[As you probably already know, starting on Thursday, August 21, FXX is running the Every Simpsons Ever Marathon, running through all 552 episodes of “The Simpsons,” plus “The Simpsons Movie.” To aid in your viewing process, Team HitFix is selecting our favorite episodes from each day, plus an episode or two that you can skip and use as a bathroom or nap break.]
Somehow, despite including two different clip shows, Day 3 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon leads us deep into the show's Golden Years, as we finish Season 4, go through Season 5 and most of Season 6, spanning from “So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show” through “The PTA Disbands.”
For the second straight day, we had no trouble picking two favorites apiece and we left out a slew of great episodes including Krusty's Kancellation, Bart's rise to “I Didn't Do It!” fame, James Woods' stint at the Kwik-E-Mart, Homer's trip into space and Lisa's attempts to design a new Malibu Stacy. [The image accompanying this story is from “Marge in Chains” which, if I'm being honest, didn't come close to making our list, but it's the only official image FXX was able to provide for the episodes airing on Saturday.]
My own greatest regret is that I couldn't pick “Treehouse of Horror V,” which features “The Shinning” and “Time and Punishment,” which are two of my five “Treehouse” segments. However, I stand by the two episodes I chose.
And guess what? Day 4 was even HARDER, choosing-wise. But that's tomorrow.
[I'm trying to change up the format with this to make it more useful as a guide, so recommendations are now in order by air-time within the marathon. And, whenever possible, I'm gonna try to post an hour or two BEFORE midnight ET, just so we're not springing our recommendations on you at the last season.]
Check out our recommendations for Day 3 and chime in with your own favorites…
Dave Lewis Recommends:
“The Front” (12:30 a.m.)
Why it's a classic: A brilliantly self-referential episode that satirizes the animation industry when Bart and Lisa begin writing for “The Itchy and Scratchy Show” with the clueless Abe Simpson acting as their front (“What about Grampa? He's pretty out of it. He let those guys use his checkbook for a whole year”). Upon discovering the brutality of “Itchy” at an awards show, Abe lectures the assembled animators, prompting an unnamed writer in the audience to exclaim, “Aw, to hell with cartoons! I'm gonna do what I always dreamed of — I'm gonna write that sitcom about the sassy robot!” The episode also features Homer discovering that he never graduated high school and must enroll in Remedial Science 1A. It ALSO features the hilariously out-of-the-blue one-off segment entitled “The Adventures of Ned Flanders,” complete with irresistible theme song.
When “Itchy” kingpin Roger Myers Jr. invites Abe to tour the animation facility, Abe asks, “Any stairs?
Roger: “Just one.”
Abe: “Nuts to you!”
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
“Cape Feare” (3 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Even if you don't have any particular affection for either cinematic incarnation of “Cape Fear,” this is a swiftly plotted 22 minutes of TV and probably the best of the Sideshow Bob episodes. It all begins with Sideshow Bob's “Die Bart Die” tattoo — “No one who speaks German could be an evil man” — and extends through Sideshow Bob's rendition of Gilbert & Sullivan. And if that weren't enough, it features the greatest litmus test “Simpsons” gag of all-time: If you find somebody who doesn't love the Sideshow Bob/rakes gag, run from them, because that person is probably a humorless sociopath. Ditto with Homer being unable to learn his Witness Protection name. I called this a “swiftly plotted” episode, but it's also an episode that makes marvelous use of extended repetition.
Favorite Lines: “But who'd want to hurt me? I'm this century's Dennis The Menace.” Or, “BARTYOUWANTTOSEEMYNEWCHAINSAWANDHOCKEYMASK?” Or Lisa's letter from her pen-pal Anya, ” Dear Lisa, as I write this, I am very sad. Our President has been overthrown and… [Voice changes] …replaced, by the benevolent General Krull. All hail Krull, and his glorious regime. Sincerly… little girl.” But really, my favorite line is however you want to spell the exasperated shudder Sideshow Bob makes after stepping on each and every one of those rakes.
Dave Lewis Also Recommends:
“Rosebud” (4 a.m.)
Why it's a classic: When Mr. Burns attempts to reunite with his long-lost childhood teddy bear, Bobo, this all-time classic episode becomes so much more than just an extended riff on “Citizen Kane.” Not only does it provide some genuine pathos for the coldhearted business vulture (who turns out to be George Burns' biological brother, natch), we also get the Ramones, Smithers dressed in a bear suit, Jimmy Carter calling George H.W. Bush a loser, and a truly heartwarming moment where Homer chooses Maggie's happiness over large sums of money. And that “Planet of the Apes” ending is as chilling as it is hilarious.
Favorite lines: When Bart finds what appears to be a stuffed bear's head in a block of ice at the Quik-E-Mart, Apu tells him, “Ooh! A head-bag! Those are chock-full of…heady goodness!”
Drew McWeeny Recommends:
“Bart's Inner Child” (5:30 AM)
Why it's a classic: When “The Simpsons” began, it wasn't quite the razor-sharp satire of American identity that it's become, and part of the thrill in the early seasons was watching the show snap into focus, week by week. Albert Brooks guest stars as a self-help guru who is resolutely full of it, and his exhortation of what is essentially Satanic law (“Do what thou will is the whole of the law”) as a celebration of Bart's inner child (“Do what you feel”) has truly disastrous results. Springfield seems fairly easy to incite to riot, but this one's one of my favorites.
“A new mood is in the air in Springfield, as refreshing as a pre-moistened towelette. Folks are finally accepting their feelings and really communicating without holding back. And this reporter thinks it's about f*#king time!”
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
“Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood” (6 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Is “Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood” the most underrated “Simpsons” episode ever? Although it's very rarely listed among the episodes representing the show's pinnacle it is, to me, an episode with so, so, so many things going for it. It has an classic cold open, with Homer's peanut leading into the all-syrup squished leading into Bart's regretful decision to join the Junior Campers. It has the “On the Town” musical number, featuring both “Mmmm… Free goo” and “I don't know where you pixies came from, but I sure like your pixie drink!” In Ernest Borgnine, it has an all-time classic random guest star, whose presence brings actual value to his scenes beyond just stunt appeal. It has Martin playing the “My Dinner with Andre” arcade game. It has yet another fine sugar-fueled Homer hallucination. It has “Don't thank me… Thank The Knife!” It has the “Friday the 13th”-inspired conclusion. It has a flawless mixture of Stupid Homer and Uniquely resourceful Homer.
Favorite Lines: Homer's conversation with Homer's Brain to start the episode is a favorite: “Awww… 20 dollars? I wanted a peanut!” “20 dollars can buy many peanuts.” “Explain how!” “Money can be exchanged for goods and services.” “Woo-hoo!”
Josh Lasser Recommends:
“Itchy & Scratchy Land” (3:00pm)
Why it”s a Classic: Who hasn”t wondered what Jurassic Park would be like if instead of there being real dinosaurs, the place was filled with animatronic Itchy & Scratchy robots hell bent on killing their masters and everyone else? Things go horribly for the family before the robots go evil, and Homer and Bart wind up in Itchy & Scratchy land jail. The Simpsons end up defeating the robots with flash bulbs in what they decide is their best vacation ever. As a whole, the episode successfully mocks theme parks, robot movies, and “Jurassic Park,” all while being quite funny.
In the gift shop, Bart is looking for a license plate only to discover their are only “Bort” plates, not “Bart” ones. Just then a boy comes up asking for a plate and his mother says, “No! Come along, Bort.” A man in the shop turns and questions, “Were you talking to me?” The woman replies, “No, my son is also named Bort.”
Homer spots a parade, “Oh, look! It's the 12 noon Robot Parade! Hurry up, or we'll have to wait for the 12:05 parade!”
Homer claims to Marge that he was thrown into Itchy & Scratchy jail because he was a political prisoner, she asks how that”s possible and he tells her, “I kicked a giant mouse in the butt. Do I have to draw ya a diagram?”
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
“Homer Badman” (5:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: When Greg Daniels met with Ricky Gervais about the idea of adapting “The Office” for American television, they bonded over Daniels having written this episode, which Gervais considers his favorite. It's not hard to understand why, as this tale of Homer becoming a national symbol for sexual harassment – due to a misunderstanding over a gummy Venus de Milo stuck to the rear end of Bart and Lisa's babysitter – is perhaps the series' finest satire of media and celebrity. It shows how easily the press can blow a minor story out of proportion, presaged the Frankenbiting that's become so popular in crafting reality show storylines (see the last quote below), and even set up the Venus de Milo gag with a hilarious action movie spoof where Homer and Marge destroy a candy convention.
Favorite Lines: Upon learning that Dennis Franz will be playing him in a TV-movie called “Homer S: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber,” an impressed Homer says, “'Portrait.' Sounds classy!” Even better, though, is the blatantly edited version of Homer's interview with God(frey Jones), which comes out sounding something like this: “Somebody had to take the babysitter home, then I noticed she was sitting on / her / sweet can… / so I grabbed / her / sweet can… / Ohhhh, just thinking about / her / can… / I just wish I had / her / sweet, sweet / s/s/sweet can…”
Josh Lasser Also Recommends:
“Homer the Great” (7:00pm)
Why it”s a Classic: It”s the Stonecutters episode. Technically, that should be absolutely all that is required in this spot – it”s the Stonecutter”s episode (and Patrick Stewart is in it!). But, if you want more, how about this… Through the years, “The Simpsons” has offered a bunch of brilliant songs and song parodies, and the Emmy-nominated “We Do” ranks right up there with the best of them. Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? And yes, who rigs every Oscar night? That”s right, we do. Find yourself a copy of “Songs in the Key of Springfield” if you can”t watch this one, you won”t regret it.
Favorite Lines: Outside of the entirety of “We Do?” There”s Homer explaining to Marge just why he loves his secret society, “I've never felt so accepted in all of my life. These people look deep within my soul and assign me a number based on the order in which I joined.”
Drew McWeeny Also Recommends:
“And Maggie Makes Three” (7:30 PM)
Why it's a classic: Maggie is, without a doubt, the hardest character to write for if you're trying to build an episode around her. By being a perpetual baby, we're left with no real way to let Maggie speak, and so instead, shows happen around her or about her, but rarely with her as the center of things. Jennifer Crittenden's script is incredibly wise about the way parenting works and sublimation of dreams, and when Homer finally transforms Mr. Burns' awful “Don't forget: you're here forever” plaque into a photo-covered reminder that reads “Do it for her,” it is waterworks central, and deservedly so.
“I ought to be defending myself, but I am paralyzed with rage… and soothing island rhythms.”
“That backtalking boat sets a bad example.”
“Says you, woman.”
“Homer, you should see a doctor. I don't think a healthy man can make that kind of smell.”
Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
“A Star Is Burns” (10 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: For political reasons – because FOX forced the show to do a crossover episode featuring Jon Lovitz as his Jay Sherman character from “The Critic” – Matt Groening has disavowed this episode, which is a shame considering how funny and multi-layered it is. Homer, jealous of everyone's love of Jay Sherman, guilts Marge into making him a judge for the inaugural Springfield Film Festival, then nearly ruins the whole thing when he insists on voting for Hans Moleman's crass “Man Getting Hit By Football” over Barney's gorgeous art film about the tragedy of his own alcoholism. It's a great Simpsons marriage story and a marvelous bit of pop culture satire.
Favorite Lines: As a TV cricket (one step over from being a film cricket like Homer and Jay), I find no episode more quotable than this one, whether I'm comparing two works of art by saying, “Barney's movie had heart, but 'Football in the Groin' had a football in the groin,” or I'm making like Hans Moleman and explaining, “I was saying 'Boo-urns,'”or declaring that a second-choice filmmaker is, like Senor Spielbergo, the more famous person's “Non-union Mexican equivalent!” For that matter, it contains the second-greatest Rainier Wolfcastle line (after “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”): Jay escapes McBain's wrath with the “your shoelace is untied” gag, which leads to Wolfcastle staring at his shoes for hours before declaring, “On closer inspection, these are loafers.”
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:
“Bart Gets An Elephant” (10:30 a.m.)
Why It's a Dud: It'd be too easy to suggest taking a break during “So It's Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show” or “Another Simpsons Clip Show,” which unfortunately got bundled in the same 24-hour period (but you probably should). And since I suggested skipping an Abe episode yesterday, it'd be mean to pick on “Lady Bouvier's Lover” (but feel free to elide this one as well). So I'm going to go with “Bart Gets An Elephant,” which is ultimately a less funny version of “Lisa's Pony” and while it isn't a “bad” episode, it's so disposable that only a few seasons later you'd have Bart attending Apu's wedding and announcing he'd like to have an elephant, only to be reminded, “You did. His name was Stampy. You loved him.” You won't get pain from watching “Bart Gets An Elephant,” but might I suggest the therapeutic value of pausing for 30 minutes of quiet reflection might be a better use of your time.
Redeeming Lines: The episode *does* have this exchange — Homer: D'oh! Lisa: A deer! Marge: A female deer! It also has Homer's wise advice, “Son, when you participate in sporting events, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how drunk you get.”
What are your picks for the third day of the FXX Every Simpsons Ever Marathon?