Simpsons Club Presents: The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Monday, March 31; 10:00pm (Buy Tickets)

To celebrate Simpsons Club’s one year anniversary, we held a countdown of our favorite episodes that we’ve shown so far leading up to a screening of our favorite episode before The Simpsons Movie (Buy Tickets) in the theater.

It’s missing a few ingredients, I’ll admit, but overall I think the following 17 episodes illustrate the strength of the show’s characters, and what makes them so enduringly popular. If I neglected to include a favorite of yours, then I’m sorry. I didn’t put Homer Badman on there, and that’s my favorite episode. Sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches.

BEST OF SIMPSONS CLUB COUNTDOWN

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17. Bart Carny (Season 9, Episode 12)
The Simpsons get hoodwinked out of their house by a pair of conniving carnies.

Pure silliness. Bart falls for Homer’s idealized idea of what it is to be a noble carny, despite the fact that all evidence points to carnival folk being shifty, toothless hicks. Mean spirited towards the toothless hicks of the world? I guess, but do they even have TV’s to get upset by it? The answer to that question, my friends, is no.

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16. The Front (Season 4, Episode 19)
Bart and Lisa begin writing popular Itchy and Scratchy episodes using Grampa’s name

An under-praised episode centered on Grampa at his absolute crotchetiest. Abe Simpson’s endless ranting on the poor treatment of the elderly are cutting and hilarious, and the episode features some of the show’s best “Itchy and Scratchy” bits, including one where, after being flayed, Scratchy gets beaten by animal rights activists for wearing his own fur like a coat.

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15. Homie the Clown (Season 6, Episode 15)
Homer lives out one of his many lifelong dreams by attending clown college

One of my favorite long-running jokes is Homer’s seemingly endless quest to live out his many life-long dreams. Here’s a few of them: Manage a beautiful country western singer (Check.), eat the world’s biggest hoagie (Check.), become a blackjack dealer (Check.), be a contestant on “The Gong Show” (Check.), work from home (Check.), become a monorail conductor (Check.), become the next Thomas Edison (Almost!), become a hippie (Check.), bowl a perfect game (Check.), own the Dallas Cowboys (Awww.), and see Stevie Nicks naked (Check, Check and Check.).

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14. In Marge We Trust (Season 8, Episode 22)
MISTTAAARRR SPARKULALOOOOOOO

Mister Sparkle may be the single greatest Simpsons joke of all time. A bit of a spoof on Western stars’ tendency to show up in bizarre Japanese commercials for a quick payday, Mr. Sparkle is a throwaway gag that the writers wrapped a mystery around and shoved into an unrelated episode about a disaffected Reverend Lovejoy reconnecting with his desire to help people.

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13. Bart the Daredevil (Season 2, Episode 8)
Bart hopes to become the world’s greatest daredevil by jumping Springfield Gorge on his skateboard

This episode, along with Bart Gets an F, is one of the first that uses Bart as more than a device to sell merchandise. Like his father, Bart’s also a bit of a dreamer. When he sees walking death wish Lance Murdoch at a monster truck rally, the boy almost instantly dedicates his life to daredevilry — nevermind that he sees his hero botch his jump and get mauled by a water-logged lion. If anything, that probably made being a daredevil look even more appealing.

This is also the episode where Homer falls into Springfield Gorge twice, which is always, always, always funny.

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12. Treehouse of Horror IV (Season 5, Episode 5)
Homer sells his soul for a donut; Bart fights a gremlin on the school bus; and the town gets overrun by vampires

Picking the best Treehouse of Horror is a bit like picking… I don’t know… Picking your favorite breakfast cereal. They all hit the same spot, but in different ways. A bowl of corn flakes can be just as satisfying as sugar smacks, it just depends on the day, you know?

What the hell am I talking about?

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11. Homer at the Bat (Season 3, Episode 17)
Mr. Burns enlists Major League All-Stars as ringers for the Power Plant’s softball team

As successful as he is, whenever Mr. Burns gets excited about anything he almost always mucks it up — but man, he mucks things up with style. Monty seems to get a revitalizing kick out of doing stuff like this, and because he’s out of touch and 100-years-old, he tries to solve everything with turn-of-the-century quackery: mesmerism, brain tonic, professional players who have been dead since the 30’s.

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10. Last Exit to Springfield (Season 4, Episode 17)
Homer leads a strike against the Nuclear Power Plant to reinstate the workers’ dental plan (Lisa needs braces)

This episode is the one that’s most frequently cited as being the show’s best. I can see why, it has some great character moments with Homer standing up to his boss for the good of his family, there’s about 100 memorable lines that I say frequently (the ladies at the burrito truck haaaate me), and the B-story of Lisa enduring braces actually plays into the main story, which is kind of rare in the grand scheme of the show.

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9. Cape Feare (Season 5, Episode 2)
Threats from Sideshow Bob force the Simpsons into the Witness Relocation Program

Picking a favorite Sideshow Bob episode really boils down to this episode and Sideshow Bob Roberts, an uncharacteristically political episode where Bob becomes Springfield’s new Republican mayor. Cape Feare wins out for its simplicity (also: funnier). There’s no devious plotting or high-level conspiratorial nonsense, Bob is out to do one thing in this episode and that is to crush, maim and murder Bart Simpson (okay, three things). The script also gives Kelsey Grammer plenty of chances to do his thing: laugh maniacally, grumble repeatedly and sing like a goddamned angel.

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8. Marge vs. The Monorail (Season 4, Episode 12)
A crooning swindler tricks Springfield into investing in a dangerously crummy monorail

If you took a Simpsons popularity poll, I can’t imagine any other episode landing on top other than Marge vs. The Monorail. The episode is as brilliant as it is bizarre, pushing the fairly grounded first few seasons into a song-and-dance routine of lunacy and crazy gags. Things like the popcorn truck explosion or the escalator to nowhere would have been out of place earlier in the show’s run, but here? *does that kissing finger tips thing*

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7. 22 Short Films About Springfield (Season 7, Episode 21)
A day in the lives of Springfield’s finest told through 22 intercut short films

22 Short Films About Springfield is the fruit of seven years of character building. This is an ambitious episode, I can’t imagine many other long-running sitcoms spending an entire episode jumping from one secondary character to the next, and this does that with ease. Every short hits, all of them are funny. Now, because we’re here ranking things, let’s rank the 10 Best Shorts of 22 Short Films About Springfield:

1. Skinner and the Superintendent
2. Helms Calls for Donut Tax
3. I’m kidding, I’m not actually going to do this.

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6. Hurricane Neddy (Season 8, Episode 8)
When a hurricane leaves only the Casa de Flanders in ruins, Flanders lashes out at the entire town and commits himself to a mental institution where he is no stranger.

A man of faith who absorbs all of the abuse and nastiness in the world with a chipper okily-dokily, it was only a matter of time before Ned reached his tipping point. Ned’s meltdown is a thing of beauty. The town stands gobsmacked as he lets years of pent up aggression and vitriol pour out over everyone in his path. Ned gets treated like a bit of a punching bag on The Simpsons (he’s lost two wives now), and his screed of pure righteous indignation feels like earned comeuppance for a town that treats its nicest resident like dirt.

Todd showing off his donated Butthole Surfers shirt is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

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5. Lisa the Iconoclast (Season 7, Episode 16)
Lisa discovers that beloved town founder Jebediah Springfield was actually a ruthless pirate

Sparks always fly when Lisa and Homer get together, but of all of the Lisa/Homer episodes, this one is exceptionally sweet. When Lisa sets to tear down a local legend, Homer stands behind her every step of the way, even when the entire town turns against her. It’s nice. The two work together like a classic detective team, there’s Lisa, the girl genius, and Homer, her idiot companion. It’s like Mr. Peabody and Sherman, or that one Sherlock Holmes story where he solves a murder with… his dog, or something.

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4. The Last Temptation of Homer (Season 5, Episode 9)
Homer’s crush on an attractive new co-worker tempts him to stray from Marge

Family life ain’t always pretty — wives get sick and gross, your kids can turn out to be obnoxious nerds — and at times like that it can be difficult to turn off the lizard part of your brain that wants to get it on with every attractive member of the opposite sex. It’s kind of a ballsy move to make your show’s lovable father consider leaving his wife and family for a workplace crush, and Homer comes really close to going through with it in this episode. This story takes a difficult story and turns into something that’s both clever and emotionally honest.

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3. A Milhouse Divided (Season 8, Episode 6)
After the Van Houten’s have a nasty public meltdown, Homer grows concerned about the health of his own marriage

When played alongside other Simpsons classics, A Milhouse Divided is kind of a tough episode. The reason this episode works is because it treats a serious subject with just the right amount of levity, and it’s also not afraid to paint Kirk Van Houten as Springfield’s most pathetic man. Its biggest laughs spring up in tense or sad situations, and almost always at Kirk’s expense: Kirk belittling Luanne over Pictionary, him getting fired from his job at the cracker factory (“I don’t recall saying ‘good luck.'”), and that sad, sad bachelor pad.

What saves the episode from being especially dour is Homer’s realization that he too could end up like Kirk if he doesn’t watch out. Kirk and Luanne’s divorce re-affirms the show’s central relationship. Homer may not be an ideal husband, but the dude cares.

maggie

2. And Maggie Makes Three (Season 6, Episode 13)
Finally out of debt, Homer takes his dream job at the bowling alley — until Marge becomes pregnant with Maggie.

I really can’t say no to Homer being an absolute sweetie, can I? This episode melts hearts, it’s the ultimate Simpsons tear-jerker. Homer gives up everything for his family in this episode, and, surrounded by pictures of his daughter, he doesn’t regret doing it a bit. ADORABLE. Seriously, we screened it last night and people cried.

This is also an especially silly episode. Because Homer’s telling the story, he’s able to embellish the details, so we’re treated to surreal gags that the show usually avoids: Homer taking out a team of terrorists, his head exploding when trying to cope with Marge’s pregnancy (that’s Bart’s addition there), and a rather graphic depiction of Homer’s sperm at work.

This is where this article takes a turn for the bullshit. You ready? Find out our choice for Number 1 on March 31 at 10pm at our screening of The Simpsons Movie. Bawww, yeah, yeah. I don’t want to hear it. Now: Go buy tickets!

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Honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut for some reason or another: You Only Move Twice, Flaming Moe’s, Lemon of Troy, Lisa’s Substitute, Mother Simpson, A Fish Called Selma, Homer Badman, Duffless