On December 17, 1989, the first episode of de The Simpsons, a spin-off of the series of animated shorts that were part of the Tracey Ullman Show. Since then, the yellow family has been the protagonist of 672 prime-time episodes, an all-time record for both a comedy serial production and a fiction show in the time slot of the primetime in the United States. Over the years Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and the other residents of Springfield have pilloried everything and everyone (including, more often than not, the Fox television channel, which broadcasts the series) and attracted guests of all kinds , from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to music stars such as Paul McCartney, through actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Ian McKellen. To celebrate the anniversary we wanted to review what we believe are the 10 best episodes essential for any Simpsons themed marathon.
10. Springfield Film Festival (6×23)
Curious note: The Springfield Film Festival it is the only episode of The Simpsons not to have creator Matt Groening’s name in the opening credits. The reason? He was against the inclusion of Jay Sherman, star of the animated series The Critic, and considered his appearance a mere publicity stunt to improve the ratings of a show that few watched.
Net of this detail, we are dealing with a formidable sequence of cinematic gags, with Sherman involved as a juror at a festival where Mr. Burns obviously tries to win at all costs. Countless cult moments, from the legendary ball in the groin to Burns’ phrase that has become commonly used: “Find me the non-union Mexican equivalent of Spielberg!“.
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9. 22 Springfield Shorts (7×21)
The origin of 22 Springfield Shorts dates back to the fourth season, when for reasons of duration a short segment focused on Ned Flanders was added to the episode The facade, with no connection to the main plot. After trying to apply the same method to other episodes without success, the authors decided to write a special container of short stories, along the lines of Pulp Fiction.
The most obvious homage to Quentin Tarantino’s film is the segment with the cops commenting on the similarities between McDonald’s and Krusty Burger, but the memorable gags follow one another at great speed, giving us glimpses into the daily lives of supporting actors such as Moe, Milhouse, Nelson and Reverend Lovejoy. The final gag is hilarious: Professor Frink wants to tell his story, but is interrupted by the end credits.
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8. The Itchy and Scratchy Show and Pucci (8×14)
Before the production of the eighth cycle of episodes began, Fox suggested to the authors to add a new character who lived with the Simpsons, to give a breath of fresh air to the series which, according to some fans, no longer had the same charge irreverent of the early years. The result: The Itchy and Scratchy Show and Pucci, a self-referential episode where the same suggestion is applied to Itchy and Scratchy, with the addition of the hated Pucci (voiced, within the fictitious world, by Homer). Self-irony is at the highest levels, especially when fans of the series are involved, and the very subtle gag of Roy, a character who, for only one episode, lives at the Simpsons’ house without any explanation is particularly remarkable.
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7. The Cape of Fear (5×02)
As the title suggests, The promontory of fear is a parody of the film of the same name with Sideshow Bob instead of the fearsome Max Cady. The pillorying of the film is precise and sensational, combined with gags of other genres ranging from musicals to the legendary rake scene, an unprecedented lesson in comic rhythm. To (re)see in the original language above all to enjoy the vocal performance of Kelsey Grammer, incomparable in the role of the perfidious Bob with an elegance filled with threats.
6. Homer’s Enemy (8×23)
Homer’s enemy is another episode self-deprecating, and at times downright bad. The premise is very simple: what if a normal person worked at the nuclear power plant struggling with Homer’s incompetence? The result is Frank Grimes, a frustrated man who repeatedly points out how meaningless Homer’s existence is, not at all qualified for the duties he performs and yet living quite well. The final cruelty: in an attempt to imitate his hated colleague, Grimes dies and at his funeral everyone laughs. The character later returned in one of the Halloween specials, stating that in hell the main punishment is watching the then 600-episode series continuously.
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5. Care Bear (5×04)
According to the show’s writers, there are some movies that have been parodied so often that viewers could piece together their entire plot based on Simpsonian parodies alone. Among these is Citizen Kane, a source of inspiration for this one The Care Bear, a story starring Charles Montgomery Burns, also marked by the loss of a dear childhood object. The balance between homage and mockery is exemplary, as is the one between pathos and irony in the characterization of Burns, unusually “human” in some precise moments.
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4. Homer’s Mysterious Journey (season 8×09)
Perhaps the weirdest episode of the whole series, so much so that five years passed from the initial proposal to the actual realization, since at the time of the third season Groening considered the premise too bizarre: after eating excessively hot peppers, Homer begins to suffer from hallucinations and sets off on the mysterious journey of the title. More than for the gags, which in any case are not lacking, the episode Homer’s Mysterious Journey it is notable above all for the aesthetic apparatus, for which the three-dimensional techniques of the time were also used, and for the presence of a spirit guide dubbed in the original by Johnny Cash.
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3. Fear Makes Ninety V (6×06)
The fifth, and most successful, of the Halloween specials is the pinnacle of the show’s seasonal irreverence, especially with regard to the violence that was deliberately heightened as a form of protest against complaints about excessive brutality in other episodes. This is particularly evident in the third segment, where the elementary school staff decides to eat the pupils, but the real jewel is the opening chapter, a parody of The Shining which is still today the most beautiful of those conceived for the macabre “off-series” component “.
2. Homer in outer space (season 5×15)
Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the real moon landing. Three perfect arguments for this Homer in deep space, among the best episodes of The Simpsons, and a space-themed story where Homer becomes an improbable astronaut and inevitably crashes the whole operation. Writing and animation go hand in hand in conceiving a pure comedy show, embellished in the original by the participation of Buzz Aldrin in the role of himself.
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1. Marge Against the Monorail (4×12)
Marge against the monorail is a great parody of the musical (to be exact, the film Capobanda, of which a song is aped) and a brilliant portrait of how the whole city of Springfield can be a concentrate of incredible stupidity, given that Marge is the only one who realizes of the scam linked to the proposal to buy a monorail. The screenplay by Conan O’Brien, today an appreciated late night host, is a perfect assemblage of gags and quotes, including the dig at the alleged rivalry between the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises hosted by Leonard Nimoy .