Laughs unlimited for 23 years
A die-hard fan picks his favourite episodesJAMES CROOT
As the 500th episode of The Simpsons is set to air, Press film and television reviewer James Croot picks his 11 favourite episodes.
Bart the Daredevil (Season 2)
The first episode to make me appreciate the inter-generational appeal of the show. My late father nearly bust a gut with laughter while watching (for I think the fourth time) Homer attempt to cross Springfield Gorge on a skateboard, only to fail and hit his head on every single ledge on the way down, then repeat the dose after the ambulance he is winched to crashes into a tree. Plus, it's got Truck-o-Saurus.
Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk (Season 3)
Mr Burns decides to sell his power plant to two German investors for US$100m only to quickly realise his mistake. Worth watching for the brief and devastating funny Land of Chocolate sequence (as imagined by Homer) and Smithers counselling Mr Burns with the aid of his sock-puppet friend, Mr Snappy the Alligator. And later we see Smithers practising his language skills from a Sycophantic German tape: "you looken sharpen todayen, Mein Herr".
Homer at the Bat (Season 3)
"We're talking softball. Mattingly and Canseco, Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw, Steve Sax and his run-in with the law. We're talking Homer, Ozzie and the Straw." Terry Cashman's parody of his own Talking Baseball song best distills this hilarious episode in which Mr Burns brings in nine ringers from the "big leagues" to ensure the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team wins the local championship only for a series of bizarre mishaps to rule virtually all of them out. Later became famous because of at least two people saying the explanation and demonstration of the Heimlich manoeuvre shown helped them save somebody else's life.
Mr Plow (Season 4)
Dan Castellaneta won an Emmy for his vocal performance as Homer in this episode, where he starts a snow ploughing business only to be usurped by Barney's rival company. Combines Godfather and Raiders of the Lost Ark parodies with hilarious cameos from former Batman Adam West and singer Linda Ronstadt, whose Plow King jingle is simply superb.
Cape Feare (Season 5)
The best of the Sideshow Bob episodes sees Kelsey Grammar at his oily best. Probably the only television show to combine Martin Scorsese and Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore to comedic effect. Other highlights include Homer struggling to grasp the Witness Relocation Programme (and his new name Homer Thompson) and Bob standing on a seemingly endless succession of rakes.
Rosebud (Season 5)
The cynicism of The Ramones, the surrealness of Homer's 64 slices of American cheese stinger and animated cameos from George Burns, Charles Lindbergh and Adolf Hitler combine to gigglesome effect in this Citizen Kane-inspired tale about Mr Burn's search for his long-lost teddy bear Bobo. "Look at all the wonderful things you have, Mr. Burns: King Arthur's Excalibur, the only existing nude photo of Mark Twain, and that rare first draft of the constitution with the word `suckers' in it," Smithers consoles him.
Treehouse of Horror V (Season 6)
The greatest and most disturbing of the series' annual fright-fests. A parody of The Shining (The Shinning), a time-travel nightmare (Time and Punishment) and a school canteen horror (Nightmare Cafeteria) make up a trio of endlessly quotable vignettes. "This house has quite a long and colourful history. It was built on an ancient Indian burial ground, and was the setting of Satanic rituals, witch-burnings, and five John Denver Christmas specials," says Mr Burns. "Oh... John Denver," shudders Homer.
Itchy and Scratchy Land (Season 6)
I've never been a particular fan of the show's Tom and Jerry-inspired cartoon characters, but this parody of Westworld and Jurassic Park is one of their finer moments.
Anyone who has ever visited a "Disneyland" will appreciate much of the humour, especially the documentary that Bart and Lisa see on the history of Itchy & Scratchy, which includes clips of their old films Scratchtasia and Pinnitchio. Almost as good is the Itchy, Scratchy and Poochie Show (Season 8).Two Bad Neighbours (Season 7)
Most inspired by Dennis the Menace (the American not The Beano one), this extremely political episode (the show's creators were having a very public feud with Washington at this point) features Homer and Bart waging war against the new people who have moved in across the street – George H W and Barbara Bush. "You know, in my day, little boys didn't call their elders by their first names," George chides Bart. "Yeah, well, welcome to the 20th century, George," is the boy's response.
You Only Move Twice (Season 8)
When Smithers turns down a job offer, Homer is given the opportunity to relocate to idyllic Cypress Creek and work for the friendly Hank Scorpio. But of course nothing is what it seems, especially when Scorpio is revealed as a supervillain. An at times brilliant Bond parody. "Mr Scorpio, this house is almost too good for us. I keep expecting to get the bum's rush," worries Marge. "We don't have bums in our town, Marge, and if we did they wouldn't rush, they'd be allowed to go at their own pace," he replies.
Trash of the Titans (Season 9)
A fantastic Steve Martin and a hilarious U2 cameo in this Emmy Award-winning episode that should be compulsory viewing for aspiring and current local politicians. Homer runs for the job of Springfield's Sanitation Commissioner after becoming enraged at what he considers the town's poor refuse collection service. Also famous for sneaking in the British swear word that rhymes with "banker" – twice. The US censors only later realised what they'd allowed.
Channel Four is playing a series of viewers' choice episodes each night at 7pm until Friday. The Simpsons' 500th episode will air at 7.30pm on Sunday.
Do you agree with this list? What's your favourite episode of The Simpsons? Post your comment below.
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