I was 4 years old when The Simpsons debuted in 1989. This animated sitcom has continued for over 600 episodes across 28 seasons and one feature film and has no signs of slowing down. Funny, irreverent, smart and sometimes even touching, The Simpsons has cemented itself as a cornerstone of American entertainment and pop culture. The show is important to me as it was my first “adult” entertainment as well as my initial exposure to the concept of satire. So many references that I did not understand as a child and would not comprehend until my teenage and adult years. A joke that I saw at 8 or 9 years old would instantly make sense years later. I even credit The Simpsons for exposing me to the work of Stanley Kubrick, one of my favorite directors.
Coming up with a list of 10 favorite episodes from a series with hundreds is not a simple task. The good thing is, with a show that has so many quality installments, there’s no right or wrong answer. A heads up, a decent amount of the episodes will be from season 6, as it is my favorite season of the series.
So let’s dive into the DeaconsDen 10 Favorite Episodes of The Simpsons!
10) The Twisted World of Marge Simpson – Season 8, Episode 11
Typically it’s Homer who comes up with the schemes to make more money, but in this installment it’s Marge who takes the lead. She starts her own pretzel business after she’s kicked out of an investment group for being adverse to risk. This episode has some really good references to Glengarry Glen Ross, Goodfellas and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
9) Who Shot Mr. Burns – Season 6, Episode 25 and Season 7, Episode 1
The only two-part episode of the series, this was a huge deal for me. The cliffhanger through the summer was excruciating to wait for. It’s almost like it was as big as another tv moment when a rich man no one liked was shot. Oh yea and it introduced me to the greatness of Tito Puente. There also was a Twin Peaks reference that I had no clue about until a couple days before I wrote this list becuase I have never seen Twin Peaks. Still discovering things.
8) Homer Badman – Season 6, Episode 9
Homer is accused of sexual harassment by the kids babysitter and must clear his name. Some brilliant spoofs and cultural references are in this episode that include the OJ Simpson murder trial, Bruce Willis action movies, Hard Copy and even Disney’s The Little Mermaid. And to top it off we get a guest spot by Dennis Franz playing Homer in a made for TV movie.
7) $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling – Season 5, Episode 10
Mr. Burns opens a casino and everyone flocks to the idea of gambling in Springfield. Homer becomes a dealer, Bart opens his own in his treehouse and Marge becomes a gambling addict. This episode contains some inspired references to Howard Hughes, Rain Man, Kubrick’s 2001 and of course Dr. Strangelove which inspired the title of this episode.
6) Radioactive Man – Season 7, Episode 2
Hollywood comes to Springfield when a film adaptation of the Radioactive Man comic is greenlighted. The whole episode is a poke at Hollywood movie making with some nice moments involving Bart’s friend Milhouse who is picked as the sidekick in the film and witnesses the effects of stardom firsthand.
5) A Star is Burns – Season 6, Episode 18
Another good episode that sees Springfield hosting a film festival. The highlight of this installment is Jon Lovitz, playing the role of Jay Sherman this crossover with his show The Critic. I think my favorite moment is the screenings which include Mr. Burns and Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur.
4) Mr. Plow – Season 4, Episode 9
Homer buys a snowplow, but so faces completion from Barney. I always find myself singing the “Mr. Plow” jingle and didn’t know until researching that it is based on the Roto-Rooter jingle. This episode also has some obscure references, such as Kent Brockman’s reporting which is similar to Walter Cronkite’s reporting of JFK’s assassination. This works more as a great individual episode for Homer as opposed to the more standard satirically themed episodes.
3) Marge vs. the Monorail – Season 4, Episode 12
In this spoof of The Music Man, salesman Lyle Lanley comes to town and convinces Springfield to build a Monorail system which Marge is opposed to. This episode has a few highlights. One being the late Phil Hartman as Lanley. Even though you know it’s his voice he manages to give him enough sleeziness to separate him him Lionel Hutz or Troy McClure. Another is the fantastic Monorail song sung by the residents. The icing on the cake is the guest appearance by the late Leonard Nimoy.
2) You Only Move Twice – Season 8, Episode 2
Homer accepts a new job in a new town. What follows is a hilarious episode that pays tribute to James Bond films and gives us one of the best one shot characters in the show in Albert Brooks’ Hank Scorpio. Another positive about this episode is that Marge, Bart and Lisa each get their own storyline about adjusting in the new town. Also one of the best jokes I’ve seen in the series is in this episode when Homer asks Scorpio for some sugar. From start to finish, this episode pays off.
1) Itchy and Scratchy Land – Season 6, Episode 4
My favorite episode of the series. The family travels to Itchy and Scratchy Land for vacation. Not only are the adventures of the family hilarious before they arrive, once they do get there we get some inspired parodies of Disneyland, Walt Disney, Star Wars, Witness, Alfred Hitchcock and the works of Michael Crichton. Particularly his film Westworld and Jurassic Park. Having been to a Disney theme park, it resonates well and allows you to understand why it means so much to Bart and Lisa. The references to Crichton’s work I also loved becuase I loved the Jurassic Park film and would soon begin to read his novels not much later. Itchy and Scratchy Land is prime Simpsons and is a great showcase as to how well the creative team implements these cultural references that still feel fresh years after the episode first aired.
So there you have it. My 10 favorite episodes of The Simpsons. I look at my list and I know there is another 10 I left off that probably could be on this list as well. For all the fans out there, are any of these on your list? What are some of your favorites? Feel free to make your choices known!