Last night was an historic night for The Simpsons, as the show aired it’s much-hyped crossover episode with Futurama. Seeing the Simpson family interact with the Planet Express crew was certainly interesting, but how does it hold up against previous crossover episodes? Here’s my ranking of all the times when The Simpsons crossed paths with another TV show.
6. “Judge Me Tender” – Original Air Date: May 23, 2010
I won’t mince words here: I hate this episode. I don’t mind a little shameless cross-promotion now and then, but there’s absolutely nothing funny about this episode, and it does nothing to justify its existence. The whole time, you didn’t even feel like you were watching a Simpsons episode, but rather, a 22-minute commercial for American Idol. Moe’s tenure as an Idol judge is uninteresting and ends predictably. Easily the worst crossover, and one of the worst episodes ever.
5. “Simpsorama” – Original Air Date: November 9, 2014
Ok, onto last night’s episode. It was hardly bad, but that’s the thing, it never really rose above “inoffensive.” Seeing Homer and Bender become drinking buddies is fun, and certainly makes sense, but it doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. Honestly, all episode long, you could see where the next scene was headed, and the whole thing just felt like an exercise in fan service. On the plus side, I don’t really mind fan service, so I wasn’t put-off by this one. It still felt like they could have done a lot more considering the premise.
4. “The Simpsons Guy” – Original Air Date: September 28, 2014
Since I know this will be brought up in the comments, yes, I’m aware that this is actually a Family Guy episode. Whatever, it’s still worth analyzing, mainly because the whole thing was surprisingly ambitious, making good usage of its hour-long runtime. Yes, we all knew the Homer-Peter chicken fight climax was coming, and it was hard to get excited about it, but there were plenty of enjoyable moments, like the bonding between Stewie and Bart (I teared up a little bit at the end), and Lisa’s interactions with Meg. This should have been a disaster, but it was actually a rather enjoyable 42 minutes.
3. “24 Minutes” – Original Airdate: May 19, 2007
Another example of Fox synergy, but in this case, they justified it, mostly by turning 24‘s style into one of the more intriguing format-bender episodes we’ve ever seen. By copying the look and vibe of the source material, the writers create a suspenseful atmosphere, as we wonder if the bake sale will be ruined. It’s easy to dismiss this one as needless shilling for the Fox overlords, but if you give it a chance, you’ll likely find it’s far better episode than a cynical Simpsons fan might expect.
2. “A Star Is Burns” – Original Airdate: March 5, 1995
The famous story behind this one is that Matt Groeing took his name off the episode because he was ashamed of being involved with the cross-promoting of another Fox show. As we can tell from the rest of this list, he relented considerably on that issue over the years. But in any event, Groening had nothing to be ashamed of. This is a hilarious outing from start to finish, as Jay Sherman’s interactions with the Simpsons are hysterical, particularly Homer’s growing jealousy (“He knows the whole hot dog song, go ahead and sleep with him!”). Additionally, “Pukeahontas” was one of the most touching things The Simpsons ever did, even if Barney fails to learn the lesson of his own movie (“Just hook it to my veins!”).
1. “The Springfield Files” – Original Air Date: January 12, 1997
Where do even begin with this one? With Homer’s famous re-telling of “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down”? How about the “DIE/DIET” billboard gag? Or maybe some fine moments with drunk Homer (“Blue M&M, red M&M, they all end up the same color in the end!”). You get the idea, this episode is brilliant all the way through, with Mulder and Scully’s appearances only adding to the fun – particularly Mulder’s famous “the truth is out there” rant. This was easily the best Simpsons crossover, even beating the stellar “A Star Is Burns” fairly easily. I just wish I could have gotten my hands on one of those finely stitched “Homer Is A Dope” t-shirts.