6. MR. PLOW
Airdate Nov. 19, 1992
”Call Mr. Plow, that’s my name/That name again is Mr. Plow!” Those 12 words of insipid brilliance stand testament to one of the few times Homer has actually succeeded at something. As Springfield’s No. 1 snow mover, Homer – rather incredibly – earns some extra money, the gratitude of Mayor Quimby, and the amorous adoration of Marge (She: ”Would you mind…?” He: ”Cutting my nails? Brushing my teeth?”). But Homer finds competition – and even betrayal – from…Barney? A curiously dark episode (we learn that Homer is responsible for Barney’s alcoholism) in which escalating tensions come to a head on icy Widow’s Peak. Not exactly laugh-a-minute, but, oh that jingle…
7. ITCHY & SCRATCHY LAND
Airdate Oct. 2, 1994
Based on those cartoonishly violent killer critters, Itchy & Scratchy Land is the theme-park realization of Bart’s most extreme daydreams – no wonder he and Lisa beg to go there for a family trip. What’s waiting for the Simpsons when they arrive – besides two gargantuan parking lots, of course – is actually a smart riff on the Disney empire: There are shots at Walt’s lame character spin-offs (Klu Klux Clam, anyone?), a dig at his speculated sordid past (Itchy & Scratchy’s creator turns out to be a Nazi sympathizer), and a nod to the park’s mollifying grown-up attractions (the booze-filled ”Parents’ Island”). When the animatronics attack, the showdown between man and machine – okay, Homer and a giant robot mouse – is an uproarious rebuttal to capitalism run amok.
8. A FISH CALLED SELMA (pictured)
Airdate March 24, 1996
You may remember Troy McClure from such TV shows as ”The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular,” but in his splashiest turn, the underemployed actor is plagued by a ”romantic abnormality.” ”Gay? I wish!” says the closeted fish fetishist, who becomes a family man by marrying Marge’s sister Selma (the one with a repetitive stress injury from scratching her butt). Hollywood lampoons are well-tread ground for the show, but this take on the scandal-contrition cycle, featuring the wonderful McClure vehicle ”Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!,” is particularly smart. And Selma’s farewell to McClure is also a touching tribute to the man who supplied his voice, the late Phil Hartman: ”Goodbye, Troy. I’ll always remember you, but not from your films.”
9. TREEHOUSE OF HORROR V
Airdate Oct. 30, 1994
”Simpsons” Truism No. 666: ”Treehouse” episodes are as inconsistent as Grampa’s bladder. Welcome to the exception. ”The Shinning” is a parody brimming with such detail, comic timing (”No TV and no beer make Homer…something something”), and Kubrick send-ups that it ranks with the greatest of pop-culture spoofs. ”Time and Punishment” features Homer’s time-traveling toaster and one of the most beautifully random moments in ”Simpsons” history (Homer: ”Don’t panic. Remember the advice your father gave you on your wedding day.” Grampa in thought bubble: ”If you ever travel back in time doooooonnnn’t step on anything…”). Maybe ”Nightmare Cafeteria” doesn’t shine as brilliantly, but we think it’s perfectly, well, ”cromulent.”
10. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF HOMER
Airdate Dec. 9, 1993
When Mr. Burns is forced to hire a female employee at the plant, Homer is suddenly very attentive at work. There’s plenty Homer admires about Mindy Simmons (voiced to slinky perfection by Michelle Pfeiffer): gluttony, sloth, and, he suspects, outrage that ”’Ziggy”s gotten too preachy!” Of course, we know that Homer will stay faithful – his marriage having already survived Jacques the bowling instructor (see No. 21) and a giant catfish named General Sherman. But it’s Homer’s anguished journey (”Oh no, I’m sweating like Roger Ebert!”) – and a memorable cameo by ”Hogan’s Heroes”’ Colonel Klink – that makes getting there so great. It’s no ”Scenes From a Marriage,” but it’s a hell of a lot more amusing.