[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 6 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon starts with “The Simpsons Bible Stories” and carries through “Children of a Lesser Clod,” going from Episode 221 through Episode 268.
Again, we're not in the Golden Age anymore, but that doesn't mean that there aren't great episodes kicking around in here. We have seven top-notch recommendations and that doesn't even include the crayon-in-the-brain favorite “HOMR” or the toad-licking “Save me Jeebus!” fun of “Missionary: Impossible.”
Actually, “Missionary: Impossible” should definitely be here, but I'd already saluted two favorites and nobody else wanted to call it. Oh well.
Check out our recommendations for Day 6 and chime in with your own favorites…
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
“Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner” (4 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: I think there was a universality to the first 10-plus seasons of “The Simpsons” that maybe has lapsed a tiny bit in recent years, but when it comes to specificity, the show hasn't really waned. Following up on Homer's brief stint as a film cricket, this episode finds him branching into the world of food criticism, but with a smartly different perspective. In “A Star Is Burns,” Homer's fault is his excessive populism, but in “Criticize Dinner,” Homer comes to realize the pleasures of becoming a critical hatchet-man, tearing into local dining establishments. It's a fun contrast given Homer's general status as a garbage disposal for food-stuffs. I like the clashing between Lisa and Homer in this episode and the glimpse into the inner workings of the Springfield Shopper. And many a journalist can relate to running dry two words short of a 500-word limit and just tossing in a concluding “Screw Flanders.”
Favorite Lines: The line I get the most use of in my day-to-day life is, “Nobody talks to me that way. I'm Homer Simpson, the most powerful food critic in town, who will never get his comeuppance! You hear me? No comeuppance!” Oh and the sage advice, “The other critics told me to be mean, and you should always give in to peer pressure.” I also like the conversations between the ethnic stereotypes who run Springfield's restaurants.
Josh Lasser Recommends:
“E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)” (5:00am)
Why it”s a Classic: Everyone has their favorite Simpsons song. For me, “Glove Slap” is one of the best and more than enough for this episode to earn a spot on our list. The song is take off on the B-52s “Love Shack” and is actually recorded by the band. Combine that with Homer”s accidentally crossing tobacco and tomato together to make the highly addictive tomacco plant, and it offers all the fix I need. But if you want a little bit of trivia, how”s this – people, the tomacco isn”t Homer”s invention. It”s seemingly real and described in a 1959 Scientific American.
The entirety of “Glove Slap,” naturally.
Homer is offered 150 million by a tobacco company for the tomacco plant, so the family has a discussion about it including Lisa saying, “Dad, it's a tobacco company. They make billions off the suffering and death of others.” Bart almost agrees, “She's right, Dad. They can afford a lot more.”
Ralph Wiggum tries the tomacco and wisely states, “Oh, Daddy! It tastes like Grandma! “
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
“Eight Misbehavin'” (6 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Apu's wife Manjula getting pregnant with octuplets – because the Apu, Homer, Marge and Bart were all individually sneaking fertility drugs into her food and drink – is at once a silly idea and a sharp commentary on how fertility treatments had led to a boom in multiple births. Apu and Manjula's struggles with their eight babies lead to some memorable visuals, like Apu wearing a nursing rig on his chest that makes him resemble a farm animal. And is the sleazy Larry Kidkill's plan to help Apu and Manjula afford the babies by putting them on display in the Springfield Zoo any more far-fetched than, say, what Kate Gosselin has done for the last 7 years?
Favorite Lines: The episode acknowledges the passage of time (even though the Simpson kids don't age, and continue not to age even though the octuplets get a bit older in later seasons) by having the Simpsons run through all the crazy adventures they had during Manjula's pregnancy, including Bart learning the true meaning of both Columbus Day and winter, while Marge “enjoyed a brief but memorable stint as Sideshow Marge.” Homer delivers some of his wisest parenting advice when he explains, “Kids are the best, Apu. You can teach them to hate the things you hate. And they practically raise themselves, what with the Internet and all.” Apu's long rant about the Simpsons' gift of banana bread is a treat, particularly him bitterly telling Marge (who seems delighted at the offer) “As a token of forgiveness, please take this baby.” And then there's the episode-opening trip to the IKEA-esque Shøp, where Bart discovers that the store's Allen wrench-shaped mascot is actually an alien, who pleads, “Help, I need tungsten to live! Tungsten!”
Drew McWeeny Recommends:
“Behind The Laughter” (1:30 PM)
Why it's a classic: One of the things that happens when you marathon “Simpsons” episodes like this is a sort of time travel effect as you get to see what pop culture looked like, mirrored through the very specific and wicked parody that the show did. VH1's documentary series was one of those momentary phenomenons, where people were suddenly addicted to it, then just as suddenly done with them. This episode, one of the few to shatter canon this completely, is willing to do anything for a joke, and it cuts deep with its take on the television industry.
“And that horrible act of child abuse became one of our most beloved running gags.”
“The Simpsons' TV show started out on a wing and a prayer, but now that wing was on fire and that prayer had been answered by Satan.”
“I want to set the record straight: I thought the cop was a prostitute.”
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
“The Computer Wore Menace Shoes” (4:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Homer's brief career as a muckraking blogger makes for perhaps my favorite episode of the second decade of “The Simpsons,” though it's possible that being a major fan of “The Prisoner” is mandatory to the appreciation of this Patrick McGoohan-filled installment. “The Simpsons” has obviously dedicated large chunks of episodes to movie parodies or homages, but few have the depth of this deconstruction of British the paranoid spy classic, tackling both the style and minute of “The Prisoner.” The episode is also illustrative when it comes to watching both “The Simpsons” and Homer come to terms with the Internet and its potential for both good and time-sucking evil. Compare this 2000 episode to 1998's “Das Bus” to see how the understanding of the online world was shifting.
Favorite Lines: I love the “Prisoner” take-off lines, like Number Two tearing into a scientist after Homer pops Rover with, “Why did you think a big balloon would stop him?” I love the dated computer dialogue like Homer's “Oh, they have the Internet on computers now.” and Comic Book Guy's “There is no emoticon to express what I am feeling right now.” But, oddly, my favorite quotes involve Homer and his Germanic doppelgänger including “If I know me, he won't like being kicked in the crotch” and “That arranged can be.”
Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
“Hungry Hungry Homer” (9 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: “The Simpsons” plus baseball again proves a winning combination, here with one of the more admirable Homer stories of the show's second decade. After helping Lisa secure the Blocko piece she needs to finish her Eiffel Tower kit, Homer decides he likes sticking up for the little guy, and eventually stages a hunger strike when he discovers unscrupulous businessman Howard K. Duff VIII (Stacy Keach) plans to move the Springfield Isotopes to Albuquerque. Homer's suffering grows more and more ridiculous – including him having a hallucinatory conversation with a Cesar Chavez who looks like Cesar Romero, because Homer doesn't know what Chavez actually looked like – but it's all in service of a good cause, and the Isotope fans eventually turn on Duff and shower Homer with food. It's an episode so strong it inspired the actual Albuquerque minor league baseball team to name itself the Isotopes…
Favorite lines: … and so strong that the following exchange is credited with popularizing the use of “meh”:
Homer: “Kids, how would you… like go to… Blockoland!”
Bart & Lisa: “Meh.”
Homer: “But the TV gave me the impression that…”
Bart: “We said, 'Meh!'”
Lisa: “M-e-h, meh.”
Katie Hasty Recommends:
“Trilogy of Error” (5:00am)
Why it”s a Classic: We explore the POV of Lisa, Homer and Bart at the start of a day to the end of a day… all because Homer severed his thumb over breakfast. Referencing flicks like “Go,” “Resevoir Dogs” and “Run Lola Run,” it was a spin on pop culture that became a reference unto itself for all “Simpsons” lovers. Also, we always thumbs-up a Fat Tony cameo, especially when it serves an award-winning science project.
Dr. Riviera: “Inflammable means flammable? What a country.”
Homer: “Reattach a thumb? This isn't Gattaca.”
Mobster: “Me an' him are gonna whack you in the labonza!”
Linguo the Robot: “Bad… Bad grammar overload! Error! Error!”
Mr. Teeny: “This plot made no sense.”
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:
“Kill the Alligator and Run” (Noon)
Why It's a Dud: I actually love it when I can start a “Simpsons” episode without necessarily remembering how the cold open relates to the eventual plot of the episode, a phenomenon parodied in “Homer the Moe,” which begins with Homer's shaggy dog story about Bart trying to dig a hole to China. Well, “Kill the Alligator and Run” is like that except that every five minutes seems to be a different disconnected gag leading to a different storyline adding up to… Virtually nothing. There's Homer taking personality quizzes. Then there's Homer's breakdown and spring break. Then there's the death of the alligator. Then there's the family on a chain gang. And when you step back and go, “Wait. Why is any of this happening?” nothing seems to tie together.
Redeeming Lines: Crazy Homer has a couple funny moments. And then newly sane Homer represents himself very poorly at a trial, leading with, “Drunken hicks of the jury…” But mostly? Nada.
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends Skipping:
“Pokey Mom” (6:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Dud: It's almost impossible to justify either of the episode's main storylines. In the A-story, Marge befriends a convict (Michael Keaton, sadly adding nothing at all to the mix) with artistic potential. Nothing materializes from it. And the B-story involves Homer somewhat inexplicably discovering that he can use a busted up trash can to fix back problems and running afoul of the local chiropractors. These are basically two discarded C-stories that were arbitrarily wedged together with no overlapping thematics or building humor. We're fairly deep into the run of “The Simpsons” here, but this is one of the very first episodes that I can't even watch in syndication when I'm folding laundry or straightening up my apartment. The episode is all filler and doesn't hit any target with particular accuracy.
Redeeming Lines: I like that Marge makes sundaes that people hate. And I like this school lunch discussion between Skinner and Willie. Skinner: “Now, uh, pizza's working well on Thursday, but I think the kids will follow it to Tuesday.” Willie: “That's what you said about the stuffed peppers, and you lost the young males.” Otherwise? Blech.
Chime in with your own favorites and skippables…