The Simpsons 30th anniversary: The five greatest episodes
Six hundred and seventy-two episodes. Thirty years. One family. The Simpsons has occupied the televisions screens of millions across the globe for three decades.
Since its initial appearance as a short on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987, The Simpsons has accumulated billions of dollars through merchandise sales, video games, a hit movie and, of course, the 1990 hit single “Do the Bartman”. The show has evolved into the one of most successful franchises of all time.
Cynicism would be easy in light of the show’s decline in quality and popularity, yet at its creative apex, the misadventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are unmatched even in today’s crowded animated comedy landscape. Peter Griffin and Hank Hill rode Homer’s coattails; with The Simpsons truly defining the trials, tribulations and quirks of American suburbia for a generation.
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Here is the definitive ranking of the top five Simpsons episodes.
5. “You Only Move Twice” – Season eight, episode two
Great Simpsons episodes are defined by their guest stars. This episode is no exception.
Homer is offered a job with the elusive Globex Corporation, resulting in the Simpsons moving to idyllic Cypress Creek. Albert Brooks plays Hank Scorpio, Homer’s affable new boss, a precursor to today’s faux friendly manager stereotype. Scorpio also happens to be a hammy villain worthy of Bond’s early rogues gallery.
Homer’s crisis of faith comes from his family’s failure to assimilate outside of Springfield rather than Scorpio’s dastardly deeds.
4. “Marge vs The Monorail” – Season four, episode 12
Springfield is a town that is easily duped.
In “Marge vs The Monorail”, con man Lyle Lanley (clue’s in the name) serenades the townspeople with promises of new jobs and an improved transport service with his monorail proposal. Contrary to her peers, Marge suspects Mr Lanley is not who he appears to be.
Lanley is voiced by the late Phil Hartman, voice of the beloved Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. His monorail pitch to Springfield is one of the show’s best musical numbers.
3. “Lisa vs Malibu Stacey” – Season five, episode 14
Woke before woke existed, Lisa Simpson symbolises the liberal pariah in middle America. Ostracised for her activism and mocked for her sincerity, Lisa is the family’s social conscience.
Lisa takes aim at the sexist depiction of her favourite toy, Malibu Stacey, questioning the Barbie substitute’s effect on young girls. Rarely shy of social commentary, The Simpsons critiques the superficial and damaging consumerism endemic in America culture.
2. “22 Short Films About Springfield” – Season seven, episode 21
The Simpsons’ supporting cast is the crème de la crème in television.
An homage to “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould”, this episode showcases a day in the life of Springfield’s zany residents in a series of interconnected vignettes. From Apu closing the Kwik-E-Mart for a five-minute party to Dr Nick proving himself as the town’s top quack, “22 Short Films About Springfield” conveys why these characters resonate with audiences.
Forever immortalised in meme, this episode features the seminal ‘‘steamed hams’’ scene. Principal Skinner cooks and ruins a meal for Superintendent Chalmers, leading the disgraced educator to serve Krusty Burgers, which he attempts to pass off as ‘‘steamed hams’’.
1. “Last Exit to Springfield” – Season four, episode 17
Whacky escapades aside, The Simpsons works best when depicting the reality of the average American family.
When Mr Burns challenges the plant’s trade union and revokes their proposed dental plan, Homer inadvertently ends up leading the strike so Lisa can get braces. Reflective of the cross many parents carry for their children, “Last Exit to Springfield” presents the show at its best.