Why you should care
Because it’s not too late to give yourself over to half-hour after half-hour of The Simpsons and nothing but The Simpsons.
It’s a superfan’s dream come true. We’re smack in the middle of a comprehensive, back-to-back, chronological airing of all 552 episodes of television’s longest-running animated show, The Simpsons, courtesy of cable channel FXX.
Or is it a superfan’s nightmare? Let’s face it: Try as you might, it’s hard to carve out 276 hours of dedicated cartoon-watching in a given 12-day stretch. It comes down to some tough choices.
Keep an eye out for these episodes from the show’s five most recent seasons.
As a pop-culture institution tottering its way into its third decade, The Simpsons has its share of detractors who grumble that the latest seasons simply don’t measure up to the good old days. After all, we’re in a meta-cultural landscape in which even the phrase “jump the shark” has itself jumped the shark.
Au contraire. Like Saturday Night Live or Doctor Who, The Simpsons’ core family and its host of oddball townspeople and visiting characters are so malleable that the show can keep producing quality episodes long after the cynics have written it off. Like those who tuned out when SNL lost Belushi or Carvey or Ferrell or Poehler, those who stopped watching late-era Simpsons have missed some quality comedy.
So as you’re scouting your viewing times for the marathon, keep an eye out for these episodes from the show’s five most recent seasons, ones that the public and critics liked, as did your humble reporter who started watching in college — when the show debuted. (So it can’t be that old, right?)
Prep the coffeemaker and the DVR, and judge for yourself.
Angry Dad: The Movie
Aug. 31, 10:30 a.m. ET (Season 22, episode 14): Bart gets the chance to turn his popular Internet cartoon into a feature-length film, which, after some key edits by Lisa, racks up major awards as a short, setting the stage for conflict with a spotlight-stealing Homer — and some terrific parodies of Pixar and other animators.
The Food Wife
Aug. 31, 5 p.m. ET (Season 23, episode 5): After Homer reinforces his “Fun Dad” rep with a romp through a video game convention, Marge tries to compete by introducing the kids to exotic food. They become foodies with their own blog, “The Three Mouthketeers,” and Marge cuts Homer out of their restaurant fun by sending him to a random address that turns out to be a meth lab. The first-act gags are good cultural send-ups; the conclusion juxtaposes Marge at a too-chic restaurant while Homer thinks the meth lab is the hipster place to eat.
The Book Job
Aug. 31, 5:30 p.m. ET (Season 23, episode 6): Yes, back-to-back episodes. When Lisa discovers that “tween” book franchises are just corporate data-driven enterprises with figurehead authors, she’s determined to set things right by writing a hit book herself. Homer and company are determined to get in on the action, setting in motion an Ocean’s 11-inspired caper partially thwarted by a double-crossing Neil Gaiman, graphic novelist and nerd hero.
A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again
Aug. 31/Sept. 1, midnight ET (Season 23, episode 19): A quintessential Simpsons episode, with Bart’s self-centered prank (faking a worldwide pandemic to extend his awesome cruise ship vacation indefinitely) leading to a lesson about dealing with life by treasuring the good times, especially when shared with family. Good-hearted without cloying sentimentality, in true Simpsons style.
Brick Like Me
Sept. 1, 10:30 p.m. ET (Season 25, episode 20): Hyped to the point of nearly inevitable backlash, the show’s 550th episode was a rare foray into a different animation style, with the flat Simpsons world transformed into click-clacking Lego blocks. But the alternate realities of the Lego universe and the Springfield universe played well together, including plenty of Easter eggs for dedicated fans of either franchise.
Even though Season 26 debuts this fall with the death of a character still to be identified, we remain committed to watching. “They’ll never stop The Simpsons,” according to a self-mocking song in a Simpsons clip show. That was back in Season 13. Unlike most pronouncements by teenagers, this one was right.