THE SIMPSONSâ€™ HITS 500th EPISODE: The Top-15 Episodes Ever (*And Top-5 Moments)
ByÂ Michael Cavna
ON THE FOX LOT IN LOS ANGELES yesterday, the brilliant folks behind â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ gathered to celebrate the showâ€™s 500th episode this Sunday.
â€œA bust of Homer was unveiled,â€ â€œSimpsonsâ€ writer Tom Gammill tells Comic Riffs, â€œand there were free donuts for everyone!
â€œPlus, Matt Groening signed 300 special anniversay cels and presented them to the staff,â€ continues Gammill, who also wrote for â€œSeinfeldâ€ and is now creator of the strip â€œThe Doozies.â€
Groening, who created â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ a quarter-century ago, told the gathered talent: â€œSee everyone in 25 years to celebrate our 1,000th episode.â€
For now, itâ€™s been a time to celebrate the landmark showâ€™s creative achievements along its way to becoming the longest-running sitcom on American TV. This week alone, Groening got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the animated show has drawn media attention for its voice-actor â€œgetâ€ for this Sunday: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
To mark the occasion, Comic Riffs asked Gammill to share his Top 5 favorite moments from the show. And we asked â€œSimpsonsâ€ expert Andrew Farago, curator at the esteemed Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, to share his Top-15 favorite episodes from the rich history of the show.
Here are their picks:
TOM GAMMILLâ€™s FIVE FAVORITE â€œCARTOONISTâ€ MOMENTS:
1. Bart visits the offices of MAD Magazine, meets Alfred E. Newman (â€œThe City of New York vs. Homer Simpsonâ€).
2. â€œWatchmenâ€ creator Alan Moore sings the theme to â€œLittle Luluâ€ (â€œHusbands and Knivesâ€).
3. â€œMausâ€ creator Art Spiegelman, wearing a â€œMausâ€ mask, punches Comic Book Guy in the face (â€œHusbands and Knivesâ€).
4. â€œThe Far Sideâ€ creator Gary Larson comes out of retirement to be the in-house cartoonist at a nuclear power plant â€” and draws Homer his own â€œFar Sideâ€ cartoon (â€œOnce Upon a Time in Sprinfieldâ€).
5. â€œThe Gammillsâ€ show up at a picnic hosted by Mr. Burns (â€œDancinâ€™ Homerâ€).
ANDREW FARAGOâ€™s TOP-15 EPISODES:
Has it been 500 episodes already? I still remember watching the Tracey Ullman show every week, hoping for another Simpsons short, and the excitement leading up to the series premiere, speculating about the identity of Mr. Burnsâ€™s would-be assassin, and thinking, â€œWow, thatâ€™s a lot of cartoonsâ€ when the 200th episode aired toward the end of my senior year of college. Rather than list my 500 favorite things about the Simpsons, Iâ€™ll stick to my favorite episodes.
1. â€œLisaâ€™s Substitute,â€ written by Jon Vitti, directed by Rich Moore. (Season 2, episode 19).
â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ hasnâ€™t only endured because of its humor, itâ€™s endured because of its heart. Just about everyone can relate to Lisaâ€™s struggle to fit in at school and with her family.
2. â€œHomer at the Bat,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Jim Reardon (Season 3, episode 13). This episode aired during the peak of my baseball card-collecting days, and itâ€™s a great snapshot of the Major Leagues during the early 1990s, as well as baseball in general. Iâ€™ve still got the Terry Cashman song that plays over the end credits memorized.
3. â€œKrusty Gets Kancelled,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by David Silverman (Season 4, episode 19). Lots of great moments in this episode, and one of many key moments when the world got a sense of just how big â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ was becoming. Theyâ€™d been name-checked by President Bush (more on him later), weâ€™d seen nationwide t-shirt controversies, and this single episode featured guest voices from Johnny Carson, Bette Midler, Elizabeth Taylor, Hugh Hefner, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luke Perry and the ever-popular Barry White.
4. â€œHomerâ€™s Barbershop Quartet,â€ written by Jeff Martin, directed by Mark Kirkland (Season 5, episode 1). Not the first flashback episode, but easily my favorite. â€œBaby on Boardâ€ easily makes my top five favorite fictional hit songs from a fictional barbershop quartet list.
5. â€œCape Feare,â€ written by Jon Vitti, directed by Rich Moore (Season 5, episode 2). The show was firing on all cylinders from the fourth through seventh seasons. I could pick any 10 episodes from this era and make a case for their inclusion on a top ten list. Kelsey Grammerâ€™s Sideshow Bob is at his most sinister and his most ridiculous in this episode.
6. â€œHomer Goes to College,â€ written by Conan Oâ€™Brien, directed by Jim Reardon (Season 5, episode 3). The first long conversation I had with my soon-to-be best friend in college was a point-by-point discussion of this episode. Every great comedy writer loves â€œAnimal Houseâ€ and the works of John Landis, and this is one of many great episodes from the Conan Oâ€™Brien era of the show.
7. â€œRadioactive Man,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Susie Dietter (Season 7, episode 2). â€œUp and at them!â€ kills me every time.
8. â€œBart Sells His Soul,â€ written by Greg Daniels, directed by Wesley Archer (Season 7, episode 4). Hereâ€™s another episode thatâ€™s equal parts humor and heart. The writers did an amazing job getting into the head of a typical 10-year-old boy with an atypical problem.
10. â€œHomer the Smithers,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Steve Moore (Season 7, episode 17). I canâ€™t think of an episode pairing Homer and Mr. Burns that I didnâ€™t like, and this oneâ€™s at the top of my list. Weâ€™d gotten a sense of just how difficult Waylon Smithersâ€™s job was in earlier episodes, but this one really drives home just how irreplaceable he really is.
11. â€œYou Only Move Twice,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Mike B. Anderson (Season 8, episode 2). Albert Brooks as a supervillain right out of a James Bond movie. This is why Iâ€™ve always been suspicious of startup companies.
12. â€œBurns, Baby Burns,â€ written by Ian Maxtone-Graham, directed by Jim Reardon (Season 8, episode 4). This and â€œHomer Goes to Collegeâ€ are on my list of all-time favorite 1980s teen comedies that werenâ€™t films, made in the 1980s, or about teenagers.
13. â€œHomerâ€™s Enemy,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Jim Reardon (Season 8, episode 23). This is my â€œdesert islandâ€ Simpsons episode. The entire series felt like it was leading up to this one, and the most prolific â€œSimpsonsâ€ writer â€” Swartzwelder â€” knocks it out of the park. Frank Grimes, we hardly knew ye.
Thatâ€™s thirteen episodes, isnâ€™t it? Just to round things out, Iâ€™ll mention:
14. â€œMr. Spritz Goes to Washington,â€ written by John Swartzwelder, directed by Lance Kramer (Season 14, episode 14) and
15. â€œThe Bart of War,â€ written by Marck Wilmore, directed by Michael Polcino (Season 14, episode 21), since I got to watch some of the writers and producers record DVD commentary for those episodes.