This is the kind of weekend you remember forever. I’m only sort of kidding.
The Simpsons will air all weekend long on FXX as part of the network’s “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon, celebrating the network’s exclusive cable rights to the show. As impressive as it is to run 552 episodes (plus the movie!) over 12 days, the latter part of the marathon will consist of the less-good recent seasons.
So this weekend is the sweet spot. The show gets beyond its sometimes-awkward early seasons and gets into best-comedy-ever territory. If you are new to the show, or you simply want to re-live the finest episodes the show has to offer (roughly Seasons 4 through 8), I provide this guide of the 10 episodes to DVR this weekend.
Marge vs. the Monorail
(Friday, 9:00 p.m.)
This is possibly my favorite episode of all-time. It is one of the funniest half-hours of television I have ever seen, and I am head-over-heels for Phil Hartman as the Music Man-parodying Phil Hartman. “Monorail” is comedic songwriting at the show’s finest.
(Saturday, 1:00 a.m.)
The writers put out some delicious satire over these seasons, one of which is “Whacking Day,” skewering local politics, public education and mob mentality with aplomb.
(Saturday, 3:00 a.m.)
There are several great episodes involving Bart trying to evade the murderous Sideshow Bob. This one is my favorite.
Who Shot Mr. Burns
(Sunday, 1:30 a.m.)
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat because it’s a two-part episode. But this is too much of a classic to miss.
(Sunday, 5:00 a.m.)
This list may be a bit Homer-episode-heavy (no pun intended), but these seasons are where the writers really hit the sweet spot of making the protagonist lovable and oafish without being a total idiot. For Homer, the idea of gaining 61 pounds in order to work from home makes complete sense.
It also features an underrated classic joke. When Homer causes a gas leak that destroys a corn field, the poor farmer can only lament: “Oh no, the corn! Paul Newman’s gonna have ma’ legs broke!”
22 Short Films About Springfield
Not every one of the vignettes is a knockout, but the whole is greater than the sum, in part because of the brilliant ways director Jim Reardon transitions between each story.
My favorites? Apu having a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off lark as he leaves the Kwik-E-Mart for five minutes; Dr. Nick being utilized for a crazy procedure on Grampa; a Pulp Fiction parody as Chief Wiggum discovers McDonald’s; Nelson taunting the extremely tall man; and of course, Principal Skinner and his steamed hams.
Summer of 4 Ft. 2
(Sunday, 1:30 p.m.)
As you re-live the Simpsons’ glory years, The AV Club explorations of classic episodes act as a nice guide. I particularly liked Dennis Perkins’ recent piece on “Summer of 4 Ft. 2.”
Of all the myriad residents of Springfield, Lisa is the most alone. Sure, her family loves her—in their way—but her intelligence sets her apart, even as the little girl in her wants nothing more than to be one of the crowd. Lisa appeals to every viewer who looks at the craziness and boorishness of a loud, dumb world and longs to both transcend it and be embraced by it. And since Springfield is our world, only exponentially crazier and more boorish, Lisa’s isolation is even more profound.
This strikes at my heart. Lisa, I can relate. Maybe you can too.
You Only Move Twice
(Sunday, 3:00 p.m.)
If it’s not on everyone’s list of top-five favorite episodes, it does feature one of the greatest one-off characters in Simpsons history. Albert Brooks is perfect as Hank Scorpio, Homer’s too-nice-to-be-true boss at his new job in Cypress Creek. Scorpio and the new-age workplace play a fantastic dynamic as the place Homer finally feels accepted for his… particular style of work ethic. Watch to the end for the brilliant James Bond-esque parody song.
The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
(Sunday, 9:00 p.m.)
The episode is a hilarious send-up of cartoon tropes and an inside-baseball critique of executive tampering with beloved programs. Let’s not forget the Simpsons writers commenting on fan criticism of their show:
Bart: Hey, I know it wasn’t great, but what right do you have to complain?
Comic Book Guy: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
Bart: What? They’re giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe them!
Comic Book Guy: …Worst episode ever.
And don’t forget Roy.
Homer vs. the 18th Amendment
(Sunday, 11:00 p.m.)
Some of my favorite episodes position Homer opposite goofy one-time characters. When a prohibitionist movement sparks up in Springfield, Homer becomes a bootlegger being chased by Rex Banner, a fedora-wearing officer whose idea of speaking plainly and simply involves asking “Where’d you pinch the hooch? Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side?”