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!

Advertisements

Supergirl: Season One Recap


Well that was much better than I expected.

Upon hearing that there was going to be a show based on DC Comics Supergirl, I didn’t really have a reaction one way or the other. I wasn’t opposed to the idea nor was I excited about it either. I did decide that I would watch the pilot (I am a comic book fan after all) and see if it was for me. The pilot wasn’t bad at all. It established that this is a light-hearted series. It’s actually a bit more light-hearted than another DC based show, The Flash. I thought that “well this may not be for me.” It’s bright, cheerful exuberant and the pilot never lets you forget it. It also didn’t help that it was on CBS opposite the second season of DC’s Gotham which I do enjoy. I tried catching up on demand for a few weeks and by about the time the 4th or 5th episode aired, I just stopped trying. Once the show was announced to be moving from CBS to The CW, I decided to give it another shot. The CW was re-airing the season one episodes every Monday until the season 2 premiere. I was tuning in until I managed to get a copy of the season one blu-ray from a store that was going out of business. I binged for about a week and came to the conclusion that the first season of Supergirl was my favorite show based on a DC property this past season.


Supergirl is the story of Kara Zor-El, the cousin of Superman. She was sent away to Earth to watch over her cousin Kal-El as he was only an infant. Her pod is knocked off course and she winds up floating through space. Once she finally arrives on our planet, Kara is found by Kal-El, but years have passed and her baby cousin is now grown and has revealed himself to the world as Superman. Kara is then adopted by the Danvers where she initially kept her powers secret, but is now ready to embrace them.

As I watched Supergirl, I was more enthralled with each passing episode. This is a show that has quite a few things in it. There’s action, drama, romance and comedy throughout, yet it never once felt bogged down or lost its sense of self to me. It always knew what it was and what it wanted to be. Here’s how I evaluated those elements.

Cast: Supergirl has a really good cast who have good chemistry with one another. Melissa Benoist obviously is the glue for the entire cast/characters. She certainly shows the excitement that Kara possesses once she is out in the world as a superhero and really plays down her civilian identity similar to how we saw Christopher Reeve play Clark Kent. Mechad Brooks as James Olsen gives us a solid veteran of superhero alliances as he’s already been a friend and confidant of Superman. Chyler Leigh plays Kara adoptive sister Alex Danvers, a goverment agent who works with metahumans. Leigh plays Alex as the older sister who possesses a sort of old school mentality and trains Kara to not rely solely on her abilities. Jeremy Jordan plays Kara’s friend Winslow “Winn” Schott, son of DC supervillain Toyman. Winn has a pretty standard character in being the nerdy guy who has a crush on Kara, but also wrestles with the guilt of who his father is and what he’s done. David Harewood is Hank Henshaw, Alex’s boss and someone who has a secret of his own. Last but certainly not least is Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. Cat is Kara’s boss at CatCo and is easily one of the best aspects of Supergirl. Cat’s abrasive but never mean. Tough but never cruel. She’s a woman who has paid a lot of dues to get where she is. At a passing glance you may think she feels her employees are just cogs, but you can truly tell she expects greatness from them all. 

We also have appearances from alum of various Superman related media. Former Supergirl Helen Slater and former Superman Dean Cain portray Kara’a adoptive parents Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers. Laura Vandervoort, who played Kara on the series Smallville, plays the villain Indigo.

Story/Writing: The main story thread focuses on Kara’s aunt Astra and her husband Non as they look to enslave the people of Earth with something called Myriad. It’s a pretty tried and true story that isn’t anything new. It’s not the main arc that’s interesting, it’s the gauntlet of things Kara deals with that provides most of the drama. There are 3 episodes in particular that Benoist gives her all in terms of acting. The first is “Bizarro,” where she takes on her doppelgänger. The second is “For the Girl Who has Everything,” which is based on the Superman story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This is one I particularly liked because it reminds us that unlike her cousin who never knew Krypton, Kara actually lost her home. She has memories of people and a culture that is lost forever and we get to see her with who and what she’s lost. The third is “Falling.” In this episode Kara is exposed to red Kryptonite and embraces her bad side as well as being able to openly express how she feels, regardless of what the situation is. The best part of that episode is that it has repercussions going forward for Supergirl. Overall between the main story and the development of Kara, this season’s didn’t feel like there was too much filler. The season is 20 episodes and not having that extra 2-3 made the series a bit easier to consume.

Effects/Action Sequences: To my surprise the effects are pretty decent. The flying effects look as good as anything you would see in the movies and the use of heat vision looks fantastic, especially when Kara exerts more power and you can see the blood vessels around her eyes. It’s a nice little detail. Some the makeup effects are nice as well, particularly on Martian Manhunter who shows up about halfway through the season. 

Final Thoughts: Between all the shows based on DC Comics properties during the 2015-2016 season, it turns out the one that I didn’t watch during its initial run would be the one that ended up being my favorite. Supergirl has engaging characters, really good character drama and some really good special effects. For a comic book based show, I need to have the drama, but also I need the comic book elements in place as well. Fortunately season one of Supergirl has this combo and it uses it well and as a viewer it’s a really fun time.

Final Rating (4/5) Supergirl’s first season has a sensibility that is part Silver age comic and part Bronze/Modern age. It works for a really enjoyable season of television.  Here’s to the second season and the arrival of Superman to the series.

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


Early Thoughts: The Flash (1990s TV series)

  

 

This was a blind buy a few months ago. I found the complete series in a bargain bin at Best Buy for $10. I’ve always heard of this version of The Flash but I’ve never watched an episode. However being a fan of the current series on The CW, I decided to give this a try. At the moment I’ve only watched a few episodes, but I want to just give a few quick thoughts on this superhero series. To my surprise, I’m actually really impressed so far. Aside from some general 1990s cheesiness, the show actually has some decent production values. I haven’t done any research but I would imagine that after the success of the 1989 Batman film, Warner Bros had some money left over to devote to this. Speaking of the Batman connection, the series features a damn good theme by Danny Elfman. It has a Batman feel as evidenced by my wife who heard the show playing and asked if I was watching Batman, but it’s really epic in its own right. 

 The chemistry between John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen and Amanda Pays as Tina McGee is also a highlight. I’ve enjoyed their dynamic and partnership early on. It’s great that they both have made appearances in the new series. 

 I’ve also enjoyed the seriousness with which the source material is taken. I know in this era it’s a battle between “dark and gritty” and “comic-icky fluff” yet this series so far has balanced both in what I have seen. The Flash makes sure to give us a superhero come to life. That’s how I always approach the genre.

I heard the series gets better as it goes along. I’m hooked now and can’t wait to see some of the Rogues like Captain Cold, Mirror Master and The Trickster. Now I’m wondering what would have happened had this show been able to continue.   

  
I do feel that the newest Flash series is overall better constructed, but what I’ve seen so far, this early live action incarnation is quite the gem in superhero television. 

 

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! 

        First Reaction: Blunt Talk Episodes 1 & 2

          

        I’ll keep this one short as there are only 2 episodes up right now and I want to give the entire season a fair shake.

        I had a moment to watch the first 2 episodes of this new comedy series on Starz from Jonathan Ames (HBO’s Bored To Death). Blunt Talk stars Patrick Stewart as Walter Blunt, a television journalist who’s life is going off the rails. 

        Having grew up with Stewart as Captain Picard, Professor X and later as Director Bullock on American Dad, it is a blast to see him just acting a fool. He really is as good a comedic actor as he is dramatic. These first 2 episodes were quite hilarious. Another good note is the supporting cast. Similar to HBO’s Veep, (another show I enjoy) the secondary players are just as important to the train wreck that is Walter Blunt.

        I look forward to more of this humor  and based on these 2 episodes I will stick around for the rest of season.