Part 3 of my ongoing list.
#30: You Only Move Twice
Original Air Date: November 3, 1996
PLOT: Homer gets a job for another company and the family moves to Cypress Creek.
This is one of the best Albert Brooks characters in the series of the show. He’s had many memorable ones, but this one just sticks out so much. Hank Scorpio is happy, fun-loving, and sociopathic; everything anyone would want in a new boss. His performance as this happy-go-lucky criminal mastermind is hilarious and really what sells this episode.
Its interesting to see the Simpsons deal with new locales. Much like the vacation episodes, it sort of breathes life into the plot. Even today, when the show may seem a bit tired, an episode in a different location is always an interesting watch; it gives the family a new playground. What is interesting here is to see how miserable everybody in the family is in what seems to be a utopia compared to Springfield.
#29: Bart Carny
Original Air Date: January 11, 1998
PLOT: Homer and Bart become carnies, trash the carnival, and eventually lose the house to a father and son they brought home to live with them.
This is probably one of the most convoluted plots that I had to write. As the show has gotten older, it seems to be the case more and more. The first five minutes of each show sets gets you to the main plot, but in hindsight, the first five minutes usually have nothing to do with the rest of the show.
Regardless, this episode is just plain hilarious. One of the main reasons is the voice work by the late Jim Varney. As a kid, I was a bit of an Ernest fan and I won’t apologize for it. No. Not even to my parents for dragging them to see Ernest Scared Stupid in theaters. Jim Varney is at his best here as Cooder, the adult carny that the Simpsons lose their house to. It’s Varney as Varney basically, but Cooder, as a one-and-done character, is really a nicely developed character.
The Simpsons have lent their house out to a number of people: Cooder and son, Otto, Roy, Gil, Otto’s ex-fiance Becky, etc. and this one is probably the funniest. More or less, these stories are all about the same, but here, rather than wear out the initial welcome, they take the house. And in what is one of Homer’s finest moments, the Simpsons get it back by out-carnying the carnies. Truly, its a fine moment from the series.
#28: Homer the Heretic
Original Air Date: October 8, 1992
PLOT: Homer spurns religion in order to have Sunday mornings to himself.
What will forever separate The Simpsons with most other sitcoms is its lack of fear regarding religion. Religion has always been a big part of the show and a handful of episodes have focused on it. Here we have Homer questioning the point of going to church. Of course, Homer’s existential crisis is much more selfish than it is profound, but to even broach the subject is a milestone.
I love how Homer acts when he is home alone. We can assume that this is basically the first time he’s ever been alone in the house ever since the kids were born and he gets to do all the slovenly things he can think of, which is everything we’d expect from him. Peeing with the door open. Such an underrated luxury.
#27: Bart the Daredevil
Original Air Date: December 6, 1990
PLOT: Bart becomes a daredevil and plans to jump Springfield Gorge on his skateboard.
This is arguably the first great episode in the long history of the Simpsons. The eighth episode to air from the second season, its perfect sitcom writing, if not still a little raw, shows the promise of what would come in the later years.
What makes Bart the Daredevil such a classic is the fateful finale at the Gorge. Prior to this scene, it is a great episode in its own right, a very nice character piece of Bart’s “Flavor of the Month” dream of becoming a daredevil. But the scene between Homer and Bart is what makes this a classic. For no other reason than Homer’s literal highs and lows.
To be fair, the greatness of this scene has a decent amount to owe to Wile E. Coyote, as not only the setting, but the outcome bares a striking resemblance to the trials and tribulations of that hard-luck cartoon.
#26: Homie the Clown
Original Air Date: February 12, 1995
PLOT: Homer decides to become a Krusty the Clown impersonator and runs afoul of the Mafia.
I’m admittedly not the biggest Krusty the Clown fan. He’s okay in small doses, but Krusty-themed episodes usually seem like a waste of an episode. But not this one.
There’s a great plot balance between Homer and Krusty here, but Homer really has some amazing moments in this episode. One of the absolute best moments from the episode also has to be one of my favorite moments from the series. When appearing at a Krusty Burger opening, Homer beats, nearly to death, the Krusty Burger equivalent of the Hamburglar. It’s incredibly violent, but utterly hilarious.
And this also has one of my favorite lines from the entire run of the series:
Milhouse: “My dad’s a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory.”
This line has everything that I love about Milhouse all wrapped up inside it.