With today marking the 30th anniversary of the Simpsons’ first appearance on The Tracey Ullman Show, a lot of sites are revising (or releasing for the first time) their lists of the best episodes of all time. The Ringer’s list was exhaustive, but dismissive of anything past Season Nine. Consequence of Sound was a little more lenient. And I’ve already published a list. While I thought about re-doing mine from a few years ago, I was struck by a couple of things: 1. This doesn’t really feel like that momentous of an anniversary. 2. It was actually way too hard to revise my list to include some episodes that have grown on me since I did that initial list. So my solution was just to make a list of 10 more amazing episodes that didn’t make the cut last time. Thus, there’s no point in ranking these, so I’ll just present them in chronological order.
“Lisa’s Substitute” – Season 2
The show’s saddest episode, give or take a “Mother Simpson.” Dustin Hoffman’s turn as Mr. Bergstrom (aka Mr. Nerdstrom aka Mr. Boogerstrom) is one of the greatest guest spots the show has ever produced. He’s the substitute – and the only one at Springfield Elementary – to really understand not only how gifted Lisa is but also how lonely. His farewell is both crushing and uplifting at the same time.
Homer: “Hey, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand!”
“Homer the Heretic” – Season 4
The sharpest of the show’s many digs at organized religion, Homer’s one-man church – which allows him to indulge in any number of luxuries – is a fantasy come true. But he does learn (learning being a fluid concept on this show) that despite religion’s faults, needing people to carry your burdens is universal, no matter what god you pray to.
Ned: “Homer, God didn’t set your house on fire.”
Rev. Lovejoy: “No, but He was working in the hearts of your friends and neighbors when they went to your aid. Be they Christian, Jew or… miscellaneous.”
Apu: “Hindu! There are 700 million of us.”
Rev. Lovejoy: “Aww, that’s super.”
“I Love Lisa” – Season 4
The most depth the show has ever given Ralph Wiggum (who’s mostly used as an easy laugh, as he’s even dumber than Homer). “You can actually pinpoint the moment his heart breaks,” Bart tells Lisa upon video replay of her very public rejection of him. It’s exemplary of the show in its prime: gut-busting but also touching. This episode also features my third-favorite original tune (after Stop the Planet of the Apes! I Want to Get Off! and “The Monorail Song”): “The Lesser-Known Presidents.”
Homer: “Six simple words: I’m not gay, but I’ll learn.”
“Last Exit to Springfield” – Season 4
I’ll call this the OK Computer of The Simpsons canon. It had been held up as the greatest episode for so long, but was never my favorite, so I always bumped it down. But while I still wouldn’t put it at No. 1, and it’s not my all-time favorite, I can now see just how utterly brilliant it is, and don’t begrudge anyone who would put it at the very top. I mean, where else are you going to get a Grinch parody, a Yellow Submarine montage and a scene that calls back to a very specific scene of 1989’s Batman film AND have it all make sense in context?
Mr. Burns: “This is a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters. Soon they’ll have written the greatest novel known to man. Let’s see. ‘It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times!’ You stupid monkey!”
“And Maggie Makes Three” – Season 6
That last shot is the most touching thing the show has ever done, but the whole episode is filled with laughter and something… in… my… eye… It’s also pretty damn relevant, especially to my generation, given that it’s about the sacrifices you have to make to take care of your family. “Hmm… well I can do something I love but not have enough to make ends meet, or I can take a soul-crushing job to keep us float?” This episode perfect encapsulates that struggle.
Carl: “Homer, you should see a doctor. I don’t think a healthy man can make that kind of smell.”