Ten great years of 'The Simpsons'

By Jacob Abbott

© Badger Herald, U. Wisconsin, September 23, 1999.

(U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis. -- I thought I was the biggest "Simpsons" fan, hands down. "I have 10 tapes of 'Simpsons' episodes at home," I boasted to a co-worker.

"Really?" he replied, seemingly unimpressed. "I've got 13."

What is it about this program that has earned it such a rabid following, among members of our generation in particular? Across college campuses everywhere, and with surprisingly few exceptions, there seems to be a rule: intelligent people like "The Simpsons."

The reasons are numerous, too many to list all of them here; the crisp, colorful animation, the hilarious voices, the frequent guest stars and the near-perfect balance between brilliant satirical wit and low-brow antics are just a few that leap to mind.

And so, as the show opens its 10th year with a season premiere this Sunday, Herald Entertainment pays tribute by selecting a few of our favorites. While this list is by no means definitive - there must be at least 50 episodes that could lay claim to the title of "Best Simpsons Ever" - our choices could certainly serve as a primer for anyone looking to understand the phenomenon. As for the hardcore fans, well, these should bring up some fond memories.

"Homer's Enemy"

Frank Grimes, a correspondence school graduate with a degree in nuclear physics, is a pathetic loner recently hired at the Springfield power plant. His no-nonsense attitude brutally conflicts with Homer's extraordinarily lazy style, and he instantly deems them "enemies."

Homer, in an attempt to win over the seething and friendless "enemy," gives him the pet name "Grimey" and invites him over for dinner. Upon seeing Homer's wife, children, house and car, Grimey declares his extreme jealously for Homer, a man who has everything, including a 10-year-old son who (in a left-field sub story line) has his own factory.

But the next day when Grimey attempts to humiliate Homer in front of his co-workers, and Homer is instead revered, Grimey accidentally kills himself while acting out in a bitter rage.

At Grimey's funeral, Homer once again steals the show when, as Grimey's casket is being lowered into the ground, Homer is fast asleep and snoring loudly. The entire funeral turns and laughs at Homer during Grimey's last (and first) moments of public recognition. The credits appear and viewers are left stunned at the sheer darkness of the laughter at the poor guy's funeral.

This episode also contains a classic unrelated-to-the-plot scene steal: Homer sits in his new swivel chair at work, gleefully chanting, "Chair goes round, chair goes round."

- Rebecca Hailpern

"I Love Lisa"

Any "Simpsons" episode centered around Ralph Wiggum is virtually guaranteed to be a quality viewing experience. Aside from Homer, no other character says things quite as randomly as Ralph.

From the classic, "My cat's breath smells like cat food," to the goofy "when I grow up, I want to be a principal or a catepiller," to the simply hilarious, "Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet and they were making babies and I saw one of the babies and then the baby looked at me,"(telling his parents about seeing Bart's teacher and the principal making out in a janitor's closet) Ralph has had some of the best one-liners on the show.

But this is about a favorite episode, not a favorite character. Ralph's appearances are always funny, but he was at his best in the episode entitled "I Love Lisa."

Ralph and Lisa's class is celebrating Valentine's Day. After recovering from an unfortunate pasting incident, where he manages to glue his head to his shoulder, Ralph anxiously awaits the arrival of his classmates' valentines. Sadly, however, he finds none. Lisa, seeing his tears, hastily signs a valentine for Ralph, who takes Lisa's note as a sign that he has become her boyfriend.

Lisa, unwilling to break Ralph's heart, instead avoids talking to him. But, when Ralph gives her a ticket to Krusty's Anniversary Special, Lisa, not wanting to miss the entertainment event of the year, accompanies him.

During the taping, Ralph reveals his love for Lisa, as well as his marriage plans, to the entire television audience. Lisa finally reaches the breaking point, yelling the reasoning behind her valentine and breaking his heart.

Surprisingly, Ralph recovers and goes on to win friends and admirers with his show-stopping performance as George Washington in the school's Presidents' Day play a few days later.

All things considered, it's a great episode, in part for showing the depth of Ralph's character in a way that few episodes have, but mostly just for being pretty damn funny.

- Mike Schramm

"A Fish Called Selma"

My favorite "Simpsons" episode of all time, undoubtedly, is the only Troy McClure feature episode ever made. In this episode, McClure, the washed-up educational film star, attempts to revive his faded film career by starting a relationship with a woman to erase a rumor that linked him romantically with fish.

One day at the DMV, Troy meets Selma, Marge's older sister. In exchange for letting him pass the test illegally, Troy takes the annoying Simpson in-law to dinner. After dinner, a group of paparazzi snap photos of the two, dispelling rumors about McClure's fish fetish. Soon after, McClure begins to receive script offer after script offer. The newly-found interest caused by Selma's addition is culminated when McClure lands the lead role in a musical version of "Planet of the Apes."

The musical performance, linking the cheesy film series with serious Broadway theater, is the climax of the memorable episode. The song "Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius" sung by McClure backed by several apes is a tune that I sang joyfully for days after its original airing during my sophomore year of high school.

This episode sticks out in my mind for a few reasons. First, it focuses on Troy McClure, who is one of the most unique characters on the show. A smooth-talking limnophile, he has a knack for producing the best lines in the series, like telling a soon-to-be pregnant Selma to light up, as she's "smoking for two now," or bragging that he's "been reading a lot of scripts lately - you know, it's a lot cheaper than going to the movies." Second, the episode's plot is based around Springfield's shady entertainment scene including appearances by a sleazy publicist and Ranier Wolfcastle, the buffoonish meathead actor. Best of all, the episode displays the late Phil Hartman - the voice behind Troy McClure - at his best. Phil will certainly be missed by all "Simpsons" fans in the coming season.

- Matt Rodbard

"Lisa On Ice"

Of the many "Simpsons" episodes to choose as "best ever," one stands clearly above the rest in my mind. "Lisa on Ice" eloquently combines sibling rivalry, Homer as the overbearing sports father and my favorite bloodsport - hockey.

>From the outset, the episode is chock full of some of the greatest "Simpsons" one-liners of all time. After all, who could forget Ralph Wiggum's "Me fail English? That's unpossible!" which he says at the same academic alert assembly at which Lisa finds out she is failing gym class. The only way she can pass is to join an outside sports team.

Enter pee-wee hockey. After spectating at one of Bart's games, Lisa is recruited by Apu's Kwik-E-Mart Gougers as a goaltender after defending herself against Bart's flying garbage.

After Homer protests a bit ("girls should stick to girls' sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such"), Lisa plays and becomes Bart's adversary. In the end, their sibling bond wins out as they refuse to have a final shoot-out, and although Homer calls them both "losers," the love is there.

- Kaya Richmond

Submitted by Dave Hall

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Last updated on September 25, 1999 by Jouni Paakkinen (