The 10 Best ‘Simpsons’ Episodes Since You Stopped Watching
Nobody agrees exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line, a lot of people stopped watching The Simpsons. Some say it was when the 1990s came to a close after Season 11. Others argue that Season 10 is the line in the sand, or the last season featuring Phil Hartman. Yet more point to the widely disliked Season Nine episode “The Principal and the Pauper,” where Principal Skinner is revealed to be impersonating his mentor from the Army, as the turning point. While more than a select few go all the way back to Season Six’s beloved finale, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” as the conclusion of the so-called “Simpsons Golden Age.”
Regardless of when the “cutoff” was, The Simpsons continues to keep going and going and going, presently in the midst of its 34th season, with no end in sight. But just because a lot of people called it quits after a certain point, does that mean every episode thereafter is bad? Might there not be some newer episodes worth watching?
To find out, I contacted a handful of Simpsons experts to ask them their favorite episodes from Season 12 or later. It may not make you catch up on all 500 or so episodes you’ve missed, but you’ll at least get to enjoy a few “new” episodes of The Simpsons for the first time in two decades.
“Special Edna,” Season 14, Episode 7
Synopsis: Bart nominates Ms. Krabappel for Teacher of the Year, and she, along with the Simpsons, are flown to Orlando for the event.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: Frank Koshel, a Simpsons stan who belongs to the Facebook groups “Rancho Relaxo” and “Obscure Simpsons Characters,” explains, “This episode felt like it was very much in the tradition of ‘Bart the Lover,’ where it was a story about Bart and Ms. Krabappel. Plus, when they get to Orlando, there are a lot of jokes about Disney World, especially EPCOT, which is especially funny now that Disney owns The Simpsons.”
“The Parent Rap,” Season 13, Episode 2
Synopsis: Bart steals Chief Wiggum’s car and his punishment is to be physically tethered to Homer.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: Karina Martin, an admin on the Simpsons Facebook groups “Rancho Relaxo,” “Obscure Simpsons Characters” and “Compuglobalhypermeganet Australia & New Zealand”, tells me, “I really love ‘The Parent Rap.’ Bart and Homer together as a duo are always hilarious, and with the two of them tethered together, all kinds of funny things happen, like Homer having to go to school with Bart and Homer leaving Bart in the cold when he is drinking at Moe’s. The whole episode is full of great comedy and one-liners.”
“Simpson Safari,” Season 12, Episode 17
Synopsis: The Simpsons go to Africa after winning a safari from a box of Animal Crackers.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: Charlie Southern, creator of @SimpsonsQOTD on Twitter says, “My friend and I used to watch ‘Simpson Safari’ constantly as kids. We always cracked up at the guide, Kitenge. His best line was when he put the kids to bed and said, ‘Good night, and don’t let the bedbugs paralyze!’”
“The Dad Who Knew Too Little,” Season 14, Episode 8
Synopsis: After realizing he barely knows his daughter, Homer hires a private eye to figure out who Lisa is.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: “This is a sweet one because of all the effort Homer goes to to really get to know Lisa,” Martin tells me. “Homer and Lisa might be the nicest relationship in the show, and this episode really shows that beautifully. The two of them often have their issues, but they get there by the end.”
“Barting Over,” Season 14, Episode 11
Synopsis: Bart finds out that he used to be a child star and that Homer spent all of his money.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: “This was the 300th episode, and it’s hilarious,” says Southern. “Bart sues for emancipation and goes out on his own, which makes for some funny stuff. Then he ends up teaming up with Tony Hawk and Blink-182. Those cameos might make it a bit dated now, but it’s a really good time capsule.”
“A Serious Flanders,” Season 33, Episodes 6 and 7
Synopsis: Ned Flanders discovers a bag containing $173,296 in cash, which he donates to a local orphanage. This gets him caught up in a bloody, complex crime story.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: Neil Arsenty, creator of “On This Day in Simpsons History” on Twitter, explains, “While the title is a parody of the Coen Brothers movie A Serious Man, this episode is more of a parody of the show Fargo and is a non-canon episode. I don’t watch much of The Simpsons past the classic era, but a lot of people spoke about this one, which eventually convinced me to tune in, and sure enough, it was really good! There was a lot of funny violence that prodied prestige TV. My favorite moment was probably the death of Disco Stu.”
“HOMR,” Season 12, Episode 9
Synopsis: Homer discovers that he has a crayon lodged in his brain, which explains why he’s so stupid. He gets it removed to increase his intelligence, but discovers that he prefers being an idiot.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: This Emmy-winning installment was cited by many on the “Rancho Relaxo” Facebook group as being a truly great one, with one member remarking, “‘HOMR’ has so many classic moments,” and another citing it as an all-time favorite. An especially funny moment comes at the end of the episode when Homer employs Moe to insert a new crayon into his brain (via his nose), reverting him back to the classic, stupid Homer.
“Brick Like Me,” Season 25, Episode 20
Synopsis: Homer awakes in an alternate reality where everyone and everything is made up of Legos.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: This one took two painstakingly long years to complete. It contains a ton of great gags, but the best might be that, while everyone else is constructed out of Legos, Maggie is made of Duplo bricks and is gigantic.
“Lisa the Boy Scout,” Season 34, Episode 3
Synopsis: Two hackers, who are Simpsons fans, “break” into an episode to reveal hidden secrets of the show.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: “‘Lisa the Boy Scout’ sets itself up to look like just another episode,” explains Arsenty. “But a minute into the story, the hackers break into the episode. From there, it’s this off-the-wall story that explains why The Simpsons predicts the future, and there are classic moments that include new animation and a part where a Bart from the future goes into a past episode. It’s a good blend of the classic feel and the modern feel. I, myself, am a classic-era purist, but I tuned into this one because everyone was talking about it. And when I watched it, I found myself laughing at it and thinking it was really good.”
Any “Treehouse of Horror” Episode
Synopsis: The “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween episodes remain a Simpsons tradition, where they consist of a handful of non-continuity mini-stories.
Why It’s Not the “Worst Episode Ever”: “It’s still fun to tune into the ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episodes,” says Arsenty. “They don’t have to please raging fans, they can kill whoever they want and they can parody whatever they want.
“Even in recent years,” Arsenty continues, “there have been good installments. Like, this past one, there was one story where it was a parody of Westworld — it was Simpsonsworld, and people could live through classic moments of the show. Then the robots started rebelling. There was a lot of nostalgia to it, but it was also really funny. The Simpsons does a lot of parodies now — some say more than they should — but you can’t complain about it when they do it for ‘Treehouse of Horror’ because that’s all those episodes ever did and they’re still super fun to watch.”