The Simpsons top 50 episodes

Feature Robert Keeling 29 Aug 2014 - 06:30

Rob counts down the top 50 episodes of TV's longest-running animated series, The Simpsons...

Since its debut in 1989, across 552 episodes and 25 seasons, The Simpsons has become one of the most revered and beloved TV programmes of all time. It’s a true cultural phenomenon that’s influenced not just animation, but all areas of TV comedy and sitcom. For so many of us, its quotes and catchphrases have permeated our everyday vernacular, from single words like “crisitunity” and “embiggen” to phrases “you don’t win friends with salad” and “everything’s coming up Milhouse.”

Personal opinions may vary, but for me the show’s peak years were from season 4 through to 10. They’re consistently funny, all killer and no filler runs with barely a dud episode to be found between 1992-1998. Past this point the standard becomes a little more mixed, and recent seasons have been distinctly average at best. The beauty of The Simpsons though is that whenever you watch a newer episode that perhaps doesn’t tickle your fancy; you can always go back to the vast catalogue of bona fide classics and be entertained all over again. There’s more gold in those first 10 or 11 seasons than any other show can hope to achieve.

In theory, selecting fifty of the show’s best episodes from a choice of 552 shouldn’t be all that difficult. In reality, it’s incredibly hard to pick and choose which ones make the cut. So many episodes have a particular line in them that make you want to include it solely for that one moment. Season 10’s Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo almost made it purely for its Rashomon joke, but ultimately, that episode it lost out to more consistently funny outings.  The next challenge was then to try and actually rank them all in order. Was Deep Space Homer funnier than Homer Goes To College? Did I laugh more at Bart Vs Australia or Two Bad Neighbours? It proved almost impossible in certain cases and I’m already regretting leaving several memorable episodes out.  It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Here they are then, the top 50 episodes of The Simpsons.

50. Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk (S3)

After Mr Burns begins to grow weary of running his beloved power plant, a German Consortium swoops in and buys it for $100 million. This spells bad news for Homer who, as the plant’s safety inspector, is in deep water when the new management team find the plant in dire need of repair. Eventually of course, Mr Burns grows bored of retirement and after realising he no longer has any power, “what good is money if you can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?”, buys the plant back from the Germans who are themselves taken aback at the cost involved in bringing the place up to scratch. There’s plenty of fun to be had throughout the episode poking fun at German stereotypes, plus Mr Burns trying to blend in at Moe’s is a joy to behold. The episode’s highlights however, as is so often the case, come from Homer. His loveable stupidity comes to the fore and inevitably he’s deemed unfit for duty, but not before one of the show’s most memorable sequences where he drifts off into the magical “land of chocolate”, prancing and skipping about with giddy glee.

49. A Streetcar Named Marge (S7)

An episode that contains a distinctly Simpsons take on the pratfalls of community theatre, coupled with arguably Maggie’s finest hour in a wonderful subplot involving a parody of The Great Escape. The main thrust of the story sees Marge take on the role of Blanche Dubois in musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire with Homer’s unsupportive and selfish ways leading him to become comparable with that story’s lead male character, Stanley Kowalski.  The songs are catchy, even if the New Orleans one (“home of pirates, drunks and whores”) didn’t go down too well with the aforementioned American city. Jon Lovitz meanwhile is perfect as the over-the-top director, Llewellyn Sinclair, delivering such reassuring comments as “I’ve directed three plays in my career and I’ve had three heart attacks. That’s how much I care. I’m planning for a fourth.”

48. Homerpalooza (S7)

A great Homer-centric episode here which focuses on his desperate attempts to remain cool. After embarrassing Lisa and Bart on the school run with his 70s rock music, Homer begins to question how he became so out of touch. In an attempt to reconnect with his kids, he buys them all tickets to the Hullabalooza rock festival. After a projectile blow-up pig inadvertently hits him in the gut and he suffers no visible ill effects, he joins the tour’s freak show and heads out on the road to rekindle his wild spirit.

The episode is essentially a reflective look at the inevitability of growing old and falling out of touch with modern culture. Modern culture is itself sent up however, with the disillusioned teens at the festival offering a hysterically exaggerated take on the typical Generation-X slackers, “Are you being sarcastic?” “I don’t even know any more.” It had a fairly eclectic line up of bands on the bill, namely Cypress Hill, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Frampton, and these groups actually get some of the episode’s best moments including the now legendary, “Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins” “Homer Simpson, smiling politely” back and forth.  It also includes my all-time favourite Grandpa Simpson line where he warns a young Homer, “I used to be ‘with it’, until they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I am ‘with’ isn’t ‘it’ and what is ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me…… It’ll happen to you!”

47. Homer’s Triple Bypass (S4)

Some of the best Simpsons episodes deal with quite serious topics and few come more serious than Homer having a massive heart attack. When Mr Burns catches Homer eating on the job (working his way closer to the poison doughnut) he calls him into his office and fires him, an act which proves the final straw and causes Homer’s struggling heart to finally give up. Unable to afford the necessary operation, the family resort to dialling 1-600-DOCTORB and enlisting the help of Dr Nick Riviera. The section where Bart and Lisa stand at their dad’s bedside before the operation is actually very touching, but of course there are plenty of laughs too, the best of which come from Dr Nick who has perhaps his largest ever role in this episode. My personal favourite bit comes as Homer is slowly drifting off as his anaesthetic kicks in, only for the last thing he sees to be a confused Dr Nick pointing at his chest and muttering, “What the hell is that?”

46. Weekend At Burnsie’s (S13)

This is the newest episode on my list, coming from as recently as 2002. It revolves around Homer being pecked in the eyes by a group of crows, or as he points out to Marge, “a murrrrrder of crows”, and then being prescribed medical marijuana as a means to relieve the pain. Naturally, Fox was worried that the episode might cause some controversy and the writers thus made sure to never actually show Homer smoking weed on screen. The episode deserves great credit for taking a balanced approach to the issue of marijuana use with both its positive and negative effects being shown and never coming across as overly preachy on either side. That being said, there’s no point in denying that what makes this episode so funny is the sight of Homer high as a kite, dispensing such observations as “Marge, I just realised I am the ‘ow’ in the word ‘now’.”

45. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (S2)

After Abe has a sudden heart attack, he reveals from his hospital bed that Homer actually has a half-brother, the result of a fling with a carnival floozy who would do things Homer’s mother never would, “like have sex for money.” Homer eventually tracks his brother down and lo and behold, he’s become a millionaire big-shot who owns his own car company. The reunion starts off beautifully, with the Simpsons revelling in their newfound Uncle’s wealth and being treated to a pony ride on a boat and, in Homer’s case, unlimited pork chops. Naturally though, things take a turn for the worse after Herb lets Homer design his company’s next car, believing Homer possesses the common touch his company needs. The end result is a true monstrosity, complete with a car horn that plays ‘la cucaracha’ and with that, Herb’s company is ruined.

It’s a twist on the traditional view shown in many shows and movies that the working man knows best and can teach the corporate bigwigs a thing or two. Here the common man emphatically ruins everything. It’s actually quite a dark ending to the episode, with Herb blaming Homer entirely and stating he now has no brother, but despite the downbeat ending, the rest of the episode is hilarious. Danny Devito created a wonderful character in Herb Simpson, and Homer’s inability to pick up on the Dr Hibbert-alike orphanage directors’ subtle hints about his brother’s location is a definite highlight.

44. The Cartridge Family (S9)

After a traditional soccer riot descends into a wave of violence, Homer decides he needs to make the family home more secure. Unfortunately the high-tech security systems prove to be more expensive than he hoped, prompting the brilliant line, “surely you can’t put a price on your family’s safety?” “I wouldn’t have thought so either, but… here we are.”  Consequentially, Homer decides instead to buy a gun. Now while the episode does undoubtedly mock gun culture and the NRA in particular, it is far from being a stinging critique. If anything it is fairly balanced in its arguments, emphasising that while someone as dumb as Homer would easily misuse a gun and that restrictions are undoubtedly vital, they did still serve a purpose for other people. It’s of no surprise to learn that this episode was written by John Swartzwelder, the show’s most prolific writer, a staunch Libertarian and an advocate of gun owners’ rights.

Homer’s gun lust is mined for plenty of laughs, with his succinct description of his new weapon proving especially amusing, “It’s a handgun. Isn’t it great? This is the trigger, and this is the thing you point at whatever you want to die.” Plot-wise it may be a little lightweight, but there are so many choice Homer lines to choose from it remains a very strong episode.

43. Behind The Laughter (S11)

A unique episode here which plays out as a perfect parody of VH1’s Behind The Music series. The episode purports to depict the show’s “origins” and how the family got their big break in showbiz. After eleven seasons, The Simpsons was still hugely popular and had plenty of good episodes left in the tank, but you didn’t really think there was much left for them to do in terms of mixing up a winning formula. The chance to see “behind the scenes” and imagine a world where the family are all just actors playing a part is a clever one however, and they also neatly include numerous references to prior Simpsons episodes. My personal choice for line of the episode comes when Homer turns to address the camera and very earnestly and  apropos of nothing states, “I want to set the record straight. I thought… the cop… was a prostitute.” Eventually, the family all succumb to the pressures of fame and after rehab and an IRS investigation, it takes Willie Nelson to bring the first family of comedy back together. It’s great to see the characters we know so well given a different twist.

42. Rosebud (S5)

The Simpsons has long had a tradition of parodying famous movies and one of their greatest efforts was this nod to the Orson Welles’ classic, Citizen Kane. The episode’s opening scenes directly mirror the renowned introduction to Welles’ film and the central premise of Mr Burns longing to be reunited with a memento from his lost youth, a symbol of bygone innocence, is likewise a direct reference to Charles Foster Kane’s plight. In this instance, it is Mr Burns’ beloved bear Bobo which is the source of much attention. Bobo comes into Maggie’s possession and despite Burns offering a hefty sum as recompense and making several attempts to swipe the bear, Homer cannot bring himself to part Maggie and her beloved new toy. As well as being a wonderful homage, the episode packs in plenty of laughs, including Homer’s attempts to write his roast of Mr Burns, “now I’m not saying Mr Burns is incontinent…”, as well as a memorable guest appearance by The Ramones. 

41. Flaming Moe’s (S3)

A classic episode from season three here which was also one of the first to feature Moe in a major role. When business at Moe’s Tavern is so bad he can’t even afford to buy beer, Homer shows Moe a cocktail recipe of his own invention which includes the magic ingredient, Krusty Non-Narkotik Kough Syrup, and is then topped off by being set alight. The drink becomes a smash hit and Moe takes credit for its invention. Moe’s becomes the most popular drinking hole in Springfield and Homer finds himself a stranger in his own bar and grows frustrated at receiving no credit for his creation. Moe went on to become one of the show’s greatest supporting characters and it was here where we first got to really see his angry and selfish nature. The best Moe line of the episode being, “Hey, Homer came up with the drink, but I came up with the idea of charging $6.95 for it.” There’s also an excellent cameo by Aerosmith, but my favourite aspect of this episode were the nods to Cheers, including Collette the waitress in the Diane role and the “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” spoof which includes a sullen Homer peering longingly in at his former hangout.

40. A Fish Called Selma (S7)

Troy McClure is undoubtedly up there with the likes of Moe and Chief Wiggum as one of The Simpsons’ greatest recurring background characters. Voiced by the brilliant Phil Hartman until his untimely death, his regular reminders of where you might know him from never failed to raise a chuckle. This episode marked the only time he was the main focus of the storyline as he attempts to resurrect his flagging career by embarking on a sham marriage with Marge’s sister Selma, “that’s right, boys. Troy’s back from the gutter, and he’s brought someone with him!”. One memorable sequence is the excellent Planet Of The Apes musical in which a resurgent McClure stars that includes such choice lines as “I hate every chimp I see. From chimp-an-A, to chimp-an-Z.” There’s also the bizarre subplot running through the episode regarding Troy’s peculiar fish fetish, a rumour cemented by Fat Tony’s assertion that he “sleeps with the fishes.” For me this episode is all about Hartman’s performance, giving us a wonderful insight into the peculiar private life of the all-too-seldom seen Troy McClure. Despite being primarily focused on Selma and Troy’s struggling marriage, there’s also a brilliant Homer moment early on when the kids ask him what exactly a Muppet is, “Well, it's not quite a mop, and it's not quite a puppet, but man… So to answer your question: I don't know.”

39. Two Bad Neighbours (S7)

A real life feud of sorts between the Bushes and The Simpsons fuelled the idea for this episode in which the former President moves in across the road and Homer takes an instant dislike to George H. Bush. In years gone by, Barbara Bush had herself criticised the show and when running for re-election in 1992, President Bush himself claimed that he wanted, “to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons”. Far from being a cutting satire of any kind though, this episode is far more of a playful attack on Bush’s grumpy and gruff demeanour. While an early high point is Homer whipping up the crowd at the Evergreen Terrace yard sale, the episode’s memorable gags really stem from the escalating prank war between Bush and Homer, especially the use of a multi-coloured wig and some super glue. It’s no surprise to find that Bush didn’t provide his own voice for this outing, which was instead expertly provided by Harry Shearer.

38. Lisa On Ice (S6)

Bart and Lisa’s relationship swings from partners in crime to extreme rivalry dependent on the show’s need and here the latter dynamic of the two is exploited to great effect. After receiving a poor grade in gym class, Lisa winds up playing little league hockey in order to ensure she doesn’t fail. Soon her team comes into direct competition with Bart’s. Naturally, Homer does the sensible thing and emphasises that being good at sports is vitally important and encourages them to compete passionately for their parents love. Homer’s inappropriateness is superb in this episode and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sought to grab the attention of a room by flicking the light switch on and off and chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”. Rude as it may be, it’s also undeniably effective.

This is also the episode where Bart and Lisa goad each other by walking towards one another with arms and legs flailing, and if the other gets in their way, it’s their own fault. I’m sure more than a few siblings have adopted that move after seeing this episode. In the end though it’s a poignant finale as the siblings realise that their love for one another supersedes petty rivalry and they set their differences aside to leave their game a tie. A tender ending to the episode, even if Homer now sees them both as losers.

37. Homer The Vigilante (S5)

When a cat burglar starts terrorising the residents of Springfield, Homer forms a vigilante posse to track down the assailant. Inevitably, Homer and his gang wind up causing more crime than they solve and it is actually Grandpa Simpson who solves the riddle and identifies his retirement home neighbour Molloy (voiced by Sam Neill) as the culprit. Famously noting, with a Sherlock-esque observation, that “he wore sneakers… for sneaking.” This episode really works thanks to Homer getting drunk on power and then proceeding to throw his weight around town, never really getting any closer to catching the assailant. It’s also perhaps at its core a fairly scathing look at the American obsession with mob justice and the prevalence of firearms in American society. One of the more obscure sequences which still now never fails to cheer me up however, comes when Homer begins rhythmically dancing to Lisa’s jug playing, and his resultant frustration when she stops, “Lisa, never ever stop in the middle of a hoedown!” Kent Brockman is also on fine form, whipping the Springfield natives up into a frenzy, asking the important questions such as, “When cat burglaries start, can mass murder be far behind?”

36. Mr Plow (S4)

A bona fide classic from season four and undoubtedly one of the show’s most iconic episodes. You only need to have seen the episode once to have Homer’s “Mr Plow” jingle stuck engrained in your head. The story involves Homer accidentally crashing the family car and then buying a snow plough as a replacement. He then actually starts up a successful business ploughing the townsfolk’s driveways. Eventually though, Barney decides to emulate Homer and after roping in Linda Ronstadt to help him make an advert that defames Homer (they’d been looking for a project to do together for a while), he begins to steal his friend’s business. As the rivalry begins to escalate, Homer gets revenge by making a phony call and tricking Barney into going to plough the perilous Widow’s Peak. Eventually however, their friendship proves more important than any petty rivalry as Homer realises his mistake and goes to rescues his friend.  Barney’s brazen attempts to destroy Homer are a definite episode highlight, and this episode also features another great movie reference when Bart is mowed down by a hail of snowballs in a clever nod to Sonny Corleone’s demise in The Godfather.  

35. 22 Short Films About Springfield (S7)

Another break from the norm here as the day-to-day lives of various Springfield residents are interwoven together in a series of short vignettes. There’s plenty of good stuff in there, including the Pulp Fiction parody going down at Herman’s Military Antiques ship and Moe getting robbed by Snake after Barney finally pays his bar tab. However the episode’s crowning glory, and the section that really makes this episode such a classic, is the dinner Principal Skinner hosts for Superintendent Chalmers. After burning the roast he had planned, Skinner passes off food from a nearby Krusty Burger as his own “steamed hams”. There then follows an exchange between the pair which I imagine most Simpsons aficionados know off by heart, culminating in the following moment of brilliance as Skinner trying to explain the apparent fire in his kitchen:

Chalmers: Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?

Skinner: Yes.

Chalmers: May I see it?

Skinner: Er… no.

It’s testament to the brilliance of this sequence that should I ever get to see the Northern Lights, I’m almost definitely going to run through this entire sketch before I do anything else.

34. Krusty Gets Cancelled (S4)

I absolutely love Krusty as a character, and while he has prominent roles in plenty of other great episodes, this for me is his finest 22 minutes. After a hot new ventriloquist act called Gabbo becomes a huge TV hit, Krusty’s rating freefall and he is eventually cancelled. Bart and Lisa eventually rally Krusty and gather together his celebrity friends for a big comeback special. This was a great example of how celebrity cameos could be done to great effect when they were still used sparingly and rarely. Here we get the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Carson, Hugh Hefner and Bette Midler to name but a few, stepping up to help out Krusty in his time of need. Krusty’s futile efforts to revive flagging ratings are entertaining in their terribleness, especially his own terrifying attempts at ventriloquism. He eventually steals the show however with the greatest out-of-tune rendition of Send In The Clowns you will ever hear.

33. Mayored To The Mob (S10)

The Simpsons has always prided itself on high quality movie references and Star Wars especially has been utilised on many occasions. In this episode though, it’s taken to the next level as Mark Hamill guest stars and is only too happy to poke fun at himself. There are plenty of sci-fi nods throughout, but special mention goes to whoever wrote the lyrics “Luke, be a Jedi tonight” (to the tune of ‘Luck Be a Lady’ from Guys And Dolls). They deserve an award all of their own for that one, as does the wit behind the simple but effective “use the forks” gag. The plot itself is fairly light, Homer becomes a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby and protects him from Fat Tony, but the regular sci-fi references and high quality script make the episode incredibly enjoyable. To this day, if lying down outside, I can’t help but ask someone, “is there anything fluffier than a cloud?” If you don’t get the correct reply, you may want to question your friendship.

32. The Springfield Files (S8)

Agents Mulder and Scully guest star in the episode in which Homer has a drunken alien encounter and is then forced to gather proof in order to make the doubting townspeople believe it really happened. The interaction between the agents and Homer works brilliantly, especially the sequence where a gasping Homer is on a treadmill and Scully describes it as being, “like a lava lamp”. It’s also a neat touch to have The X-Files’ very own “cigarette smoking man” loitering in the background when Homer takes his polygraph test. The ending might be slightly nonsensical, but the X-Files thread works perfectly, as do the array of other pop culture references scattered throughout, including Milhouse’s frustration with the slow moving and expensive Waterworld game. Plus there’s one of the all-time great Homer lines, “I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty, and if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called, ‘the bus that couldn’t slow down.’”

31. The Way We Was (S2)

The Simpsons’ first flashback episode is a teasing glimpse into Marge and Homer’s youth and the story of how they first met at High School. After Marge uncharacteristically gets detention after burning her bra at a feminist rally, Homer immediately falls head over heels for her and embarks on a mission to win her over. After Homer misleads her and causes her to lose sleep ahead of her debate competition, she decides to go to the prom with Artie Ziff instead, he of the “busy hands”. It was great to see a bit of Simpsons family history, and really adds a bit of romantic depth to the saga of lovebirds Marge and Homer. Another choice quote sees Grandpa Simpson offering his lovelorn son typically constructive advice on women, “Oh, son, don’t overreach! Go for the dented car, the dead-end job, the less attractive girl!” Ever one for realistic advice is Abe.

30. Homer At The Bat (S3)

It’s testament to this episode’s hilarity that even though the star baseball players drafted into the power plant softball team by Mr Burns may be unknown to most people outside of the US, this episode remains a beloved classic. The plot is a simple one, the power plant softball team does well, largely thanks to Homer and his wonder bat (the storyline owes a great debt to Barry Levinson’s 1984 movie The Natural), but Mr Burns becomes so determined to win he drafts in a whole plethora of professional talent. The baseball stars are all put to great use and each given their own unique storyline and downfall, from a mysterious black hole, to a drunken argument with Barney, “And I say England’s greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerstone!” Then there’s the ever so catchy “Talkin’ Softball”, a parody of the song “Talkin’ Baseball”, which has no doubt being inadvertently memorised by many a Simpsons fan down the years.  

29. Simpson Tide (S9)

A fairly bonkers episode here, but nevertheless one filled with numerous big laughs. The central plot sees Homer getting fired and then joining the Naval Reserve, inexplicably also joined by Apu, Barney and Moe. When out on War Games, Homer impresses the Captain and is left in charge of the submarine when he goes to check on a torpedo issue. One thing leads to another and before you know it, Homer is in charge of a nuclear submarine and very nearly prompts a return to the Cold War. An amusing subplot meanwhile sees Milhouse getting an earring and thus immediately becoming cool, while Bart’s desperate attempt to equally impress his classmates by doing the Bartman dance does nothing for his own standing. It’s a thin premise but the episode works brilliantly thanks to moments such as Homer’s inability to be scared by his drill instructor, “nucular….it’s pronounced nucular”, and the surreal joke where the Soviet Union reveals it was in fact just lying dormant all these years. All this plus Homer’s fool-proof tactic for getting out of trouble at work, “it’s my first day!”

28. Lisa The Vegetarian (S7)

An incredibly funny episode here, but also one with a well-delivered message. Lisa’s burgeoning vegetarianism is played for laughs throughout, but at the episode’s climax the message of tolerance and understanding rings clear. There are so many choice bits in this episode it’s hard to know where to begin. To this day, I can’t hear the word salad without humming “you don’t win friends with salad” in my head. Then there’s Troy McClure’s unforgettable Meat Council video, perhaps the very finest of all his segments, remember, “If a cow ever got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about.” Then there’s also Homer’s confusion over what animal his various meats all come from “the same ‘magical’ animal”, as well as his determined chase to rescue his suckling pig after Lisa shoves it away. The jokes come thick and fast and the conflict between Homer and Lisa works perfectly.  The closing sequence in which father and daughter reconcile is sweet and also cuttingly funny as Lisa says to her dad, “I still stand by my beliefs. But I can't defend what I did. I'm sorry I messed up your barbeque.” To which Homer memorably replies, “I understand honey. I used to believe in things when I was a kid.”

27. The City Of New York Vs Homer Simpson (S9)

Prior to them becoming ten a penny, there were some great Simpsons travel episodes, Bart Vs Australia and Mr. Lisa Goes To Washington to name but two. This ode to New York which launched the show’s ninth season is also up there with the very best. Homer’s hatred of the city is deep-rooted thanks to a painful childhood memory so when he and the family are forced to travel there in order to retrieve his car, there’s a neat juxtaposition between his gruelling experience waiting for the parking officer and the rest of the family having the time of their lives. One of the episode’s best bits is undoubtedly the opening segment where Barney is forced into being the gang’s designated driver in Moe’s. The look of despair on his face when he hears to opening few notes of Oh Yeah by Yello and realises that Duffman is on his way is plain hilarious, “oh no… not tonight…..NOT TONIGHT!” Once in New York, the family’s visit to see “Kickin’ it: A Musical Journey Through The Betty Ford Centre” is definite high point. The song “You’re Checkin’ In”, complete with lyrics as brilliant as “I should put you away where you can’t kill or maim us, but this is LA……and you’re rich and famous”, actually won the show another primetime Emmy too.  

26. Duffless (S4)

After he gets arrested for drunk driving following a visit to the Duff brewery with Barney, Homer loses his driving licence and is asked by Marge to give up beer (not deer) for a month. Like many of the best Simpsons episodes, this is one which has a definite depth to it with the perils of alcoholism and addiction being a central focus. Likewise, Homer’s decision to turn his back on boozing in order to go and spend time with his wife is a particularly touching ending. Highlights include Hans Moleman’s revelation in Homer’s AA meeting, “drinking has ruined my life. I’m thirty-one years old!”, and Homer’s bittersweet ode to youthful drinking sung to the tune of “It Was a Very Good Year”. The episode’s subplot involving Bart wrecking Lisa’s science project is also very funny, with a neat nod to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange included in the shot where he reaches up for the cupcakes. There’s also poor Milhouse delivering a particularly weak Science Fair project in which he uses a slinky to demonstrate gravity in all its glory, prompting Edna Krabapple’s inimitable reply, “preeeetty lame Milhouse.” A truly well rounded episode that’s equals parts fun and serious, and one in which Homer’s fight to stay sober is wonderfully rendered, even if it is soon forgotten in the show as a whole.

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