[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.]
Day 4 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon really is where the show hits its peak. It's possible that it can't equal the heights of Day 2 and Day 3, but there's a depth to the episodes between “Round Springfield” and “Grade School Confidential” that no other day can top.
How good is this day? I even like the big Abe episode, “Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish.'”
How good is this day? We didn't even consider “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment” and it includes the immortal line, “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.”
And we considered, but didn't write up “Homer's Phobia,” with John Waters in one of the show's best guest vocal turns.
And nobody even mentioned “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)” even though Homer's Guatemalan insanity pepper hallucination is an aesthetic highlight.
It's so good that we even let Drew write up a third favorite, because otherwise “Lisa the Vegetarian” wasn't gonna make our recommendations and that would have been sad, though his blurb doesn't mention any of my three favorite lines from that episode, which only goes to show how many great episodes are in Day 4 and how many great lines there are in some of these episodes.
But don't worry. We still found at least one episode for you to skip if you want to nap.
Check out our recommendations for Day 4 and chime in with your own favorites…
Dave Lewis Recommends:
“Lemon of Troy” (1 a.m.)
Why it's a classic: Bart and pals re-discover their hometown pride when some Shelbyville kids steal their precious lemon tree, giving us an extensive look at the bizarro neighboring berg. There, Shelbyvillians drink Fudd beer instead of Duff, are attracted to their own cousins and brag about the Shelbyville High football team beating Springfield High “nearly half the time.”
Favorite lines: When Milhouse gives Bart a lesson in walkie-talkie etiquette, he's interrupted by a Shelbyville bully (also, strangely, named Milhouse).
Milhouse: “Bart…you really should end each transmission with the word 'Over.' Over!”
Bully: “Correction. The only thing that's over is this transmission!”
Josh Lasser Recommends:
“Who Shot Mr. Burns (Part 1)” (1:30am)
Why it”s a Classic: If there was a moment when “The Simpsons” peeked in terms of cultural buzz it may have been the summer after the first part of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” There was a major contest over the summer for fans and people spent foolish amounts of time trying to work out the all-but-impossible-to-work-out-no-matter-how-many-clues-there-were ending. Plus, even if there wasn't a mystery to be solved, Mr. Burns” evil plot is pretty fantastic.
Smithers balks a little at Burns” wanting to block out the sun, to wit Mr. Burns replies, “I will not suffer your insubordination! There has been a shocking decline in the quality and quantity of your toadying, Waylon! And you will fall into line, now!”
Burns, trying to get rid of Homer drops a 1000g weight on him (that”s about 2.2 pounds to you and me and consequently not a whole lot). Burns laments the size of the weight, “Hmm, sounded large when I ordered it. [sighs] I can't make hide nor hair of these metric booby traps.”
Drew McWeeny Recommends:
“Radioactive Man” (2:30 AM)
Why it's a classic: Even though it's a fairly cheap joke, Ranier Wolfcastle makes me laugh, and they do a great job in this episode of showing just how crazy Hollywood can drive a small town when they show up to make a movie. The Milhouse/Bart relationship gets well and truly tested in the episode when Milhouse ends up playing Fallout Boy instead of Bart, and that's well-handled. I personally can't get enough of Mickey Rooney once he replaces Milhouse. Disturbing and hilarious… two great tastes that taste great together.
Favorite lines: “My eyes! The goggles… they do nothing!”
“Milhouse, baby! Lionel Hutz, your new agent, bodyguard, unauthorized biographer, and drug dealer… er, keeper-awayer.”
Drew McWeeny Also Recommends:
“Bart Sells His Soul” (3:30 AM)
Why it's a classic: Just a few weeks after “Radioactive Man,” Bart and Milhouse were the focus of another episode, and I love the way this one grapples with theology, skepticism, the power of suggestion, and the use of fear as a tool for religion. All that, and funny, too? Ah, “Simpsons,” you rule.
Milhouse tries to apologize for getting Bart in trouble, saying, “Sorry, Bart, but I did not want hungry birds eating my soul.”
“You actually fell for that one? There is no such thing as a soul. It's just something they made up to scare kids, like the Boogeyman or Michael Jackson.”
And, like Alan Sepinwall, I am endlessly amused by an exchange between Lisa and Bart when she says, “Pablo Neruda said, 'Laughter is the language of the soul,” and Bart responds with contempt, “I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.” Only this show could drop that reference in an episode that also lists restaurants like The Spaghetti Laboratory, Professor PJ Cornucopia's Fantastic Foodmagorium and Great American Steakery, and the Texas Cheesecake Depository.
Drew McWeeny Also Also Recommends:
“Lisa The Vegetarian” (4:00 AM)
Why it's a classic: Just today, I heard someone pass on a lamb dish and cite this episode as the reason. I'd be curious to know how many actual vegetarians there are because of Lisa's journey, but I'd wager there are quite a few. As usual, “The Simpsons” takes a complicated personal issue like this and makes it not only universal but very funny and very sweet, and while I could never give up meat myself, I think this is a lovely articulation of the way some people reach that very important decision.
“What's the difference between this lamb and the one that kissed me?”
“This one spent two hours in the broiler.”
“Lisa! Come back before everyone finds out what a horrible father I am!”
Josh Lasser Also Recommends:
“King-Size Homer” (5:00am)
Why it”s a Classic: This might be the single most brilliant (read: funny) plan Homer has ever had to skip work. He finds out that if he gains enough weight, he can claim disability and work from home. Naturally, it backfires, but watching Homer put on the pounds on purpose and getting his stomach stuck on the towel bar while trying to weigh himself are great moments. Naturally, he learns the folly of his ways after nearly causing a nuclear meltdown, but before he gets there it”s wonderful.
Dr. Nick is called in to help Homer gain pounds and offers this sage advice, “And remember, if you're not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it's your window to weight gain.”
Homer learns that rather than typing “yes” into his computer, all he has to do is hit “y.” He looks at Marge and offers, “Hey, Miss Doesn't-find-me-attractive-sexually-anymore, I just tripled my productivity!”
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
“A Fish Called Selma” (11 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Somehow Phil Hartman wasn't Emmy nominated for his work as Troy McClure in “A Fish Called Selma,” which is perhaps the best single-episode performance by any lead actor in the show's run. Not only is Troy McClure hilarious in this episode, which showcases his need for a romantic beard amidst rumors of sexual improprieties with fish, but the singing in the “Planet of the Apes: The Musical” sequence balances technical excellence with comedic timing. In fact, we could probably just take that musical sequence and forget about the rest of the episode and it would still deserve showcasing, because “I hate every ape I see, from chimpan-A to chimpan-Z” could be my favorite “Simpsons” line ever (credit to David Cohen). The focus on Troy McClure also allows for a constant stream of Hollywood jokes, most of which hit.
Favorite Lines: “Hello, Selma Bouvier, It's Troy McClure. You might remember me from such dates as last nights dinner.” Troy, on being cast as the human in the “Planet of the Apes” musical: “It's the part I was born to play, baby!” And every single line from the musical. “I love you, Dr. Zaius!” indeed.
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
“22 Short Films About Springfield” (Noon)
Why It's a Classic: While it's very much of-a-moment, with its “Pulp Fiction” references and “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” name homage, “22 Short Films About Springfield” remains one of my very favorite “Simpsons” episodes, working even better as a palate cleanser from the show's more [relatively] conventional episodes. It's a glorious tribute to the show's secondary characters and its supporting universe, as the Simpson Family takes the back seat in order to give time for terrific moments like Skinner's dinner part for Superintendent Chalmers, Bumblebee Man's domestic life, Cletus' musical theme and Dr. Nick's legal problems. Each tiny vignette operates as a snapshot within the overall tapestry of Life in Springfield, none so spectacularly dramatic that they could have warranted a full episode, but none lacking in payoff or punchline.
Favorite Lines: “Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?” “At McDonald's you can buy a Krusty Burger with cheese, right? But they don't call it a Krusty Burger with cheese.” “Most folks'll never lose a toe/ But then again, some folks'll/ Like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.”
Dave Lewis Also Recommends:
“Homerpalooza” (2 p.m.)
Why it's a classic: Homer tries to get back in the groove by taking the kids to the corporate-powered Hullabalooza Festival, where bands like Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill and a completely hilarious Peter Frampton have a ball poking fun at themselves and corporate festival culture. It's a perfect snapshot of post-Nirvana rock culture, when pierced teenagers desperately tried to look like they weren't desperately trying to fit in. Watching it now is an odd experience. When a surly teen record store clerk denies ever having heard of Apple Computers while inserting a shiny metal disc into a PC, you may be horrified to realize that this episode will soon be as old as 1974 was in 1996.
Homer Jay Simpson, telling it like it is: “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact.”
Cypress Hill, at they take the stage: “Before we start, we have a lost child here. If she's not claimed within the next hour, she will become property of Blockbuster Entertainment.”
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
“You Only Move Twice” (3 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Albert Brooks has played many different characters throughout the run of “The Simpsons,” including the villain of “The Simpsons Movie.” The rest of those fine and funny men combined are not a patch on Hank Scorpio, world's friendliest James Bond villain. Hank hires Homer to get his nuclear reactor on line, never telling him about the diabolical plans he has for when it's up and running. The interplay between Hank and Homer – who, with Hank's superhuman levels of encouragement, turns out to be a good manager of people – is a delight, and it's a fun role reversal to see the rest of the family suffering in their wonderful new environment (Marge drinks too much, Bart is placed in a remedial class) while Homer thrives.
Favorite lines: The entire exchange between Hank and Homer about where to shop for hammocks (all roads eventually lead to the hammock complex on Third, in the Hammock District) is priceless, but probably too long to reproduce here. Instead, I'll go with Hank cheerfully competing barefoot in a fun run, asking Homer, “Ever see a guy say goodbye to a shoe?” and Hank's indignation when 007 stand-in James Bont escapes a “Goldfinger”-esque deathtrap, hollering, “Stop him! He's supposed to die!” (It is a line I often use when a show, athlete, phenomenon, etc. just will not go away even after it clearly was supposed to.) Oh, and I'm not sure text captures the dismay in Dan Castellanetta's voice as Homer declares, “Aw, the Denver Broncos!!!” at discovering that Hank has gifted Cowboys fan Homer ownership of his least favorite pro football team, but it's the perfect capper for one of the show's funniest episodes.
Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” (9 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: To celebrate the show breaking “The Flintstones” record for the number of episodes produced for an animated primetime series, “The Simpsons” presented its most meta episode yet, a poison-pen letter to both the medium that gave the show life and the fans who obsessed over every part of it. “Itchy & Scratchy” begins to suffer in the ratings, not because it's become any worse, but just because it doesn't feel as fresh as before – much like a certain beloved FOX cartoon midway through its eighth season – and the network orders a retooling, centered on the introduction of an awful “cool” dog character named Poochie, to be voiced by Homer. The episode gives us clueless network executives who throw around words like “paradigm” and “proactive” to sound smart, nerdy fanboys who obsess over minor continuity mistakes, and even a Poochie-esque human character (Roy, who would sadly never reappear) who begins living with the Simpsons without comment or explanation. Despite Homer's best efforts in the role, Poochie fails to win the hearts of the “Itchy & Scratchy” faithful, but “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” remains one of the series' most memorable.
Favorite Lines: Milhouse's whine of “When are we going to get to the fireworks factory?” is useful whenever a series is taking too damn long to get to the cool thing it promised at the beginning. “Poochie died on the way back to his home planet” is useful whenever explaining how a series abruptly dropped an unpopular character or storyline. And the network executive's suggestion during the initial character design of Poochie – “I feel we should Rasta-fy him by… 10 percent or so.” – is a perfect encapsulation of what happens when non-creative people cynically insert themselves into the creative process.
Of course, if you happen to need a bathroom break or a nap or a brief window communicating with the outside world…
Alan Sepinwall Recommends Skipping:
“Hurricane Neddy” (6 p.m.)
Why It's a Dud: When a hurricane destroys the Flanders' home – and, worse, when the town's attempt to build them a new house just demonstrates their incompetence at general contracting – Ned angrily lashes out the world, then commits himself to the local mental hospital. While there are some fine gags in here, the episode attempts to explain away Ned's entire personality as being the result of eight months of continuous spanking to curb his rambunctious childhood behavior, and as a result takes one of the series' most complex and interesting characters and turns him into, well, a cartoon. Like the whole mess with Armin Tamzarian (which we'll get to tomorrow), it's a piece of backstory best ignored.
Redeeming Lines: In archival footage of little Ned in his delinquent days, we see him charge into a room of kids at play, smashing up everything and everyone in it, declaring, “Whee! I'm Dick Tracy! Take that, Prunceface! Now I'm Pruneface! Take that, Dick Tracy! Now I'm Prune Tracy! Take that –” before being admonished by his therapist. (You can fill in the blank.)
What are your picks for the third day of the FXX Every Simpsons Ever Marathon?