The Simpsons seasons 1-10 are considered one of the best eras of television with some fans even cutting their viewing of the show down to seasons 3-8, but traditionally most are fans of the first ten. Whilst I believe I love every episode from these seasons, does it mean every one of them is amazing? Here I have looked at each season and picked out an individual episode which I find to not stand up to the rest of the season. Let me know in the comments whether you agree or disagree with my choices. I must disclaim that I still love the majority of these choices!
Season 1: Bart The General
The first season of The Simpsons is reminiscent of old cartoons and a new show finding its place. Obviously there would be a lot of character development to come and vocal, design and story improvements in the next two seasons, but it doesn’t mean a lot of season one is bad. I think there are episodes which really highlight the Simpsons family with each episode looking at their character. However, there is one episode that doesn’t stand out for me and that’s ‘Bart The General’.
It’s one of the least funny Simpsons episodes and perhaps one of the more childish moments in Simpsons history. Nelson is a big bad bully and Bart is on the receiving end of his bullying; this is pretty standard cartoon material. The episode goes off into a war history motive and you know Bart will in someway overcome his enemy. For me it isn’t a gripping story when you compare it to ‘Homer’s Odyssey’, ‘Moaning Lisa’ or ‘Life On The Fast Lane’. Obviously in the first two seasons, Bart was the poster boy and it’s understandable why there is more focus on him and his antics, but if I was to look at this Bart episode, it could have been shortened down to one or the early Tracey Ullman shorts. I must add though, it was a good idea for The Simpsons to tackle bullying in their own way which would reach out to their younger audience. Credit where it’s due.
Season 2: War Of The Simpsons
This is certainly one of those episodes where you sit and feel sorry for Marge, but then feel concern for how easily she forgives Homer. There are characteristics here that don’t really get repeated that much in the show and it’s a pretty gross episode altogether. Now Homer’s alcoholism is common, but his sexual side comes out here with his brief lust for Maude Flanders. Previous to this scene there is Flanders as a cocktail making genius and if you look at the series from then on, Flanders is not really a drinker except in ‘Viva Ned Flanders’ S10EP10. You could argue that this is still early Simpsons and the characters aren’t as grounded yet, but it certainly isn’t one that saw myself amused or laughing as the majority of Season 2 does.
To see Marge go from such rage to simple forgiveness after Homer throws General Sherman over the boat (after fishing for six hours) is too simple of a plot roundup for me. Bart and Lisa’s use of Grandpa is a sorry watch which in fairness sees him get his own back later on, but that puts into question how senile he is to let them buy lots of ice cream and smoke cigars, only for him to turn around as a guilt trip genius.
Season 3: Homer Alone
Season three is the start of the solid Simpsons series’ where they really had the TV world by the balls. There are so many classic episodes and some which could be considered the all time greats! It was a tough season to break down that’s for sure, but I decided to go with ‘Homer Alone’ mainly for the darker themes in the first part of the episode and its lack of humour thereafter.
I have no issues with The Simpsons’ exploration into mental health and so the first part featuring Marge’s daily struggle of running the whole household is quite a reflective look on day to day life for a lot of women. It’s a different change of pace to your average Simpsons episode and it certainly turns Marge’s daily struggle with Homer up that little bit further though which you know will result in a simple ending… but damn how much more can she really take? Upon Homer’s looking after Maggie and her wandering off there aren’t many moments I find entertaining and what is thrown at you is recurring gags that Patty and Selma are horrific to live with, Barney is as useless as ever and Homer coming up with reasons for Maggie’s disappearance. It’s a bit lacklustre.
Season 4: Itchy & Scratchy The Movie
I could have easily chosen ‘So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show’, but I have decided to only include one clip show in this list, but they are definitely the worst moments in the series. Season four is one of the top tier Simpsons seasons and ‘Itchy & Scratchy The Movie’ only takes its place on this list because it is completely overshadowed by the other episodes. The highlighting factor here is that Bart finally gets his comeuppance and is punished for his behaviour. An episode where others reap the benefits whilst Bart suffers is done better in ‘Bart Of Darkness’ (S6EP1), which can be seen from its ‘Rear Window’ parody.
Season 5: Secrets Of A Successful Marriage
To me Season 5 is perfect and can do not wrong with each episode being a classic and well-written entertainment. However, required of this list I need to find a fault somewhere and what’s better than the last episode of the series. Now the fault can’t be that the season has come to an end and it does feature many comical moments including the Homer/Moe stare down and Moe’s ‘funk dancing for self-defence’ class. My main fault with this episode is just how easily Marge takes Homer back with the simple excuse is how he’s useless without her. A recurring sight in this list is Marge being annoyed at Homer and taking him back in, and I guess this is why the episode doesn’t jump out as much because I’ve ‘seen it all before’.
Season 6: Another Simpsons Clip Show
If there’s one thing I hate in TV shows, it’s a throwback episode and even more so when there’s not much benefit or addition to the story-line. The Simpsons have had a couple of clip show episodes which have been more tasteful or have perhaps included Troy Mcclure for extra entertainment. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air had a throwback episode in their first season and if you’re binge watching the show it’s an awkward ‘I’ve already seen it’ moment which applies here. The main description of the episode is that each of the Simpson family has had a bad relationship with love from the previous five seasons and the only reclamation is Homer and Marge falling in love in S2EP25 The Way We Was and you might as well just watch that episode.
Season 7: Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming
A Sideshow Bob episode? Surely not? What foul substance could have poisoned his mind to hate such a great character… Prior to season seven, Sideshow Bob had some iconic moments in The Simpsons whether he was trying to kill Selma, Bart or rig an election, there was always some great characteristic development and dynamic voice casting range from Kelsey Grammar (Frasier). In reference the title of the episode, Sideshow Bob’s fifth outing in the series doesn’t hold up. Sideshow Bob has always had the slapstick edge to his evil genius and development towards his hatred of Bart, but here all of the progression in seasons five and six is tossed away.
Bob is now enraged at TV and at Krusty again (and sort of his past) like in the very first season. Even when met with Bart and where there are many opportunities to dispose of him, it is all left to a last minute ineffective end which has been shown before in Cape Feare. You really lose the genius in this episode and start to see the trend of Sideshow Bob as a go to character and a lot more comedic (although I do love him in season 8’s Brother From Another Series). For me this is the start of the end for Sideshow Bob as a serious character in the form of ‘what could he do next?’ but in a never-progressing show (by some degree), it’s understandable why he can be called upon so much. The Simpsons has no real timeline, it just moves with time. I think the highlights in this episode are Rupert Murdoch in jail and Milhouse in the fighter jet. You barely even get the Simpsons in this episode… not a bad episode, just not a strong Sideshow Bob moment.
Season 8: Burns, Baby Burns
Season 8 is where some fans come to an end with The Simpsons and it is a fantastic series featuring such episodes as ‘Hurricane Neddy’, ‘Homer’s Enemy’ and ‘The Springfield Files’. It was a difficult one to break down and choose, but I think in fairness to another in this list, when the Simpsons change too much about one character and never revisit that again it becomes another plot hole in the show. Whilst many moments from Rodney Dangerfield are a great laugh with his voice and personality fitting the character of Larry Burns perfectly, introducing the idea Burns has a son to then fob him off after the episode just seems a bit filler in the series. The redeeming factor I guess is how Burns cannot overcome his greedy and selfish characteristics.
Season 9: The Principal And The Pauper
This one was almost a tie between ‘The Principal And The Pauper’ and ‘All Singing All Dancing’ and the reason I didn’t pick the latter which I really am not fond of due to it being another throwback, is because I have already chosen a similar episode in ‘Another Simpsons Clip Show’. My choice has been considered by many to be the moment The Simpsons died and this is due to building up a character for eight previous seasons in Principal Skinner, only to reveal him as a fraud with his real name being ‘Armin Tamzarian’.
The episode feels to easily written that Agnes Skinner wouldn’t recognise her own son and all of Skinner’s earlier war stories from the Vietnam War were fake and really damages his stern character. Furthermore, as soon as his fake identity is revealed he basically goes off the wagon and reverts to his former self which Skinner as never done before in previous episodes orientated around him. I’d rather not remember Seymour Skinner as a street punk, to me he is still the smothered principal pushed over the limits by Bart. Once you change too much about a show and its characters it’s hard to go back. Also they just tie the original Skinner to a flatbed truck and make him leave Springfield???
Season 10: Monty Can’t Buy Me Love
For me this episode is a cheap cop to once again try and develop Mr. Burns. The episode doesn’t really go anywhere and lacks in humour besides Lenny’s unfortunate meeting with a silver dollar. The idea of throwing the Loch Ness Monster is a bizzare conclusion to the episode. I can understand the extravagant nature due to Monty being filthy rich, but it all seems to wrap up too quickly, such as the lack of description to capturing the beast in the first place. Perhaps this was the beginning of the end for The Simpsons or a kick in the wrong direction.