TV Article

The best ''Simpsons'' episodes, Nos. 16-20

The Simpsons
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16. FLAMING MOE'S
Airdate Jan. 21, 1991
Moe laments his poor business: ''Increased job satisfaction and family togetherness are poison for a purveyor of mind-numbing intoxicants like myself.'' Then Homer invents a new drink, for which Moe takes credit. The ''Flaming Moe'' turns his bar into a raging success (a velvet-rope policy begins, Aerosmith perform ''Walk This Way,'' and Moe hires a comely new bartender). ''Flaming Moe's'' is a crucial addition to ''The Simpsons''' liquor canon, with a ''Cheers'' parody that includes a sobering theme song (''Liquor in a mug/Can warm you like a hug''). Extra attraction: Bart actually apologizes for making a prank call to Moe's. Remorse and fiery mixed drinks -- does it get much better?

17. BART THE DAREDEVIL (pictured)
Airdate Dec. 6, 1990
The death-defying motorcycle jumps of daredevil Capt. Lance Murdock inspire Bart to jump Springfield Gorge on his skateboard. Attempting to show Bart the danger of the stunt, Homer tries to jump the gorge, and fails. Homer as teacher? Indeed, in ''Daredevil'' we watch the writers in the act of working out Homer's character, balancing selfless and serious with self-serving and slow-witted. His anxiety about getting through Lisa's school orchestra recital to attend Murdock's ''Truckasaurus'' Monster Truck Rally is more in keeping with the lug we know now; Homer hears that the band is playing Schubert's ''Unfinished'' Symphony and says, ''Oh, good -- unfinished. This shouldn't take long.'' Bonus: ''Daredevil'' introduces Dr. Julius Hibbert, who has not yet developed his trademark chuckle.

18. HOMER BADMAN
Airdate Nov. 27, 1994
Years before viewers learned such terrifying terms as ''Lewinsky'' and ''Fox News Channel,'' ''The Simpsons'' aired this fractured take on tabloid media, '90s feminism, and our nation's obsession with gummy candy. Homer is accused of sexually harassing a babysitter -- an ordeal later turned into the TV movie ''Homer S.: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber.'' While defending himself on the newsmag ''Rock Bottom,'' his comments are hilariously edited out of context -- an over-the-top example of our sound-bite-fixated culture. While later seasons overplay Homer's stupidity, ''Badman'' shows him to be a sweet-natured goof; as a brief musical aside shows, he'd rather escape under the sea, ''Little Mermaid''-style, than deal with reality.

19. SIMPSONS SPIN-OFF SHOWCASE
Airdate May 11, 1997
''Could 'The Simpsons' ever maintain its popularity without Moe the bartender?'' asks Troy McClure. ''Let's hope so -- because Moe is leaving to do his own sitcom.'' This send-up of spin-offs has it all, from odd pairings (Grampa Simpson's spirit inhabits a love-tester machine in Moe's bar) to awkward cameos (says Lisa to Chief Wiggum, newly relocated to New Orleans: ''I can't wait to hear about all the exciting, sexy adventures you're sure to have against this colorful backdrop''). But ''The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour'' is the strongest of the three spawn -- a searing homage to one of the most dreadful spin-offs ever, ''The Brady Bunch Hour.'' The Waylon Smithers Dancers and ''Hee Haw'' interstitials are a hoot, but memo to Fox: Don't be getting any ideas.

20. RADIO BART
Airdate Jan. 9, 1992
Homer tries to top his past gifts to Bart (a shoe tree and shelf paper) with a Mr. Microphone-style radio. The boy immediately drops it down a well and begins broadcasting plaintive cries for help as Timmy O'Toole. A ridiculous media circus ensues: Hucksters sell authentic Timmy baby teeth, and guest voice Sting leads an overblown, ''We Are the World''-style ballad called ''We're Sending Our Love Down the Well.'' In the end, Timmy's story is bumped off the front page by a squirrel who resembles Abraham Lincoln, and Sting's ditty gets booted from No. 1 by Funky C Funky Do's ''I Do Believe We're Naked.'' It's a media parody so sharp, we're still stinging a bit.

Originally posted Jan 30, 2003
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