300 reasons why we love The Simpsons
by Euan Ferguson (The U.K. Observer)
The 300th episode of The Simpsons was broadcast earlier this year. Find a space on the sofa and read why, in 14 years, Matt Groening’s show has become the world’s best TV programme.
1 The Schadenfreude felt on recalling George Bush Sr’s quote from 1992 – ‘We’re going to keep trying to strengthen the American family; to make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.’ Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are now the most popular American family of all time, especially in America.
2 Homer being voted, in 2001, Britain’s favourite TV character ever – above Basil Fawlty, Father Ted and Del Boy.
3-5 The ‘three little sentences’ that Homer argues will get you through life. 1: ‘Cover for me.’ 2: ‘Good idea, boss.’ 3: ‘It was like that when I got here.’
6 The minor characters, such as Bad Jack Crawley, such a bad man that Bob Dylan wrote a song to keep him in jail.
7 Homer: ‘Operator, give me the number for 911!’
8 Their proof to TV executives that dumbing up, rather than down, has nothing to recommend it except awards integrity, ratings, laughter and profits.
9-15 Number of days (seven), according to the sign outside Springfield Nuclear Plant, since the last accident.
16-17 Number of times (twice) Homer has saved the plant from meltdown by pressing the right button at the last minute. Accidentally.
18 Grampa Abe.
19-22 How not to play blackjack: Dealer:’19.’ Homer: Hit me! Dealer: ’20.’ Homer: ‘Hit Me!’ Dealer: ’21.’ Homer: ‘Hit me!’ Dealer: ’22.’ Homer: ‘D’oh!’
23 Ideally, you should be able to watch each episode anew at five distinct stages in life. As a toddler, marvelling at all the bright colours; as a teenager, enjoying the tilts at authority; as a student, relishing the in-jokes and movie references; as an adult, musing on the truths about life, love and death; and in your dotage, marvelling at all the bright colours.
24 Fabulously incompetent lawyer Lionel Hutz. (‘This is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film The Never-Ending Story ‘), and in particular…
25 …this exchange with Marge. Hutz: ‘Now don’t you worry, Mrs. Simpson, I – uh-oh. We’ve drawn Judge Snyder.’ Marge: ‘Is that bad?’ Hutz: ‘Well, he’s kind of had it in for me, since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace “accidentally” with “repeatedly”, and replace “dog” with “son”.’
26 And his mantra. ‘If there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers.’
27-36 The 10 Harvard-educated writers.
37 Those critics who got it wrong at the start by billing the Simpsons as ‘America’s most dysfunctional family.’ It’s now clear that Homer almost always ends up doing the right thing; it is, it could be argued, one of the most moral shows on television today. According to Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams: ‘It’s one of the most subtle pieces of propaganda around in the cause of sense, humility and virtue.’
38 Patty and Selma. NB: Selma has parted hair and blue dress. Patty’s the other one.
39 The sweet irony that the most profitable and arguably the greatest TV series ever came about because of the greed of copyright lawyers. Creator Matt Groening planned to recycle characters from a newspaper strip but was told this would involve mortgaging his soul to the studio. Forced to invent some instant unknowns, he drew a new family on a pad.
40 Maggie’s first word (‘Daddy’) was voiced by Liz Taylor.
41 The deliberate mystery over which state Springfield is in. Always, just before we see a name, someone stands in front of the map. Interestingly, Portland, Oregon, where Groening grew up, has streets called Flanders and Lovejoy.
42 Bart’s one trophy. Inscribed ‘Everybody Gets A Trophy Day.’
43 Nathaniel West, in Day of the Locust, featured a character called ‘Homer Simpson’ – played by Donald Sutherland, who also guested in The Simpsons, as curator of the Springfield Historical Society.
44-57 The 14 glorious years since the first airing on 17 December, 1989.
58 The American love-love relationship with food, including:
59 Homer: ‘Donut?’ Lisa: ‘No, thanks. Do you have any fruit?’ Homer: [offers some of the donut he’s eating] ‘This has purple stuff inside. Purple is a fruit.’
60 …and where it comes from: Homer: ‘Lisa, honey, are you saying you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?’ Lisa: ‘No.’ Homer: ‘Ham?’ Lisa: ‘No.’ Homer: ‘Pork chops?’ Lisa: ‘Dad! Those all come from the same animal!’ Homer: [chuckles] Yeah, right Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
61 And what to do with condiments.
Agent Mulder: ‘We want you to recreate your every move the night you saw this alien.’ Homer: ‘Well, the evening began at the gentleman’s club, where we were discussing Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon.’ Mulder: ‘Mr Simpson, it’s a felony to lie to the FBI.’ Homer: ‘We were sitting in Barney’s car eating packets of mustard. Ya happy?’
62 And what it’s called. Bart (as Tom Sawyer): ‘Hmm. Looks like we’re out of cornpone, fatback, hardtack, fatpone, corntack…’ Nelson (as Huck Finn): ‘Any tackback?’ Bart: ‘Tackback?’ Nelson: ‘I mean backtack.’ Bart: ‘Plum out.’
63 They get British humour. And throw it back at us, as in… Bart: ‘You’re watching PBS?’ Homer: ‘Hey, I’m as surprised as you, but I stumbled across the most delicious British sitcom.’ Bart: [reading title] ‘Do Shut Up’? Homer: ‘It’s about a hard-drinking yet loving family of soccer hooligans. If they’re not having a go with the birds, they’re having a row with the wankers.’
64 Homer’s Y-fronts. ‘My favourite bits’, according to novelist A.S. Byatt.
65 Napier University now uses The Simpsons to teach the defining characteristics of postmodernism.
66-75 Bart’s 10 best blackboard lines: I was not touched ‘there’ by an angel; Fire is not the cleanser; Fish do not like coffee; Pork is not a verb; The hamster did not have ‘a full life’; No one wants to hear about my sciatica; I am not my long-lost twin; The nurse is not dealing; I will not surprise the incontinent; Temptation Island is not a sleazy piece of crap.
76 Newspaper editor: ‘We’re looking for a new food critic, someone who doesn’t immediately pooh-pooh everything he eats.’ Homer: ‘Nah, it usually takes a few hours.’
77 America’s greatest love affair, between Marge and Homer. The most telling exchanges?
78 Marge: ‘Homer, is this the way you pictured married life?’ Homer: ‘Pretty much. Except we drove around in a van solving mysteries.’
79 Marge: ‘How do I know I can trust you?’ Homer: ‘Marge, look at me: we’ve been separated for a day, and I’m as dirty as a Frenchman. In another few hours I’ll be dead! I can’t afford to lose your trust again.’
80 Homer: ‘Marge… I don’t really want to go through with this. But being an astronaut is how I got you to respect me.’ Marge: ‘Homer, when I met you, you weren’t an astronaut. You didn’t even know how to use a touch-tone, but I still respected you and I always will, no matter what… [touch-tone sounds come from the phone] … Homer, you already dialled…’
81-98 The 18 Emmys.
99 Getting away with the clip shows by making fun of clip shows.
100 D’oh was in the 2001 Oxford Dictionary.
101 The Simpsons star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
102-108 The four best lands of Itchy and Scratchy Land theme park -Torture Land, Explosion Land, Searing Gas Pain Land, Unnecessary Surgery Land – and the three most bizarre ‘friends’ of the psychopathic anthropomorphs: Disgruntled Goat, Rich Uncle Skeleton and Ku Klux Clam.
109 Itchy, by the way, is the mouse.
110 In 1997, the programme broke The Flintstones’ record for longest-running animated show.
111 America’s second-greatest love affair – Homer and various liquids.
112 Starting, while stranded in a lifeboat, with the least likely: Homer: ‘Flanders! My socks feel dirty. Give me some water to wash them.’ Flanders: ‘Again? Homer, we have to ration the water carefully. It’s our only hope!’ Homer: ‘Oh, pardon me, Mr “Let’s ration everything”, but what do you think we’re floating on? Don’t you know the poem? ‘Water, water, everywhere, so let’s all have a drink…’
113 And moving on to the more predictable. Homer: ‘Got any of that beer that has candy floating in it? You know, Skittlebrau?’ Apu: ‘Such a beer does not exist, sir. I think you must have dreamed it.’ Homer: ‘Oh. Well, then just give me a six-pack of beer and a couple of bags of Skittles.’
114 And Red Tick beer: ‘Hmm, bold, refreshing, and something I can’t quite put my finger on,’ says Homer. (Scene shifts to brewery, where dogs are swimming in vats of beer. Brewery worker: ‘Needs more dog.’)
115 The motto of the earliest Springfield settlers. ‘First toil, then the grave.’
116 Friday nights in the Skinner household, where Principal Skinner’s mother Agnes insists on them enjoying a quiet evening together – because Friday night is silhouette night.
117 The guest stars, including Stephen Hawking, whose appearance moved Homer to new heights of taste and empathy (‘So, Lisa, did you have fun with your robot buddy?’)
118 Loyal fans. ‘My appearance on The Simpsons was the pinnacle of my career,’ Helen Fielding told us yesterday. ‘I was quite pleased with the way I turned out. Apart from the snout.’
119 And Jonathan Ross: ‘After 300 episodes I can only think of a very few flat bits. That’s an unbelievable achievement.’
120 ‘Lisa’s my favourite character,’ says Glenda Jackson, ‘and I loved the episode where she got a new teacher that really made a difference.’
121 And the pop-star guest stars. Hard to forget Homer being introduced to a member of the Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.’ … ‘Homer Simpson, smiling politely.’
122 Springfield and religion, and some simple truths, such as country singer Rachel Jordan explaining what happened to her band . ‘They switched from Christian music to regular pop. All you do is change “Jesus” to “baby”.
123 Or Ned Flanders, telling a bedtime story. ‘And Harry Potter and all his wizard friends… went straight to hell for practising witchcraft.’
124 The fact, incidentally, that Ned’s first name is actually Nedward.
125 Jebus. Many fans’ favourite segment…
Homer [to Rev Lovejoy, as he is being forced into a plane to the South Pacific]: ‘Wait, I’m no missionary! I don’t even believe in Jebus! Let me out!’ [Homer runs to the door and pounds on it. Cut to outside, looking in the window] Homer: ‘Oh, save me Jebus!’
126 Homer [to God]: ‘You’re everywhere. You’re omnivorous.’
127 And on death: ‘Don’t worry. Being eaten by a crocodile is just like going to sleep. In a giant blender.’
128 Homer, again, having swiftly forgotten Jebus. ‘I’m not normally a religious man, but… if you’re up there, save me, Superman!’
129-134 The five most emancipated sayings of the Malibu Stacy dolls (as collected by Smithers and Lisa) – ‘I wish they taught shopping in school’; ‘Let’s bake some cookies for the boys’; ‘Don’t ask me – I’m just a girl’; Now let’s forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice-cream’; ‘Thinking too much gives you wrinkles’ and ‘My name is Malibu Stacy but you can call me (wolf-whistle).’
135 The 2002 Mori poll which showed 66 per cent of Britons were interested in the lives of the Simpsons (18 per cent said the same about the royals.
136 Homer on the American way. ‘Lisa, if you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day, and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.’
137 The name of Australia’s Prime Minister is simply ‘Andy’.
138 Baby Maggie. The cost of Maggie – $847.63 – as she is accidentally ‘swiped’ during the opening credits was once given as the amount required to raise a baby for one month in the US.
139 And she shot Mr Burns.
140 And she inspired this exchange. Homer: ‘That baby-proofing crook wanted to sell us safety covers for the electrical outlets. But I’ll just draw bunny faces on them to scare Maggie away.’ Marge: ‘She’s not afraid of bunnies.’ Homer (ominously): ‘She will be.’
141 In 1999, in its century’s end edition, Time magazine called it ‘the best show in the history of television’.
142-144 The finest made-up names. The witch who tricks Bart and Lisa into her gingerbread house grows un-witchily touchy about her love life, insisting she does have a boyfriend. Bart/Lisa: ‘Yeah, right.’ Witch: ‘What? I do!’ Lisa: ‘What’s his name?’ Witch: Uh… George. George… [looks around]… George Cauldron.’
Marge is also inspired, when she gives her address on the phone to the police as ‘um… 123 Fake Street.’ (Chief Wiggum, of course, later checks it out. There is, of course, a crime in progress). Homer’s most devious masquerading comes as he tries to board a rocket for important people. (‘I am the piano genius from the movie, Shine .’ Guard: Uh-uh. And your name is?’ Homer: ‘Um… Shiney McShine?’)
145 Brazil threatened to sue after the line: ‘Rio is a city where all men are bisexual, fearsome monkeys roam the streets and tourists are kidnapped by taxi drivers.’
146 Marge’s deepest secret. (‘My hair isn’t really blue.’)
147 Homer on trust. ‘But Marge, I swear to you, I never thought you’d find out!’
148 The New Bedlam Home for the Emotionally Interesting.
149 The producers turned down Al Gore for a guest role (after he had refused an earlier request, when they were less globally famous), and David Beckham.
150-153 Troy McClure’s four most magnificent educational films, including ‘Smoke Yourself Thin’; ‘Get Confident, Stupid!’; ‘Firecrackers: the Silent Killer’ and ‘Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-know-what.’
154-165 The steps in Barney’s AA programme. Homer comes along as moral support, until he finds the donuts are on the other side of the room. (‘That’s a full, oh, 12 steps away! Who can be bothered with something that needs 12 whole steps?’ etc).
166-172 Number of years between breeding, under the new Springfield Charter. According to the Comic Book Guy – supposedly Groening’s cameo – ‘Inspired by the most logical race in the galaxy, the Vulcans, breeding will be permitted once every seven years. For many of you, this will be much less breeding. For me, much, much more.’
173 Sex and Springfield, continued: Mayor Quimby’s most successful chat-up-line (‘How would you like to have a street named after you?’
174 And Bart’s take on the whole affair. ‘What a day, eh, Milhouse? The sun is out, birds are singing, bees are trying to have sex with them… as is my understanding.’
175 And Jimbo Jones’s. Dolph to Nelson: ‘Oh man, you kissed a girl?’ Jimbo: ‘That is so gay.’
176 The makers resisted Japanese calls to have the characters redrawn with four fingers – Japanese culture looks down on missing fingers as evidence of a menial job.
177-182 The world’s worst television, show, ‘Rock Bottom’, is forced to apologise for labelling Homer a sexual harasser. The list of other apologies, scrolled unreadably fast down the screen, includes, ‘Styrofoam is not made from kittens’, ‘The nerds on the internet are not geeks’, ‘Roy Rogers was not buried inside his horse’ and ‘Salt water does not “chase the thirsties away.”‘ Oh, and ‘If you are reading this you have no life.’
183 ‘Bleedin’ Gums’ Murphy, Lisa’s sax mentor. Lisa: ‘ How come they call you Bleedin’ Gums?’ Gums: ‘Well, let me put it this way. You ever been to the dentist?’ Lisa: ‘Yeah.’ Gums: ‘Not me. I suppose I should go, but I got enough pain in my life as it is.’
184 And, less groovily, her school music teacher, Mr Largo. ‘Lisa, there’s no room for crazy bebop in ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’.
185 The prank calls to Moe’s which were based on real-life calls in the Eighties to the Tube Bar in New Jersey, whose owner, Louis ‘Red’ Deutsch, famously threatened the pranksters with the foulest language ever heard on God’s earth. Down the years Moe has fallen for the likes of Heywood U Cuddleme (‘Big guy in the back? Heywood U Cuddleme?’) and Mike Rotch (‘Has anyone seen Mike Rotch lately?’)
186 The Michael Jackson episode – which he voiced uncredited.
187 The knowing cartoon references, as in this exchange between Bart and Chester J Lampwick (as played by Kirk Douglas).
Chester: ‘He didn’t create Itchy: I did.’
Bart: ‘Huh?’ Chester: ‘He stole the character from me in 1928. When I complained, his thugs kicked me out of his office, and dropped an anvil on me. Luckily, I was carrying an umbrella at the time.’
188 The 166 couch gags, including the one when the living room had turned into a nightclub. A bouncer let all the family in. Except, of course, Homer.
189 Montgomery C. Burns, being forced to smile for a photo. (‘I’m going to be sore tomorrow.’)
190-192 Springfield’s shops, such as the outdoor clothing store (Malaria Zone), boys’ clothes store (Wee Monsieur) and joke shop (Yuckingham Palace)
193-195 Homer’s code of the schoolyard. ‘ Don’t tattle, always make fun of those different from you, never say anything unless you’re sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do.’
196-199 The four food groups (of which, according to Bart’s enforced blackboard lines, ‘mud’ is not one.)
200-202 The dogs in dog hell (because, as Homer points out, as Santa’s Little Helper lies on his deathbed, there couldn’t be heaven if there weren’t a hell). ‘Who’s in there?’ asks Bart.
Homer: ‘Oh, uh … Hitler’s dog. And that dog Nixon had, whassisname, um…’ Lisa: ‘Checkers.’ Homer: ‘Yeah! One of the Lassies is in there, too. The mean one — the one that mauled Jimmy.’
203 More Homer and animals. ‘Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals. [Thinks] Except the weasel.’
204 And more weaselling genius.
Burns: ‘Turn around, Simpson.’ Homer: ‘No! I can’t get in trouble if I can’t see you.’ Smithers: ‘I’m afraid he’s got us, sir.’
205 The decision to release no other singles after the lousy ‘Bartman’.
206 And the stroke of genius that allowed voice actor Dan Castellanata, in the second series, to ‘get’ Homer’s voice perfectly. From then on, Homer, not Bart, was the true global star.
207 Number 742, Evergreen Terrace, home of the Simpsons.
208 Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.
209 The one where Homer almost dies.
Homer: ‘Ooh! My horoscope. Taurus: today you will die.’ Marge: ‘WHAT?’ [checks own horoscope] ‘Today your husband will die?’ (gasp). ‘Homer, I’m scared!’ Homer: ‘Oh, scary newspaper! Don’t hurt me, horoscope! … AARGH!’ [gets a paper cut].
210-211 Krusty’s Brand Goods, and what they say about corporate America. Krusty’s Non-Toxic Kologne (‘use in well-ventilated areas’); Krusty’s home pregnancy kit (‘may cause birth defects’).
212-219 Itchy and Scratchy film titles. Bang the Cat Slowly, Field of Screams, The Last Traction Hero, Aesophygus Now, Skinless in Seattle, Scar Trek: The Next Laceration, Why Do Fools Fall in Lava? and… Reservoir Cats.
220 Groening calls one show ‘The Worst Episode Ever’.
221-229 Number of months (nine), on average, between inception and final episode. Each episode is, ideally, 21 minutes and 41 seconds long.
230-232 Three of the best cases of interplay between father and daughter. Lisa: ‘I’m studying for the math fair. If I win, I’ll bring home a brand new protractor.’ Homer: ‘Too bad we don’t live on a farm.’
Or Homer, to Lisa: ‘You know-nothing know-it-all!’
Or, if you prefer, when they’re lost in the countryside: Lisa: ‘Remember, Dad. The handle of the Big Dipper points to the North Star.’ Homer: ‘That’s nice, Lisa, but we’re not in astronomy class. We’re in the woods.’
233-272 Number of decimal points (40) to which Apu can recite pi. (Homer, naturally, greets the news with the phrase ‘Mmmm… pie.’).
273-274 The sly references to Fox and Rupert Murdoch, for whom Groening has created the most successful US TV series ever. For example, Marge: ‘Lisa, normally I would say that you should stand up for what you believe in, but you’ve been doing that an awful lot lately.’ Bart: ‘Yeah, you made us march in that gay rights parade.’ Homer: ‘And we can’t watch Fox because they own those chemical weapons plants in Syria.’
Or: Lisa: ‘Wow, Dad, you’re surfing like a pro!’ Homer: ‘Oh, yeah! I invested in something called ‘News Corp.’ Lisa: ‘Dad, that’s Fox!’ Homer: [shrieks] ‘Undo! Undo!’ [hits key, sighs]
275 And the Devil uses Microsoft.
276-287 Number of years since Groundsman Willie said ‘cheese-eating surrender-monkeys’.
288 Homer on aspiration. ‘Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.’
289 And priorities. ‘If a gun can protect something as important as a bar, then it’s good enough to protect my family.’
290 And real priorities. ‘To alcohol! The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems!’
291 Lisa: ‘And now you can go back to just being you, instead of a one-dimensional character with a silly catchphrase.’
292 Homer: [breaks a lamp] ‘D’oh!’
293 Bart: ‘Ay, caramba!’
294 Marge: ‘Mmm.’
295 Maggie: [sucks her pacifier]
296 Flanders: ‘Heidely-ho!’
297 Barney: [burps]
298 Nelson: ‘Ha, ha!’
299 Burns: ‘Ex-cellent!’
[Everyone looks at Lisa]
300 Lisa: [unimpressed] ‘If anyone wants me, I’ll be in my room.’
∑ Additional research by Carl Wilkinson
300 reasons why we love The Simpsons