The Simpsons reached a huge milestone this weekend when it aired its 500th episode. Like any middle-class male whose formative years took place around the same time The Simpsons debuted, my sense of humor owes a huge debt to the absurd shenanigans that take place each week in Springfield. While the quality of the show has waxed and waned since it's heyday of seasons one through eight, The Simpsons is still something I can count on every week for a few laughs while also sometimes managing to reach the heights of its hall of fame days. Here are my five favorite episodes in almost no order.
Homer Goes To College - When the Nuclear Regulatory Commission discovers that Homer doesn't have a college degree, he goes to school in an effort to rectify that and also live out every college comedy movie he's ever seen. Unfortunately for Homer's fantasy, the dean is not a monster, he befriends the nerds, and it turns out that Nuclear Physics 101 is kind of a difficult course. Much like any classic Simpsons episode, it's infinitely quotable and manages to focus on the one storyline the whole way through the half hour. It's also written by Conan O'Brien, demonstrating the depth the writing staff had at the time.
Homer Badman - Through a misunderstanding about a gummy Venus de Milo, a babysitter accuses Homer of sexual harassment. The media firestorm surrounding her accusation is the kind of satire that The Simpsons does best.
Three Men and a Comic Book - As soon as The Simpsons showcased an entire episode about buying an expensive comic book, they had me secured as a fan forever. It's not like comic books got any mainstream attention back in 1991, so getting one of the most popular shows in the world devoting half an hour to the expense of a single issue and how difficult it would be to split ownership between friends spoke to me on a level I hadn't experienced before.
Holidays of Future Passed - Here's an example of territory the show has covered before to varying degrees of success (fast-forwarding to a possible future for the family to see where they end up), and yet it's one that is incredibly sweet without losing the biting humor the show has always employed. There are definitely funnier episodes, but the weight of the show's history pushes this one over the top, especially the montage of family holiday photos at the beginning.
You Only Move Twice - Hands down, this is my favorite episode of all time. Hank Scorpio and his Globex corporation hire Homer and move the family to Cypress Creek because he's the second longest tenured individual at the power plant. Life seems perfect in the new town, but no one except Homer is happy. Also, despite his jovial exterior, Hank Scorpio is a James Bond style villain bent on world domination. Al Brooks steals the show from everyone else as the voice of Hank Scorpio, and his is a guest starring role that no one else has ever really been able to top.
What are your favorite episodes of The Simpsons?
We've spent the last two weeks transitioning from the balcony scene in Romeo & Juliet to finally attacking the first act of Othello.
Thematic dichotomies abound in Macbeth. Keep looking out for those and focus on those paragraphs.