There’s no TV family more familiar to viewers than The Simpsons. From their early Waltons-skewering days to their wackier modern adventures, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have been entertaining us in their own show for 28 years.
Now, as the brand new series starts on Sunday 8th January at 6pm on Sky 1, we’re taking a look at the best episodes of the show that you HAVEN’T already seen – one from each of the last 11 seasons – to prove that it’s just as entertaining as it’s always been.
What Happens? The Simpsons get trapped in a cave, prompting Lisa to tell a story about being attacked by a sheep the week before. Then it becomes a story-in-a-story… and again, and again, until the episode wraps all the way back on itself.
Why It’s So Good It has an innovative format, which is always fun, but it also serves up some background history for characters like Edna Krabappel and the Rich Texan - even an origin for Snake!
Mr. Burns: (to the Rich Texan) “I make money using my brain! Not sticking a pole in the ground and praying for goo!”
Simpsons Trivia Need proof that it’s good? This episode was nominated for an Outstanding Animated Program Emmy in 2006.
What Happens? Principal Skinner sets up a new organisation called CTU (“Counter-Truancy Unit”) and puts Lisa in charge, while Bart finds himself on a quest to stop the school bullies setting off a huge stink bomb in the building.
Why It’s So Good Partly the plot, which is great fun and full of little twists, but also the direction, which masterfully apes the distinctive style of the show this episode parodies.
[Lisa and Skinner are investigating security footage of the school]
Principal Skinner: “Enhance!”
[The camera zooms in on a desk with "Skinner Stinks" carved into it]
Principal Skinner: “Dehance! Dehance!”
Simpsons Trivia Guest-starring Kiefer Sutherland in-character as (who else?) Jack Bauer.
What Happens? Lisa enters a documentary about her family into the Sundance film festival, much to their consternation.
Why It’s So Good Its skewering of the Independent film scene is hilarious if you’re at all familiar with it, but even if you’re not it’s worth watching for the documentary Nelson makes alone.
Jim Jarmusch: “I can eat a raw onion without crying.”
Homer: “Oh yeah? Prove it, Hollywood! “
[Jim Jarmusch eats an onion and tears up]
Homer: “Hey, you're crying!”
Jim Jarmusch: “Yes, but I'm crying about something else.”
Simpsons Trivia The episode guest stars both director Jim Jarmusch and actor John C. Reilly, sending themselves up in brilliant fashion.
What Happens? When Marge loses her sight, Maggie is taken in by a convent of nuns who hope to bring about world peace.
Why It’s So Good It’s wacky in a way that might put off fans of the show’s early years, but you can’t fault the gags, nor the genuine emotion it elicits from the relationship between Marge and Maggie.
Kent Brockman: “Today, Springfield will experience a rare total eclipse of the sun. A solar eclipse is like a woman breast-feeding in a restaurant. It's free, it's beautiful, but under no circumstances should you look at it.”
Simpsons Trivia Parodies movies like The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure.
What Happens? Homer is cast as Everyman, a superhero created by Comic Book Guy, in the big-screen adaptation. But a troubled production leads to a movie that doesn’t quite fit anyone’s vision…
Why It’s So Good Let’s face it, everyone’s a superhero nerd these days, and this episode nails the concerns people have about Hollywood adaptations of their favourite characters while treating the subject with a sympathetic hand.
Lisa: “There were a lot of holes in your story.”
Studio Exec: “That's the problem when you have 17 writers, but don't worry, we have two fresh ones working on it.”
[Cut to Maggie and Mr. Teeny the monkey banging at typewriters]
Simpsons Trivia This episode is written by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, with Rogan only the second person to both write and guest star in an episode (after Ricky Gervais).
What Happens? Lisa takes over as manager of Bart’s Little League baseball team and uses a statistical analysis technique called sabermetrics to put them on top, even though it proves unpopular with players and fans...
Why It’s So Good The Simpsons has a long history of making sport-based episodes interesting, and this is no exception. Its focus on Bart & Lisa’s relationship makes it a great companion piece to the sixth-season episode, Lisa On Ice.
Professor Frink: “Lisa, baseball is a game played by the dexterous, but only understood by the poin-dextrous.”
Simpsons Trivia Parodies the movie/book Moneyball, which tells the real story of how sabermetrics changed the face of baseball.
7. Season 23, Episode 19: A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again
What Happens? When Bart convinces the family to go on a cruise he realises he’ll never have this much fun again, so he fakes a disaster on land to keep the boat at sea… forever.
Why It’s So Good The post-apocalyptic premise is peak wacky-Simpsons, but the emotional reality of Bart’s plight is actually played really well. The quickly-fragmented Mad Max-esque society of the ship is also worth some laughs, with Lisa as the head of a group of knowledge-gathering scribes.
Homer [to Bart]: "Thanks to you, we're having fun. Before-we-had-kids fun!”
Simpsons Trivia Steve Coogan guest stars as Rowan Priddis, the cruise ship’s director
8. Season 24, Episode 18: Pulpit Friction
What Happens? Homer becomes a church deacon after Reverend Lovejoy is replaced by a younger, more upbeat Reverend.
Why It’s So Good With its small-town storyline, it feels like an episode from the early seasons. Lovejoy’s second choice of career is too funny an idea to spoil here.
Ned Flanders: “Jesus doesn't need Twitter to spread his message, he uses leprosy and plagues.”
Simpsons Trivia This episode is the first time the couch gag from the intro directly segued into the episode itself.
9. Season 25, Episode 9: Steal This Episode
What Happens? Homer learns how to pirate movies, but is soon arrested and put on trial for his crimes.
Why It’s So Good In tackling piracy, the episode manages to hit targets on both sides of the issue. It’s a satirical take-down worthy of South Park.
Homer: “Illegally download it? Is that legal?”
Simpsons Trivia Guest stars include some of Hollywood’s finest - Judd Apatow, Will Arnett, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Channing Tatum - as themselves.
What Happens? When the future is threatened by a radioactive plague caused by Homer, Futurama’s Bender comes back in time to kill him, followed by the rest of the Planet Express crew.
Why It’s So Good It’s THE Simpsons/Futurama crossover episode, and frankly that should be enough! Sure, it’s almost pure gimmick, but any excuse to see the Futurama characters again is worth having.
Homer: “Listen, I know you're a robot and incapable of emotion... “
Bender: (sobbing) “It's true! I'm empty inside! (He breaks down crying on the bar.)”
Simpsons Trivia This episode debuted in the same year as The Simpsons Guy, a Family Guy episode that crossed over with The Simpsons.
11. Season 27, Episode 4: Halloween of Horror
What Happens? Homer attracts the wrath of Halloween pop-up employees when he takes down his “Everscream Terror” decorations because they scare Lisa.
Why It’s So Good Episodes about Lisa and Homer’s relationship have given us some of the most affecting episodes of the Simpsons in the past, and this is enough like the best to be enjoyable. It’s also fun seeing the (usually) super-rational Lisa getting superstitious.
Lisa: “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!”
Bart: “What? No! We just got here!”
Homer: “Lisa, honey, I think you should stay. And not because the tickets were super expensive, even though they were super expensive. But remember, you were really looking forward to the fun of being scared by stuff you know isn't real - unlike the money I spent on this, which is very real.”
Simpsons Trivia This is the first canonical Halloween episode - though it was followed by a standard Treehouse of Horror episode the following week.