[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 7 of FXX's Every Simpsons Ever Marathon goes from “Simpsons Tall Tales” (the end of Season 12) through to “The President Wore Pearls” (the beginning of Season 15).
I must admit: The “Simpsons” fans on Team HitFix are beginning to drop like flies. Josh Lasser's fandom carried through the Tomacco episode, but no further. David Lewis wrote a blurb here for “Simpsons Tall Tales,” the episode he says ended his active support of the show.
Fortunately, Sepinwall and I had a pair of favorites apiece and Katie Hasty also had a preferred episode, so we've got some recommendations for you, plus a couple episodes you can avoid.
[And while I only wrote up two episodes I love, there are at least 10 more that I'll be happy to rewatch if I'm around and another 10 more that I'd enjoy having on in the background. Possibly more. This may be the worst period for “The Simpsons” thus far, but I'll always maintain that middling-to-poor “Simpsons” is still more rewatchable than nearly anything else on TV.]
Check out our recommendations for Day 7 and chime in with your own favorites…
Katie Hasty Recommends:
“She Of Little Faith” (3 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Lisa has been through so many well-meaning spiritual adventures, but not all of them stick. After she converted to Buddhism from Christianity in this episode, though, it's the route she's walked ever since. While writers poured a lot of time-tried Americanisms into the comedy (shotguns, commercialization of the sacred, Christmas, blowing up crap with rockets), they put a lot of soul into this religiously themed episode. It comfortably urges respect for all religions while ably incorporating Richard Gere into Buddha's teachings. Heart, all around.
Richard Gere: I am dreaming of a free Tibet.
Lenny: We are dreaming of free sandwiches.
Homer: The word un-blow-upable is thrown around a lot these days.
Lisa: I still believe in God. I just think there's another path to Him or Her.
Marge: Her?!… She's just kidding, Mr. Lord!
Alan Sepinwall Recommends:
“Jaws Wired Shut” (4:30 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: This episode and the one that follow it feature among the stronger latter-day stories about the state of the Simpsons marriage. Here, Homer can't speak while his jaw is wired shut, and in the process becomes a good listener to Marge and the kids, as well as a less reckless individual (since so many of his rash decisions seem driven by his mouth rather than his brain). It's a sweet period for the family, and the good behavior continues even after the wires come out, until Marge realizes she misses the craziness in her life, and needs a drunken, Popeye-esque Homer to rescue her at a demolition derby. A strong, funny reminder that Marge Bouvier is married to the exact man she fell in love with.
Favorite lines: Duffman pays another visit to Moe's, and responds to news reports that he died of liver failure: “Duffman can never die! Only the actors who play him! OH, YEAH!”
Alan Sepinwall Also Recommends:
“Half-Decent Proposal” (5 a.m.)
Why It's a Classic: My favorite episode from the series' second decade, “Half-Decent Proposal” nimbly bridges the gap between the more emotional character study the show began as and the madcap pop culture satire it became. On the latter, we get not only the eponymous tribute of the title, as Jon Lovitz's now-wealthy Artie Ziff returns to try to buy Marge away from Homer, but one of the earliest and best spoofs of “Sex and the City,” a great “M*A*S*H” finale sight gag, and a surreal action climax that's equal parts “Giant” and “Armageddon,” involving an oil fire in West Springfield. On the former, Artie's return not only calls back to “The Way We Was,” but presents an excellent story about Marge, Homer, their marriage and the paralyzing fear that grips Homer whenever he realizes how much better Marge could have done than him. Also, every single joke related to Homer's snoring and the debilitating effect it has on Marge is hysterical, and Carl's rescue of Lenny in the oil fire is the most romantic Lenny and Carl moment of them all.
Favorite lines: The Carrie Bradshaw stand-in from “Nookie in New York” declares, “If I'm not having sex by the time I finish this goat-cheese quesadilla, I'm gonna scream,” setting off a run of “SATC”-style puns from the other characters that inspire Patty to declare, “This is so like our lives!” Homer, mistaking his life for the plot of “Back to the Future,” spies on Marge and Artie on a date and worries, “Oh, no! If Marge marries Artie, I'll never be born!” And Homer, pondering the shabbiness of his life compared to Artie's, complains, “I can't take his money, I can't print my own money, I have to work for money. Why don't I just lie down and die?”
Daniel Fienberg Recommends:
“I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can” (5 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: Just as Ernest Borgnine's presence is what elevates “Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood” from solid episode to a classic, it's the late George Plimpton's cameo as Spellympics host that takes “I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can” from decent episode to personal favorite. From “And a hotplate!” to “And now I go back to doing whatever it is I do,” the Plimptonian intellectualism of the episode is random and tremendous. And while Homer's pursuit of the Ribwich isn't quite, um, meaty enough to be an A-story, there's enough vaguely gross lunacy to fill an amusing B-story. But mostly? George Plimpton.
Favorite Lines: “And a hotplate!” “It's not important to talk about who got rich off of whom, or who got exposed to tainted what…” and “What a long, strange product roll-out it's been.”
One More Recommendation, Plus Two to Skip on Page 2…
Daniel Fienberg Also Recommends:
“The President Wore Pearls” (11:30 p.m.)
Why It's a Classic: One of the show's rarely wholly committed musical episodes, “”The President Wore Pearls,” this take-off on “Evita” earned well-deserved Emmy nominations for composer Alf Clausen and for writer Dana Gould's lyrics. Lisa's descent into corruption as she rises through the power ranks at Springfield Elementary is funny and, in context, believable and the episode wisely doesn't bother with a B-story. And the songs are really catchy, especially if you happen to know “Evita,” though the episode ending subtitle declares that the writers have never heard of a musical based on the life of Eva Peron.
Favorite Lines: Like I said, the songs are catchy, but when it comes to dialogue, this is an unexpectedly Willie-heavy episode. I'm a fan of his cruel Teacher's Lounge Milhouse impression: “Look at me! I'm Milhouse, I tuck my shirt into me underpants. I've got no friends, so I confide in Willie!” and his chilling confession, “Back in Edinborough, we had a coal strike. All we wanted were hats with a wee light on top. Then one day the mine collapsed. No one made it out alive, not even Willie!”
Of course, if you happen to need a bathroom break or a nap or a brief window communicating with the outside world…
Dave Lewis Recommends Skipping:
“Simpsons Tall Tales” (12:00 a.m.)
Why it's a dud: A blatant rehash of the much better but still not-very-memorable “Simpsons Bible Stories,” this anthology begins with the Simpsons on a freight train, where a singing hobo regales them with American folktales. Homer and Marge re-enact the saga of Paul Bunyan, Lisa depicts Johnny Appleseed (renamed Connie) and Bart and Nelson play Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. For such a wide-open premise, it's surprisingly light on jokes; it often seems like minutes go by without even an attempt at a gag, and when they come they're mostly obvious and predictable. The whole enterprise just feels lazy and uninspired.
Redeeming lines: When they first come across the hobo (voiced by Hank Azaria), he cheerfully informs them, “Now don't worry, I'm not a stabbin' hobo, I'm a singin' hobo!” He then sings his first ditty: “Nothing beats the hobo life/Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife.”
Daniel Fienberg Recommends Skipping:
“The Old Man and the Key” (6:30 a.m.)
Why it's a dud: Yup. Another skippable Abe Simpson in Love episode. Sorry. The episode found some notoriety when the newspaper headline “Old Man Yells At Cloud” was meme-ized as “Old Man Yells At Chair” after Clint Eastwood's 2012 RNC speech. But seriously? If that's the best you can do with an episode, it's probably not top-tier. The only thing worse than the chemistry-free flirting between Abe and Zelda is Abe's romantic rival in the Souvenir Jackitos, a vaguely racist caricatured group of rival geriatrics. The episode climaxes in a trip to Branson, Missouri that might have a few pointed barbs to toss against the Vegas of the Midwest, except that “The Simpsons” already made most of those jokes to far funnier effect in “Bart on the Road,” which featured Nelson's love for Andy Williams.
Redeeming Lines: Like I said, the Branson stuff is familiar, but song “Ode to Branson” is about as close as this episode gets to funny. And it's still not especially close.
Chime in with your own favorites and skippables…