Sunday, September 02, 2007

So it's come to this: Top 10 Simpsons Episodes

So, I felt like it was time for a completely extraneous post. Actually, the root of this exercise in pointless pop culture listmaking is that a guy I work with, a guy named Ben, decided to email me and ask me to name my top 10 episodes of "The Simpsons." As anyone who knows me is aware, there was no way in hell I was going to take this request lightly. The day after I was asked, I came up with a tentative list of my top 36 episodes. Over the next few days, I boiled it down to a lean 25, which I will present below, the top 10 getting a little more explanation than the others.

Now, I think it goes without saying that these kinds of lists are purely subjective. That being said, my list is clearly the best one humanly possible. True, some kind of sentient Simpsons-watching super-computer with a sense of humor could theoretically come up with a better list, but until Todd and Professor Frink finish the soldering and the code, mine will have to do. Unless you have a better one. Which you don't.

Also, please remember that I'm talking about degrees of awesomeness here. Most of the episodes that are higher on the list are only a shade or two better than those in the 20-25 range, or than the hypothetical #26-50 (probably including stuff like "Bart's Inner Child" ... TRAMAPOLINE!). Also, be forewarned: this is going to be heavy on episodes from season 4-6, since I'm of the belief that that's the best 3-season stretch ever produced by a television show not called "The Wire." All right, that's enough foreplay. Let's do this thang.


25. The Last Temptation of Krust
Krusty the Clown becomes a trendy Seinfeld-esque "observational" standup comic. He remembers his true nature and goes back to selling out, because boy, those Canyoneros are roomy. "Don't you hate pants!?!"

24. Marge on the Lam
"Thelma & Louise" parody has Marge running off with neighbor Ruth Powers to teach all us men a lesson. "Stickin' together's what good waffles do."

23. And Maggie Makes Three
Homer quits the power plant to achieve his dream of working as a pin monkey, only to knock up Marge and have to go grovelling back to Burns for his old job. Sentimental and waterry-eyed, but damn near perfect. "My marketing plan attracted a record number of police and fire officials, but few stayed to bowl."

22. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
"I have to go now, my planet needs me." (NOTE: Poochie died on the way to his home planet.)

21. Mr. Plow
You know the jingle. I know the jingle. We'll probably remember it forever. Here Homer falls ass-backward into a successful business, only to have Barney steal it from him, with a little help from Linda Ronstadt. Oh, those hip guest stars! Also, WAY before "Family Guy" sucked its way into existence, "The Simpsons" featured a batshit crazy Adam West, reminiscing about Eartha Kitt and wondering why Batman doesn't dance anymore. Some questions just need to be asked.

20. Three Men and a Comic Book
A tidy parody of "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," this episode has Bart, Milhouse, and Martin pooling their money to buy the very first Radioactive Man comic. Obviously, the three friends are torn apart by paranoia, with Bart in the Bogart role. Probably the first episode that I really loved, so it always holds a special place for me.

19. Homer Loves Flanders
Ned Flanders win two tickets to the big football game between Springfield and Shelbyville ("This is just another chapter in the pointless rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world's largest pizza, so we burned down their City Hall"), and for some reason he chooses to take Homer as his guest. Moved by Ned's kindness, Homer decides that they're best buddies, a friendship that Flanders and his family are not quite ready to deal with. The "Terminator 2" allusions kill me.

18. Radioactive Man
Up and at them! As if anyone other than Rainier Wolfcastle could play the title character ... not least because the only other actor we know of on the show is Troy McClure, and he was obviously busy performing in the "Planet of the Apes" musical. Milhouse beats out Bart for the role of Fallout Boy, but can't take the pressures of being an actor. And you can't take your eyes off the episode. The goggles do nothing!

17. Homer the Vigilante
With the Springfield Catburglar terrorizing the town, Homer forms a vigilante group to clean up the town. Contains one of my favorite visual gags: the house whose security system consists of the house itself running away, only to fall down and catch fire. Brockman: "What do you say to the accusation that your group has been causing more crimes than it's been preventing?" Homer: "Oh, Kent, I'd be lying if I said my men weren't committing crimes."

16. Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk
Mr. Burns sells the power plant to a German conglomerate who, after lengthy interviews with the plant employees, decide that they are laying off the following worker, in alphabetical order: Simpson, Homer. Probably most widely remembered for clip show mainstay "Land of Chocolate" bit, where Homer imagines a world where everything is made of chocolate. And in this alternate universe, he still thinks buying the readily abundant at half-price is a good deal.

15. Treehouse of Horror V
I mean, one of them had to be on here, right? "TofH" episodes always lose a little luster with me because they often contain two brilliant segments and one pointless one, and I know some would argue that the one where the teachers are eating students might fit that bill here, but I kind of like it. The other two? The one where Homer goes back in time (I love the "remember the advice your dad gave you at your wedding" bit) and, of course, "The Shinning." "No TV and no beer..." well, you know the rest.

14. Homer vs. the 18th Amendment
A hearty tip of the cap to Todd, as I know this would be right up there near #1 for him. Springfield revives an old prohibition law that was never taken off the books, and brings in an Eliot Ness type to enforce it. Homer becomes the infamous "Beer Baron," thwarting Banner and providing the denizens of Moe's Speakeasy with beer and homemade coacktails. KA-BLAMMO! Best quote is lolobvs.: "To alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."

13. Bart of Darkness
A fantastic parody of the recent Shia Labeouf masterpiece "Disturbia," created 13 years beforehand. How in the hell is that possible? One thing's for certain: it's all wrapped up in a neat little pack-age-uh. The Simpsons get a pool in order to deal with a sweltering summer, but soon Bart breaks his leg and starts spying on his neighbors and writing plays featuring characters with names like "Viceroy Fizzlebottom." Good times.

12. Brother From the Same Planet
Tired of Homer's neglectful parenting, Bart starts abusing a non-profit entity, signing up for the Bigger Brothers program and getting assigned a "World's Greatest Dad"-type (voiced by the late, brilliant Phil Hartman). Homer finds out, and for revenge (not "spite," "boredom," or "profit," which are among the other options), he gets himself a little brother, Pepe. The "Homer as scorned lover" scenes work especially well. "What are your reasons for wanting a little brother?" "(Homer's brain): Don't say revenge, don't say revenge, don't say revenge." "(Homer): Uh, revenge?" "(Homer's brain): That's it, I'm outta here."

11. Lisa on Ice
This one frickin' kills me. Lisa and Bart are on rival Pee Wee Hockey teams, battling each other for league supremacy. The sibling rivalry stuff is great, but the key to the show is how it uses Homer to brilliantly skewer the overbearing, hypercompetitive parents of adolescent ath-eh-letes. It's like the episode where Homer coaches Bart's football team, only like eleventyjillion times better. It killed me not putting this one in the top 10. "Sucker! Competitive violence, THAT'S WHY YOU'RE HERE!"


Okay, now the big guns...



10. Homer's Triple Bypass
Above: you're the kind of guy I could really dig ... A GRAVE FOR!

Homer Simpson is a fat man. This has put a dangerous strain on his heart over the years. Homer Simpson is also a lazy man, and it has always affected his work performance. These two truths are on a collision course in "Homer’s Triple Bypass," as Homer gets taunted and then fired by Mr. Burns and has a massive heart attack (see above).

So what is the Family Simpson to do when their patriarch is in need of a $30,000 coronary bypass operation? After a little trial-and-error regarding health insurance scams and religious appeals, they turn to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College graduate Dr. Nick Riviera, who will perform any surgery for the low-low price of $129.95. 1-800-DOCTORB. Write it down. Aaaand Dr. Nick-related highjinks ensue.

Highlights of the ep:
"Don't worry, Marge. America's health care system is second only to Japan, Canada, Sweden, Great Britain-- well, all of Europe. But you can thank your lucky stars we don't live in Paraguay!"
Wiggum on "Cops: Springfield": "Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a ... car of some sort, heading in the direction of ... you know, that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless. Repeat: hatless."
The scene where Homer tries to get insured after his 3 heart attacks. "Well let me tell YOU something, Mr. Sucker…"
Everything with Dr. Nick. EVERYTHING. He's afraid of blood. "The Coroner? Ugh, I'm so sick of that guy." Before the operation: "If something should go wrong, let's not get the law involved! One hand washes the other. Oh, that reminds me! (washes his hands)."

There's no point in trying to deny it: I love Dr. Nick. He's my favorite non-family member on the show, and this was really his first extended appearance.


9. Mother Simpson Above: Thanks for helping me out of my grave, Ma.

Leaves of grass, my ass. Seriously, people: Walt Whitman references. Homer’s heretofore unseen (except in flashbacks) mother comes to town to visit her son's grave, as he apparently lost his life and pants. But good ol' Homer is still alive and relatively well, and everyone in the family seems to connect with Grandma Simpson (we never learn her actual name in the episode). But there are clues that she's a con artist, or at least running from the law.

And so, we find out that she is: Homer's mom, inspired by Joe Namath's flowing, non-struggggling locks, became a peace activist criminal and drew the ire of Mr. Burns, who notices her and alerts the police. Wiggum tips her off and she and Homer share a tearful goodbye, and I'm man enough to admit that it gets a little dusty in the house when he keeps waving goodbye, and then sits on his car looking up at the night sky. *Sniff* GRR LET'S EAT SOME RED MEAT DRINK SOME BEER AND WATCH FOOTBALL GRRR.

I like that we get a little bit more explanation of how the hell Lisa turned out the way she is, genetics-wise. The "Do I know what rhetorical means?" bit is one of my favorites in the whole series. I love that Smithers taped over Mr. Burns's "Ride of the Valkyries" tape with ABBA. And obviously, the first place you’d look when searching for a "Uosdwis R. Dewoh" is Greektown.


8. The Springfield Connection
Above: What about the victims? Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy!?

After catching Snake trying to cheat people out of money, Marge decides that her existence as a housewife doesn't quite thrill her like it used to. So, naturally, she joins Springfield's fat blue line between civilization and chaos. Homer is at first reticent, but eventually accepts Marge's new job because of what he sees as the perks of being married to a law enforcement officer (mainly: getting away with breaking the law).

This leads to some friction between Homer and Marge, as Marge fears that Homer doesn't take her seriously and Homer thinks that Marge has become "The Man," both in their relationship and in the world. But Homer is thankful that Marge is such an honest cop when it comes time to break up the counterfeit jeans ring operating out of the Simpsons' carhole.

Quotes? Quotes:
"What? What? What what what what what? This better be about pizza."
"Marge, you being a cop makes you the man! And that makes me the woman! And I have no interest in that - aside from occasionally wearing the underwear, which, as we discussed, is purely a comfort thing."
"When Marge said she was gonna be joining the police academy, I thought it would be fun and exciting; you know, like that movie, 'Spaceballs.' Instead, it's been painful and disturbing, like that movie, 'Police Academy.'"

I like this episode because we get a bit more of a glimpse at what Marge might have made of herself had circumstances been different. She's not quite satisfied with her life here, and although we already knew that she was one of the few people who could keep Homer in line, this episode shows us a more take-charge Marge. Large. Barge. Sarge. Charge. Also, it's funny. A highly-underrated episode, in my opinion.


7. Itchy & Scratchy Land
Above: With a dry cool wit like that, I could be an action hero.

Lisa: Dad! The flash must have scrambled their circuits!
Homer: What are you, the narrator?

You could search Torture Land, Explosion Land, Searing Gas Pain Land, and Unnecessary Surgery Land, and still have a hard time coming up with a funnier, more observant joke about action movie tropes. In yet another episode from Season 6, the family goes on a vacation to the Most Violent Place on Earth, Itchy & Scratchy Land, where the establishments celebrate pretend violence, 1979, and the triumph of the id, but they certainly don't take ... Itchy & Scratchy money. I think we've all got a soft spot for that maniacal cartoon mouse and his punching bag of a feline pal, but their amusement park takes things to a whole new level, and the potshots at the Disney empire are plentiful and hilarious. Remember, you're parked in "Itchy."

As the kids while away the hours riding dangerous roller coasters and watching extremely violent cartoons, parents are able to enjoy the pleasures of Parent's Island, where bars like T.G.I. McScratchy's take the EXTREMEness of the fun down another notch or ten. And then the whole family can check out one of the robot parades, which occur 12-times-an-hour. But be careful, because of course the robots go crazy and start trying to kill the humans. This ends up being exactly the kind of wholesome family-building exercise Marge envisioned when she agreed to the trip. And who wouldn't? The only real problem with Itchy & Scratchy Land? They never have a sufficient stock of "BORT" license plates.


6. A Star is BurnsAbove: Listen, Senor Spielbergo, I want you to do for me what Spielberg did for Oskar Schindler.

Sure, it's basically a 22-minute plea from FOX, repeating "Please please please PLEASE watch our new show, 'The Critic,' which we just picked up after ABC dumped it. Please." Despite my love for this episode, I remember originally feeling a little put-off by the blatant OMGsynergism of it, along with a lot of people (as a matter of fact, Matt Groening took his name off of the episode credits). However, as the years wore on, "A Star is Burns" only became more enjoyable to me.

The basic plot is that Springfield holds a film festival and invites world famous film critic Jay Sherman to serve as one of the judges. The major subplots are: 1.) Homer and Marge clash over whether or not Homer is intelligent enough to be a competent judge, and 2.) Mr. Burns's quest to win the prize for best film. The upshot is that we get to see quick clips from a bunch of different movies, and this highlights that this one-off show is basically an episode of "The Critic" starring the inhabitants of Springfield. I guess I can understand why some people would be nonplussed with this, but as an avid fan of both shows, I find "A Star is Burns" to be a delicious mash-up of two great shows. If only they had worked Duke Phillips in somewhere...

Quickly: Favorite entrants in the film festival: obviously, "Man Getting Hit by Football" (Hans Moleman version, not George C. Scott) and "Pukahontas" ... "Well Scooby Doo can doo-doo, but Jimmy Carter is smarter" (tumbleweed rolls by) ... The episode opens with "Eye on Springfield"! I can't think of an episode featuring Brockman's fluff-o-rama that I don't like ... thanks to this episode, we all know exactly how the rich and loathesome are able to sleep at night: on top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.

All that and more. Plus, this is the episode that forever answered the question, "Are you saying 'boo' or 'boo-urns'?" Either is appropriate in any social setting.


5. Homer's PhobiaAbove: John and Homer bond over their love of troll dolls, limited edition board games, and buttsecks.

One of the most culturally-significant "Simpsons" episodes, winning an emmy and a GLAAD award for its depiction of ignorance (Homer's) and acceptance (everyone else's) regarding homosexuals. In brief: Homer thinks new family friend John is absolutely great, until he finds out that John is gay (and Smithers’s ex, but that's neither here nor there). Being the fool that he is, Homer refuses to have John over again ("Think of the property values!"), and won't even go out socially if John is going to be there. The rest of the family keeps hanging out with John, and Homer starts to suspect that Bart is gay.

First of all, John Waters might have been the most perfect synergistic casting decision the show ever made. Second, the episode deals with important issues of tolerance. Third, and obviously most importantly, it's really goddamn funny from start to finish … okay, I’ve always thought the reindeer/Santa ending was dumb, but it's a minor quibble. The gay steel mill (well, the gay entire steel industry); Bart's Hawaiian shirt; the various curios visible in John's collectibles shop; "He prefers the company of men!" "Who doesn't?"; Homer's attempts to un-gay Bart; "You and Marge ain’t cousins or nothing, are ya?" … This ep is chock-full. For those who like their beer cold, their TV loud, and their homosexuals FAH-LAMING.


4. Cape Feare Above: *Grumble grumble grumble*.

Yeah, there had to be a Sideshow Bob episode somewhere. To be honest, I was kind of shocked that, despite how much I like and appreciate all of Kelsey Grammar's appearances, this was the only Bob episode in serious contention (next favorite: probably "Sideshow Bob Roberts," but that's neither here nor there; also neither here nor there, our favorite Bob quote, "Especially Lisa! But ... ESPECIALLY BART!" comes from "Brother From Another Series," which I never even threw on the "maybe" pile), but, um, as far as "in contention" goes, ending up #3 is probably a solid result.

This is a straight-up parody of "Cape Fear," the DeNiro version much more than the Mitchum, although in a sly twist, Bob is shown as having "LUV" and "HAT" tattooed on his fingers, a reference to the Mitchum surrealist classic "The Night of the Hunter," which I didn't like that much the first time I saw it, but which has gotten progressively creepier with each subsequent viewing. ANYWAYS, Bart starts getting anonymous death threats (Homer: "Oh my God, someone's trying to kill me! Oh wait, it's for Bart.") from Inmate 24601, a charming intellectual who has "The Bart The" tattooed on his chest (WTF with the tattoes? OMG.). After all, no one who speaks German could be an evil man. These menacing threats lead to the Simpson family entering the Witness Relocation Program and living in Ice Creamville, I mean, Terror Lake. But there's no way that could stop Sideshow Bob. Rakes, on the other hand...

Bits of t3h awesomeness:
The aforementioned rake scene. Discussions of this episode pretty much begin and end with the 28 seconds the show spends showing Bob repeatedly stepping onto rakes which flip up and smack him in the face. If you love it, that scene possibly reinvented the way you think about narrative comedy; if you hate it, it comes off as tedious and pointless. Guess which side of the fence I come down on? Maybe it's the way Bob grumbles after each smack (Cave grumblings?).
"Now don't you fret. When I'm through, he won't set foot in this town again. I can be very persuasive." (Quick cut to investigator and Bob in a bar) "Come on, leave town." "No." "I'll be your friend!" "No." "Oh, you're mean!" Anyone else ever use those subtle prompts when you were a kid? Um, me neither...
BART DO YOU WANT TO SEE MY NEW CHAINSAW AND HOCKEY MASK!!?!??!?!
"Now when I say 'Hello, Mr. Thompson' and press down on your foot, you smile and nod."
Homer's fantasy of being John Elway shows him scoring a touchdown as time runs out in order to "only" lose to San Francisco 56-7.
I love the shot of Homer wearing his "Witness Relocation Program" t-shirt and hat.
The two guys Moe has watching his pandas are Mr Burns's hired goons from (#1). Hired goons?

Personally, I've always found the "H.M.S. Pinafore" denoument ("Ooh, a plan fiendishly clever in its intricacy!") a bit, well, stupid. But that hardly affects the rest of a nearly flawless episode, one that could be labeled a quintessentail Simpsons pop culture parody.


3. You Only Move TwiceAbove: Not even James Bont can keep Hank Scorpio from siezing control of the Eastern seaboard.

I am fully aware that I have an unnatural love for this episode. Most people I know would not even consider this episode for their top 10s, and I haven't found one such list compiled by a periodical, online or otherwise, which includes this tale of the Simpson family leaving Springfield to follow Homer to his new job in Cypress Creek, which we all know is "upstate somewhere." Maybe it's my appreciation for Albert Brooks; the guy's hilarious, and of his numerous guest appearances on "The Simpsons," both on TV and in the new movie, this is pretty easily my favorite. Hank Scorpio is a character that must have been written specifically for Brook's manic "triumph of the nerd" persona, as I can't think of many corporate higher-ups who would both invent the whole "blazer and jeans" thing AND be willing to say goodbye to a shoe. Oh, and he's hell-bent on world domination (a fact of which Homer is completely unaware), but that seems like an afterthought regarding Mr. Scorpion, doesn't it? No?

However, crazy old Hank is only part of the reason I hold this episode dear. "Move Twice" also illustrates the Simpson family's deep roots in Springfield by showing how they function in a foreign town with no Skinner, Krabbapel, Lovejoy, Milhouse, Hoover, Comic Book Guy, etc. Marge becomes a drunk, Lisa is allergic to everything about her new life, Maggie hates her Swing-A-Ma-Jig, and Bart is stuck in a classroom full of Ralph Wiggums. Homer's relative contentment pales in comparison to his family's woes, so he's left to try the lure of donuts on workers back in Springfield who already feast on the things. D'oh.

"We don't have bums in our town, Marge, and if we did they wouldn't rush, they'd be allowed to go at their own pace," Scorpio says. I want to live in Cypress Creek! Beatific scenery, a cool boss, and a city block full of commercial hammock retailers ... the place sounds like a wonderful destination, and that's before you even consider the fortress of criminal conspiracy hidden inside a cave. Take out your safety pencils and a circle of paper, and let's put "Move Twice" in the old #3 hole.


2. Lisa's WeddingAbove: For Christ's sake, Hugh Parkfield was not voiced by Hugh Grant

I am not at all ashamed that another one of the most unabashedly sweet episodes in this show's history graces a spot this high on my list. True, it serves as both a mushy tale about Lisa first hating, then getting engaged to, and then splitting up with British aristocrat Hugh (Mandy Patinkin, people!) in the future, as well as a gentle reminder in the present of why Lisa loves and appreciates her family, in spite of their flaws. But it's still goddamn funny, although the humor shies away from memorably epic setpieces and trends toward the quick and quiet, along with subtler visual laughs (as I imagine would befit an episode largely set in the future).

In the future world (Future War?), Lisa is a college student, Maggie a quasi-rebellious teen -- one who remains silent, despite being shown on the verge of talking several times -- and Bart a twice-divorced Homer clone of a demolition worker; Homer and Marge, however, remain exactly as they were, which is sweet for Marge, but pathetic in regard to Homer (who works at the exact same station, while Carl is in upper management and Milhouse is now Homer's supervisor). Lisa meets Hugh and they fall in love, but she is rightly terrified of introducing him to her family, apparently unaware that Homer loves the English because he saw "Octopussy" ... twice.

Choice bits:
Wiggum: "Behold, the rarest of the rare, the mythological two-headed hound ... born with only one head! Ooh, and here, out of the mists of history, the legendary esquilax, a horse with the head of a rabbit and the body ... of a rabbit."
Lisa (after the fortune teller lady shows that she knows the names of Lisa's family members): "Wow, you *can* see into the ... present."
The robots who cry and then melt. I always forget about them, and then I watch the episode and those things crack me up.
Martin Prince supposedly died in a science fair explosion, but now lives under the school, a "Fifth of Beethoven"-playing Phantom of the ... Elementary? What?
Marge: "You know, FOX turned into a hardcore sex channel so gradually, I didn't even notice."

But I have to admit, what really does it for me is the sentimentality. The show was so caustic in its social commentary, and so goofy at times, that people often forget that "The Simpsons" was, at heart, about a family, not just Homer running around and making an ass of himself. For a few years there, the creative team put together a few episodes that could send viewers reeling by bombarding them with satire and slapstick, and then pull the rug out from under them with a heartfelt plot or moment. This episode remains the apex of those shows.


1. Last Exit to Springfield Above: Argle bargle, or fooforah?

I know I'm not being particularly original here: this episode is generally viewed as the best in the series, and with good reason. Entertainment Weekly labeled it the #1 episode of the show back in 2003, and some dude who wrote a book about our favorite yellow trash family called it "the funniest half hour in TV history." Again, not a huge shock to see this in the top spot. But my goal here is to assess these episodes honestly, not to be cunning.

I just watched this one the other day, and it's just as funny as I remember it; possibly moreso. It's basically the quintessential Simpsons episode: there's visual gags aplenty, copius allusions to other popular entertainment, a real story anchored in human problems, and biting satire. The main issue being skewered in this episode? Labor relations in America. You're probably laughing already, yeah. But the jokes come fast and furious from the start (Homer and Bart watching a "McBain" movie -- "Ice to see you" mouths Rainier Wolfcastle), and don't let up through the classic A-plot (Homer becomes head of his power plant's union, The International Brotherhood of Jazz Dancers, Pastry Chefs and Nuclear Technicians) and the perfectly complementary subplot (see below), and the scant 22 minutes contain numerous classic Simpsons moments. A brief rundown:


Five words, over and over: "Lisa needs braces." "DENTAL PLAN." "Lisa needs braces." "DENTAL PLAN." "Lisa needs braces." "DENTAL PLAN." "Lisa needs braces." "DENTAL PLAN."

The following exchange between Mr. Burns and Homer (and Homer's brain):

Burns: We don't have to be adversaries, Homer. We both want a fair union contract.
Homer: (thinking) Why is Mr. Burns being so nice to me?
Burns: And if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.
Homer: (thinking) Wait a minute. Is he coming on to me?
Burns: I mean, if I should slip something into your pocket, what's the harm?
Homer: (thinking) My God! He IS coming on to me!
Burns: After all, negotiations make strange bedfellows. (chuckle)(wink)
Homer: (thinking: screams)(then, aloud) Sorry, Mr. Burns, but I don't go in for these backdoor shenanigans. Sure, I'm flattered, maybe even a little curious, but the answer is no!


Burns asks Smithers to get ahold of some of those old-time strikebreakers, "the kind they had in the '30s." Smithers comes back with, of course, a bunch of elderly men, including Grampa, whose main tactic is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere, "like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe. So, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. 'Give me five bees for a quarter,' you'd say. Now, where were we? Oh, yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big, yellow ones..."

And, of course, Mr. Burns's classic Grinch moment, when he keeps alternating between looking down at the union strikers singing their song of protest and grabbing Smithers right up close to his face and reciting these decidedly Seuss-like couplets:

Look at them all, through the darkness I'm bringing.
They're not sad at all. They're actually singing!
They sing without juicers. They sing without blenders.
They sing without flunjers, capdabblers and smendlers!

And those are just the ones that everyone remembers off the top of their heads. The episode is also replete with allusions and small comedic gems, like Lisa's "Batman"-inspired unveiling of her new braces; Dr. Joyce Brothers's appearance on "Smartline" ("I brought my own mike!"); the last union president being buried in the football field; Gummy Joe ("Well, I wouldn't have old chomper here, that's for sure"); Lisa's anesthesia-induced faux-"Yellow Submarine" dream; and, of course, this lasting image.

Also, +100 cocktails [/EDSBS] to this episode for containing my absolute favorite "one episode only" character of the series, The Dentist. Just thinking about him makes me laugh, but, as there are apparently zero pictures of him out on the eBays, I will have to settle for leaving all of you with this reminder of that character's genius: "Hold still while I GAS YOU!"



Well, that was fun and exhausting. Thank you, Ben, for asking a question that needed to be asked. Respond with your own in the comments, IF YOU DARE. Hell, I'll probably include the ones people have emailed me in there too, for S&G. Ya-hoy.

5 Comments:

At 10:47 PM, September 09, 2007, Blogger The Dur said...

Did the one where Lisa becomes a vegitarian come close? That's one of my favorites.

 
At 1:08 PM, September 17, 2007, Anonymous Joel A Morgan said...

Long live Midwestern Bias!

 
At 8:10 PM, September 18, 2007, Anonymous Joel A Morgan said...

SERIPMAV

 
At 1:14 PM, September 23, 2007, Blogger Jack Fu said...

Zuh? Woozle wuzzle?

 
At 10:06 PM, March 22, 2011, Anonymous Bianca Jackson said...

I liked that you placed the episode "Last Exit to Springfield" on the top 10 list, and number 1 at its best! And I agree with you, season 4-6 are best ones on the show so far, since it tugs your heartstrings and your funny bone at the same time. Going back to the top episode, it made me remember the times when I was attending the union meeting at my old job in Las Vegas, which is about our company benefits, and also, I reminisced the improvement of dentistry as the years goes by.

 

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