The Simpsons began airing as a television show in 1989. It is a spinoff of the 'Tracey Ullman Show' where it ran as a 30-second short in between sketches. It now holds the record of the longest running prime-time comedy series, as well as the longest running animated series, in US television history.
The Simpsons is about a family who live in the town of Springfield (although the exact US state has never been revealed). The family is Homer, the father; Marge, the mother; Bart, the son; Lisa, the daughter; and Maggie, the baby daughter. Homer works at the local nuclear power plant and Marge is a housewife. Bart and Lisa attend Springfield Elementary School and Marge takes care of Maggie during the day. In the 20+ years that the show has been running, none of them have aged. Homer and Marge are in their late 30s or early 40s, Bart is 10, Lisa is 8, and Maggie is a toddler. The show is very satirical and delves into social commentary and pop-culture.
10 of the greatest Simpsons episodes, in no particular order:
Trash of the Titans (Season 9) â U2 guest stars. In this episode, Homer is too lazy to take out the trash. After an argument with the garbage collectors and dissatisfied with the process, he decides to run for Sanitation Commissioner. He wins, but then spends the annual budget the first month he takes office. Needing money, he allows neighboring towns to dump their trash in Springfield, which of course ruins the town. Homer is voted out and life in Springfield carries on. Best quote: when Homer wants to promote his political agenda at the U2 concert he gets booed. Bono quiets the crowd and says "The man's talking about waste management; that affects the whole damn planet!" One of the greatest characteristics of the Simpsons is how they get the celebrity guests to make fun of themselves.
Homer at the Bat (Season 3) â Evil nuclear plant owner Montgomery Burns makes a $1 million bet with a rival nuclear plant owner that his softball team is better than his rival's team. Determined to win, Mr. Burns hires professional baseball players as ringers. Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, Roger Clemens, and other popular players at the time lend their voices as the ringers. A classic episode with an even more classic theme song.
Treehouse of Horror (Season 2) â Every year the Simpsons show a Halloween episode consisting of 3 or 4 short scary stories, and this is still the best one after 20 years. The 3rd story acts out 'The Raven' as written by Edgar Allan Poe and narrated by James Earl Jones (most famous for the voice of Darth Vader in the 'Star Wars' series). Even for the Simpsons, Jones narrates the poem beautifully.
The Simpsons' 138th Episode Spectacular (Season 7) â A clip show looking back on the first six seasons. In the early days of the Simpsons, a character named Troy McClure was popular. He was voiced by the brilliant comedian Phil Hartman (who also voiced other characters as well). Hartman was murdered in 1998 and the Simpsons retired his characters after that. This episode shows McClure hosting a clip show and is a reminder of how great Phil Hartman was.
One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish (Season 2) â In this episode, the Simpsons decide to be adventurous and go to the Happy Sumo Restaurant for sushi. Homer eats a piece of blowfish that is prepared incorrectly and makes him sick. The doctor then gives him 24 hours to live, during which Homer tries to do everything before he dies. He falls asleep listening to the Bible on tape (narrated by Larry King). It turns out he doesn't die and vows to live life to the fullest. During the closing credits, we see Homer sitting on the couch, eating pork rinds and watching bowling on television.
Behind the Laughter (Season 11) â another clip show, this time is the style of VH1's 'Behind the Music'. Jim Forbes narrates the 'documentary' (he also narrates the real 'Behind the Music' series). In true reality-show drama fashion, the show focuses on Homer's addiction to painkillers after a back injury, Marge's bad business investments, and Bart's time in rehab. There is also tax evasion, a hostile split among the family, and a tell-all book by Lisa.
Bart After Dark (Season 8) â While playing with his friends, Bart accidentally damages a spooky house. For his punishment, the owner of the house wants Bart to do chores for her. The house actually turns out to be a burlesque house and Bart enjoys his new job. When Marge finds out she is furious and demands that the house be shut down. A musical number breaks out about the reasons the house should not be shut down. Marge ends up accidentally bulldozing it and works as a ventriloquist at the house to pay for the damages. This episode won an Emmy award for the musical number.
Homer Badman (Season 6) â Homer and Marge attend a candy convention and hire a feminist college-age babysitter to watch Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. While there, Homer steals the convention's most valuable candy, a gummy candy in the shape of the Venus de Milo. When they arrive home Homer is upset that he lost the candy. Marge tells him to take the babysitter home. While the babysitter is getting out of the car, Homer notices the candy stuck to her bottom. Homer pulls the candy from her bottom and promptly eats it. The babysitter, thinking that Homer was making a pass at her, files a sexual harassment lawsuit. The media gets involved, and Homer is portrayed as a pervert until he is able to prove is innocence with surveillance video. A spoof on popular 'tabloid news' shows in the 90s.
Homer's Barbershop Quartet (Season 5) â Homer reveals that back in 1985, he was part of a barbershop quartet called The Be Sharps. They wrote a hit song called 'Baby on Board', a nod to the popular craze back in the mid-80s were people would put signs on their cars in an attempt to encourage other drivers to drive safely. The episode is clearly a parody on the Beatles' rise to fame and their consequent breakup. It even includes a Yoko-Ono type girlfriend and a cameo by the late George Harrison, who is not impressed with the Be Sharps.
The Last Temptation of Homer (Season 5) â Michelle Pfeifer guest stars as Mindy, an attractive new co-worker at the nuclear power plant who is inexplicably attracted to Homer. Homer discovers that he feels the same way and tries to fight the feelings. They are chosen to go to an energy convention in Capital City and are crowned King and Queen of Energy. They eat out at 'the sexiest Chinese restaurant in Capital City' and back at the hotel admit their feelings for each other. In the end, Homer decides that he still loves Marge and she joins him on his trip.