Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Simpsons: 10 classic episodes

As The Simpsons celebrate their 20th anniversary, here's a look at some of the most memorable episodes that have been drawn to life over the years.

The Simpsons


When Mr Burns is fined for dumping toxic waste, the town has to decide how to spend the money - and gets talked (or rather sung) into buying an unnecessary monorail of questionable safety.

A tribute to The Music Man, this episode features a cameo from almost every Simpsons character, and a dizzying array of pop culture references. In the first 60 seconds alone, the show lampoons The Flintstones, Beverly Hills Cop and Silence of the Lambs.

Memorable moment: Conman Lyle Lanley tells the town meeting his plan is "more of a Shelbyville idea".

Mayor Quimby bristles: "We're twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. Just tell us your idea, and we'll vote for it!"


Bart's nemesis Sideshow Bob is released on parole, forcing the Simpsons into a witness protection programme.

Bob eventually tracks the family down to a houseboat on "Lake Terror" (the entire plot was a riff on Martin Scorsese's recent remake of Cape Fear).

Offered one final request, Bart asks Bob to sing the entire score to HMS Pinafore.

Homer Simpson

Succumbing to his own vanity, the criminal purrs: "Very well, Bart, I shall send you to heaven before I send you to hell" - and finishes his rendition just as the police arrive.

Memorable moment: After a script read-through, it became clear the episode was too short, so executive producer Al Jean stretched out one throwaway sight gag for nearly thirty seconds.

The resulting sequence, where Sideshow Bob steps on, and is smacked in the face by, a rake nine times is one of the series' best moments of slapstick.


Homer gets recruited as a new character in The Simpsons' show-within-a-show, Itchy and Scratchy (an ultra-violent parody of Tom and Jerry).

This was episode 167 - marking the point where The Simpsons overtook The Flintstones as the longest-running animated sitcom on US television.

The writers used the opportunity to pay tribute to the art of animation and rail against network interference in their show.

At one point, a focus group informs Itchy and Scratchy's creators they want "a realistic, down-to-earth show that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots".

Memorable moment: Homer meets fellow voice artist June Bellamy (a tribute to Hanna Barbera voice actress June Foray)

Homer: "How did you get to be so good?"
June: "Oh, just experience, I suppose. I started out as Road Runner - meep!"
Homer: "You mean meep meep!"
June: "No, they only paid me to say it once, then they doubled it up on the soundtrack".


The first full episode of The Simpsons to air in the US was a Christmas special - a few weeks ahead of the series' official debut on 14 January 1990.

Actually the eighth show to be produced, this set the template for the early years with its mixture of anarchic comedy and cosy moralising.

The Simpsons

Bart decides to get a tattoo because "they're cool and they last forever" - but when Marge finds out, she spends her Christmas savings to have it surgically removed.

Homer takes a part-time job as a shopping mall Santa so that the children will still get gifts but, to his dismay, discovers at the last minute that his pay cheque is a mere $13.

"Don't worry," says Bart, comforting his father, "if TV has taught me anything, it's that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas."

Memorable moment: Bart hands over his Christmas list to Marge: "There's only one fat guy that brings us presents and his name ain't Santa."

BART GETS AN 'F' (1990)

By the start of the second series, of which this was the first episode, Bart had become something of a counter-culture hero.

But rather than capitalise on the character's punky reputation, the show's writers decided to show that, deep down, he was scared of failure.

The 10-year-old spends the episode hopelessly trying to study for an all-important exam, and breaks down in tears when he gets the inevitable 'F'.

Insightful and poignant, it remains the highest-rated Simpsons episode ever, watched by 33m people in the US - putting it ahead of the Cosby Show for the first time.

Memorable moment: Unable to concentrate on revision, Bart slaps himself around the face, muttering: "You wanna be held back a grade? Concentrate, man!"

There is a sudden jump cut to the next day, as the class are handing in their completed test papers - and Bart is still slapping himself.


The common consensus is that The Simpsons' golden era ended after season nine, but this episode, from series 17, shows the writers still have fire in their bellies.

When devout Christian Ned Flanders discovers the Springfield museum is promoting the theory of evolution (one exhibit is labelled "indisputable fossil records") he starts a campaign to have creationism taught in science class.

Bart Simpson

This sets up a classic tug-of-war between liberal thinker Lisa and the town's more traditionally minded residents, which only ends when Homer's attempts to open a bottle of beer make the link between ape and man apparent.

Memorable moment: Lisa: "How can you teach the book of Genesis as a scientific theory?"
Principal Skinner: "This helpful video will evade all your questions."
He loads up the tape, and the credits begin: "So you're calling God a liar?"


The Simpsons' annual Halloween show can be hit and miss, but this example features three classic horror tales.

In a parody of The Shining, Homer goes crazy when he finds there is no TV or beer at his remote winter lodge, prompting him to try to kill his family.

Time and Punishment sees Homer change the world to one ruled by Ned Flanders after he goes back in time and accidentally kills a mosquito, causing a huge butterfly effect.

The final tale, Nightmare Cafeteria, sees unruly pupils being used as a grisly new food source at Springfield Elementary School after the cafeteria is hit by budget cuts.

Memorable moment: In Nightmare Cafeteria, Principal Skinner chases Bart down a corridor, declaring: "I'm going to enjoy devouring you Bart Simpson. Yes, I believe I'll start, as you so often suggested, by eating your shorts."


Homer buys Marge an expensive bowling ball for her birthday, secretly hoping she'll give it to him (he even has the holes drilled to fit his own fingers).

But the plan backfires, as Marge decides to start using her gift at the local bowling alley - and is seduced by velvet-tongued bowling expert Jacques (played by guest star Albert Brooks).

Sensing something is amiss, Bart and Lisa prepare for their parents to split up, but Marge stops short of having an affair when she realises how much she loves her family.

The episode ends with a parody of An Officer and A Gentleman, as Homer happily leaves work with Marge in his arms, declaring: "I'm going to the back seat of my car with the woman I love, and I won't be back for 10 minutes."

Memorable moment: When Homer presents Marge with the bowling ball, it falls out of its box and crushes her birthday cake.

Homer: "Don't worry this frosting will come right off. Beauty isn't she?"
Marge: "It's hard for me to judge as I've never bowled in my life."

The Simpsons

Lisa decides to give up meat when she falls in love with a tiny lamb during a visit to the zoo.

She falls out with Homer after ruining his pork and beef-filled barbecue (by pushing the spit roast off a cliff with a lawn mower) and runs away from home.

Her spirits are given a boost when she encounters Sir Paul McCartney and his late wife Linda, who advise her how to handle other people's carnivorous tendencies.

Sir Paul reportedly only agreed to appear on the show if the writers kept Lisa committed to vegetarianism until the end of the series.

Memorable moment: Lisa: "I never realised before, but some Itchy & Scratchy cartoons send the message that violence against animals is funny."
Bart: "They what? Cartoons don't have messages, Lisa."


Homer takes charge of the union at Springfield's nuclear plant in an attempt to save the workers' dental plan.

His motivations, as ever, are selfish - Lisa needs braces, and he can only afford a set that "predate stainless steel, so you can't get them wet".

The story pits Homer against power plant owner Mr Burns (age 104, social security number 000-00-0002), who tries to break the strike by bribing Homer - only to have the offer misinterpreted as a sexual advance.

With references to The Grinch, Godfather II, Batman and Yellow Submarine, this is frequently cited as the show's best-ever episode.

Memorable moment: Mr Burns: "This is a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters. Soon, they'll have finished the greatest novel known to man."

He picks up a page and reads aloud: "All right, let's see... 'It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?' You stupid monkey. "

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