The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#26 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:22 am

When the show got started I was in law school and didn't own a TV. Then my last year and a half I lived in a leftist environmental student coop. We also didn't have a TV, except every Thursday night after our communal dinner, we'd whip out a small Tv from storage, rig up some wires for an antenna and watch The Simpsons. That was Season 2 and it was really a fun special event.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#27 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 12:56 pm

domino harvey wrote: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
I don't know if your parents did this but mine tended to pause recording during commercial breaks. Sometimes there were still some in there. One I remember vividly being cut off was a TV spot for Joe Versus the Volcano, right after the line "Brain Cloud? I knew it!". Had a lot of wrestling tapes that were like that too, sadly none of them around anymore. Most of, if not all the episodes I'll choose from the 1st and 2nd seasons were from that tape.

"Bart the General": Season 1, Episode 5. Airdate February 4, 1990

The issues of bullying and conflict here are treated rather boldly, as well as needling the older generation for glorifying war via Grampa's line...
You know, I thought I was too old. I thought my time had passed. I thought I'd never hear the screams of pain, or see the look of terror in a young man's eyes. Thank heaven for children.
The show would later manage to give him more depth, and I imagine now as the show lumbers through it's third decade and with the character still alive, some of the guys who are still on the staff might be able to empathize with him more.

The physical comedy of Bart coughing up his hat still makes me chuckle.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#28 Post by Drucker » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:18 pm

flyonthewall2983 wrote:What I like about the early seasons is how cynical they could get
My friend considers Mrs. Lisa goes to Washington one of the most, best cynical episodes: the idea that the government can run effectively and do its job only if it needs to prove it is possible to actually do so.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#29 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:51 pm

Drucker wrote:My friend considers Mrs. Lisa goes to Washington one of the most, best cynical episodes: the idea that the government can run effectively and do its job only if it needs to prove it is possible to actually do so.
I would say that the show has remained cynical in certain respects, but in those first couple seasons it was on a bit of a darker level of cynicism, a darker humor that eventually eroded over time. It's not to say that the show suffered for going towards a more broad humor (and more lively animation), not at all. But there was something more blunt about the feeling of a few of those episodes that I haven't seen since recently, when BoJack Horseman came along which takes a similar serious and cerebral bent without losing it's funny bone.

"The Call of the Simpsons": Season 1, Episode 7. Airdate February 18, 1990.

This is one of the lighter episodes, mostly due to it being outdoors and out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We see Homer and Bart and Marge and Lisa respectively bond over how they adapt to the wild, and Maggie bonding with a pack of wild bears. My favorite scene is the yuppie Hank Azaria plays, taunting the bears to eat him and such while they steal his kids' toys. It's one of the first episodes where Maggie holds her own in a subplot. Also the first appearance of "A. Brooks", and the first "D'oh" I believe as well.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#30 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:54 pm

Features the first great line of the series, "Mr Simpson, have you ever known a siren to be good?"

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#31 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:24 pm

Bart's Inner Child (Season 5) is another great episode and certainly has one of my favourite lines:

Well, here we are at the Brad Goodman lecture.
- We know, Dad.
- I just thought I'd remind everybody.
After all, we did agree to attend a self-help seminar.
What an odd thing to say.

Oh, and it has Trampopoline too!

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#32 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:27 pm

Is that the episode where Albert Brooks says of an unseen celebrity, "I loved her in the thing I saw her in"? I think of that line all the time, there's just no one better at crafting such perfectly worded improv than Brooks

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#33 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:31 pm

domino harvey wrote:Is that the episode where Albert Brooks says of an unseen celebrity, "I loved her in the thing I saw her in"? I think of that line all the time, there's just no one better at crafting such perfectly worded improv than Brooks
Yeah, he's great in it - it also has one of the better Troy McClure bits; you might remember me from such films as "smoke yourself thin" and "get confident stupid!".

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#34 Post by Titus » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:57 pm

The moment in that episode where Homer and Marge listen as Jimbo, Kearney, and Nelson decide to use their car as a trampoline is a favorite.

Image

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#35 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:47 pm

I watched all the Tracey Ullman shorts with my daughter. Nothing in danger of making my list, though I guess I'll say that Grandpa and the Kids stood out for most approaching the dry sense of humor that the show would later master. I also got a kick out of the two-part Maggie in Peril--all of the shorts are 1-3 minutes long and both of these each only last a minute, but for some reason the first one ends in a cliffhanger and then the second one literally spends half the time recapping the events of the previous installment! (Bart does this with a winking, languorous narration that suggests a structural joke rather than inept storytelling.)

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#36 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:52 pm

domino harvey wrote:Is that the episode where Albert Brooks says of an unseen celebrity, "I loved her in the thing I saw her in"?
Martha Quinn?

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#37 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:24 pm

Marge in Chains (S4, Ep 21)
This is one of the less flashy episodes where a plot description (everyone in the town gets the flu and Marge goes to jail after shoplifting bourbon) will likely not jog your memory, but it's solidly hilarious throughout, from the Nick Riviera juicer infomercial to the unruly mob that takes over the town (one woman in a crowd throws an old lady to the ground as she cries out "Where can we get these placebos?") to Marge's trial, where Lionel Hutz uses his infamous "I'm not wearing a tie at all" defense. Also this:

"Mr. Hutz, this verdict has been written on a napkin. And it still says guilty. And guilty has been misspelled."
"Uh, I move for a...bad court thingy."
"You mean a mistrial?"
"Yeah! That's why you're the judge and I'm the...law talking guy."

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#38 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:39 pm

Sherriff Lobo is one of the numerous pop culture references I only know because of this show. Is this the episode with the infomercial offer of a "state of Kansas Jello mold"?

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#39 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:50 pm

That's apparently Saturdays of Thunder (S3, Ep 9). Here's the infomercial from this episode.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#40 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:24 am

"The Telltale Head": Season 1, Episode 8. Airdate February 25, 1990.

The earliest memory of something I'd ever seen that began at the end, which sticks out. This is the debut episode of many characters that would become staples of the show to this day, including Reverend Lovejoy, Krusty the Clown, and Apu. It also contains easily what is one of my top five exchanges in the show
Bart: Uh, ma'am, what if you're a really good person but you're in a really, really, really bad fight and your leg gets gangrene and has to be amputated. Will it be waiting for you in heaven?

Sunday School Teacher: For the last time, Bart, yes!
This wasn't the kind of show that ever uttered the phrase "a very special episode" in it's advertising. The show, as it was then, stood as anathema to what every family comedy stood for then (possibly apart from Roseanne, which was tearing down the system in it's own way). But inherit in that kind of rebelliousness against the status quo, there were still things to learn from it if you were as young as I or some of you reading this were when we saw it. The term "peer pressure" isn't uttered at all, but I'm sure most of us as adults now and maybe even our parents could recognize that, even beneath more snarky material like the skewering of organized religion by that quote and Homer's sneaking in of the Walkman to the sermon, it said something about peer pressure in the form of the wildly misguided impression Bart has by defacing the statue. Even the friends he tries to impress by doing it are upset by what happened (and stupid enough not to put 2 and 2 together when they ask what's in the bag).
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#41 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:49 am

A great idea for a list project! I came strangely late to The Simpsons as they were a big thing on Sky's satellite channels (owned by Rupert Murdoch) in the early 90s before finally and belatedly getting picked up by the BBC in late September 1996 (which is one of the reasons why the 'terrestrial' UK TV airings of the show have always been 6 or 7 years behind, even when The Simpsons moved to Channel 4 in the mid-2000s). So weirdly the first time I ever saw the Simpsons was very briefly when an episode was put on in a classroom at my school to keep the behind the scenes students quite during a school nativity play, which must have been 1991 or so! And of course you couldn't escape the "Do The Bartman!" song going around at the time. But then for me it all died down completely until the show turned up on the BBC, and it has never left the TV since.

I do remember though a girl I knew at college who had satellite TV teasing me with details of the Who Shot Mr Burns? mystery, and she even brought in a tape of some sort of live action recap thing that they had gotten some real life Fox news anchors to do in order to lead into the new season, which was basically material to fill the schedules and buy time until the next episode aired, but perhaps shows how big the Simpsons was getting at that point for an animated show to get live action people jumping to its tune!

I also have fond memories of this same girl also bringing in her Simpsons episode guides and photocopying the list of episodes for me to keep for reference on our library photocopier! (Ah, the last few years before I had the internet are coming flooding back to me! That moment, and spending an hour in the computer room trying to slowly download the Quicktime trailer for Deep Impact are, perhaps tellingly for my academic achievements, some of my favourite memories of college!)

(Apropos of nothing, I remember her also trying to teach me to play snooker! But I failed miserably at it! She was one of the coolest people I knew at college though! I also remember being too shy to buy a VHS tape of Cronenberg's Crash, being underage and it being a 'notorious' film at the time, so she grabbed the tape and my money and brazenly stepped up to the counter herself and bought it on my behalf!)

This thread might turn into a huge quote-fest, but that is perhaps one of the reasons for the show's longevity, in that it keeps expressing some of the issues of modern life in a pithy and always amusing way. It is often not just the script but the staging and handling of a joke that provides the biggest laugh: I think the supreme example of that (and still the best "D'oh!" gag) is in the Bart Gets An Elephant episode with "D'oh"..."A deer!"...."A female deer".

I also love Kent Brockman in the early series. At that point he's really the American news satire equivalent of Chris Morris's horrible news anchor in The Day Today or Brasseye, with his horrible put downs of guests and pat summations of horrible events, even before he gets to selling out humanity as a whole with his "I for one welcome our new insect overlords!" speech! I wonder how much of the puncturing of that news anchor pomposity is a nod towards a certain Broadcast News view of the world.

I thought I'd throw in the two of my favourite adages which the show provided that I now find I live by, or at least keep regularly coming to mind: the one in the Homer and Apu show where Apu shows Marge the best line to queue for in the supermarket, which is the longer but faster moving one: "all lonely single men: paying by cash, no chit-chat" (it applies even more these days when people can ask for cash-back or to use money off coupons, or buy things that are improperly barcoded, forcing another member of staff to run off to find out the price! I dread the panicked ring from a cashier's till to show that they have run into a problem they cannot solve without help!)

And the Bart Gets An Elephant one has the great piece of, depressing but true, bit of life philosophy at the end: "Animals are a lot like people, Mrs. Simpson: some of them act badly because they’ve had a hard life or have been mistreated. But, like people, some of them are just jerks"
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#42 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:53 am

That's a good "D'oh" gag, but I like Homer's alteration during the Witness parody: "D'oheth!"

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#43 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sat Mar 19, 2016 7:14 am

Well, I might as well go to bat for some of the "later" episodes.
I already touted HomR (Crayon in the Brain) from Season 12.
S12 is one of those seasons that are wildly erratic. The lows are pretty shoddy while the highs rank up there with some of the best. S12 is also guilty of garbage endings, notoriously when Otto randomly pops in and yells Surfs up! out of the blue, to conclude an iffy episode of Homer & Bart grifting.

Another gem from Season 12 is Trilogy of Error.
To refresh memories: marge accidentally cuts off Homer's thumb, Lisa builds Linguo as her science project, Bart gets involved in a mafia fireworks racket.
All this good stuff presented from 3-different vantage points, a la Run Lola Run. The first time I saw this episode, I was blown away. It's faced paced, with a lot going on and interconnecting. And the jokes throughout are good. My favorite little throw-away joke is when Krusty drops Lisa off at the wrong school. In her haste to turn in her science project she doesn't notice. The kids in the French class laugh at her mistake. The French teacher chides them, and they all proceed to laugh French style.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#44 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:14 am

Big fan of Homer and Apu, mainly for James Woods' cameo; where he asks Jimbo to critique his performance or where he tells the robber that if "I tried anything funny, you would be in hysterics". His best work since The Specialist.

Although Homer's three questions at the world's first Kwik-E-Mart in the Himalayas is good too.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#45 Post by HJackson » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:44 am

Bart the General is the only season one episode with a real shot at making my final list. There are other episodes I'm quite fond of, like Life on the Fast Lane, but I don't think they'll manage to creep in against the stiff competition from seasons three through six. fly is right that Abe isn't a very fleshed out character at this point, but I love the use they make of Herman (does he ever get another episode this good?)

"How many men do you have?"
"None."
"You'll need more!"

If I remember properly there is a gag later where they boys are drilling maneuvers and Herman stabs the sack standing for Nelson with a bayonet! You obviously couldn't get away with that in a live action comedy, it would just bring to mind how sick it is that a mentally ill war veteran is teaching children how to enact violence against each other (and would also raise questions about using a character like that for comedy in the first place), but in The Simpsons is just works. As much as people talk about the quality of the family dynamics in the early seasons (and that surely is the bread and butter), a lot of credit goes to the writers for the wider web of characters they developed. Bart Gets an Elephant will definitely make the final cut and the highlight of that ep, for me, is Mr Blackheart the ivory dealer - possibly the best one scene character in the entire series.

The animation style of these early eps always used to annoy me a younger child but I admire them more now. I think they look more like cartoons than drawn sitcoms (which later episodes in the Golden Age begin to resemble even before they adopted the sterile digital animation they use now).

My #1 will almost certainly be Homer Badman, but I look forward to storming through the golden years and seeing what else comes out near the top. I have my pet favourites like A Streecar Named Marge and The Boy Who Knew Too Much, but they always seem to change when I run through the series.

Many thanks to Lemmy Caution for flagging up some later episodes by the way. I most likely won't get to those seasons so any individual episode recs are very useful.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#46 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:52 am

Bart of Darkness, the Rear Window parody, is another great one - feel like I'm just reeling off my list now.

Martin saying he's the queen of Summer (and the pool guy looking at him), the bit where Nelson pulls his trunks off after Martin's pool breaks, Bart's play with Aunt HELGA, Homer's sarcasm when Flanders explains what happened to Maud,

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#47 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:57 am

I agree with Lemmy on his Season 12 choices ("The esoteric appeal is worth the beatings"). It was interesting to learn from the commentary that while they use the Run Lola Run music for Trilogy of Error, that they were just as influenced by that Doug Liman film Go (which might also be a good film for the ongoing Films of Youth List), and Go also seems to provide the inspiration for the "we've been spinning for hours!" moment, in its supermarket scene!

I understand where everyone is coming from that the touching and more grounded elements are long gone, but still the show has some real sharpness to some of its overblown situations that I still enjoy at this point (and this is the point where the mournful funeral bell music keeps turning up again and again as a music cue to introduce scenes, as if to keep suggesting the worst and that characters have died between one scene and the next!). After all this is the season with the "New Kids on the Blecch" episode which satirises manufactured boy bands "Wow, it's N-Sync!", before subliminal advertising "Yvan Eht Noij" ("directed by Ang Lee"!) before all coming down to an angry authoritarian commandeering a submarine in an attempt to destroy the centre of all the world's anarchy: the New York skyscraper containing Mad Magazine's offices! And succeeding!

Also in Simpson Safari in Season 12 I love the completely unmotivated shot at Dian Fossey-style primatologists for its final twist! "Why don't you tell her about the diamond mine, doctor?"..."She's one of the ten richest chimp researchers in the world" and the crazed turn into screaming "Diamonds! Diamonds!" by Dr Bushwell!

And that also has one of Homer's best non-sequitur lines: "Look at me, I'm a scientist! Ahh, Africa!"
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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#48 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:04 am

As someone with a perverse interest in the post-Tarantino cashins of the 90s, I can say with no hesitancy that Go is easily the best of the lot. But we digress!

I have to confess I hate the boy band episode and it's one of the more memorable showings of decline (though even it still has a great joke with the Mad Magazine bullsesh that ends with the proposal: "Hey, how about Everybody Hates Raymond?"). I do think the Africa episode and the Brazil episode in the thirteenth season are the last two I can remember making me laugh consistently enough to recommend, though I can't vouch for them fully having not seen them since they first aired. Looking at what surrounds them, I can't imagine picking up the sets for them (I think I stopped buying the DVD sets with season eleven, which has the last classic episode to my eyes, the one where Homer becomes a food critic)

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#49 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sat Mar 19, 2016 10:25 am

Some of the other good episodes from S12
These tend to be half very good with weak spots:

Worst Episode Ever -- Comic book Guy's heart attack. And since he has no friends, he lets Bart & Millhouse run the store while he's recovering. It's a bit spotty, but the kids running the comic book store and especially Millhouse blowing all the money on BiClops (Kearney: "it doesn't even smack good") are classic bits.

Skinner's Sense of Snow -- mentioned earlier.
2/3rd of this is terrific. Snowed in at school, the terrible film shown in class (complete with dvd somehow catching fire), Homer and Ned to the rescue (I love the way the car freezes up). But all the abuse Bart administers to Skinner irritates me. And a few of the jokes and zaniness are overdone. The ending is mediocre.

The Computer Wore Menace Shoes -- Homer as the mysterious Mr. X who dishes dirt on the townspeople via the internet (and making shit up). I love how his website loads slowly so you see Homer's photo for a second before the paper bag with the X covers it over. The last segment gets surreal, when Homer is prisoner on a strange island. And the German guy impersonating Homer is amusing. The ending is weird. Homer returns home and greets his family, but then the drugging gas comes out of Santa's Little Helper, and the whole family gets taken to the island. Kind of playing around with odd endings and discontinuity.

There are good lines and gags in a number of S12 episodes, but the plotting and joke ratio can be pretty shaky at times. In Insane Clown Poppy, Krusty discovers he has a daughter. They go to the beach and Krusty says: "Look, I'm not the kind of Dad who does things, or says things, or ... looks at you."
That always cracks me up, even if otherwise the beach scene and their other adventures are kind of flaccid.

Bad episodes from S12. Oddly concentrated mostly in the beginning of the season.

The Great Money Caper -- Bart & Homer grifting. It never comes together, isn't funny, and ends with Otto's random entrance.

Homer vs. Dignity -- Homer becomes Mr. Burns' "prank monkey." Resulting in Homer having sex with a giant panda. And rolling around a bathroom floor in a diaper. A terrible episode. Would make you believe the show was nearing the end of its run.

A Tale of Two Springfields -- disparaged earlier.
Springfield gets divided by Homer, area codes, and a wall of garbage.
Then the Who arrive. Just an unsalvageable mess.

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Re: The Simpsons List Discussion and Suggestions

#50 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 19, 2016 10:31 am

Edward Norton: great actor, but possibly the worst voice guest star the show ever had

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