lisa Simpson is a very relatable character, and this episode really succeeds in reminding people that see themselves in her that while they may be in places in life where they aren’t understood, but that that doesn’t mean the end of the world. There will always be people out there who will understand you, and it’s you job to seek them out, and find like-minded individuals to create your own community. Plus, we also lay down one of my favorite recurring plot elements, the idea that Homer will do whatever he can in order to make Lisa succeed. He knows that the best thing he ever did in his life was create Lisa, and that it’s up to him to make sure that she gets the life that she deserves, even if that will take her away from him. And those notions get me choked up every time.
“Lisa’s Substitute” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Rich Moore, 1991.
Season 3 – “Bart the Lover”
There were a lot of options to pick from for my favorite episode of Season Three, but while this was one of the most difficult seasons to pick from, I found myself drawn to this episode in particular. And, I don’t have any reservations about that. This is an episode that when I was revisiting it for the project, I wasn’t really expecting much from. It was an episode I’d seen a bunch, but that had never really left a huge mark on me. And yet, watching the episode through the obsessive lens that I did during the project, I couldn’t help but fall for it. I’ve been on the record during this project that my appreciation of Bart as a character, and the shitty things he does, has been falling as the project wore on, and this was one of the first episodes that I had to take stock of what a horrible, reprehensible thing he did. Because it’s really messed up. The episode is certainly funny, and has some truly great gags in it, but where this episode really ends up hitting me is the emotional core. Having Bart toy with Mrs. Krabappel’s emotions, only to realize that he’s gone too far and try to find a way to fix it really hit me hard when I watched the episode, and that hasn’t faded. So many episodes that revolve around Bart doing something horrible end up getting really quick resolutions, just sweeping his terrible behavior under the rug before giving Bart some token redemption, but this episode really makes you feel Bart’s shame, and his quest to fix things in a way that won’t cause further damage to Edna, and in fact leaves her stronger than she began, is an absolute delight.
“Bart the Lover” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Carlos Baeza, 1992.
Season 4 – “Lisa’s First Word”
As the show wore on, the flashback episodes kind of became hurdles to jump, rather than masterpieces to luxuriate in. But, in this era of the show, the flashback episodes were some of my absolute favorites. They gave us deeper dives into the characters, and often had some of the most emotion of any episode that season. And this flashback is probably my favorite of them all. It’s full of some of the most classic and beloved bits from this entire era of the show, and it’s all built around one of the most satisfying emotional bits the entire series has ever mined. Having Bart be an absolute shit the entire time, worried that he’s being replaced and no one cares about him, only to realize that Lisa cares about him most of all is guaranteed to get me to choke up. And then if you add in the final moment of Maggie being the first of Homer’s kids to call him ‘daddy,’ I’m a blubbery mess. It’s an episode that ensures you’ll have tears in your eyes, either from laughter or sweetness, and I love the episode more than I can put into words.
“Lisa’s First Word” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1992.
Season 5 – “Rosebud”
But this isn’t going to all be about emotional episodes. Sometimes all I need in life is to watch C Montgomery Burns but a full-on supervillain, and “Rosebud” is an episode that lets that side of him shine. I love Mr. Burns, I love Citizen Kane, and I love this episode. This episode has some of my favorite gags of all time, and seeing things like the 64 slices of American cheese, Bobo’s name-tag, and Mr. Burns ordering the death of the Rolling Stones will never not crack me up. Mr. Burns is one of my favorite Simpsons characters, and this was one of the first episodes that really made me obsessed with the character. He’d always been a fun and outlandish villain, but “Rosebud” was when things really started to change, and he started to become the Doctor Doom of the Simpsons. A character who is a perfect antagonist, and who seems to want nothing more in life than to cause problems for other people. And we get that side of Burns in full-force in this episode, seeing Burns grind Springfield to a halt in order to get something that he wants, stopping at nothing to reach his goals. It’d be inspirational if it wasn’t all about a teddy bear.
“Rosebud” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Wes Archer, 1993.
Season 6 – “Homer the Great”
I’ll be closing out today’s list of episodes on a lighter note, with one of the absolute funniest episodes that the show has ever produced. There’s really no emotional core to this episode, other than Homer’s fear of being excluded I guess. Instead it’s an episode that fully leans into its comedy, becoming a madcap journey of insanity and weirdness. This is the sort of episode that John Swartzwelder excelled at, taking the Simpsons and putting them in incredibly surreal and strange surroundings and seeing how they react. Homer get to become the messianic figure of a secretive society, and learns that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s wonderful. The rate of jokes in this episode is absurd, and it’s certainly one of the funniest episodes of the entire series. And I apologize to any fan who is reading this and now has “We Do” stuck in your head, because it’s going to take a while to get it out.
“Homer the Great” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon, 1995.
Well, there you have it. The first batch of my favorite episodes of the Simpsons. We’ve had laughs, tears, and some really solid character work in these episodes, and it’s stuff like this that reminds me why I love this show so much. We have a full week of these lists, so buckle up, we’re in for a good time.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons
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