Almost every TV show is designed to run for only a handful of seasons. However, The Simpsons hasn’t stopped since it premiered in 1989. The show is now in its 35th season, and there are no signs of it ending anytime soon. It’s not out of the question for this show, which has already produced 760 episodes, to reach 40 seasons.
- 10. Eternal Moonshine Of The Simpson Mind (Season 19, Episode 9)
- 9. Brick Like Me (Season 25, Episode 20)
- 8. The Mysterious Voyage Of Homer (Season 8, Episode 9)
- 7. Two Bad Neighbors (Season 7, Episode 13)
- 6. Itchy & Scratchy Land (Season 6, Episode 4)
- 5. Radioactive Man (Season 7, Episode 2)
- 4. A Star Is Burns (Season 6, Episode 18)
- 3. Lisa’s Substitute (Season 2, Episode 19)
- 2. Lisa’s Wedding (Season 6, Episode 19)
- 1. The Springfield Files (Season 8, Episode 10)
Therein lies the problem, because The Simpsons really lost several steps after its first decade on the air. Almost all of the best episodes of The Simpsons come from the early seasons. There were so many great episodes back then that there are some later stories that haven’t been properly recognized as being among the show’s best. With that in mind, we’re throwing the spotlight on our picks for the 10 most underrated episodes of The Simpsons.
Eternal Moonshine Of The Simpson Mind is kind of a mishmash of Memento, It’s a Wonderful Life, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and even the David Fincher movie The Game. It starts with Homer coming home after a night of drinking to find his family gone. Most of Homer’s memories of the night before are gone, but he’s horrified that he may have hit Marge after catching her with another man.
Fortunately, The Simpsons didn’t go in that direction. Domestic violence is a little too heavy for this show. Instead, it all leads to a more life-affirming conclusion with Homer reunited with his family. Homer even decides not to drink just so he can remember this happy moment. Longtime showrunner Al Jean has suggested that if the series were to end, this would have been a good way to close out the show.
The Lego Movie beat The Simpsons‘ Brick Like Me to the punch by a few months, but this episode was a great change of pacey. Homer finds himself living in the Lego world that he and Lisa created after she abandoned their project to go see a movie. But Homer doesn’t want to wake up from this dream because he thinks it’s the only way he can spend time with Lisa.
It’s surprising how well the world of Springfield works in this animation style, and it’s one of the show’s boldest swings. The Simpsons hasn’t been known for its innovation for a long time, but this really was outstanding.
Technically, this episode’s name is El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer, which translates to The Mysterious Voyage of Homer. This episode could have made it on this list for the chili cookout contest alone, as Homer strives to prove that his iron stomach can take anything. But when he has too many of Chief Wiggum’s insanity peppers, Homer inadvertently goes on a spirit quest.
Johnny Cash is the guest voice of Homer’s spirit guide, a talking coyote who tells him that he has to find his soulmate. Homer finds this more difficult because Marge is angry at him for causing a scene the cookout, and none of his friends want that “soulmate” label for themselves. Of course, Marge was Homer’s soul mate all along. It just took some time for Homer to realize it.
It’s been so many years since Two Bad Neighbors aired that it’s easy to forget that former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, brought this on themselves. Both of the Bushes knocked The Simpsons TV series for easy political points in the early ’90s, and the series punched back in this episode where George (voiced by Harry Shearer) and Barbara moved in across the street from the Simpson family.
George quickly finds himself the Mr. Wilson to Bart’s Dennis the Menace, before igniting a feud with Homer. Most of the jokes come at George’s expense, as he and his wife ultimately leave Springfield. The next person to live in the Bushes’ former house is a joke that’s worth not spoiling here.
Leave it to The Simpsons to parody Jurassic Park, Westworld, and Disneyland all in the same episode. Itchy and Scratchy Land is even more hilarious now that the Simpsons actually are Disney characters. In a theme park filled with Itchy and Scratchy robots, it was only a matter of time before they went berserk and attacked the guests. Homer and Bart just helped send the robots into an insane frenzy of rage. Is that so wrong?
We do have to wonder if the show could ever be this bitingly critical of a Disney theme park ever again. But it’s still in Disney+ the library for everyone to appreciate.
Very early episodes of The Simpsons established Radioactive Man as the superhero equivalent of both Batman and Superman in this universe. But it took a few seasons for the show to follow that idea to a logical conclusion by actually parodying superhero movies. Even the 1960s Batman live-action series gets spoofed with a sequence that’s fall-over funny and includes a hilariously inappropriate villain in the flamboyantly campy Scoutmaster.
More than anything in the world, Bart wants to play Radioactive Man’s sidekick, Fall Out Boy. The part ultimately goes to Millhouse, who never wanted it to begin with. Millhouse becomes so disillusioned with acting that he abandons the Radioactive Man film, which leads to Rainier Wolfcastle’s best line in the series: “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”
Matt Groening famously threw a fit over the idea of crossing over The Simpsons with The Critic when the latter animated series came to Fox. Groening even went so far as to have his name removed from A Star is Burns in protest. Decades later, this comes off as petulant because there are literally hundreds of episodes of The Simpsons that aren’t as funny as this one.
Jon Lovitz reprises his role as The Critic‘s Jay Sherman, who stays with the Simpsons family for the Springfield Film Festival. Sherman actually fits in really well with the residents of Springfield, even though Homer is instantly jealous of him. The late Phil Hartman had a vocal cameo here as Ben-Hur, but this episode’s greatest contribution to The Simpsons was Hans Moleman’s now immortal line: “I was saying Boo-urns.”
There was a time when Lisa’s spotlight episodes weren’t awful and preachy, and the guest actors on this show actually played characters instead of appearing as themselves. Lisa’s Substitute gets all of that right when it introduces Dustin Hoffman as Mr. Bergstrom, a substitute teacher who quickly forms a bond with Lisa.
Lisa is so taken with Mr. Bergstrom’s guidance that she is absolutely devastated when her regular teacher returns and he has to move on. But the last lesson that Bergstrom has for Lisa is truly touching, as he gives her a note to read whenever she feels alone which says “You are Lisa Simpson.”
Homer even gets some great parenting moments at the end of the episode, which have now become a rarity after his transformation into a complete dolt. But in this moment, The Simpsons was really heartwarming.
Lisa’s Wedding was the first time that The Simpsons spent an episode in a possible future. But then the show kept doing it over and over again to diminishing returns. This was the only time it really worked and felt like it could have been an outcome for the series in the then-far-off year of 2010.
While studying abroad, Lisa meets and falls in love with Hugh Parkfield (Mandy Patinkin), an Englishman who is taken aback at her family’s crude behavior. It isn’t until Hugh states that they never have to see Lisa’s family again after the wedding that she realizes he isn’t the one for her. Lisa still loves her family too much to ever give up on them. It’s a nice note to end on before the show returns to Lisa in the present day.
Yes, it’s another crossover episode to close out this list. But The Springfield Files is also one of the funniest episodes the show has ever done, and it doesn’t get the respect that it deserves for that. The X-Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson gamely reprise their roles as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and they were both down for the silliness of this show. Compare this episode to season 18’s 24/Simpsons mash-up, 24 Minutes, and you’ll see what it looks like when a crossover is truly forced.
Mulder and Scully come to town when Homer seemingly encounters an alien on his way home from Moe’s Tavern. Leonard Nimoy also makes another guest appearance in this episode by spoofing so-called reality shows about alien visitation and UFOs. Most of all, this episode just works as a Simpsons story even without the guest stars. It has almost everything you could want from The Simpsons and more.
Watch The Simpsons on Disney+.
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