On Thursday (August 21) morning at 10 a.m. ET, FXX is going to begin its Every Simpsons Ever Marathon, a showcase for 552 episodes of “The Simpsons,” plus “The Simpsons Movie.”
That's a lot of episodes and if you're a “Simpsons” neophyte, you may be intimidated by the sheer avalanche of yellow-tinged animation.
Fortunately, we're here to help. The individual fans on Team HitFix are weighing in on one or two episodes per day until even we may collapse under the avalanche of comedic greatness.
And, since we know that nobody can watch 48 episodes per day and remain sane, we'll also recommend an episode or two that you might be able to skip each day if you need to shower, take a quick nap or show love to members of your family.
Check out our recommendations and chime in with your own favorites…
Day One of the marathon begins with “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” and goes through “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou,” covering the first season and half of the second.
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
“Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” (6 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: One of the earliest spotlights on Mr. Burns – and the first of many episodes to link him to Charles Foster Kane in “Citizen Kane” – this is also “The Simpsons” loudly, hilariously declaring that it will use these yellow-skinned, four-fingered weirdoes to satirize America at large (in this case, a political campaign system rigged in favor of the wealthy) along with the previously-established digs at families and pop culture. As Mr. Burns mounts a ruthless campaign for governor entirely to cover up for the power plant's abominable environmental record – typified by a three-eyed fish that Bart fishes out of a local river – we also get a crackling duel between Homer (sucking up to his rich boss) and Marge (supporting the state's qualified and decent sitting governor) where Marge uses her homemaking skills and her brain to cleverly get the upper hand.
Favorite Lines: Whenever I'm watching (or participating in) a press conference or interview where the subject is being pitched an absolute softball question, my brain immediately converts it into the sound of Lisa's voice saying through gritted teeth, “Your campaign has all the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
“Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” (8:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Can kids be shaped by cartoons? Can society be shaped by cartoons? And is the impact of cartoons on young minds a negative one? No show in history has ever engaged so directly in its own role in society and no early episode engaged more directly in the connection between “The Simpsons,” its audience and its critics. Marge's war on cartoon violence is so legitimately timeless and oft-repeated that you can flip this episode on any time that any advocacy group expresses any discontent with anything in the media and the humor and creative paranoia — If we stop telling our stories in OUR way, will we lose our audience? And if we relinquish control over our audience, is it possible their lives may end up being BETTER? — never lose their bite. From the “Psycho” homage that begins the episode to the Beethoven scored utopia that closes it, this is a perfect episode.
Favorite Lines: “In regards to your specific comments about the show, our research shows that one person cannot make a difference, no matter how big a screwball she is, so let me close by saying…” “They love, and share/ They share and love and share.” “I'm Kent Brockman, and welcome to another edition of Smartline. Are cartoons too violent for children? Most people would say, 'No, of course not, what kind of stupid question is that?'” And, of course, the ultimate lesson of the episode: “I guess one person can make a difference, but most of the time, they probably shouldn't.”
Drew McWeeny Recommends:
“Bart Gets An F” (4:30 p.m.)
Why It's A Classic: Hubris.
That's what it was when Fox moved “The Simpsons” to Thursday night to go head to head with “The Cosby Show.” It was a huge moment, culturally speaking, the opening of that second season, and it was also important in terms of the developing tone of the series. The sequence where Bart prays for snow and wakes up to find a July blizzard miracle is one of those great early moments where I realized as a viewer just how limber “The Simpsons” really was. Overall, it was a very sweet episode, and there was something impressive about showing that Bart simply wasn't very good at school. If a typical TV show before that would eventually give the character his hard-earned “A,” it was indicative of how the show worked that “The Simpsons” made that D- into a joyful triumph.
Favorite Lines: When Bart's prayer in answered, Lisa reminds him, “I do not know much about the existence of God, but I do know this; He is a force more powerful than Mom and Dad put together and you owe Him big.”
And earlier, when Bart is trying to study at the last second and Sherri and Terri are totally screwing with him, it's just a delicious exchange.
“What was the name of the Pilgrims' ship?”
“The Spirit Of St. Louis.”
“Where was their original destination?”
“And why did they leave England?”
“Cool! History is coming alive!”
Josh Lasser Recommends:
“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (10 a.m.)
Why It”s a Classic: It”s the first one, and it”s a Christmas special, and it”s the one where they get Santa”s Little Helper. Famously, “The Simpsons” started out as vignettes on FOX”s “The Tracey Ullman Show,” before moving on to their own series starting with this episode. Whether or not it was intended to air first, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” offers just about everything you could want from an episode. Bart gets in serious trouble (for getting a tattoo), Marge has to fix the problem (she uses all the Christmas money to get it removed), but she figures Homer will be getting a bonus they can use for gifts (he doesn”t, Mr. Burns foregoes them). Brilliantly, Homer”s attempt to earn money as a mall Santa fails and he winds up with the boy at the dog track on Christmas Eve as a last ditch effort. Again, he fails, and he winds up bringing home the last-place finisher, Santa”s Little Helper, from the track. It is a funny and yet heart-stringing tugging episode which proved that the show could sustain the half-hour length.
Bart, responding to Marge”s request for their letters to Santa, “Oh, please. There's only one fat guy that brings us presents, and his name ain't Santa.”
Bart again, uttering the line (to mall Santa Homer) that helped make him famous and got so many kids in trouble at school for wearing t-shirts depicting Bart saying it, “I'm Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?”
Dave Lewis Recommends:
“The Way We Was” (10 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: The first extensive look back at Homer and Marge's high school courtship days, complete with prom night, the Steve Miller Band, French tutoring, the debate team and the nefarious Artie Ziff (voice by the incomparable Jon Lovitz).
Favorite Lines: After Marge rebuffs Artie's unwanted advances, he drops her off and proclaims, “Marge, I would appreciate it if you didn't tell anybody about my busy hands, not so much for myself, but I am so respected, it would damage the town to hear it. Good night!” The real laugh is in the way Lovitz says “good night” as if it were an outraged question. A perfect early illustration of the show's voice casting skills.
And Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
“Dancin' Homer” (6:30 p.m.)
Why it's a classic: The story of Homer's brief rise to fame as mascot for the minor league Springfield Isotopes – and the abrupt crash back to reality when the major league fans of Capital City aren't impressed by Dancin' Homer's routine – represents several “Simpsons” firsts, including the first (and one of the best) intersection of the show with the world of sports and the first time a celebrity (Tony Bennett, who sings the catchy ode to life in Capital City) was allowed to play himself. It's also just a deeply satisfying story, and the most emotionally resonant of the many times throughout the series that Homer would, for however short a time, find himself a celebrity.
Favorite lines: The Capital City Goofball, learning that Dancin' Homer performs to “Baby Elephant Walk,” exclaims, “Ah, Mancini. The mascot's best friend.”
When Marge complains that Homer tends to make a spectacle of himself at Isotopes games, he indignantly tells her, “Marge, this ticket doesn't just give me a seat, it also gives me the right – no, the duty! – to make a complete ass of myself.”
And Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
“Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” (11:30 p.m.)
Why it's a classic: Homer has a brother and he's Danny DeVito! Or at least he's voiced by Danny DeVito, but he looks a lot like a more successful version of Homer. A successful auto magnate, Uncle Herb lets Homer design the car he's always wanted, the art that Homer thinks every American male has always wanted. Unfortunately, The Homer is an expensive — $82,000 per car — disaster. “His life was an unbridled success… until he found out he was a Simpson,” Lisa laments. Of course, The Homer is awesome and its enhancements have been emulated by the auto industry for two decades, albeit with improved design. It's one of many Homer-finds-success-and-loses-success episodes, but the family element gives it extra gravity. It isn't just Homer who loses.
Favorite lines: “And some things are so snazzy, they never go out of style! Like tail fins and bubble domes and shag carpeting.” Herb (after seeing Homer's family): “Homer, you're the richest man I know.” Homer (seeing Herb's mansion): “I feel the same about you.”
Of course, if you happen to need a bathroom break or a nap or a brief window communicating with the outside world…
Daniel Fienberg Recommends Skipping:
“Homer's Night Out” (2:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Dud: I'm not an expert in “Simpsons” chronology, but having “Homer's Night Out” air after the far superior (but also imperfect) “Life on the Fast Lane” is just a huge mistake. It's too much Giant Buffoon Homer in a row, especially with the relatively primitive story structure of those early “Simpsons” episodes. The lesson that Homer learns in “Homer's Night Out” feels entirely insincere and transitory, whereas there's a sweetness to the end of “Life on the Fast Lane.” Also, “Life on the Fast Lane” has Albert Brooks as a guest voice, which goes a long way.
Redeeming Lines: Marge: “Homer, you don't even know why you're apologizing.”
Homer: “Yes, I do. Because I'm hungry, my clothes are smelly, and I'm tired.”
What are your picks for the first day of the FXX Every Simpsons Ever Marathon?