Part 2 of my ongoing list.
#35: $pringfield Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling
Original Air Date: December 16, 1993
PLOT: Mr. Burns builds a casino in Springfield in order to bring in more revenue for the town. Marge becomes addicted to the slot machines.
This is another great Marge episode, mainly because this is one of the earliest episodes in which she shows some imperfections. Where the Season 2 episode “Life in the Fast Lane” has Marge toeing the line with infidelity, this episode has her developing a gambling addiction. Its not a great Marge episode though as, more or less, she spends most of the episode zombified by the bright lights of the casino floor. But it is, however, a great episode that shows what happens when she leaves Homer in charge for a couple of nights. Destruction, plain and simple.
There are some classic scenes in this episode, including Mr. Burns going Howard Hughes on Smithers, Robert Goulet performing at Bart’s casino, and Homer trying to make Lisa’s costume. Not to mention Homer’s invention of Gamblor, the monster who has Marge in his neon clutches.
#34: The PTA Disbands
Original Air Date: April 16, 1995
PLOT: An argument over budget cuts forces the teachers of Springfield to go on strike.
“That’s a paddlin’.” That’s what makes this episode. Sure, the rest of the episode is hilarious, but those three words. That’s. A. Paddlin’. Someone earned their paycheck when they wrote that.
Above all else, what does make this episode so funny is the cast of characters brought in to the school when the teachers go on strike. From Moe’s self-consciousness to the Marge/Bart dynamic, is comedy gold. I love the different takes each kid has when it comes to having no school, between Bart going mad with opportunity and Lisa breaking down when no structure rules her life.
This episode has one of the best examples of the comedic running gag the Simpsons have done time and time again. The good ‘ol “Panic and jump out a window” gag. Its a hilarious gag and one of the most obvious reasons why this show works best as an animated series.
#33: Lisa on Ice
Original Air Date: November 13, 1994
PLOT: In order to pass gym, Lisa takes up ice hockey, leading to sibling rivalry between her and Bart.
I love when the Simpsons tackle sports. Its a side that they get to maybe every other season or so, but I always enjoy the episodes. I especially love this one because how it depicts the relationship between Bart and Lisa. Its one of the strongest brother-sister episodes of the entire run of the show. And with Homer there to egg it on, its truly perfect.
This is a really strong Lisa episode and I like seeing the competitive side of her. She’s always such a goodie-two-shoes, so its hilarious to hear her yell “HACK THE BONE!” I also love when she imagines what would happen to her if she fails gym. Its very childlike to think that elementary school gym could affect a presidential election. Oh, and we actually learn that Monster Island is actually a peninsula.
Sidebar: I love Milhouse in this episode, merely because he just can’t catch a break. And I love when Milhouse gets hurt or cries.
#32: Homer Loves Flanders
Original Air Date: March 17, 1994
PLOT: After going to a football game with Ned Flanders, Homer goes full-force into a friendship with his neighbor, greatly testing the patience of the good-willed Ned.
This is an interesting episode because it dramatically alters the relationship between Homer and Ned Flanders, one of the most prominent secondary characters in the show. To see Homer genuinely become friends with a character he’s disliked for so long is a true stroke of genius. It would be like if Seinfeld devoted an entire episode to a budding friendship between Jerry and Newman. Its a 180 degree turn in character chemistry.
What makes this switch even more dynamic is that being friends with Homer seems to be more dangerous to Ned than when Homer hated him. It tests his patience to the brink, as well it should, as Homer going full-force into anything usually leaves behind a lot of collateral damage.
#31: Mr. Plow
Original Air Date: November 19, 1992
PLOT: Homer and Barney start rival snow-plowing businesses.
This episode almost needs no introduction. It’s a very popular episode, almost for the soul reason of that catchy jingle:
Call Mr. Plow, that’s my name,
that name again is Mr. Plow!
This is one of the first episodes in the early seasons in the Simpsons that features a new career path for Homer as the major plot point. This idea started with the very first episode (Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire) and is still quite prevalent.
This one is great because it pits Homer in a not-so-friendly competition with one of his best friends, Barney. Rarely do we actually get to explore the friendships that Homer keeps and getting to see Homer at odds with his oldest friend is an interesting character turn. Its fun to see how competitive they get over what is, essentially, a part-time job. From their competing commercials to their attempts to steal each other’s business, its an interesting game of one-upsmanship.
Bonus GIF: ADAM WEST!!!!!