Another Top 20 List: The Top 20 The Simpsons Episodes From The First 13 Years
Why The First 13 Years?
There are two very cromulent reasons for 13 being the number of choice. And I think this list will benefit from an explanation before we delve into The Simpsons episodes list. First of all: as of this writing there are now 26 seasons of The Simpsons and since the show has been on for over a quarter of a century now, it seemed unfair to exclude so many episodes simply because they may not have been a part of the 'golden years'--the years usually ranging from between 1 and 8-10 where people believe The Simpsons had its best and most memorable episodes.
Since The Simpsons is still--even at its so-called worst--better than everything else on television currently, it just didn't seem fair to ignore the last half of the series simply because it had to always live in its own shadow, as it were. An apt comparison would be akin to splitting The Simpsons into two shows--the first 13 seasons, and the last 13 seasons--and comparing them against each other. That way we have the best of each series going up against each other.
The other reason that I chose to split this list into the first and the last 13 years is actually one more rooted in how The Simpsons has changed its staff/writers over the years. In the beginning we had some writing heavyweights who slowly left as the show wore on: Jon Vitti left in '94, Al Jean left in '02, Mike Riess left in '97, the great John Swartzwelder left in '03 after 15 seasons, and George Meyer left in 0'1. Even Matt Groening, the series' creator stopped writing in 1996 leaving us with a smattering of random, fairly forgettable writers, alongside the writers of the golden years.
As the original writers began to retire or go onto other projects new writers were brought on, most stayed for a year or two, and then left as quickly as they came. For whatever reason there seems to be a much higher turn-over rate in writers during the past 10 years than there has ever been in The Simpsons' history. Losing such a close-knit group of people is likely a cause for the decline in quality, along with losing the greats who had lovingly crafted the characters into what they are today.
There are 291 episodes in the first 13 seasons, so to choose merely 20 of them is a lot like trying to choose your favorite children. Sure, there are some that you wish you could forget--coughThe Lastest Gun In The Westcough--but generally there are just so many beloved episodes that even a top 20 list is going to being highly subjective. Therefore if you feel I may have forgotten to include one of your favorite episodes please mention it in the comments. There's also a poll near the end of this article that you can vote on to determine the reader favorites as well.
The main problem with these lists is that there are always so many ways to judge an episode: was it well-received at its time? Has it stood the test of time? Did it introduce new characters? Did it tug at your heartstrings or make you laugh uncontrollably? I have decided that the best way to choose an episode is to pick which episodes I never get tired of watching. I've already seen every episode dozens upon dozens of times, and each episode holds a special place in my heart, but the best episodes are one I never get tired of--they're ones that even after 20 years I still find myself glued to the television, immersed in the story and the jokes, and discovering new things to love.
#20. The Principal and the Pauper (Season 9)
I know this will be considered a controversial choice, especially since most critics consider this episode to mark where The Simpsons began its decline in quality. But I'm not a critic--I'm just a guy who likes to watch cartoons. And to me, this episode had just about the most absurd premise I'd ever seen. For the longest time I actually resented this episode, considering it to be a slap in the face of the viewers. However, some episodes age better than others and I think this was really daring and unique, and it worked because we got to see Skinner as more than merely a principal. We got to see how he became a principal and indeed that he once had more in common with Bart than either would like to admit.
Principal Skinner: "Hello, Edna. I know we had dinner plans tonight, but instead I'm leaving town forever."
#19. I Am Furious (Yellow) [Season 13]
It's hard to believe but this classic episode actually came out late in Season 13. Everything in this episode came together so well and there were so many funny moments, that it felt like we were back in the golden age. I won't retell the story because if you're reading a top 20 list you probably already know all the episodes by heart. However, this episode was good enough to warrant a follow-up called 'Angry Dad: The Movie' airing during Season 22. This episode featured many unforgettable moments, but the most memorable was with the venerable Stan Lee who made a guest appearance as an absent-minded caricature of himself.
Homer: "It's true, I'm a rageoholic! I just can't get enough RAGEOHOL!"
#18. Kamp Krusty (Season 4)
Everything about this is memorable from Bart trying to change his grades--from D's to A's--to the introduction of "Krunchy" the Klown (Barney). But perhaps the best sight gag was when, upon seeing Bart in charge of the newly minted 'Camp Bart', Homer loses the few hairs he managed to grow in Bart's absence as well as magically gaining back the weight lost. This episode also did a good job of introducing Bart's almost-fanatical devotion to Krusty, which to this day makes very little sense.
Bart: "Don't we get to roast marshmallows?"
Dolph: "Shut up and eat your pine cone!"
#17. King-Size Homer (Season 7)
I could just include a picture of Homer wearing a muumuu and his "fat guy hat" and that would probably be enough evidence for this episode's inclusion. Still, there are too many gags to pass up, such as when the movie theatre tries to appease him by offering a garbage bag full of popcorn. It's also touching--in an odd, odd way--to see Bart and Homer working together at something. Interestingly, Homer weighs 300 pounds in this episode and weighed 260 pounds in Brush With Greatness, a Season 2 episode, so that's a mere 40 pound difference!
Woman on Phone: "The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now."
#16. New Kid on the Blecch (Season 12)
Now this is an interesting episode because it so prominently features celebrities portraying themselves. Not since Beyond Blunderdome, with Mel Gibson, did The Simpsons have celebrities starring as themselves. As yet, it worked. I hate to compare the first half of The Simpsons to the second half, but a recent episode with Lady Gaga in Season 23 really showcases the different direction the writers have taken in recent years. Using the band, The Party Posse, to subliminally recruit people to the Navy was reminiscent of Bart the Genius where he showed that Major League Baseball was spying on everyone.
Nelson Muntz: They called me Smellson. Ha ha!
Homer Simpson: Smellson, that's funny 'cause you smell.
#15. 22 Short Films About Springfield (Season 7)
Contrary to its name, this episode actually only shows 19 film, though some had to be cut for time and the episode is actually a reference to a movie. Oddly enough, the film is called 32 Short Films About Glen Gould, so they probably could have gotten away with calling it either 19 or 32 Films. This episode is very impressive in that in the span of 22 and a 1/2 minutes we are shown 19 fully-fleshed out mini-episodes, neither of which feel tacked on. I would say this episode highlighted just how talented the writers of The Simpson were and is reminiscent of Trilogy of Error, the next episode on our list, in many ways. The whole exchange between Skinner and Chalmers is still some of the funniest dialogue in a Simpsons episode.
Chalmers: "Aurora borealis!? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen!?"
#14. Trilogy of Error (Season 12)
As mentioned above, this episode is much like 22 Short Films in that it seeks to tie seemingly unrelated stories together. I'm sure the most remembered line from this episode is always going to be 'Inflammable means flammable', as Dr. Nick runs out of the hospital. Still, it's very interesting to think of all three mini-episodes coinciding and all characters finally meeting up at the end. And Frankie Muniz did a good job as well, voicing Lisa's (eventual?) love interest. This episode's fast-pace was a take-off of Run Lola Run, a movie whose events all unfolded in the span of 20 minute--and I definitely recommend watching it.
Marge: "Arrest me? Um, my address, it's um, 1-2-3 ... Fake Street."
Wiggum: [writing address down] "1-2-3 Fake Street. Okay see you soon!"
#13. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (Season 2)
A part of me just wants to show the picture of Homer's car design and that be the entire blurb. Porcubimmer Motor, in June of this year, actually debuted a similarly-designed concept car, called 'The Homer'. Unfortunately, the bubble dome left a little bit to be desired. It's hard to believe this episode aired during the second season, especially since we're just getting to know the characters and a new half-brother is sprung on us. Either way, Herb Powell was perfectly voiced by Danny DeVito and, though it had a sad ending, the 'sequel' in Season 3 patched up everything very nicely. The perfect voice actor is one who you can still hear in your head long after the episode is over and when I think of Herb I think of Danny.
Homer: "Gee, Herb, because of me, you lost your business, your home and all your possessions. I can't help but think that maybe you'd have been better off if I'd never come into your life."
#12. Lisa's Substitute (Season 2)
There was a time when celebrities were actually unsure of whether advertising their name on The Simpsons would be bad for their career. Of course, it's 25 years later and celebrities are constantly clamoring to do voice acting so it would appear Michael Jackson (credited as John Jay Smith) and Dustin Hoffman (credited as Sam Etic) had nothing to worry about. There are many 'Lisa' episodes with Lisa trying to come to terms with who she is and 'Round Springfield, where her mentor Bleeding Gums Murphy dies, was definitely one of the most powerful. However, nothing can quite match the ending of this episode where Mr. Bergstom hands Lisa a note that reads: 'You are Lisa Simpson'. I know how it ends, I've seen it dozens of times. And yet I still tear up a little bit at that part.
Homer: Hey! Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand!
#11. The Last Temptation of Krust (Season 9)
They might as well have just called this the Canyonero episode because that's what my mind always goes to whenever I think about this episode. Of incidental note: it's thought that the Canyonero is parodying the Ford Super Duty truck. Perhaps the scene I enjoy the most however, is where Bart, Jay Leno, and a monkey, are all helping to wash Krusty the Klown while he takes a bath. The Canyonero did make a return in Season 10's Screaming Yellow Honkers as well, wherein Homer cashes in his 401k plan only to find out he got the 'female' or F-series instead.
Hank Williams Jr.: "Can you name the truck with four wheel drive, Smells like a steak, and seats thirty five? Canyonero! Canyonero! Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down, It's the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown, Canyonero! Canyonero!"
What Do You Think?
I know we're only halfway through the list of episodes, but this is a pretty good place to end for now. Still, I'd like to her your thoughts on my choices. Do you agree with most of them? Are there some you absolutely despise? Let me know in the comments! But remember that there's still 10 episodes to go and it's possible your favorite has just yet to be mentioned.
And so concludes our tale. Good night, and keep watching the skis. Uh, skies.
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