The Simpsons: Best Episodes Seasons 1-10

By Mike on 9:53 pm

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There are so many great episodes of the Simpsons that I wished I could have added to my original top ten. As a follow up to my post back in July, I'm going to list the best Simpsons episodes per season. In the case of seasons that have an episode already on the top ten, I'll select the runner up from that season.

Season 1: The Crapes of Wrath
The vary first season of the ground breaking series. The earliest episodes were largely just extended Ulman shorts. Crapes was one of the first episodes to introduce a well developed story that could not be told in less than five minutes. As a prank, Bart flushes a cherry bomb down the boys toilet, causing Springfield Elementary's entire plumbing system to explode. Skinner's mother just happened to be using the bathroom at the time. As punishment, Bart is sent to France as an exchange student. While there, he gets setup at the Chateau Maison (The Mansion House) and is forced into making wine for two crooked vineyard owners. In return for Bart, an Albanian named boy Adiel stays with the Simpsons. Adiel turns out to be a spy attempting to gain American nuclear secrets. Back in France, Bart discovers the two Frenchmen adding anti-freeze to the wine, which is dangerous and grossly illegal. (Adding anti-freeze to wine is an old scam. Ethalene Glycol that makes up anti-freeze is an alcohol, but its not the same as ethanol, which is the natural alcohol in alcoholic beverages. It is added to grape juice to make "wine" without the normal lengthy aging process require to produce ethanol. It would produce a sweet tasting "wine", but is toxic and potentially lethal) Bart tries to tell the police, but he can't speak French. Finally, the language comes to him, the vineyard owners are arrested, and Bart comes home as a hero. The episode shows Bart has a heart and isn't as dumb as he appears to be.

Season 2: Lisa's Substitute
By season 2, the series had begun to mature into its own. The second season had many memorable episodes. Lisa's Substitute is probably one of the most important episodes of the entire series and is a close 11th place behind The Way We Was. Hypochondriac second grade teacher Ms. Hoover thinks she has Lyme Disease and takes off work. Substituting is a charismatic Jewish teacher named Mr Burgstrum. Lisa instantly falls in love with the intelligent, caring teacher who is a far cry from the bitter and jaded Hoover. Lisa sees her new teacher as the father figure she never had. He nurtures her intelligence unlike the dimwitted Homer. Lisa eventually reacts to Homer's uncaring attitude by calling him a baboon. Like all subs though, Burgstrum eventually leaves but before he goes, he gives Lisa an important message. "You are Lisa Simpson". Lisa eventually patches things up with her dad. A heart warming episode from an overall excellent season. Also a great performance by Dustin Hoffman (AKA Sam Etic) as Mr. Burgstrum. The episode bares some similarities with Hoffman's film The Graduate.

Season 3: Like Father, Like Clown
The third season is widely considered by fans to be the one in which the show finally matured. Krusty the Clown has been a predominant secondary character since the first season. He's a boozing, womanizing, surly, playboy TV clown who Bart adores. In this episode, Krusty comes over for dinner as a reward for Bart getting him out of jail in Season 1. While there, we learn Krusty is Jewish. All his life, he wanted to be an entertainer but his Rabbi father strongly disapproved. 25 years of not speaking to his father has begun to take a toll on the clown. Bart and Lisa decide to reunite the two. Rabbi Krustofsky wants none of it despite the two kids reading from the Jewish scriptures to try and prove that his religion commands father and son to make up. Eventually, Bart reads the Rabbi a passage that sums up the Jewish struggle eloquently. It was written by Sammy Davis Jr, and entertainer like his son. The Rabbi decides that maybe having an entertainer as a son isn't such a bad thing after all and he and Krusty patch things up. A good human story wrapped up in some great humour. Also features Jewish comedian Jackie Mason as the Rabbi. The episode is a parody of the 1927 film "The Jazz Singer".

Season 4: Marge vs the Monorail
"A town with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows where he got it and danged if he knows how to use it." This episode is a parody of The Music Man. Lyle Langly comes to Springfield promising to sell the city a bonified, electrified, six car monorail. The town is excited to have an ultramodern mass transit system and quickly buys into Langly's shtick. Marge is skeptical about the idea, especially when Homer is given the job of conductor/driver. It turns out that Langly has sold monorails to three other towns. Each one turned out to be a death trap. Marge meets the designer and the two rush back to Springfield to save Homer from the now runaway train. In the end, Homer learns that there's nothing that doughnuts can't do. This episode features some of the best musical numbers of the series. The late Phil Hartmann did an excellent job portraying the crooked Langly. Maybe it's a coincidence, but I think the series started to fall right after his death. (Hartmann, an SNL veteran who was frequently a guest voice on the Simpsons, was murdered by his wife in 1998) Lenard Nemoy also guest stars in this episode, playing himself.

Season 5: Homer and Apu
Apu sells Homer some tainted meat, twice, landing Homer in the hospital with severe food poisoning. When the owners of the Qwick-E-Mart chain find out, Apu is promptly fired. (Apparently his brother Sanjay sold the store) Actor James Woods is hired to take his place. Apu at first isn't mad at Homer, seeing it was his fault that Homer got sick. The broke convenience store clerk lives with the Simpsons briefly, paying his way by doing chores around the house. Apu is a mess so he and Homer decide to go to Qwick-E-Mart headquarters, home of the world's first convenience store, to get his job back. The store turns out to be in India, on the top of a remote mountain, which really isn't that convenient. The guru manning the store knows all except the combination to the safe. The pair may only ask him three questions, which Homer promptly wastes before Apu can ask for his job back. Outraged, Apu and Homer get into a fight and end up back in Springfield. While there, Apu takes a bullet for James Woods and is rewarded with his job back. A perfectly entertaining episode from start to finish with a good soul searching theme.

Season 6: Homer the Great
Homer learns why Lenny and Carl have so many special privileges at work. They're members of the secret, ancient order of the Stone Cutters, a Mason-esque brotherhood that every man in Springfield, except Homer, belongs to. To join, one has to be the son of a Stonecutter, or save the life of a Stonecutter. Since Abe is a member, Homer gets to join too. Soon after joining, he destroys the club's sacred parchment by using it as a napkin. He is immediately ejected from the club, after his punishment of course where he has to be naked for some reason. While dragging the stone of shame, the Stonecutters discover a birthmark on Homer which labels him as the "chosen one". Homer is now the unquestioned king of the Stonecutters. Discovering he's unhappy with his new title, Homer decides the club should give back to society by helping people around town. Homer finds his niche and starts really making a difference to Springfield's less well off residents. The other members get fed up with all the do-gooding and break off from the Stonecutters, forming the sacred, ancient order of "No Homers". The episode shows off Homer's classic struggle to be loved and accepted by his pals. Patrick Stewart shows off his funny bone in one of his earlier comedic voice rolls.

Season 7: Mother Simpson
Homer was told long ago that his Mom was dead. Upon trying to fake his own death to get out of forced volunteer work, Homer has to right it with the city, where he is told she's still alive. Homer desperately searches the cemetery for her grave, and meets Mona Simpson there, alive and well. She had been on the lamb for 30 years after trying to sabotage Mr Burns' germ warfare facility during the late 60s. Mona had grown tired of Abe's Madison avenue scene and decided to become a hippie radical. After the incident with Burns, Mona was forced to abandon her family in the middle of the night. With the two reunited, Homer and his mom try to spend some quality time with each other. Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa stumble on Grandma's past where she is forced to spill the beans to her son. Burns finds out she's still alive and goes after her. In the end, Mona is forced to flee again, but this time she can tell Homer she loves him. I like the episodes with the human stories, back when the series used to do them of course. Abe has some memorable moments in this episode. Glen Close stars as Mona Simpson.

Season 8: Bart After Dark
The ground breaking Season 8 had a lot of memorable episodes and two were already on my top ten best of all time. I went with Bart After Dark just because it's a fun episode and combines several of my favourite things. After Nelson and Bart crash Milhouse's RC plane into a mysterious mansion, Bart destroys a precious gargoyle while attempting to retrieve it. Bart is forced to work for the reclusive old lady who lives there to pay for the damage. Unknown to Bart or the rest of the town, the house is a Burlesque theater run by the old lady Belle. (Burlesque is a type of variety show involving comedy routines, song & dance, and striptease. It's more tasteful than modern strip clubs but was considered scandalous in it's heyday) Scantily clad woman, booze, and gambling are on tap at the Maison Derrière. (Literally the Back House as Belle describes, but more accurately the Rear House, as in a lady's butt) When Marge finds out, she immediately tries to close the place down, ends up accidentally destroying the building, and is forced to pay off the damage just as Bart had to do. There are a lot of memorable scenes. Bart working the door is probably one of my favourites. There's also the big song and dance routine, which won an Emmy. Plus, I love Milhouse's line about "perfectly level flying is the supreme challenge of the scale model pilot", which is hilarious knowing the hardcore stunts those planes are capable of. The crashing part is accurate though.

Season 9: Lisa's Sax
Season 9 started out good but then kind of dropped off into 1998. Lisa's Sax is a memorable episode since it introduces how Lisa got her saxophone and how Bart became the person he is. Bart is just starting school and becomes the outcast of the kindergarten class. While speaking to the councilor about Bart, they discover that Lisa has a special gift of intelligence that needs to be nurtured. Homer wants to enroll her in private school but all the family has is $500 to spare, which Homer had put aside for an air conditioner. He's frustrated about how to nurture his daughter and yet keep his cool at the same time. In the mean time, Bart learns he can make the kids laugh and earns the title of class clown by telling Skinner to "eat my shorts" for the first time. In the end, Homer discovers Lisa's musical talent and spends the AC budget on a saxophone for his daughter. He is finally proud of one of the kids, but is forced to endure another sweltering summer.

Season 10: D'oh-in in the Wind
By Season 10, the show started to fall apart. This is when a lot of today's most frequent criticisms of the show started really becoming noticeable. Namely the wackier, more slapstick humour and the over reliance on "A list" celebrity guest stars. I found it hard to pick an episode I really liked from this season. This particular one features Homer J. Simpson trying to find his middle name. He travels to the hippie commune where his mother stayed to find out his past. It turns out he was named Jay. The episode gives some more back story to Homer's mother and his childhood. It features the late George Carlin as an ex-hippie who makes organic juice for a living. The Springfield wide drug trip scene after Homer tainted the juice with drugs was classic. "Pucker up Ned!"

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