[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.]
And then there were only two.
Day 8 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon takes us from “The Regina Monologues” to “The Italian Bob,” or from early in Season 15 through to early in Season 17.
Honestly, I think that some of these are mighty funny installments for a show that went past its 350th episode in this period, but there's no question that a fair amount of repetitiveness had set in here and an impressive number of plots feel either cribbed from earlier shows, or at least siblings to earlier plots. I mean… Homer gets an RV again! Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart a couple times! The Simpsons go to… Italy and England and China!
Perhaps that's why we're now just down to me and Sepinwall and Katie Hasty giving recommendations. But don't worry, we offered five up good episodes and I added two episodes that you can skip, though I suspect most viewers will be skipping closer to 30 or 40 or 50 episodes.
Check out our recommendations for Day 8 and chime in with your own favorites…
Katie Hasty Recommends:
“The Regina Monologues” (midnight)
Why it's worth watching: This is the very reason I scan the sidewalks, always, for a $1,000 bill. The Simpsons family traveled to England in 2003, which was prime “Harry Potter” time — all the more reason to be more excited about special voice guest J.K. Rowling than then-Prime Minister Tony Blair (mistake, by Homer, for Mr. Bean). But, no wait, it gets dark: Homer is sentenced to death by the Queen of England and, ultimately — eek! — asked if he can take Madonna with him as he exits. What a year, 2003.
Lisa: Can you tell me what happens at the end of the series?
Rowling: He grows up and marries you. Is that what you want to hear?
Judie Dench: I'll Mum you!!
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
“Co-Dependent's Day” (5:30 a.m.)
Why it's worth watching: First, there's a terrific B-story where an irritated Bart and Lisa confront George Lucas stand-in Randall Curtis for his terrible “Cosmic Wars” prequel. Second, the title story – where Marge and Homer go to California wine country and discover that they enjoy getting drunk together – is an interesting look at the Simpson marriage, and a dark one even before Homer frames Marge for drunk driving after he's the one who gets them into an accident. That Homer would do this to his wife – even if he later repents and apologizes for it – is the sort of thing that the show wouldn't have done in its earlier days (and is the thing that would keep me from labeling this one a classic). But the episode's aware that it's an awful thing, and then takes another strange and honest turn when it has Marge realize that her actual addiction – for good and for ill – isn't to alcohol, but to her husband.
Favorite lines: Comic Book Guy responds to the “Cosmic Wars” prequel thusly: “Worst 'Cosmic Wars' ever! I will only see it three more times. Today.”
Moe opens a bottle of Chateau Latour 1886 vintage wine to serve Homer and Marge wine, then realizes, “Now in a step I perhaps should have taken initially, let me look up the value of that bottle in this wine collectors guide here. Oh what have I done? Let me dry my tears with this lost Shakespeare play!”
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
“Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays” (2:00 a.m.)
Why it's worth watching: I don't know why, but I find that I generally enjoy Marge Crusade episodes and this one is full of great moments, starting with the disastrous Roofi concert at Cletus Spuckler's Farm, a child-sized riot that the Springfield media dubs the Tot Offensive. The Kiddie Woodstock kicks things off well and then the even-handed parody of outspoken advocacy culture unspools winningly from there. I also enjoy any episode that has a featured role for Springfield's most vicious viper, Lindsey Naegle — “I dream of an America with nudity and F-words on network TV, where the whole world doesn't stop because a school bus did. Children are the future…today belongs to me!”
Favorite lines: My most frequently quoted line come from Comic Book Guy, who observes, “The only petitions that I sign are to bring back canceled sitcoms, thank you. America needs the wisdom of 'Herman's Head' now more than ever.” I also like Homer's advocacy, “Families Come First is supported by lifelong Springfieldians you know and trust, like me, Milhouse's dad, Bumblebee Man, Surly Duff and that jerk that goes “Yesss?” For more information, visit our website: http://www.aljazeera.com. We're not affiliated; we're just piggybacking on their message board.”
Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
“I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot” (2:30 a.m.)
Why it's worth watching: This one has two subplots about the Simpson kids that are simultaneously absurd and touching. In the A-story, Homer tries to bond with Bart by helping him build a battle robot, and when his technical knowledge proves incapable of the task, makes a robot-shaped suit of armor he can wear to compete as “Chief Knock-a-Homer,” and risks massive injury and possible death simply to impress his son. In the B-story, Lisa's beloved cat Snowball II dies – and then so, in rapid succession, do the next two cats she buys as replacements. It's macabre and funny, and features the Crazy Cat Lady's most plot functional appearance, and also sets up…
Favorite lines: After Lisa decides to pretend that Snowball V is really Snowball II, Principal Skinner complains, “That's really a cheat, isn't it?” Lisa retorts, “I guess you're right, Principal Tamzarian,” and Skinner quickly admits defeat.
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
“Catch 'Em If You Can” (7 a.m.)
Why it's worth watching: Leaving aside a B-story (or maybe a C-story) involving Abe's “romance” with a near-deaf man named Raoul, “Catch 'Em If You Can” is a fast-paced and clever episode that periodically features stylish homages to the Tom Hanks/Leonardo DiCaprio film of nearly the same name. Probably the best part of the episode is its clearness of focus. Marge & Homer go off to try to find romantic alone time. Bart & Lisa foil their alone time, first unintentionally, but then maliciously. Because basically nothing else is happening, it just zips along and the comedic build is top-notch.
Favorite lines: I like Homer's rewriting of Gloria Estefan's “Conga,” “Come on everybody have some sexual congress/ Not the kind of congress that contains Paul Tsongas.” And any midlevel frequent flier and find joy in Lisa taunting the airport security guard with, “I'm going into the Gold Medallion club, with Silver Level membership!”
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 and Ned's Hail Mary Pass” (12:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Dud: The Super Bowl and “The Simpsons” haven't seemed to go together very well, since I recommended skipping “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” last week as well. When a vocal cameo by Yao Ming is the highlight of your episode's comic stylings, you know something went wrong in the writing process. Tom Brady, LeBron James, Michelle Kwan and Warren Sapp also cameo, but with even less mirth than the chuckle or two delivered by Yao Ming. There's also an immediately-dated “Passion of the Christ”-themed B-story that culminates in a Bible-themed Super Bowl halftime show produced by Ned Flanders and… Oh, whatever. People just need to stop involving the Simpson Family with football's biggest game. The episode did, however, teach the world that Comic Book Guy's real name is Jeff Albertson. And where would we be without that information?
Redeeming Lines: As a Patriots' fan, I find very limited amusement in the line, “Everyone sucks but me.” But it's an episode of limited amusement even for this big sports fan.
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends Skipping:
“Bonfire of the Manatees” (8:00 p.m.)
Why It's a Dud: Day 8 contains several weak episodes built around Homer doing something unforgivable, leading Marge to a new career and the temporary possibility of infidelity that goes nowhere. In this episode, it's Homer renting out the family home for the production of a porn film that somehow leads Marge to Florida where she helps Alec Baldwin's Caleb Thorn save the manatees. I somehow suspect that this episode was titled first and then the narrative was filled in to somewhat match the title. At a certain point, the “Marge Realizes Homer Can't Change, But Homer Temporarily Changes Just Enough To Make Things OK” narrative becomes boring. At least “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife” had a Thomas Pynchon cameo.
Redeeming Lines: The fairly grotesque depiction of the manatees doesn't count as dialogue, but it makes me laugh, at least a little, especially when one of the manatees is able to pose as Homer at work. See… Homer is also fat and grotesque at times.
Chime in with your own favorites and skippables…