Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Favorite Simpsons Episodes: The Top 5

5. “The Otto Show” Season 3
This was one of those rare episodes that the few times I caught it on TV, I would cut everything out of my schedule to watch it. Everything. We’ve got Spinal Tap, Otto performing a rocking “Free Bird” singalong on the bus, Milhouse’s wicked amazing jacket at the concert and my personal favorite line of “Whoa! I had mustard?” when Otto is evicted from his apartment and is surprised by the condiment he did own.

Spinal Tap is in Springfield and Bart and Milhouse go the concert while Homer waits in the car. He hums along to “Spanish Flea” oblivious to the fact that a fight broke out at the concert. Bart comes home, a little bruised but with a dream of becoming a rock star. He gets a guitar and can’t play for shit but gives it to Otto on the bus during traffic who serenades the kids to some sweet Lynyrd Skynyrd. The solo gets longer and longer and the traffic is backed up behind the bus so Otto is forced to drive super fast to school, inadvertently running the Spinal Tap bus off the road which crashes. Once at the school where nobody was injured, Principal Skinner finds out that Otto does not have a license and fires him, appointing himself as the new bus driver.

Otto is evicted from his apartment and Bart finds Otto living in the dumpster and immediately invites him to stay with the Simpsons. At the Simpson residence, Otto tells terrifying ghost stories to Lisa, clogs the bathroom drains with his hair and is basically a deadbeat. Homer wants him out of the house and Bart and Marge encourage Otto to take the driving test again. Meanwhile, Principal Skinner fairs poorly at the art of bus driving. Otto takes the test again to spite Homer and since Marge’s sister Patty works at the DMV and equally despises Homer, she writes him up for a license even though he did a worse job the second time around than the first.

It seems to me that of many of the episodes, this one is underrated. I think you need to watch the scene where Homer and Bart realize they forgot something important at the concert (hint: glasses and blue hair) and tell me you didn’t laugh your ass off.

4. "The Way We Was" Season 2
Maybe I’m just really into the ‘70’s or something but damn, Homer and Marge were cool teenagers! This flashback episode takes place during the pair’s senior year. Marge is smart debate club member and hip enough to burn bras (with her hair long, blue and straight! Amazing!). Homer was a slacker with a thinner physique that he owed to his “metaba-ma-lism.” They met in detention from Marge during the feminist bra-burn and Homer from the guys room, smoking. And true love was born.

Not quite. Marge likes Artie Ziff, a pretentious 4.0 smartie and to win Marge to him, Homer pretends he needs a French tutor. This all accumulates in asking her to the prom which she agrees to but then Homer honestly and openly tells Marge that he isn’t a French student and Marge is pissed because her debate club big meet is tomorrow and she spent the whole night trying to educate Homer. Artie asks Marge to the prom and she accepts and unaware of the rejection, Homer shows up to her house on prom night and is promptly shot down. Marge and Artie are prom king and queen for the night and Homer sadly leaves and walks home alone but is picked up by Marge. Artie got a little too fresh with her (“my busy hands” as he describes them) and she took him home and admitted to Homer in the car that he was who she should have gone to the prom with. Homer gives her the corsage that he bought for her and they are together ever since.

Awww. It was a very sweet episode! I just loved seeing them in high school because Homer and Marge were really cute. We will not mention the recent monstrosity "That 90's Show" because I think it really, really fucked up the show in terms of Homer and Marge’s past.

3. "Mother Simpson" Season 7
Homer reunites with his mother Mona after faking his death to get out of work. He had assumed she had died when he was little because his Grandpa Simpson always pointed to a specific grave and Homer had thought it was his mother’s (when it was really Walt Whitman’s). She had joined a hippie group back in the ‘60’s with the intent on destroying Mr. Burn’s germ laboratory. When the alarm went off in the lab, Burns came running and was knocked down as the hippies ran out. Mona helped him up and he has since recognized her, forcing her to go into hiding. Eventually, they run into Mr. Burns again and Mona has to hit the road once more.

The reason it hits the third place for me is simply in the ending. Mona and Homer exchange goodbyes as Mona is about to get into the VW van. She smacks her head against the ledge and “dohs!” quickly, seeing as that is where Homer gets it from. As the car drives away, Homer sits on his car and stares into the sky which quickly turns into nightfall and the credits roll with Homer staring at the stars. It is a very beautiful and touching moment especially with the music that accompanies it and the necessary lack of dialogue. I really can’t say more for it except that you should watch it for yourself.

Plus, I absolutely adore that Homer slept with a plush Pillsbury Doughboy as a kid. I remember shrieking with joy when I was younger because I had always assumed that I was the only person who had one. It was just another reason why I so strongly resonated with this show.

2. "Lisa's Substitute" Season 2

My final favorite two episodes are Lisa-centered and until I recently saw it again, I would have probably forgotten about this one and replaced it with something else. (I can’t tell you how much I debated on whether or not to include “Radio Bart” in this list.)

Lisa’s teacher Miss Hoover gets sick and the class gets a substitute named Mr. Bergstrom (voiced wonderfully by Dustin Hoffman who is listed as Sam Etic in the credits). Lisa feels an instant connection between the two and they get on famously. Meanwhile, Bart is busy running for class president and Homer is unaware of the effect Mr. Bergstrom has on Lisa because he is helping Bart campaign.
Homer and Lisa run into Mr. Bergstrom at a museum where Homer embarrasses Lisa and Mr. Bergstrom tries to talk to Homer about being a better role model for her. Back at home, Lisa gets permission from Marge to invite Mr. Bergstrom over for dinner but is shocked to discover the next day that Miss Hoover is back.

She heads to the train station where Mr. Bergstrom is off to substitute for a different group of kids. Lisa tearfully says that she needs him and then he writes the simple but eloquent note of “You are Lisa Simpson” and advises her to look at it whenever she needs reassurance.

The dinner table is all about Bart who lost the election because he didn’t push for voters as he thought he had the election in the bag with his popularity. Lisa mopes and when she finally does tell Homer that Mr. Bergstrom left, he displays an obvious lack of interest. Lisa shouts at him that he is a baboon and Marge defends Lisa and tells Homer to console her.

Homer tells Lisa while playing her music box that he doesn’t know what she’s going through because all of the people he really loves are still in his life. He starts acting like a monkey and Lisa cheers up. He also wins over a sullen Bart by insisting that by winning a presidency, you have to do a lot of extra work and even gives Maggie a pacifier. At the end of the episode, he tells Marge that he is on the “biggest role of his life.”

Had it not have been for the fact that currently I happen to have a Mr. Bergstrom-esque figure in my life, I doubt I would have ranked this episode so high. It is my belief that everybody deserves a mentor in their life, somebody who believes in you and coaches you to success or at the very least, sympathizes with you. When I was in 6th-8th grade, my mentor was my English teacher Mrs. Williams who embodied the spirit of the woman I hoped I would one day become. She was very young and spirited with a great sense of humor and a ferocious creative streak. She was the one who suggested I read the Harry Potter series and we even had a love for these Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels which she let me borrow. She was always very kind to me and during those tough tween years, it was good to know that I had somebody outside of my intermediate family that was older than me that I could talk to.

It seemed to me that for a long time, she was the only mentor I would get. That was fine. I felt very fortunate just by knowing her and it seemed at times, that I got off too lucky in that respect. When I transferred to my current university fortune kissed me once more. My current mentor is my communications teacher Don whom I was placed into his persuasion class by complete chance. As I recall, I dreaded his class the most out of anyone’s that semester because it met once a week for an excruciating 3 and a half hours. The first few weeks, I remember I was approached by one of my classmates in that class who asked me how I liked the class and I completely dismissed it with “its fine” because at that point, it seemed just that: fine. I’m not really sure what or how things changed but all of a sudden, I felt open to speaking in that class. He encouraged my opinions which made those 3 hours my favorite of the entire week. We also happen to have quite a bit in common and bonded over mutual love for Arrested Development (linking the world together one frozen banana at a time).

Like Mr. Bergstrom, Don also has unconventional teaching methods that I highly applaud. I love going outside of the box and anytime one of my teachers do it, it makes me feel thrilled. He’s also very funny, with the same vein of humor that my Dad and I share. It’s pretty rare for me to find somebody that I feel instantly connected to and even more difficult to find a guy that I can get along with. You would think that would be easy for a girl who grew up in a house with three brothers and was used to being surrounded by boys but it seems to almost have an adverse effect on me. Hmm… or we could chalk it up to the belief that an overwhelming amount of my friends and the gossip rumor mill believes I really think about him but that isn’t so because I already have my own personal note to myself that I’ve known for a little while about who I am: “I am Heather Taylor.”

1. Lisa's Wedding, Season 6
Oh Lisa. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. I have always enjoyed a good flashback episode to any TV show but a flash-forward glimpse into the future is something I always liked on with the Simpson family. Out of the couple they had, I loved Lisa's Wedding the best.
This episode takes place at a Renaissance Fair(e) that everyone attends. Lisa gets embarrassed by Homer who is eating a bunch of meat and wanders off to have a mysterious woman read her fortune where we are shown at a university in the year 2010. Ironically enough, if you put the show and my age up against one another, Lisa and I will/would be graduating from college in the same year.

In college Lisa has abandoned her red dress and pearls for a pair of jeans and a pink turtleneck with fluffy hair. She keeps running into a handsome arrogant British guy named Hugh Parkfield who reads faster than her and enjoys the same Soy Pops. They fall in love and Lisa even visits his upper crust parents in England. Hugh pops the question and Lisa accepts but now Hugh must visit the Simpson family and Lisa is worried that Homer will ruin her wedding.

While the other houses on the street are highly futuristic, 742 Evergreen Terrace remains a shantytown with a poorly built on additional bedroom on the side of the house. Homer still works at the Power Plant and Milhouse is his supervisor. Marge is still a stay at home mom. Bart works at a demolition company with plans to go to law school and has been married at least twice already. Maggie is very talkative but you never hear it in the episode.

Lisa and Hugh arrive at the Simpson home where a number of antics ensue including the most horrific but hilarious in the Union Jack accidentally catching on fire and the family throwing compost all over it before handing the burnt flag to Hugh who chokes out that "it's still warm."

Hugh and Homer go out for a night at Moe's which is Hugh's small bachelor party (not the strip club that Bart alone went to). Homer gives Hugh a pair of hideous pig cuff links to wear at the wedding which find themselves on the dresser on the wedding day. Homer tries to mask his disappointment but Lisa insists it was a mistake and talks to Hugh about it. Hugh turns out to a jerk who looks forward to returning to London exclusively and remarks that Lisa is "like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt." Lisa is horrified at the end of losing her family and cancels the wedding. As she leaves the grounds, the flash-forward ends and she's back at the Renaissance Fair. She can't change her future (the fortune teller advises not to look too surprised) but she can at least find Homer and enjoy being in his company.

There are a number of reasons why I always held this episode close to me. As a tween, watching Lisa in college felt like looking at what my future would inevitably look like. I was always very in awe of people who were in college because they were it. The height of sophistication and intelligence. Of course in the real world, most of the people I know in college went to class stoned half the time and wore PJs all day long (hell no). I’m not sure what kind of college I was envisioning but I think it looked awfully similar to the Fall Catalog from Delia’s.

Lisa also met Hugh at college and damn, Hugh was it too! Unfortunately my own current college and the school I attended prior did not provide me a handsome, smart, Ralph Lauren advertisement of a boy. This leaves me to pursue grad school for the answers, perhaps over in the East. And while I’m at it, I’ll just keep digging my student loan grave.

But all in all, I admire Lisa for giving up her potential happiness to stay loyal to her family. This takes a great deal of unselfishness and caring and even though Hugh was obviously let down, she did the best thing in the situation that she could; she followed her heart.

Love to you all,


Anonymous said...

The Simpsons is the best show ever. They've been very good for a very long time so they deserve it. My favorite scene is when Homer falls on Bart's skateboard and he launches across the canyon. And he starts yelling, "I'm going to make it!" and then he slowly starts falling into the canyon. That's one of the hardest laughs I've ever had.

Heather Taylor said...

I know! I especially love how when the paramedics air lift him, he falls back down again.