Extra extra! Todd smells…and The Simpsons are coming to FXX. And not just episodes from the last five seasons, which are the only ones Fox plays on syndication anymore, but EVERY episode, all 548 of them (and counting!). The 12-day marathon, and the subsequent availability of every episode on FXNOW, isn’t until August 21, but we can start planning now. Here are the first 12 episodes I’d recommend watching. Now, before we begin, I should say these aren’t necessarily the 12 best episodes, or even my 12 favorites (there’s no “A Milhouse Divided,” for instance) — they’re 12 episodes, ranging from season two to season eight, that perfectly showcase the different kinds of episodes The Simpsons can pull off, from sentimental flashbacks to goofy space adventures. Also, they’re all fantastic.
1. “The Way We Was” (season 2)
It’s hard skipping the pilot (you can wait until Christmas), but I recommend you begin your marathon with “The Way We Was,” the flashback episode where we learn how Homer and Marge became Homer and Marge. It’s sweet and never sappy, but what truly separates it from the early-season pack is, like any great romantic origin story, it starts with a quippy action hero throwing his captain out the window.
2. “Stark Raving Dad” (season 3)
Come for the Michael Jackson cameo; stay for the story about a middle-aged man who dares to be different (by wearing a pink shirt) and a brother who desperately tries to do something nice for his sister. Also, “Pancakes… football… boobies…”
3. “Homer at the Bat” (season 3)
Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Darryl Strawberry are three of the greatest baseball players of all-time, but ultimately, their true stamp on history is the time they clucked like a chicken, got addicted to Brain & Nerve Tonic, and cried on animated TV show. “Homer at the Bat” is a wonderful episode for baseball fans, but it also works for those who can’t tell the difference between Steve Sax and Sax on the Beach. You don’t need to know who Ozzie Smith is to realize that eternally falling down the Springfield Mystery Spot is hilarious. It’s to John Swartzwelder’s immense credit that he was able to fit in a story for nine guest stars, as well as Mr. Burns, and still have Homer be the hero.
4. “Lisa’s First Word” (season 4)
I can basically quote every single line of every single episode in seasons three-five, because why yes, I did have an active dating life in middle and high school, thank you very much, but the first episode I memorized front-to-back was “Lisa’s First Word.” The whole damn episode is one giant reference. Pick a line, any line, to read out loud in a crowded room, and at least one other person will be able to respond to “iron helps us play” with “HELLO JOE.” Plus, that final scene? Gets me every time.
5. “Marge vs. the Monorail” (season 4)
“The name’s Lanley, Lyle Lanley. And I come before you good people tonight with an episode. Probably the greatest…aw, it’s not for you. It’s more of a Shelbyville episode.” “Now, wait just a minute. We’re twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. Just tell us your episode and we’ll vote for it.” “All right. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll show you my idea. I give you…”
That’s why “Marge vs. the Monorail” might be the best Simpsons ever. Except for maybe…
6. “Last Exit to Springfield” (season 4)
DENTAL PLAN. LISA NEEDS BRACES. DENTAL PLAN. LISA NEEDS BRACES.