DeaconsDen’s Favorite 10 Episodes of The Simpsons

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!

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DeaconsDen 5 Favorite Episodes of Star Trek – The Original Series

So after having fun curating my Twilight Zone list, and with the looming release of Star Trek Beyond, I’ve decided to make another list. This time I’m devoting it to Star Trek: The Original Series. So here is the Top 5 Favorite episodes of Star Trek presented by DeaconsDen

5) Where No Man Has Gone Before


The second pilot episode introduces us to Captain James Kirk. After the Enterprise passes through a sort of electrical storm, crew member Gary Mitchell (Played by 2001’s Gary Lockwood) becomes a powerful adversary with telekinetic powers that threaten the entire crew. A great example of putting Kirk in the position where he can’t immediately help a member of his crew and is forced to make a tough decision regarding the safety of the ship.

4) The Changeling


The Enterprise picks up what appears to be a sentient probe called Nomad which mistakes Kirk as its creator. The probe has one mission and that is to sterilize all imperfections, including all biological beings it comes in contact with. Although it was never made official, one could connect the events of this episode with the story of the 1979 film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

3) The Doomsday Machine


Kirk and crew encounter an alien machine that destroys planets. They rescue Starfleet Commodore Decker whose ship was damaged and assumes command of the Enterprise from Kirk. He orders the Enterprise to go back and attack the planet eater in what is a clear suicide mission. A great episode where we get to see Kirk have to handle with maintaining command of his ship and crew when dealing with a superior officer who clearly doesn’t have the best interest of the crew at hand while also figuring out how to deal with the planet killing machine.

2) Balance of Terror


Inspired by the war film “The Enemy Below,” Kirk and crew cross paths with a Romulan ship who attack a Starfleet outpost. The episode is part submarine drama as Kirk and the Romulan commander (Mark Lenard in his first Trek appearance.) play a tense game of cat and mouse. It is also part social commentary as Kirk has to deal with a crewman who is distrustful of Spocl due to the physical similarities of Vulcans and Romulans. Some bonus trivia, Mark Lenard has played a Romulan, a Vulcan (Spock’s father Sarek), and a Klingon (in Star Trek: The Motion Picture). 

1) Space Seed


The ship Botany Bay holds a secret cargo from Earth’s past. Part of that cargo is a man who would become James Kirk’s nemesis. Ricardo Montalban stars as the charismatic and deadly superhuman Khan Noonien Singh. After he is revived, Kirk welcomes Khan aboard the Enterprise, but soon Khan is plotting his takeover to begin his new reign of the superhuman. The seed Kirk plants at the end of this episode will certainly have consequences in the future.

There you have it! The DeaconsDen five favorite Star Trek episodes. Do you have any? Feel free to comment with your favorites.

Also if you love the original series, here are some links to an episode of The Essentials, where Jake Almond of Waxing Cinematic and myself are going through the original Star Trek series and giving our thoughts on it.

The Essentials: The Corbomite Maneuver & Mudd’s Women Link 1

The Essentials: The Corbomite Maneuver & Mudd’s Women Link 2


The DeaconsDen 10 Favorite Episodes of The Twilight Zone

  Every year, sometimes even 2 times a year, SyFy shows its Twilight Zone marathon. Normally it’s aired with the episodes out of order, but for the 2016 New Year’s edition the entire series was shown in order from start to finish. The Twilight Zone is one of my favorite shows off all-time. I began watching when I was child and went to Walt Disney World in Florida. At that time they had just opened the new ride Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It was 1995 and I was 10 years old. The ride was amazing and to this day is still my favorite in the whole Disney resort. After the ride there is a shop that has all TZ merchandise and I walked through that with such wide eyes. I had no idea what this show was but I wanted more. I asked my father can I get a VHS with some episodes. He told me no. Since the reruns air on tv, I just had to watch SyFy, then known as the Sci-Fi Channel for the next showing. Originally I though the ride was based on an episode but found out that wasn’t the case. Then the big day came when I sat down in front of the tv in my parents room and watched my first Twilight Zone episode, The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank. I was bummed out to say the least. Yet I stuck with it and watched every Tuesday it was on the schedule. I was amazed with the stories and the twists and the hidden meanings. I love this show and Rod Serling to me is a creative genius for bringing it to us. This is why I have decided to list my 10 favorite Twilight Zone episodes. There will be no spoilers of episodes. You can check out the series on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. Let’s begin!

10) The Jungle – Season 3 Episode 12 Written by Charles Beaumont  John Dehner plays a man whose construction firm is building a dam in Africa and is cursed by witch doctors with black magic. He obviously doesn’t believe it until mysterious things begin happening and the urban jungle in which he lives begins to feel a bit more like the real thing. This is a very tense episode with a supernatural vibe and Beaumont is a master at writing stories like that.

    9) The Obsolete Man – Season 2 Episode 29 Written by Rod Serling  Burgess Meredith is Romney Wordsworth. A librarian who is sentenced to death for being of no further use in a future totalitarian society. But Wordsworth may yet have one more piece of influence before his demise. I love this episode mainly for the dialogue between Wordsworth and the  Chancellor played by Fritz Weaver

      8.) The Grave – Season 3 Episode 7 Written by Montgomery Pittman 

      Lee Marvin portrays a gunslinger who comes to town to kill an outlaw only to find out that he has already been killed by a group of townspeople. They then challenge him to go to to the grave of the outlaw and plunge a knife into it. This is another episode mostly dependent on dialogue and it creates an eeary atmosphere. A great blend of supernatural and western.

      7) The Midnight Sun –  Season 3 Episode 10 Written by Rod Serling 

       I feel bad placing this one at number 7 because it’s probably top 5 in terms of quality but there a few episodes that I enjoy a tad bit more. A great episode starring Lois Nettleton as a woman faced with the impending doom as the earth moves closer to the sun. One of the best things about Twilight Zone is that the premise of an episode may scare you without the episode itself being scary. This is one of those episodes.

      6) The Jeopardy Room – Season 5 Episode 29 Written by Rod Serling & Directed by Richard Donner 

       

      Maybe this episode is the secret origin of Rollin Hand as it stars a pre-Mission: Impossible Martin Landau as a man trying to defect. He is trapped in a room rigged with a bomb while a hitman and his assistant are watching him from across the street. As one of only 2 episodes that have no supernatural or science fiction elements, The Jeopardy Room is a really taut episode with a bit of tension as it is a nice peak into the Cold War era that was going on at the time.

      5) Third from the Sun Season 1 Episode 14Teleplay by Rod Serling. Based on a short story by Richard Matheson 

       

      Fritz Weaver’s first appearance on the show is a standout for me as he plays a man who attempts to steal an experimental spacecraft to get his family off the planet before it goes into a nuclear war. This is made difficult by his boss who is suspicious of his actions and follows him. The stakes are really personal in this story and that’s what breaks it into my top 5.

      4) The Masks Season 5 Episode 25 – Written by Rod Serling and Directed by Ida Lupino 

       

      Ida Lupino is the only actor and only woman to have starred in a TZ episode and direct one also. And for me she did not disappoint in this story of a dying millionaire and his family on Mardi Gras. He challenges his family to wear masks for the entire night in order to reciever their inheritance. Again you can sense a theme with my favorites in that I like the episodes that get into the premise early and then have you sweat it out. This is another fine example of feeling suffocated like the family with the masks on.

       3) The Howling Man – Season 2 Episode 5 Written by Charles Beaumont Directed by Douglas Heyes 

       
      One of the series best installments is the story of a man seeking refuge in a hermitage during a storm. While there he meets the Brotherhood of Truth and he mysterious guest locked up at the hermitage. A really haunting episode that Beaumont pens to near perfection.

      2) Eye of the Beholder – Season 2 Episode 6 Written by Rod Serling 

       
      It’s fitting that number 2 is literally the next episode after The Howling Man. In this a woman is attempting to have surgery to fix her face so that she can look like everyone else in the world. An excellent episode, particularly in the use of shadows that I didn’t even realize at the time what the story was trying to accomplish. Once I did see the end result, it solidified this as one the best and my second favorite episode ever.

      Before I reveal my favorite Twilight Zone episode, I wanted to provide a few honorable mentions that I do like but didn’t make the top 10:

      I Am the Night-Color Me Black

      The Silence

      On Thursday We Leave for Home

      The Invaders

      An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge

      And now for the big moment. The DeaconsDen favorite episode of The Twilight Zone is….

      1) And When the Sky was Opened – Season 1 Episode 11 Written By Rod Serling based on a short story by Richard Matheson 

       
      Three astronauts return from a flight only to find out that they may not belong here. Sounds like an odd and confusing premise? It certainly was to me the first time I saw this episode. As the three men question what is happening to them you see the terror in them. By episode’s end, I had no idea what to think of this episode or to make sense of it. All I knew was that it really unnerved me and sticks with me to this day. A real fear of the unknown.

      There you have it folks. The DeaconsDen 10 favorite Twilight Zone episodes. What are some of your favorites? Let me know! 

        The Bond Thing Finale Part 2

        Moment of truth folks. My top 5 revealed!

        5) Licence To Kill

        Timothy Dalton’s second and final outing as 007 has him taking on Franz Sanchez. A drug lord responsible for the maiming of his friend Felix Leiter and the death of Leiter’s wife Della. It was a certain change of pace from previous entries. Drawing it’s influences from the 80s action films that were the standard at that time, we got a much darker and violent film than expected. Dalton was ahead of his time as Bond. It would take 16 years after this film before the world was ready for a serious interpretation of 007.

        4) The Living Daylights

          

        After A View to a Kill, the world was ready to move on past the campy route Roger Moore took with the character. We got Timothy Dalton. I love this entry because I feel Dalton was the only actor who got close to Ian Fleming’s character as written in the novels. This is a pretty much spy/espionage/international intrigue adventure. It’s dated a bit because of the Cold War references and Joe Don Baker’s Brad Whitaker is a buffoon of a villain, but I feel this is really a strong entry in the franchise.

        3) GoldenEye 

         

         Bond is made modern after a six year gap from Licence To Kill. Pierce Brosnan steps in with the humor of Roger Moore and the physical presence of Sean Connery. For the first time in the series, the Cold War is a memory. This movie just does a bang up job at reinventing 007. Plus it brought forth one the best games ever for the Nintendo 64.

        2) Casino Royale 

         

        After Die Another Day, Eon Productions decided to go back to the beginning. The early part of Bond’s 007 career and Ian Fleming’s initial Bond novel. Daniel Craig takes over and gives such a fine performance as a blunt instrument who is slowly transformed into an ultimate weapon. Great action sequences which include a chase through Madagascar that is one of my favorite moments in the series. Bond goes back to basics and it’s a great ride.

        1) Dr. No  

         

        The first Bond movie was not the first one I ever saw. It is not the best. The Bond formula is raw. But it is my favorite. It stands out as our cinematic introduction to 007. It is iconic more than anything and that is alright with me. It’s a straight forward movie with a straight forward story. It is its own thing and because it’s a first effort has no obligation to its future. Sean Connery has such presence as he travels through Jamaica to find out about a missing collegue. If there never was another Bond film, I would be happy with this as it is the only Bond entry I watch more than once in the year.

        And that brings a close to The Bond Thing. James Bond may return, but I certainly had a lot of fun and I look forward to the release of Spectre on November 6th here in the U.S.

        The Bond Thing Finale Top 10 Bond Films Part 1

        This has been a fun venture naming some of my favorite things relating to the Bond films. I know I fell behind with posting each day, but now we are at the big moment. My top 10 favorite Bond films. This is before I’ve seen Spectre so perhaps this list changes after I see it and I revisit. And yes folks there is some Roger Moore on my list. This is a list of the 10 Bond’s I enjoy the most. Not nescearily the ten I think are the best. 

        Let’s commence with the mission with numbers 10-6. 
        10) The Man With The Golden Gun 

         
        9) Moonraker 

         
        8) You Only Live Twice 

         
        7) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 

         
        6) From Russia With Love 

         

        The Bond Thing Days 16-20

        Next up for The Bond Thing as I continue to play catch up, the countdown is my top 5 moments in a Bond Film.

        5) “Now speak or forever hold your piece.” From The Man With The Golden Gun

          

        Roger Moore usually gets a bad rap during his run for being too campy. My most recent viewing of his movies changed my opinion on his era as light-hearted and fun fare. He was however at time capable of using humor in some brutal ways. Here in The Man With The Golden Gun he points a rifle at a man’s groin to acquire information about Francisco Scaramanga. What makes this scene fun is that it is not an empty threat as Bond does fire the rifle to confirm that the sights were in fact off by one inch. See folks, Sir Roger is capable of being that brute that Sean Connery is praised for.

        4) “That’s a Smith & Wesson. And you’ve had your six.” From Dr. No

          

        During the briefing with M in Dr. No, Bond’s superior reminds him that he has a license to kill not get killed. In that same scene we see Bond get his now standard Walther PPK. And we get the see him use that gun and that license. In a pretty understated scene Bond sets up Professor Dent who is connected to the disappearance of MI6 agent Strangways by waiting in the dark knowing Dent will come to kill him. Dent arrives and empties his gun into the bed only to be surprised by Bond behind the door. They talk, Dent reaches for the gun and shoots at Bond. The gun is empty. And Bond does what he does best and shoots Dent dead. Ian Fleming made a cold blooded killer and we see his vision realized on screen.

        3) “You left this with Ferrara I believe” From For Your Eyes Only

          

        Sir Roger makes another entry here with another show of brutality that we didn’t get to see very often with Moore’s take on Bond. Bond cause assassin Locque to crash his car on the edge of a cliff. The chase before it is also pretty well filmed and tense. It’s pretty funny to see Roger Moore running up these steps to chase this car. But once the car is hanging over the edge, Bond tosses the pin that Locque left in the car when he killed Ferarra, a man who was assisting 007 in his mission. We hear the rocks sliding and Bond finished the job by kicking the car over the edge and Locque to his death. A rare dark moment in a light era of 007.

        2) “Whoever she was I must have scared the living daylights out of her.” From The Living Daylights

          

        This scene for me solidifies Timothy Dalton’s run as Bond. Which was over way too soon. It’s the capstone to the the entire opening of the film after the credits. Bond meets agent Saunders at an opera house to plan the defection of a soviet general. Bond is tasked to protect him from the sniper expected to kill him. It really feels like a pure espionage moment lifted right from Fleming. This scene is an adaptation of the short story from which the film gets its title. Dalton sells it perfectly and his interaction with Saunders at the end shows us this isn’t the aloof Bond we got with Roger Moore. This man doesn’t give a damn and it shows. Dalton was criminally unappreciated as Bond and this scene and movie are solid entries.

        African Rundown From Casino Royale

          

        Casino Royale reintroduces us to 007 by presenting us with his first mission as a 00-Agent. Bond is in Madagascar hunting down a bomb maker. The man soon flees and Bond is in close pursuit. This is a thrilling and breakneck chase on foot through the streets, a construction site and finally to an embassy where Bond finally has the man cornered. This is my favorite because we see the recklessness and abandon 007 throws himself into his mission at this early stage. This sets up where Bond begins and the rough edges are smoothed out by the end of Casino Royale.

        The Bond Thing will conclude with my top 10 Bond Films.

        The Bond Thing Days 11-15

        Continuing my catch up, I present today my 5 Favorite Bond Theme Songs:

        5) The World is Not Enough – Performed by Garbage (1999)  

        An oily backdrop sets the tone for this title track that I never paid much attention to in the past, but this song really is one the highlights of the film. A key lyric sticks in my mind because it also was a line in the film. “There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.” Really poignant. It really shows how this could have been an awesome film during the Brosnan era.

        4) A View To A Kill – Performed by Duran Duran (1985)
         

        This is clearly an 80s song and it reflects the time perfectly. Sad that the film itself is one of series low points. But it’s the Bond film released in the year of my birth so I give it a pass. Plus I rock out big time to this when I play my music.


        3) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Performed by the John Barry Orchestra (1969) 
         

        An instrumental theme opens the 6th film in ther series. A brisk jazzy tune that plays as we recount Bond’s cinematic moments until that point. The worst part? It’s too short! If only it could make the 3 minute mark. But Barry crafted this perfectly to fit the tone of the film.


        2) Goldfinger – Performed by Shirley Bassey (1964) 
         

        This is the one that started it all. And probably the most iconic song in the series. Shirley Bassey commands the track on the first of her 3 Bond songs. I love the big band sound and the unabashed 60s vibe we get. Bond made a big evolutionary step with this film and the song matches perfectly.


        1) Skyfall – Performed by Adele (2012)

         

        Skyfall comes in at number one for me because it is almost a modernization of the sound we first met in Goldfinger. We all know Adele’s talent and she handles it well. This song basically gives us the direction this film was going in, yet it took a second viewing to catch that. Skyfall was the movie that really made Bond at long last a box office superstar and this song is the icing on that cake.

        The Bond Thing will return with my 5 favorite Bond Movie Moments.