The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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swo17
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The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#1 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:11 pm

VOTING CLOSED. RESULTS HERE.

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If you are reading this sentence, you are eligible to participate in our forum's latest victim of listification: the long running, ubiquitous cultural behemoth The Sampsans. If you know anyone on or off the forum that you think would also enjoy participating, feel free to invite them as well.

Please PM me your list of what you believe are the top 50 Simpsons episodes* toward the end of the project. I will send confirmation that I have received your list after I have tabulated it. If you haven't heard from me within a day, you should follow up with me to make sure that I received your list. You may feel that you could compile a list of 50 favorite episodes* much earlier than the deadline, but it's still highly recommended that you engage in the discussions here. Most of us already have our favorites, so it's going to take more than specious reasoning for others to consider putting your lemons on their hallowed trees.


THE RULES

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1) Each individual list is to comprise no more or less than 50 episodes*, ranked in your order of preference (with no ties).

2) *Any of the Tracey Ullman shorts, any episode from Seasons 1-27, and the feature film are all eligible. The two parts of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" each count as a separate episode (you can't vote for them combined).

3) You cannot vote for entire seasons of the show. And you cannot vote for segments of episodes, such as the component parts of the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes.

For more details about list project rules and procedures, please refer here.


SUPPLEMENTAL TREEHOUSE OF HORROR MINI-LIST

If you submit a vote for the top 50 episodes, you may also, if you choose, submit a top 10 list of your favorite individual "Treehouse of Horror" segments. Votes in this mini-list will have no impact on the top 50 episodes list. Please do not leave a "Treehouse of Horror" episode off of your top 50 episodes list just because some or all of the individual segments are represented on your "Treehouse of Horror" mini-list.


RESOURCES

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Simpsons World (stream every episode)
Tracey Ullman shorts
Our forum's threads for the TV show and the movie
Writers' reunion video
Frinkiac (pairing quotes to images)

Recommended Reading
Dead Homer Society
Wikisimpsons

AWAITING FURTHER SUGGESTIONS


FORUM MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS

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Is there an episode you love that you fear is under most people's radar? Try shining a light on it! To inaugurate an episode* into the spotlight section, just follow these three simple steps:

1. If it's a proper episode, identify the episode number and the season it comes from.
2. Clearly indicate that you wish it to be one of your spotlight titles.
3. Write a good-sized paragraph (at least) defending your choice.

I'll keep track of all the spotlight titles here so that they can be easily referenced. I'm not going to impose any limits on the number of spotlight titles you can have (other than the paragraph requirement), but please remember that the more money you print, the less valuable it is. So try to be like Mr. Burns that time that he made a trillion dollar bill. (I don't remember if that was a good episode or not.)

Everyone is strongly encouraged to give each of these recommendations the same chance that you would hope others would give your own spotlight titles.

A Milhouse Divided (S8, Ep 6) (mfunk9786)
Mountain of Madness (S8, Ep 12) (swo17)

AWAITING FURTHER SUGGESTIONS


***Please PM me if you have any suggestions for additions to/deletions from this first post.***

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:21 pm

I'm so happy right now.

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YnEoS
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#3 Post by YnEoS » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:31 pm

Eeesh, just when I was thinking to myself I've probably been neglecting the list projects and maybe I should be watching more 2010-2014 and youth movies...

I'm not really sure where to begin with this, I grew up watching endless numbers of these and can usually recognize quotes when people around my age throw them out, but I never really kept track of seasons or episodes or gotten very far with ideas of marathoning through the series again. I'm sure if I went and read through episode synopses I would immediately recognize the episodes that got the most reruns. Does anyone else have a strategy for selectively re-visiting certain essential episodes or is everyone going to attempt to work through this whole series again episode by episode?

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#4 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:44 pm

My primary goal for this is going to be watching later episodes that people consider head and shoulders above the rest, and revisiting Season 1 and 2. I know 3-11 by heart at this point, but I'm sure they'll be mixed in.

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dustybooks
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#5 Post by dustybooks » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:51 pm

I'm quite the stalwart for the first three seasons so I'm going to have to think long and hard about which one or two spotlights to single out... This will be great fun. Thanks for setting it up, swo.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#6 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Mar 17, 2016 8:17 pm

For recommended reading I want to toss out the Dead Homers Society- it's very thesis driven (they HATE the later episodes) but some of their writeups, particularly the Compare and Contrast series, do a good job of illuminating the brilliance of the Golden Era in explaining their hatred of the later seasons.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#7 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 8:38 pm

*rubs hands together* This list is an excellent idea. Good excuse to dust off the DVDs I have (up to season 10 I believe).

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#8 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:15 am

The good pirates of China put out 5 seasons sets with each season on one disc. The quality isn't great and the commentary is missing, but it's certainly a handy way to have the Simpsons on disc. Lately I've been looking for the S 21-25 set, but many of the dvd shops have closed and the selection ain't what it used to be. So far all I've spotted are 3-disc season sets for each of S 21, 22, 23.

So I've seen everything through Season 20, and almost nothing since.
I've been wondering what the show has been like the past 7 seasons.
I might have downloaded a random episode that generated good buzz during that time.
The plasticky digital look of the recent Simpsons is certainly a turnoff. But there have to be some quality episodes during that 7 year stretch. And while were doing this I'm wondering which is the worst season ever, and which is the worst episode ever.

Also, are we just ranking regular episodes? Otherwise my Top 20 would be made up entirely of Treehouse of Horror Halloween shows. Those are almost always great.
Last edited by Lemmy Caution on Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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swo17
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#9 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:24 am

See the rules in the first post. You are welcome to list 20 Treehouse of Horror episodes if you like them that much, but all episodes are on equal footing. And the movie. And the Tracey Ullman shorts.

It should perhaps go without saying that if you love any episodes after, let's say, Moe...er, Season 11, you are going to need to do some serious cheerleading for them.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#10 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:34 am

WikiSimpsons is a pretty good resource.
Here's a link to the episode listings, but there's more stuff if you search around.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#11 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:28 am

I have the first 9 or 10 seasons on DVD, and that is the pool of which I'll draw from. For now anyway, I may purchase the next couple or so seasons later on because there were episodes since that time that I liked a lot as well. Right now, my plan is to watch the episodes from each season that immediately stick out and write up a little review here, to do my part to get the ball rolling on this.

"Bart The Genius": Season 1, Episode 2. Airdate January 14, 1990

The early inconsistencies aside (The characterization plays fast and loose in these early episodes. For example, Milhouse is seen as rebellious as Bart for the brief time he's on screen.), this episode has remained a favorite of mine. There are a handful from the first season that made a huge impression on me, that I'm sure will make my final list.

As a kid (parents had a tape of several early episodes as they aired in reruns), the whole idea of this liberal-minded school Bart is transferred to (where you could "discover" your desk and sleep at your own free-will) was rather tempting. The family playing Scrabble at the opening, Bart trying to figure out the math equation, and the family watching the opera stuck out too.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#12 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Mar 18, 2016 7:23 am

This might be the first non-decades list I participate in. Have to say from the outset, I won't have watched anything from the past ten years. It'll be the episodes that have been repeated ad nauseum on Channel 4 for years.

Locked in #1 is Homer Goes To College.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#13 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 7:29 am

It's a testament to the abundance of great episodes that I see that episode title, think "Man, that was a great episode," and still know it likely won't make my Top 50

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#14 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 7:37 am

flyonthewall, I have fondness for the first season too, as someone who literally grew up with the show and can remember firsthand the marketing mania directed primarily at my age group, but I doubt I'll be voting for any episodes from the first two seasons. Still, so many personal memories are attached to some of those primitive early eps (I had a video of off-air recordings of some of the original eps too-- the one where they get the camper and the first Sideshow Bob ep got a lot of play as a kid as a result, and the Christmas special of course). Really tempted to dig out my uber-weathered stack of Simpsons Illustrated magazines now

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#15 Post by Titus » Fri Mar 18, 2016 9:02 am

One of the refreshing things about returning to Season 2 and especially Season 1 is how tight the focus is on the family at this point, and how committed the show is to presenting a really compassionate warts and all view of family life in America. I wasn't old enough to have experienced these seasons when they initially aired, and things like the Dead Homer Society essay on the show's eventual decline do a good job of contextualizing how defiantly anti-authority it was in that TV landscape, but looking at these episodes divorced from the era they grew out of, the satire seems less prominent to me and the humanism much more important.

Two favorites from that period are "Bart Gets an F" and "Moaning Lisa," the definitive early Bart and Lisa episodes. One of the things I love about the show's early years is just how spot on they are at depicting childhood. Much of this was sacrificed in later seasons in favor of the show's increasing reflexiveness and absurdism (though it did pop up here and there in more fanciful terms, as with "Lemon of Troy"). But the show was so much more grounded in reality at this point, able to earnestly show Bart struggling with boredom at school and Lisa with the differences between herself and her classmates and family, without needing to make a self-aware joke about it. Everybody always points to "Lisa's Substitute" as the emotional high-point of the series, but that wasn't an anomaly at all. Lisa's difficulties with depression, and the way she's able to pull herself out of it with the help of her family's support and her creative outlet, hit just as hard to me. As does Ms. Krabapple giving Bart a passing grade after discovering how hard he studied, and Homer and Marge's hilarious but still very sweet pride in Bart's D-. Them hanging the score on the refrigerator is a joke, obviously, but it's also a lovely gesture of their support for him, and how proud they are in whatever small accomplishments he achieves. Seasons 3-8 obviously all have their own brilliance, but it's nice to return to these early episodes and see, for example, a Homer who is actually involved in his children's lives.

Plus the show was pretty funny.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#16 Post by dustybooks » Fri Mar 18, 2016 9:47 am

I agree completely. The climax of "Bart Gets an F", when he breaks down in front of Mrs. Krabappel, almost never fails to make me tear up. And "Moaning Lisa" is one of the most believable and empathetic portrayals of depression I've ever seen; I intend to say more about it later.

As for "Bart the Genius", apart from the complex, troubling way in which Bart and Homer's relationship changes as a result of the misguided recognition he receives by cheating, is for me a salient portrait of what impostor syndrome feels like. Bart's feeling of lonely displacement and alienation from others as the episode progresses is genuinely how it can feel to be earmarked as a "gifted child" based on fairly specious reasoning. (I was in so-called "AG" programs throughout school because of various weird tests I was administered at age six or seven, despite being extremely unmotivated, so I was -- like Bart -- a chronic underachiever surrounded by people who were discussing college plans in 5th grade.) Better yet, this emotion comes across in impressively subtle ways in the classroom scenes; you can carp about the maybe overwrought gag that has Mrs. Mellon tossing out a comic book, but the way she later smilingly gets in his face while making an obtuse (and unfunny) math joke with "Don'tcha GET IT, Bart?" in a somewhat rattling POV shot is a brilliant way of putting our identification with Bart front and center. David Silverman's directing is generally excellent here: I love the way he plays Lisa's acting in the bedroom scene when neither Marge, Bart nor Homer can think of the word "nurturing" but she pops up with it immediately.

The writing on The Simpsons in these years deservedly gets a lot of attention; there were a lot of exceptional writers on staff, Jon Vitti maybe being the best of all, who've never otherwise gotten a chance to do anything nearly as interesting. But in these early shows in particular, the directors and voice actors deserve a lot of credit for selling the series' emotional depth. Early on there was clearly a push to take advantage of the opportunity in animation to use wild angles and unusual lighting/editing that simply wouldn't be possible on a weekly series in live action; this artistry is only reinforced by the determination -- broken here and there, like in "Call of the Simpsons" -- to keep the show realistic. One example of the type of thing that would not be seen at all later on is in "Simpson and Delilah," when Homer is led to the executive washroom and a frustrated Smithers tosses his towel down, which is followed by a pan across the tile floor that fades directly into the windows of an office building. There are also lots of delightfully bizarre scene blocking and camera choices in the first "Treehouse of Horror". More relevant to what I'm getting at, though, is the beautiful shot of Homer lowering his head in shame in "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" as he surveys the stark class difference between his family and Flanders', played out in their Christmas lights; and in "Homer vs. Lisa & the 8th Commandment", a certain scene transition that focuses on Lisa's dread and fear after a Sunday school sermon and follows her worried face seamlessly with a jump cut into the car afterward.

Speaking of subtleties, I always loved this exchange in "Genius", which defines Bart and Homer so perfectly:

Homer: "So, how was it?"
Bart: "Os-os."
Homer: "What?"
Bart: "That's backwards for 'so-so.'"
Homer: "Wow!!"

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#17 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 9:59 am

Early episodes, especially in the first season, are freely adapting/borrowing age-old sitcom plots and tropes, which makes it harder for me to see their supposed purity. For example, most everything you praise above was already done better (and funnier/more incisively) in "the Genius" episode of the Patty Duke Show three decades earlier

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#18 Post by dustybooks » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:07 am

domino harvey wrote:Early episodes, especially in the first season, are freely adapting/borrowing age-old sitcom plots and tropes, which makes it harder for me to see their supposed purity. For example, most everything you praise above was already done better (and funnier/more incisively) in "the Genius" episode of the Patty Duke Show three decades earlier
I remember The Patty Duke Show but not this specific episode. I'll check it out. I don't disagree that many of these are basic stories that have been trotted out repeatedly. I suppose where we differ is in the depth and affection I sense in these specific characters when living out these traditional situations. I may have seen other things like "Moaning Lisa", but almost nothing I believed to the same extent.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#19 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:10 am

Fair enough!

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#20 Post by Drucker » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:12 am

So I only own Seasons 1-6 on DVD, and am pretty cold on the quality of later episodes. What's the best way (is there a way) to stream Simpsons?

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#21 Post by dustybooks » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:22 am

Beyond streaming, your local or university library may have the later seasons on disc. Netflix has some but not all of them.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#22 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:33 am

What I like about the early seasons is how cynical they could get, and how they seemingly weren't afraid to play up the darker sides of family life. Homer's choking of Bart would be later seen as so over-the-top it didn't really connect so easily to people's memories of childhood abuse, but certainly the ending of "Genius" comes close illustrating it while remaining funny (Lisa's line of how Bart is stupid again, and Marge's reaction save it from playing a bit more darker). The change in the relationship due to the lie Bart perpetuates shows that Homer this early on cared about how he was about his perceived through the image others had of his family. Which leads straight into my next episode...

"There's No Disgrace Like Home": Season 1, Episode 4. Airdate January 28, 1990

Now I highly doubt if ever another show could pull the kind of switch that goes on here. Homer is the voice of reason in trying to bring his family together if at first we think it's just to impress his boss at the company picnic, Marge gets drunk and is inattentive at the picnic, and Lisa goes tit for tat in the brat department with her brother. We see Homer disgusted as the three of them chow down in front of the TV, an almost bizarro-world scenario in later seasons. The show gets rolling a bit when he makes them sit at the dinner table and he turns the prayer into an airing of his grievances. The warped idea Homer has to sneak them all in front of other people's houses to see their domestic life could have had a bit more to it, but the payoff of Homer standing on his own flower bed not recognizing his own home is funny for no rhyme or reason but it is. The physical humor in the final ditch effort to save his family at Dr. Marvin Monroe's works as a skewering of crack-pot psychiatry, and again there's not much rhyme or reason to the family joining together at the end if not for the value money (and television, and Frosty Chocolate Milkshakes) has over the Simpsons, but it works as a nice wrap-up nonetheless.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#23 Post by mizo » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:43 am

This could be a good resource.

Reading this thread and the other one (where the idea for this project was sparked) have just highlighted to me how much I missed out by not watching the show as a kid. My parents were never fans, so it was never on in the house, and it wasn't really until I was a teenager that I started exploring things my family hadn't introduced me to. At around that time (when I was also seeing all kinds of great movies for the first time), I bought and watched the third and sixth season sets. I remember really enjoying it, but for whatever reason I never went beyond that, and that about sums up my exposure to the show. Suffice to say, the amount of enthusiasm I've been seeing here is making me eager to go about seeing what I've missed. (And a few episodes here and there will be a nice little vacation from classwork and trying to put together a definitive post on a bunch of John Ford film fragments, which is taking far longer than I had hoped - apologies for that.)

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#24 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:10 am

mizoguchi5354 wrote:My parents were never fans
I think I started watching around when Season 5 was airing, and the show was forbidden to me. I initially had to watch it at a low volume in my room with one foot up against the door in case my parents ever tried to barge in. Fast forward to a year or two later, and I had somehow converted my whole family into fans. Now my 7-year-old daughter has recently shown an interest and we've been going through some of the earlier episodes together. It's been kind of magical.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#25 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:14 am

My parents let me watch it but I have a bad memory of watching the Boy Scouts episode and laughing at the Jason ending and my mom walking in the room and getting mad at me for finding it funny

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