1. Life & Culture

FXX 'Simpsons' marathon: The 10 episodes you must record

Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy in “Marge Vs. The Monorail.” 
The Simpsons ©1993
Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy in “Marge Vs. The Monorail.” The Simpsons ©1993
Published Aug. 21, 2014

For years, I've had a season pass to syndicated reruns of The Simpsons programmed into my DVR. My thinking: If there's nothing else good on TV, hey, at least I'll have five or so Simpsons at my disposal.

But as any Simpsons diehard knows, the episodes that currently air in syndication hail from its later seasons, all drastically inferior to those from the show's mid-'90s heyday. Which is why FXX's "Every Simpsons Ever" marathon, kicking off at 10 a.m. Thursday and running through midnight on Labor Day, is such a gigantic deal.

The marathon celebrates FXX's acquisition of the rebroadcast rights to all 25 seasons, all 552 episodes, and ushers the world into a new era of Simpsons geekery. In addition to regularly airing Simpsons episodes from every era — classics and clunkers alike — the network will soon launch an app called Simpsons World that'll have every episode streaming on demand.

FXX's 12-day retrospective is a stellar reminder of just how great The Simpsons once was. From Friday afternoon to late Sunday night, you'll be able to turn on FXX and catch an episode from Seasons 4 through 8 — inarguably The Simpsons' brightest era, which by default makes it one the brightest eras in the history of televised comedy, period.

Here are 10 classic episodes airing this weekend that I've already punched into my DVR.

"Marge vs. the Monorail" (9 p.m. Friday): If Conan O'Brien did nothing after writing this Season 4 episode about cash-flush Springfield's new monorail, he'd still be labeled a comedy genius. O'Brien will perform the episode's centerpiece musical number, The Monorail Song, in a live Simpsons spectacular in September at the Hollywood Bowl.

"Last Exit to Springfield" (11:30 p.m. Friday): This Season 4 episode about Homer leading a power plant workers' strike is frequently cited as the series' finest moment — Entertainment Weekly called it "virtually flawless." Heavier on commentary than laugh-a-minute gags, it's never been my favorite, but I should give it another go. It's been a while.

"Deep Space Homer" (9:30 a.m. Saturday): In Season 5, Homer goes into space. The only debate here is over the episode's best line: Kent Brockman's "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords;" or Buzz Aldrin's "Careful! They're ruffled!"

"Treehouse of Horror V" (4 p.m. Saturday): The first in an epic run of Season 6 episodes, I'd argue this is two-thirds of the best Simpsons episode ever. A parody of The Shining ("No TV and no beer make Homer something something") and Homer's time-travel escapades ("Stupid bug! You go squish now!") are completely, utterly flawless. The third act, a Soylent Green spin set at Springfield Elementary, falls short only by comparison.

"Homer Badman" (5:30 p.m. Saturday): Homer is charged with sexual harassment after plucking a piece of candy off his babysitter's butt. But who could resist the Gummi Venus de Milo? "The rarest gummi of them all ... carved by gummi artisans who work exclusively in the medium of gummi."

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"Homer the Great" (7 p.m. Saturday): Some will vote for The Monorail Song, but I say We Do (The Stonecutters' Song), from this Season 6 episode about a secret society, is the series' best musical number. Who controls the British crown? Who robbed cavefish of their sight? Who made Steve Guttenberg a star? They do. They do.

"Who Shot Mr. Burns?" Parts 1 and 2 (1:30 and 2 a.m. Sunday): A major flaw with The Simpsons' DVDs was the decision to package Season 6's cliffhanger finale and Season 7's climactic opener in separate volumes. The reasoning was obvious, of course, but these episodes were meant to be watched back to back. Finally, FXX is giving us that chance.

"Much Apu About Nothing" (1 p.m. Sunday): Written by future Futurama co-creator David X. Cohen, this Season 7 episode about immigration and xenophobic hysteria remains impactful and relevant today. It also contains several of the series' best lines, including Homer telling Apu: "You must love this country more than I love a cold beer on a hot Christmas morning."

"Summer of 4 Ft. 2" (1:30 p.m. Sunday): Set during a weeklong beach getaway, Season 7's penultimate episode is not only one of this run's funniest, but one of its most touching — Lisa wrestling with her nerdy identity, Bart's attempts to undermine her self-reinvention, their affecting reconciliation at the end. This is some of Yeardley Smith's best work as Lisa.

"Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" (11 p.m. Sunday): From Season 8, another contender for Greatest Episode Ever. Prohibition hits Springfield, and after countless misadventures involving bathtub mint juleps and justice by catapult, the show ends with what many consider the series' greatest line: "To alcohol: The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."